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Press Release: Ford, Soldier Field

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As fall beckons with changing leaves and shortening days, one thing is certain: NFL football is back, and Chicagoans everywhere are packing their coolers and grills for a trip to Soldier Field. For decades, the stadium’s signature columns provided an iconic backdrop for the Chicago Bears, but few realize that it has been much more than that. Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City explores how this amphitheater evolved from a public war memorial into a majestic arena that helped define Chicago.
Chicago Tribune staff writer Liam T. A. Ford led the reporting on the stadium’s 2003 renovation—and simultaneously found himself unearthing a dramatic history. As he tells it, the tale of Soldier Field truly is the story of Chicago, filled with political intrigue and civic pride. Designed by Holabird and Roche, Soldier Field arose through a serendipitous combination of local tax dollars, City Beautiful boosterism, and the machinations of Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson. The result was a stadium that stood at the center of Chicago’s political, cultural, and sporting life for nearly sixty years, long before the arrival of Walter Payton and William “the Refrigerator” Perry.
Ford describes it all in the voice of a seasoned reporter: the high school football games, track and field contests, rodeos, and even NASCAR races. Photographs, including many from the Chicago Park District’s extensive collections, capture remarkable scenes of the swelling crowds at ethnic festivals, Catholic masses, and political rallies. This book will remind readers that Soldier Field hosted such luminaries as Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr., Judy Garland and Johnny Cash—as well as the Grateful Dead’s final show.
Now part of the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, Chicago’s stadium on the lake continues to make dramatic history. Soldier Field captures this history in the making and will captivate armchair historians and sports fans alike.
Read the press release.