Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My Soldier Field

It does not happen often that a project you have worked on is seen internationally. But on Sunday at 4:30 pm, Soldier Field will be the backdrop of the playoff game between the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers. It will be my first time seeing it on television here in Montreal. Here are a couple before and after photos of the project.

Along with probably thousands of others, I take pride in calling Soldier Field mine. I spent four years working on the project, three in the office and one on site during construction. From the wild initial designs to the inevitable problems that come up in the field. The project was special for me on many levels. I have been a Bears fan all my life having gone to games since I was a kid. My father and I went to a few January playoff games long ago where I spent half the game thawing out in the bathrooms. I am fiercely proud to be a Chicagoan and this project is at a prominent location on the lakefront. Lastly, I worked with friends who I had gone to school with or lived with. It is easier to work out difficult problems when you know the other people well.
At Thornton Tomasetti's Chicago office, we designed the structure for the project: foundations, steel structure (beams & columns), and the floor slabs. The building is a partially-assymetrical design with some very interesting aspects (at least structurally). Each of the scoreboards is cantilevered 150 feet over existing stands. The west grandstand cantilevers 60 feet over the existing colonnade. Due to the nature of people being present in the grandstand, special measures needed to be taken. Devices called tuned mass dampers were installed at the tips in order to counter act the destructive rhythm caused by people jumping in sync.

But another thing that is really cool about having worked on a project this large and this visible is all the paraphenalia. Magazine articles, t-shirts, baseball caps, scale models, postcards, and posters are just some of the items with it's likeness. Now I'm not obsessively hoarding every item I can get my hands on, but I do have enough to show my pride.


John Hill said...

Did'ya see the recent Kamin piece, where he ponders the Olympics coming to Chicago in 2016? Yet again, he uses it as an opportunity to bash the Mayor for modifying Soldier Field, though I don't think any Olympic foresight was involved in the decision behind the plan. That man's got a chip the size of one of those colonnades.

Unknown said...

The inability to increase the seating capacity was known from the beginning. It was difficult enough to shoehorn the project between the existing colonnades.

The upside of the shoehorning is that the seats are the closest to the field in the NFL. The width of the stadium is 100ft narrower than other stadiums. About 500ft instead of 600ft.

Someone would need to get real creative in order to fit more seats. As it is, the design team's solution was quite unorthodox.

I've given up worrying about what Kamin and other critics have to say. Their criticism has tempered me to accept that not everyone is going to love it like I do. I even agree that some aspects of it are less than glamourous, like the detailing of the east curtain wall. Who knows, if I had not worked on it and/or been in the construction industry, I may actually have had a negative opinion of it.

Anonymous said...

Great Memories indeed!
The elder recalls going to the SF vs Bears and Skins vs Bears NFC championshp games with the younger where the wind chill, when you consider the wind gusts, was 64 degrees below zero F!
The younger left during the first half for the warmth of the heated bathrooms and spent a good portion of the game in that warm confines.
Tomorrow will not be quite the same experience and the younger princess will be attending with the elder. We attended the recent below zero Sunday night victory vs the Falcons and were quite toasty due to better clothing and chemical warmers.
After the Seahawks win tonite looks like this will be our last home game even if we win the Superbowl. We anxiously look forward to the historic day tomorrow- the first playoff game in the NEW Soldier field.
I too am proud of our team and our beautiful city but more importantly,... the accomplishments of my offspring!

Unknown said...

Maybe that's why I have an affinity for warm muggy places.

It's interesting that all the sports here are played in the summer or indoors.