From Wrigley Field to Soldier Field: Where the Chicago Bears have played home games since 1921

The Chicago Bears’ history started in Decatur in 1920 when the Staley Starch Company decided to sponsor a football team.

In 1921, the company gave George Halas the team, $5,000 and permission to move the team to Chicago if he would agree to keep the Staleys name for a year. The Staleys won the 1921 league championship. A year later, the team was renamed the Bears.

The Bears primarily have played home games at Wrigley Field and then Soldier Field, but a sprinkling of other venues also have hosted the team. Here’s a look back at them — and how the Bears have fared on those turfs.

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Wrigley Field (1921-1970)

Record: 221-89-22 (Two of the regular season victories came with the Bears as the “road” team against the Chicago Tigers)

The Bears played at Wrigley Field, previously known as Cubs Park, for their first five decades in Chicago. The team won nearly 70% of its home games during that span.

Wrigley Field is where University of Illinois star Harold “Red” Grange played his first game for the Bears on Nov. 26, 1925, in front of 36,000 fans. (The Bears and Cardinals fought to a scoreless tie, with Grange gaining 36 yards on the ground.) It’s also where the Bears became the first team in the championship era (since 1933) to win back-to-back titles by routing the Giants 37-9 on Dec. 21, 1941. And where “Kansas Comet” Gale Sayers scored six touchdowns — tying an NFL record — as a rookie in a 61-20 win against the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 12, 1965.

In 1921, the Bears, then known as the Staleys, won the American Professional Football Association title. And it wouldn’t be their last. While at Wrigley, the Bears would win NFL titles in 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946 and 1963.

The team played its last game at Wrigley Field on Dec. 13, 1970. The NFL had been pressuring the Bears to move because seating capacity was less than 50,000 — one of the parameters the league created after the AFL-NFL merger — and because the stadium lacked lights. Jack Concannon had his best game in the finale as a Bear, throwing four touchdown passes and scoring a fifth, in a 35-17 win over the Green Bay Packers.

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Staley Field (1921)

Record: 1-0

The Bears, known as the Staleys then, returned to their birthplace of Decatur to play the Rock Island Independents on Oct. 10, 1921.

“Six thousand former service men and visitors attending the American Legion convention,” observed the game, the Tribune reported. The Bears won 14-10.

DePaul Field (1925)

Record: 1-0

As the home team, the Bears went undefeated at the Sheffield Avenue facility. They beat the Hammond Pros 28-7 on Oct. 11, 1925.

Milton Romney, a University of Chicago graduate and first cousin once removed of Sen. Mitt Romney, started as a fullback opposite Notre Dame grad Johnny Mohardt.

Mills Stadium (1930)

Record: 0-0-1

“Ten thousand opening-day fans watched the elevens struggle up and down the dusty gridiron to a scoreless tie,” the Tribune reported.

The Bears met the Brooklyn Dodgers at the West Side stadium on Sept. 21, 1930. Both teams managed to rack up 15 first downs, but no points. Bears fullback Bronko Nagurski recovered a fumble late in the game, but the Bears’ final effort to score was halted at Brooklyn’s goal line.

Loyola Stadium (1931)

Record: 1-0

The Bears beat the Cleveland Indians 21-0 on Sept. 18, 1931.

Grange scored the Bears’ first touchdown of the season “when he crashed off Cleveland’s left tackle on a delayed plunge,” the Tribune reported.

Chicago Stadium (1932)

Record: 1-0

Snow and freezing temperatures turned Wrigley into the North (Side) Pole and forced the Bears vs. Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans game for the NFL title indoors at Chicago Stadium to play on a 60-yard field before more than 11,000 fans. It was the first NFL game to be played indoors, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On Dec. 18, 1932, the Bears won 9-0 for their second title.

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Bears owner Virginia Halas McCaskey was a seventh grader at the time and had a lasting memory of the game.

“Just the odor,” she said with a laugh during a Tribune interview in March 2019. “It was almost overwhelming because the circus had just left town.”

Dyche Stadium (1970)

Record: 1-0

The Bears traveled 16 miles north to Evanston to take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Northwestern University’s Dyche Stadium (now Ryan Field) on Sept. 27, 1970.

Despite winning 20-16, reviews of the Bears’ performance were brutal.

“The Bears committed almost every possible type of football sin. They were penalized for almost every foul in the book,” Tribune sports editor Cooper Rollow wrote.

Evanston didn’t think much of the Bears either. Residents petitioned city officials to block the Bears from moving there. The Bears signed a five-year deal with Northwestern in early 1971, but the Big Ten Conference denied permission for the team to lease Dyche Stadium two weeks later.

Soldier Field (1971-2001; 2003-present)

Record: 234-176-2

The Bears relocated to Soldier Field — where they had played on occasion previously, including as the “away team” against the Cardinals in 1926 — for the start of the 1971 season. The team chose it over Comiskey Park. With the exception of one season in 2002 during stadium renovations, the downtown Chicago stadium on the lakefront has been their home ever since.

The new era began with a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-15 on Sept. 19, 1971, in the rain. Capacity was cut to 57,000 fans.

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Soldier Field is where Walter Payton pummeled the Minnesota Vikings for 275 yards on Nov. 20, 1977, breaking O.J. Simpson’s single-game NFL record of 273 yards on a 4-yard, fourth-down, fourth-quarter run that was stopped short of the first down. On Dec. 16, 1979 to news that George “Mugs” Halas, Jr., team president and son of the owner/founder, had died unexpectedly overnight, the Bears rallied to rout the St. Louis Cardinals 42-6 and earn a wild-card berth. Other memorable moments include a 61-7 win over the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 7, 1980 (though the Bears were eliminated from playoff contention after the Minnesota Vikings beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). And a 20-12 win over the Eagles in the 1988 NFC playoffs known as “The Fog Bowl.”

A championship didn’t come easily, or quickly, to Soldier Field’s residents. It took 14 seasons for the Bears to bring a title home, winning Super Bowl XX in 1986 with a 46-10 rout of the New England Patriots. It was the team’s ninth and most recent title. The Bears did earn a dramatic trip to Super Bowl XLI by defeating the New Orleans Saints 39-14 in the NFC championship game on Jan. 21, 2007, at Soldier Field — and the George Halas Trophy was presented to Halas’ daughter and team owner Virginia McCaskey.

Memorial Stadium (2002)

Record: 3-5

While Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago Park District were busy remodeling Soldier Field, the Bears moved down to Champaign to play “home” games at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium.

Note: The Bears often played at Comiskey Park and Normal Park, but the Cardinals were the home team.

Sources: Tribune archives and reporting; Pro Football Hall of Fame; Pro Football Reference

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