CHICAGO — Soldier Field has hosted four college football games since its renovation ended in 2003.
Illinois will play Washington on Sept. 14 for the fifth such game.
Jason Heggemeyer, the assistant athletic director in charge of ticketing at Illinois, doesn’t have an exact number of tickets the school has sold yet for the game.
“It’s changing every day,” Heggemeyer said. “It wouldn’t be fair right now to list a total since it’s so early in the process. They just went on sale earlier this month on Ticketmaster. We’ve sent out order forms to donors and season ticket-holders. We’re pretty happy with the way the word has gotten out.”
Soldier Field’s capacity is 61,500 since the renovation. Of the four college games at Soldier Field since 2007, two have sold out.
Last year’s Notre Dame-Miami game on Oct. 6 drew the biggest crowd at 62,871, while 61,500 fans showed up for Iowa’s 16-3 win against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1, 2007. The game between NIU and Iowa was the first college football game at the venue since Northwestern beat Oklahoma 24-0 on Aug. 23, 1997.
“We didn’t really have a specific amount of tickets we had to sell,” said Eric Schultz, NIU’s ticket manager. “We had a partnership with Iowa where we basically split the field in half. We were right up there around 19,000 or 20,000 tickets bought by our fans.”
Illinois has only played once before at Soldier Field. Lou Tepper’s team lost 10-9 to Washington State on Sept. 1, 1994, a Thursday night game that drew a crowd of 39,472 to the stadium that then could hold 66,950.
Some of the old concrete bleachers are still at Soldier Field. Only problem is they are on the outside of the stadium, with club suites replacing a large chunk of those seats.
“It’s a beautiful facility right on the lake,” Schultz said. “The amenities there were just incredible. Our fans have grown to love that facility.”
Heggemeyer hopes the same sentiment spreads to Illinois fans. Illinois officials have dubbed the Washington game as the Chicago homecoming.
“We’ve made a commitment to playing this game in Chicago and bringing our product to fans up there,” Heggemeyer said. “Our motivating factor is to bring campus to Chicago for one day.”
Are you ready for something besides football?
Soldier Field isn’t just used for the Chicago Bears or college football games. A plethora of entertainment options are a common sight at the massive structure just off Lake Michigan. Especially since it was renovated and reopened in 2003. Here’s a look at what’s been there and what’s coming:
Rolling Stones, Sept. 10, 2005
Mick Jagger and friends celebrated the first concert since the renovation. As part of the special set, 400 seats were built into the stage for fans to sit in. It was the Stones’ sixth appearance at Soldier Field since 1978, and the group followed up with an Oct. 11, 2006, show.
Gold Cup final, June 24, 2007
The United States men’s soccer team beat Mexico 2-1 before a sellout crowd of 60,000 to win the country’s fourth Gold Cup title. The Gold Cup, which will make a return to Soldier Field this summer when the championship match takes place July 28, determines the regional champion among teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean every two years.
U2, Sept. 12-13, 2009
Bono & Co. opened their 360° tour in North America at Soldier Field. The two-night stay in Chicago was the first of 15 cities the Irish quartet hit before arriving back at Soldier Field on July 5, 2011, as part of the seventh and final leg of the three-year tour.
Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake, July 22
The two music icons will take the stage near the lakefront for the first time as part of their Legends of the Summer Stadium Tour. The 12-city North American tour starts July 17 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto before wrapping up Aug. 16 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
Taylor Swift, Aug. 10
Five days before ESPN arrives for a Bears-Chargers preseason game, the 23-year-old pop star will play the stadium for the first time ever. Like, ever.
ALS Walk4Life, Sept. 22
The Bears are off to Pittsburgh for a Sunday night game this date. Earlier during the day, the 12th annual Les Turner ALS Walk4Life will take place. It’s a 2-mile walk along the lakefront to raise money and awareness for the disease commonly associated with New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig and has raised nearly $8 million since it started.