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The Mabley Archive Soldier Field redesign showed power had begun to shift.

Byline: Jack Mabley April 28, 2002 Glenview's own

"The public will be paying $1.3 billion over the next 31 years and driving by what undoubtedly will be the silliest looking structure ever built on the Chicago lakefront."

That comment, by John Stassen, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, is a reasonable observation on the future of Soldier Field.

A decision Thursday by Circuit Court Judge John Madden cleared the way to continue to rebuild Soldier Field.

The Soldier Field plan is probably the most disastrous industrial design since Ford brought out the Edsel, with a front grill that looked like a toilet seat.

Ford discontinued the ill-fated model. But Soldier Field will sit there as a civic embarrassment for generations.

An intriguing aspect of this court decision, which is likely to be upheld on appeal, is that it is a major defeat for the Chicago Tribune. An unaccustomed, unwelcome and, I think, unjustified defeat.

I grew up in an era when what the Tribune wanted, the Tribune got. It enthusiastically advocated protecting Chicago's precious lakefront.

But when publisher Robert R. McCormick wanted an airport in Grant Park, he got Meigs Field. When he wanted a lakefront convention center, he got McCormick Place. McCormick's muscle in Springfield was a political writer named George Tagge. Tagge didn't just twist arms in the legislature. He figuratively put guns to their heads.

They called McCormick Place "Tagge's Temple."

That was then. This is a new century.

The Trib used every gun in its arsenal to fight the stadium change. Its architecture critic wrote countless articles about this "monstrosity" by the lake. Editorials, news stories, charts and graphs and, I suspect, some behind-the-scenes arm twisting failed to overcome the clout of Mayor Richard M. Daley and the National Football League and the Bears, whose market value went up about $400 million with Judge Madden's decision.

I agree with the Tribune all the way. But it is healthier for our democracy that no newspaper have the power the Tribune had under Col. McCormick.

The paper's other major mission is support for the expansion of O'Hare field. Since almost everyone in Illinois backs the expansion except for a few thousand residents near the airport and one junior senator, the Trib will be on the winning side in that one.

The phoniest argument used to support the Bears is that the stadium won't cost taxpayers anything. They claim hotel and motel taxes paid by visitors will pay for the stadium. Those are taxes. They could be used to improve schools, build sewers, enhance health services. Also, if these hotel and motel taxes fall short, Chicago's taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.

I suspect the Trib will not take the loss gracefully. It will keep sniping away as the structure inside the columns honoring the war dead soars high in the air.

While their new home is being built, the Bears will play their home games in Champaign.There is delicious irony there. The University of Illinois playing field is called Memorial Stadium. It was built after World War I at the same time Soldier Field was constructed. It has similar columns honoring the war dead.

But the university has taken loving care of Memorial Stadium. It put a few million dollars into renovating it, and it remains a fine place of business for the business of football.

One final thought. The Bears management displayed rare skills in pushing this stadium deal through the legislature and the city. What about skills in producing a championship football team?

Shucks, it's only a game, isn't it? Only a game that has promoted the owners from rich to super rich and rewarded its fans by making them pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the privilege of buying tickets.

I wonder how much hot dogs will cost?
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Author:Jack Mabley April 28, 2002 Glenview's own
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Jul 15, 2021
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