The politics of Soldier Field

September 21, 2009
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Football fans nationwide know Soldier Field as the home of the Chicago Bears—where a last-minute field goal defeated the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday. But as Liam T. A. Ford’s book, Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City, reminds us, the Bears are latecomers to Soldier Field. For more than half a century before football became the stadium’s mainstay, it played host to everything from a worldwide gathering of Catholics, to heavyweight prizefights, and even rodeos—all while playing a pivotal role in the careers of some of Chicago’s biggest political bosses as well.
As columnist John Kass notes in a recent article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, many big names in Chicago politics—Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson and Edward Kelly to name a few—were intimately tied up in the stadium’s construction and use as they pushed for the “great public works” that allowed them “to control gargantuan budgets and cement their power.”
Drawing an analogy to the city’s recent bid for the 2016 Olympic games Kass asks, “Does any of this have the ring of current events?”
As the day for the IOC’s decision draws nearer, and debates about the public payoff of the games get louder, as Kass points out, Ford’s new book offers some essential insights on the Chicago of today through a revealing look at the past of one of its great civic works.
To find out more read John Kass’s article on the Chicago Tribune website.

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