Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Not Even Pre-Season, and Soldier Field Is Already Un-Playable

When the Chicago Bears made their annual two-hour round trip visit from training camp to Soldier Field to practice in front of hometown fans, they found a familar site: an unplayable Soldier Field.

The Chicago Park District owns and operates the stadium, leaving it open to many other events throughout the year.  For instance, there was a U2 concert on July 5 and a international soccer match between the Chicago Fire and Manchester United on July 23.

However, with this being a signature NFL stadium , so close to NFL pre-season, how does a grounds crew get away with this happening?

Grounds crew filled in seams with sand on Friday

The general manager of Soldier Field, Tim LeFevour, said this:
‘‘We know what the problem is. We’re going to correct it before next week, and it’s going to be ready to go. It was a miscalculation on our grounds crew’s part,’’ he said. ‘‘We did not put enough water on the field. I’m not going to try and sugar-coat that in any way. And because of that, the seams [from the resodding after the U2 concert] opened up today.  
At least the fans that showed up early had their admission fees ($8) refunded, as well as their parking fees.  They were admitted into the stadium where they received free food and drink, and still were able to see the fireworks show that was scheduled.

Soldier Field has been routinely criticized by Bears players, especially as the season has gone into January in recent years.  Last year, Brian Urlacher had this to say about the conditions:
"We complain about it all the time...Every week they re-sod," Urlacher said. "They had a soccer game or nine high school games in two days. It's always something. It is a disaster. I don't know what else to say."
Field turf, like the grounds at Lambeau, are an option, but it seems as if the McCaskey family are dead set against a change in field types.  General Manager Chairman George McCaskey recently said this of the field surface:

"The studies aren't conclusive, but the studies that we have looked at have shown a higher incidence of lower leg injuries among players on artificial turf. And we want to prolong careers. We want our players to be safe. We want our investment in the players to be protected and the state of artificial turf or an infield surface is such now that we think the safest surface for our players is natural grass."
Either way, the one thing that no one is denying is that the grounds crew has to do a better job.  

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