With the urging of Chicago Mayor William Thompson and the support of the City Council, the hopes of building a monumental stadium on the lakefront were realized when the South Park Commission (later merging with other Chicago park commissions to create the Chicago Park District) unanimously approved the construction of the stadium. Six architectural firms were invited to participate in a competition to draft plans for the stadium. Mayor Thompson wanted something grand, the largest stadium every built, seating 150,000 and, according to him, “outdoing anything . . . that the Romans had ever built.”
The architectural firm of William Holabird and Martin Roche won unanimous approval from the competitions jury. The City and the South Park Commission had to fund the project through issuing bonds. Unlike today, where the board, the mayor and/or City Council could issues bonds, the voters would have to approve the issuance of bonds at the polls. They did so enthusiastically, with the bonds receiving a vote of three to one. After a great deal of wrangling about design features and costs with contractors, Municipal Grant Park Stadium was officially dedicated on October 9th, 1924, the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire.
The dedication was a mish-mash of entertainment and memorials, similar to a modern day Super Bowl halftime show. One act even sought to reenact the Great Chicago Fire with Catherine O’Leary’s great-great-granddaughter escorting a relative of Bessie onto the field. To learn more about the construction and how the stadium got it’s current name, visit your local library and borrow Soldier Field by Liam Ford.