Now Chicago wants a Super Bowl?
In the Windy City to recognize Soldier Field for “green” initiatives, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell got an earful from Mayor Rahm Emmanuel about Chicago’s mistake on the lake hosting the league’s ultimate party, the Super Bowl.
Let me begin by saying that I love Chicago. I lived there for seven years and while I was never a fan of their teams (my Wisconsin roots would never allow me to defect over to the dark side) but the city is nothing short of World-Class.
But holding a Super Bowl at Soldier Field would be nothing short of a complete, total, unmitigated disaster.
Two years ago during Super Bowl XLV week, Chicago was buried under an avalanche of snow and ice that crippled the city. And while Dallas was caught flat-footed and performed miserably when just a fraction of what the upper Midwest got, America’s largest snow-belt burg simply shut down.
Cars were left for dead on Lake Shore Drive. Businesses closed for days on end. In some cases, city streets took more than a week to be plowed.
Local newscasters dubbed the storm “Snowmageddon.”
Of course, this is the risk you run when you award cold-weather cities the biggest annual sporting event in the world. Super Bowl XVI outside of Detroit was in peril because of an ice storm. Likewise, when the game was back in the Motor City for Super Bowl XL, while the weather was nice all week, a heavy snowstorm made travel to Ford Field a challenge.
But here is the difference. The Silverdome and Ford Field (along with the Metrodome for Super Bowl XXVI and Lucas Oil Stadium this past winter) were all newer, indoor stadiums that the NFL wanted to showcase. And while the NFL has awarded Super Bowl XLVII to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, a cold-weather outdoor venue, that doesn’t make it a good idea.
After all, there is a reason the current Super Bowl rotation includes Miami, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Tampa. Simply put, fans and sponsors want warm-weather destinations in the dead of winter. And also because these cities have appropriate venues in which to stage an event of the magnitude of the Super Bowl.
Chicago, as a host city, would do very well. Despite their cold-weather status, it is still a destination year-round for sports fans and entertainers alike. Hotel rooms are always an issue no matter where the Super Bowl is played, but Chicagoland boasts over 100,000 of them, more than almost any other potential host city.
But Chicago’s football stadium? Outside of the crumbling monstrosities in San Francisco and Oakland, is the worst in the league. The shame of that is it is less than a decade old.
Soldier Field, which opened in 2003, was built terribly. Lest anyone try to convince you of the romantically storied history of the venue, it was destroyed when they tore down everything but the colonnades in 2002. When the current stadium rose from the ground, sandwiched between the old park’s most distinctive feature, it featured the smallest seating capacity in the NFL, a vertigo-inducing upper deck, and a suite level that has the worst sightlines conceivable in any new sporting structure.
The grass field has been judged the worst in the NFL. On game day it is almost impossible to navigate into and out of.
At best, the stadium looks like a strange mishmash of old and new, sort of like if the Love Boat was sandwiched in between the Parthenon. At worst, Soldier Field is a complete abomination of a noble idea gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Noted architect Stanley Tigerman called the final product a “fiasco.” Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin calls it “The Eyesore on the Lakeshore.”
Not exactly the kind of place you would want to hold the signature event of your league, especially with a billion people watching around the world.
Of course, if Chicago were to build a proper venue, complete with a roof to keep out Mother Nature’s brutal winters, the Second City would certainly be back in play. But the thought that the ill-conceived, boondoggle that Soldier Field is barely worthy of a NFL preseason game, much less the Super Bowl.