“Slumlord” Chicago Park District refuses Payton Statue


This LOWER THE BOOM has been building for some time now and today it finally hit a boiling point.

As Bears fans, we’ve put up with viewing our favorite team on one of the worst surfaces in the NFL or years.  When news broke this morning about the Chicago Park District rejecting the Payton family’s request to place a Walter Payton statue for outside of Soldier Field, I couldn’t be silent any more.

The Bears are the Chicago Park District’s primary tenant for Soldier Field.  When the Bears aren’t using it, which amount to about 355 days a years, the CPD is free to host other events there.   Last weekend, U2 kicked off their North American tour with 2 sold-out shows at Soldier Field last weekend.  Sounds great, right?  I’m a huge U2 fan and to think that they were playing in my home town was an exciting prospect until you see what they did to the playing surface.

So when players are pulling up sod and making divots the size of some notorious Chicago springtime potholes, thank Bono and company.

This is an annual gripe among Bears players.  The CPD has every Tom, Dick and High School using that field when not occupied by the Bears.  Do they have to tear it up right before the home opener?   Couldn’t they work out the scheduling?

Desmond Clark made news last week on his blog, tearing up Soldier Field (pun intended), while Matt Forte expressed his concerns on Waddle and Silvey’s show on ESPN 1000 the other day:

"“I’m definitely concerned about it,” Forte said on the “Waddle & Silvy” show on ESPN 1000. “I make a lot of cuts out there, and that’s important being a running back. And [it’s important] to the special teams and every part of the offense and defense.“I just hope the field is set in.”"

Adewale Ogunleye chimed in as well, lobbying opposing players to vote Soldier Field the worst in the league:

"“They have a survey every year, and they ask players to rate the worst field in the league,” Ogunleye said. “Some games — during the game — I’m telling guys, ‘Next year when you have that survey, make sure you put our field down as the worst in the league.’ It is. It’s bad."

It’s an embarrassment to one of the premier franchises in the league and what claims to be a world class city.  Chicago wants to host the Olympics?  Wait until a player gets injured because of this substandard field.

I was already revved up when I heard that this same slumlord was refusing to place a statue of Chicago Bear and NFL legend Walter Payton outside of Soldier Field.

"According to a Payton family spokeswoman, park district officials explained that Soldier Field and the area surrounding it is to be preserved strictly as a memorial to war veterans. There also is concern a Payton statue outside of Soldier Field might diminish the stature of other former Bears Hall of Famers.The park district, which oversees Soldier Field and its grounds, reportedly offered to have the statue placed at any other Chicago park."

I’m sorry, is there any other park in Chicago where this statue belongs?  Maybe they could put it across from the Bean in Millennium Park or in the middle of Grant Park for next year’s Taste of Chicago?  Are you kidding me?  Payton’s former teammate Matt Suhey had this to say:

"Suhey, who played fullback on the Super Bowl XX champion Bears, praised the Bears’ organization for trying to get the statue placed outside of Soldier Field.“The Bears have been great,” Suhey said. Several years ago, the Bears unveiled a dramatic 26 1/2 -foot tall granite bas-relief sculpture, depicting a timeline describing Halas’ contribution to professional football and the history of the Bears. It is located inside Soldier Field’s Bear Den, in the west concourse."

So why is it acceptable to have a sculpture dedicated to Halas and the Bears inside the “war memorial” yet not have a statue of one of the most revered and beloved Chicago Bears of all time?

Let me say this clearly – I am not taking anything away from the brave men and women who served our country,  whom Soldier Field was originally intended to memorialize.  Their memory, however,  was long forgotten by the time the spaceship landed inside the colonnades of the Soldier Field facade in 2003.   Those being honored were pushed aside for luxury suites and Personal Seat Licenses  and more concession stands (read as more money for the Bears and the CPD).

The Bears organization needs to stand up to their slumlord the Chicago Park District and demand that this statue find a home outside of Soldier Field.  There is plenty of room in the area surrounding Soldier Field to honor Payton, other Bears Hall of Famers and the veterans the CPD claims it must honor.

If not for their primary tenant for Soldier Field, the Chicago Park District has the world’s largest high school football stadium.  Good luck selling PSL’s to Simeon vs Mount Carmel.   The Chicago Park District can’t have their cake and eat it too.   If they want to host high school games and other events in Soldier Field, they’ve got to ensure the field is up to par and they need to respect their tenant’s wishes regarding the Payton statue.


Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BearGogglesOn.

Get Bears updates sent straight to your Inbox for free by subscribing to Bear Goggles On.

Want the ultimate Game Day experience?  Check out Bears Game Day, my new blog on ChicagoNow.com.   I’ll be doing a live blog during every game and getting instant reaction from around the web.