Sunday, September 15th was a strange day for this Kansas City Chiefs fan. The past three seasons I have been able to attend the Chiefs home opener. It started with the epic Monday Night Football opener in 2010 when they celebrated the opening of the newly renovated Arrowhead Stadium with a victory over the San Diego Chargers. The past two seasons the home openers haven’t been quite as favorable for KC, getting blown out by both the Bills and the Falcons. I was originally planning on attending the Cowboys game to make it four home openers in a row, but while I was in the process of trying to find an affordable ticket, my plans changed. I found out that I would be participating in a Verizon Sports Blogger Program (more on that later) and as part of it I would be attending the Vikings and Bears game at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Needless to say, I was happy to accept a free trip to Chicago and tickets to the legendary Soldier Field. However, it was the first time I would be attending an NFL game that didn’t involve the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, it would be the first time I attended an NFL game that wasn’t at Arrowhead Stadium. As excited as I was, there was a part of me that couldn’t fathom watching another NFL game while the Chiefs were playing. Yes, I could record the game or watch it later that evening on NFL Rewind, but it’s not like I could avoid seeing the score while I was at an NFL game.
“It’s okay” I told myself. “You’ll just get updates about the game on Twitter and you can write a piece afterward comparing the game day experience at Soldier Field to that of our beloved Arrowhead.” That’s how I convinced myself that I wouldn’t be “cheating” on the Chiefs and Arrowhead by going.
So how did the Soldier Field experience compare to game day at Arrowhead?
Let’s break it down.
First off, I’ll admit that this comparison is lacking in one key area, tailgating. We all know that Arrowhead is the tailgating champion of the NFL. That’s not just a KC fan’s hyperbole either. Numerous players and commentators have gone on record with how impressed they are with the KC tailgating experience, often commenting that it’s the closest thing to a college atmosphere that you can find in professional sports.
From what I observed, there are definitely some tailgating die hards in the Windy City. It was a rainy Sunday in Chicago that day, but despite the weather I saw numerous Bears fans with their tailgating tents and grills fired up throughout the parking lots. The problem is, the parking setup is very disjointed. Instead of one giant lot, there are multiple lot locations (one of which is a no-alcohol lot). For those that complain about KC’s $27 parking rate, these lots range in price from $40 up to $100 (I can only assume that in the $100 lot that Jay Cutler personally valet parks your car). In their defense, the landscaping around the stadium is very nice. Having what is essentially a city park surrounding the stadium gives it a nicer appearance than the concrete parking lots that make Arrowhead convenient, but less attractive.
The reason I can’t really compare the tailgating experience is because I wasn’t able to participate. Not that I’m complaining, I was at a brunch on the club level at Soldier Field on Verizon’s dime. It was impressive, but let’s just say that it was a little different than the burgers, brats, and BBQ I usually partake in at a good old-fashioned Arrowhead tailgate. I’m assuming that if I tailgated with the Bears fans outside, it would have been more similar to my KC experiences. I do give the Bears fans props for tailgating despite the poor weather.
The stadium itself is interesting. On one hand you get a since of the tradition of one of the legendary stadiums of all time. On the other hand, it looks a little strange how they built the more modern stadium addition on top of the old stadium. One Chicago native I met described it as “looking like a space ship landed on top of the old stadium”. That’s really not a bad description of how it looks.
Speaking of history, there is a section of the stadium that gives a little history of the team. Here’s a picture of Mike Ditka from his playing days from this area.
There is definitely some cool history at Soldier Field, but nothing that even compares to the Chiefs Hall Of Honor. I give the Chiefs double bonus points for their renovations for keeping the original look and feeling of Arrowhead and adding a very impressive Hall Of Honor that really displays the history of the team and is very easy to access for anyone attending a game. One thing that was very cool about Soldier Field were the historical military quotes engraved in the benches around the interior perimeter of the stadium.
Another thing I liked a lot about Soldier Field is how it feels like it’s a part of the city itself. Arrowhead and Kaufman Stadium are like a sports island in the middle of a sea of highways. Meanwhile, Soldier Field gives you a scenic view of either the city skyline or Lake Michigan depending on what side of the stadium you are on. The following picture is from my seat. You can see the scenic Chicago skyline on the far side of the stadium.
The stadium itself is smaller than Arrowhead, and I noticed it right away when I walked out to find my seat. The official stadium capacity is listed at 61,500, compared to the 79,451 at Arrowhead. You can see in the picture below how much closer to the field the upper deck is.
The combination of a smaller stadium and a larger city make Bears tickets in high demand. I looked up the ticket prices for the next home game for each team on Stub Hub and as of yesterday you could get tickets to this weekend’s Chiefs game for as low as $40.50. The cheapest ticket available for the Bears’ next home game (vs Detroit) is $188.95. What this causes is an interesting mix of fans. The “common fans” that are there are die hards that are on par with the most loyal Arrowhead faithful. You can imagine how dedicated you would have to be to go to a game with those ticket prices if you were just an average “Working Joe.” These fans are decked out in their Bears attire from head to toe. They scream at the top of their lungs when the Bears are on defense and are all around great fans.
I had a couple of these type of guys sitting next to me. They turned and high fived me after big plays (I didn’t have the heart to tell them I wasn’t a Bears fan and didn’t really care who won, I just rolled with it). They also swore and punched the seat in front of them when something bad happened. They were basically just like numerous fans that I have sat next to at Arrowhead, just decked out in navy and orange. However, the high ticket prices also put some wealthy Chicagoans in the stands that are there because of the status/experience of going as opposed to because they are really passionate about the team. I’m sure KC has these fans too, but I think the size of the stadium and the lower ticket prices allows for more of the “average fans” to attend KC games. I also found it funny that before the game there was actually an announcement over the stadium intercom and on the scoreboard explaining that fans should make noise while the Bears were on defense. Let’s just say that they don’t find it necessary to make that announcement at Arrowhead.
I’m sure the die hard Bear fans sitting next to me thought I was one of the fans that needed this reminder since I didn’t have any Bears gear on, didn’t scream like a crazy person, and spent half the game looking at my cell phone (looking for Twitter updates on the KC game). At the end of the third quarter I went to try and find one of the Italian Beef sandwiches that I had been told were good (it was). I was also trying to find a spot with better cell service because I was having trouble getting Chiefs updates and the game was close going into the 4th quarter. On my way, I ran into the editor of Fansided’s Rams blog who was also there as part of the Verizon program. He told me he saw the Chiefs/Cowboys game on one of the lounge TVs on the level below us.
That was all I needed to hear.
I never returned to my seat in the stands. I spent the rest of the game sitting on a couch staring at a bank of TVs that were showing the Bears game, the Chiefs game, and the NFL Redzone channel.
You can decide whether that makes me a true die hard Chiefs fan or an idiot who missed the end of a really great live game between the Bears and Vikings to watch another game on TV. I did at least get up from the lounge couch and go watch Jay Cutler’s game winning TD pass through a concourse window. So officially I can say I saw the game winning score. While Soldier Field erupted into an excited roar, I returned to my couch and watched the last few minutes of the Chiefs 17-16 win.
As I stood staring at the TV, arms raised, as the Chiefs victory became official, throngs of Bears fans began flowing out into the concourses. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Arrowhead after an exciting victory. They hooted and hollered, slapped each other on the back, and some even sang the Bears Fight Song (which is actually pretty catchy). A scene not unlike when KC fans continue the Tomahawk Chop chant on their way out of the stadium.
All in all, I came away impressed with the Bears fans and game day experience at Soldier Field. If you ever have a chance to take in a game there, I highly recommend it. I think if I ever have a lot of money to spare (ha!!!!), it would be an absolute blast to do a road trip to Soldier Field when the Chiefs play there. Take in the city of Chicago, show them how to tailgate it up Arrowhead style, and watch a game at one of the great NFL stadiums.
That having been said, Arrowhead Stadium and its Chiefs faithful are still the clear champions of the game day experience. Granted, I’m completely biased, but as great as a lot of those Bears fans were, the KC fans that fill the parking lot (along with the smell of BBQ on a grill) are what make our experience the best in the NFL. Whether they are offering you a beer and some ribs or screaming like a pack of wild dogs on a defensive third down, KC fans can’t be beat. Period.
Now just a little bit about the Verizon program I’m participating in.
Basically, Verizon sent me to Chicago (and the Bears game) and gave me a new Droid Maxx smartphone to use free for six months. In return, I give you my feedback on what I think from a sports fan perspective. Let me be clear, I’m free to give my honest opinion. The last thing I want is for you to worry that when you read one of my posts that it could turn into a Verizon infomercial. I’ll occasionally mention it in my weekly post, but this will be the most in-depth that you’ll ever hear me talk about it. If you’re a person that is interested in tech gadgets and sports apps, make sure you follow me on Twitter (@LyleGraversen) as I’ll be sharing more thoughts on specific features and apps there.
You’ll know right away if a post contains any mention of the program because you’ll see the disclaimer at the beginning of the post and the official looking logo at the end. On Twitter, any tweets relating to the program will have some Verizon hashtags attached to them.
Now, I’ll give you my initial thoughts on my new “toy”.
I’ve been an all Apple man for a few years now. My school district uses Apple, so I have a MacBook and iPad through them and then have owned an iPhone4 for a few years as well. So I was anticipating a painful transition from my all Apple universe.
However, I can safely say, I’m already hooked on this phone based on how it’s helped me follow the NFL. As part of the program we got the NFL Mobile app on the phone. I’ll spare you the details about how you can get news, updates, etc. on your favorite team and cut right to the best part. You can watch NFL Network 24 hours a day on your phone with this app. In fact, as I was waiting at the airport to fly home I was able to watch NFL Network to help pass the time. You can also watch the Thursday, Sunday, and Monday prime time games live on your phone. So when storms were knocking out my DirecTV signal on Thursday night, I was able to watch the Chiefs/Eagles on my phone until the signal came back. Even though they don’t have the Sunday day games available, it does include the NFL Redzone channel. So when my wife sent me to Walmart to do some shopping on Sunday (only because there wasn’t a Chiefs game on) I was able to have NFL Redzone on right there in Walmart to help me block out all the “interesting” people that normally drive me crazy while shopping.
On my iPhone4, I would have had two major concerns with doing this. First, I would have been annoyed watching football on such a tiny screen. Second, streaming much video always sucks my battery life. This isn’t a problem now. As you can see below, the screen of the Maxx is much bigger. It makes watching easier, and you can also see how much more of the fine articles here at AA fit on the screen.
In terms of battery life, it’s far superior to my iPhone as well. It advertises 48 hours of battery life, but for actual daily use, it’s a little short of that. I used it regularly for two days straight and it finally hit 10 percent about 5 p.m. on the second day. That’s still significantly longer than my iPhone. So I can safely read articles on the FanSided app, check email and Twitter, listen to the latest AA podcast, and actually watch live football without having to worry about the battery dying before the day is over.
Again, that’s the most you’ll ever read from me on this program at one time. I hope the information was worthy of your time. I really do recommend the full NFL Mobile app through Verizon if it’s available for your phone. It’s an NFL Addict’s dream.
All right, Addicts, to take you back to my original topic, my question for you this week is what other NFL stadiums have you been to? Do any of them stack up to Arrowhead? Any good tailgating stories from other stadiums? Anything you saw at another stadium that you wish Arrowhead had? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!