The field serves as a memorial to American soldiers who have died in wars. It was designed in 1919 and opened on October 9, 1924, as Municipal Grant Park Stadium, changing its name to Soldier Field on November 11, 1925. Its formal dedication as Soldier Field was on Saturday, November 27, 1926, during the 29th annual playing of the Army–Navy Game. Its design is modeled on the Greco-Roman architectural tradition, with doric columns rising above the entrance.
In its earliest configuration, Soldier Field was capable of seating 74,280 spectators and was in the shape of a U. Additional seating could be added along the interior field, upper promenades and on the large, open field and terrace beyond the north endzone, bringing the seating capacity to over 100,000. The largest crowd for any event at Soldier Field is difficult to determine.
Chicago Bears move in
Soldier Field was used as a site for many sporting events and exhibitions. In September 1971 the Chicago Bears made it their home. They previously played at Wrigley Field, best known as the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. They had intended to build a stadium in Arlington Heights. In 1978, the Bears and the Chicago Park District agreed to a 20-year lease and renovation of the stadium. Both parties pooled their resources for the renovation.
In 1989, Soldier Field's future was in jeopardy after a proposal was created for a "McDome", which was intended to be a domed stadium for the Bears, but was rejected by the Illinois Legislature in 1990. Because of this, Bears president Michael McCaskey considered relocation as a possible factor for a new stadium. The Bears had also purchased options in Hoffman Estates and Aurora. In 1995, McCaskey announced that he and Northwest Indiana developers agreed to construction of an entertainment complex called "Planet Park", which would also include a new stadium. However, the plan was rejected by the Lake County Council, and in 1998, Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley proposed that the Bears share Comiskey Park with the Chicago White Sox.
Renovation and landmark delisting
In 2001, the Chicago Park District, which owns the structure, faced substantial criticism when it announced plans to alter the stadium by architect Dirk Lohan, the grandson of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, of the Chicago-based architecture firm of Lohan Associates in a joint venture with architect Benjamin T. Wood of the Boston-based architecture firm Wood and Zapata. The stadium's interior would be demolished and reconstructed while the exterior would be preserved.
Dozens of articles by writers and columnists attacked the project as an aesthetic, political, and financial nightmare. The project received nearly universally negative reviews, including criticism by civic and preservation groups, and the architecture community. Prominent American architect and Chicagoan Stanley Tigerman called it "a fiasco." The Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin dubbed it the "Eyesore on the Lake Shore." The renovation was describe by some as "a spaceship landed on the stadium". Lohan responded,
"I would never say that Soldier Field is an architectural landmark. Nobody has copied it; nobody has learned from it. People like it for nostalgic reasons. They remember the games and parades and tractor pulls and veterans' affairs they've seen there over the years. I wouldn't do this if it were the Parthenon. But this isn't the Parthenon."
Proponents argued the renovation was direly needed citing aging and cramped facilities. The New York Times ranked the renovated Soldier Field as one of the five best new buildings of 2003. Soldier Field was given an award in design excellence by the American Institute of Architects in 2004.
Beginning in 1978, the plank seating was replaced by individual seats with backs and armrests. In 1982, a new press box as well as 60 skyboxes were added to the stadium, boosting capacity to 66,030. Fifty-six more skyboxes were added in 1988, increasing capacity to 66,946. Capacity was slightly increased to 66,950 in 1992. By 1994, capacity was slightly reduced to 66,944. During the renovation, seating capacity was reduced to 55,701 by building a grandstand in the open end of the U shape. This moved the field closer to both ends at the expense of seating capacity. The goal of this renovation was to move the fans closer to the field.  The front row 50-yard line seats are now only 55 feet away from the sidelines, the shortest distance of all NFL stadiums, until MetLife Stadium opened in 2010, with a distance of 46 feet. Soldier Field received new light emitting diode (LED) video technology from Daktronics. Included in the installation was a video display measuring approximately 23 feet (7.0 m) high by 82 feet (25 m) wide and ribbon displays mounted on the fascia that measured more than 321 feet (98 m) in length.
On September 23, 2004, as a result of the 2003 renovation, a 10-member federal advisory committee unanimously recommended that Soldier Field be delisted as a National Historic Landmark. The recommendation to delist was prepared by Carol Ahlgren, architectural historian at the National Park Service's Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraska. Ahlgren was quoted in Preservation Online as stating that "if we had let this stand, I believe it would have lowered the standard of National Historic Landmarks throughout the country," and, "If we want to keep the integrity of the program, let alone the landmarks, we really had no other recourse." The stadium lost the Landmark designation on February 17, 2006.
In May 2012, the stadium became the first NFL stadium to achieve LEED status.
Over 100,000 spectators attended the 1926 Army/Navy Game, this game would decide the national championship, as Navy entered undefeated and Army had lost only to Notre Dame. The game lived up to its hype, and even though the game ended in a 21–21 tie, Navy was awarded the national championship.
The all-time collegiate attendance record of 123,000 plus was established November 26, 1927, as Notre Dame beat the University of Southern California 7–6.
Austin beats Leo to win the 1937 Prep Bowl; another contender for the highest attendance ever (estimated at over 120,000 spectators). The Chicago Prep Bowl games are held here, every year the day after Thanksgiving. The bowl game is older than the IHSA state championship tournament held since the 1960s.
The 1st International Special Olympics Summer Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 19–20, 1968. The games spanned two days and more than 1,000 people with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada competed in track and field and swimming, sparking a worldwide Special Olympics movement that now thrives today.
The stadium was the site of the former College All-Star Game, an exhibition between the last year's NFL champion (or, in its final years, Super Bowl champion) and a team of collegiate all-star players of the previous season prior to their reporting to the training camps of their new professional teams. This game was discontinued after the 1976 NFL season. The final game in 1976 was halted in the third quarter when a torrential thunderstorm broke out and play was never resumed.
The early-to-mid 80s saw the US Hot Rod Association host Truck and Tractor Sled Pull Competitions and Monster Truck exhibitions here. The engines on some of the vehicles would echo through the skyscrapers in downtown Chicago as they made their pull. Damage to the stadium turf on a few of the event occasion's led USHRA to move events to the Rosemont Horizon (known today as Allstate Arena).
^"Powers of Ten". Film and description. Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN). June 14, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2011. "The zoom-out continues, to a view of 100 meters (10^2 m), then 1 kilometer (10^3 m), and so on, increasing the perspective. The picnic is revealed to be taking place near Soldier Field on Chicago's waterfront, and continuing to zoom out to a field of view of 10^24 meters, or the size of the observable universe."