21, No. 9, Nov. 1, 2001
Bears migrate south
to be home to Bears for 2002 football season
Kesha Green, News Bureau Staff Writer
(217) 334-0470; firstname.lastname@example.org
by Bill Wiegand
| UI alumnus
George S. Halas was co-founder of the Chicago Bears. Halas
was invited by the founder of Decatur's A.E. Staley Co. to
round up a football team. The team was later moved to Chicago
and renamed the Chicago Bears.
The Chicago Bears
will relocate temporarily to the UIs Memorial Stadium next year,
while Chicagos Soldier Field undergoes renovations during the
2002 football season.
"Our fans have not only made the Bears an important fabric of the
city of Chicago, but also an important piece of our great state,"
Bears chief executive Ted Phillips said. "We look forward to bringing
Bears football closer to many of our fans across Illinois and thank
them for the tremendous support they have provided our team since its
beginning in 1920."
The Bears connection to Central Illinois dates back 81 years to
when UI alumni George S. Halas and Ed "Dutch" Sternaman founded
the Decatur Staleys. The Staleys adopted the UI orange and blue colors
and the team was moved to Chicago in 1921. The team became known as
the Bears a year later.
Kent Brown, spokesman for the UI Division of Intercollegiate Athletics,
believes the Bears decision to play in Memorial Stadium is a "once
in a lifetime opportunity for Champaign."
"I would think its very rare to be able to have the cooperation
and partnership between the UI, the state of Illinois, the city of Chicago
and a major league franchise such as the Chicago Bears," Brown
The Bears have played in Champaign before, but this is the first time
they will receive recognition as the "home" team.
Besides the Bears historical roots in Central Illinois, UIs
Memorial Stadium has more than enough seating capacity to accommodate
Bears fans. Memorial Stadiums seating capacity is 70,904, surpassing
Soldier Fields 66,944 seats by about 6 percent.
Another bonus to the extra seating is that more tickets will become
available for non-season ticket holders. "If every season-ticket
holder came to Champaign, there would still be seats available,"
Brown said. Currently, there are about 60,000 Bears season-ticket holders.
For die-hard Bears fans, 2002 season ticket-pricing options are expected
to become available by mid-November. Current season-ticket holders will
not be required to purchase tickets for the 2002 season to retain their
seating priority when Soldier Field reopens in 2003.
The Bears also plan to hire students on a seasonal basis for marketing
and ticket-sales positions. Interested students should contact the Bears
The Bears also will bring thousands of fans with them that will help
boost the Champaign-Urbana economy, Brown said. The restaurant, gasoline,
hospitality and other retail businesses should all expect extra revenue.
While the agreement is still under negotiation, Brown said that the
Bears would probably return about 10 percent of gross gate sales to
the university along with splitting concession and parking revenues.
Brown doesnt expect any scheduling conflicts between the Fighting
Illini and the Bears football teams. However, there may be two or three
weekends where the two teams play on the same weekend, he said. The
Bears also are scheduled to host preseason home contests in Champaign
for the 2003 season.
Soldier Fields $587 million facelift is expected to be completed
by 2003. The project entails $365 million for stadium renovations, $75
million for the underground parking structure, and $147 million for
outside parking facilities, roadway improvements, storm drainage, and
other miscellaneous improvements.
Brown said that Memorial Stadium would not undergo any major changes
in preparation for the Bears.
"We are looking into changes for concessions, restrooms and turnstiles,"
he said. "Were used to big crowds. The crowds arent
going to be any bigger than the one we had [for Homecoming]."
Tickets for 2002
For season tickets:
Season ticket pricing
is expected to be available by mid-November and include a wide range
No word on when single-game tickets will go on sale.