Getting NFL draft paints clear picture

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  • Chicago’s renovated Soldier Field stadium is shown before the Bears’ Monday Night Football game on Sept. 29, 2003.

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By Michal Dwojak, Assistant sports editor

When it was announced on Thursday that the 2015 NFL Draft would be held in Chicago, I was left with mixed feelings.

I was excited because the draft will leave Radio City Music Hall and come to the city that I love. When it became known that the two finalists to host the draft were Chicago and Los Angeles, I thought Los Angeles would get chosen because of the Nokia Theater and the ongoing initiative to establish an NFL franchise there. But Chicago was the victor and is going to be the host to one of the NFL’s most important events for a week.

Unfortunately, the draft was a consolation prize. Winning the rights to host the draft more than likely means that Chicago will never host a Super Bowl, based on a mistake that was made 13 years ago.

In 2001, the Chicago Park District announced that historic Soldier Field would be renovated — its interior completely redone while most of the outside would be preserved. It was a discussion that the city had for 10 years prior to the announcement. Plans of building a stadium in northwest suburb Arlington Heights or constructing one across from Chicago Stadium were thrown around, but the decision was made to stay by the lakefront and to keep Soldier Field mostly intact.

The decision was met with criticism from dozens of writers and columnists. It received mixed reviews from the architecture community. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin called it the “Eyesore on the Lake Shore.” People to this day say it’s as if “a spaceship landed on the stadium.”

Not only was the renovation an architectural disaster, it cost the historic stadium. After the 2003 renovation, the stadium actually lost 5,000 seats and currently has a capacity of 61,500, the lowest among NFL stadiums.

What was also lost was the stadium’s historic status. After the renovations took so much away, a 10-member federal advisory committee unanimously decided that Soldier Field should be de-listed as a National Historic Landmark. The point of renovating was to keep the history alive on the lakefront; now that point is moot.

Mistakes were made when deciding what to do about the stadium. Yes, it would’ve been a shame to see the historic stadium go, but such is the way of life. Comiskey Park had to go. So did Chicago Stadium. We’ve moved on. We remember the memories that the old facilities provided us, and we move on with the present. I hear little complaining about the United Center and U.S. Cellular Field.

So what could’ve been done?

Do what Indianapolis and Detroit did. Do what Dallas and Houston did. Do what Minneapolis is doing right now. Build a domed stadium with a retractable roof.

What about “Bear weather?”

What about it? The team needs all the help it can get during the winter when it’s fighting for a playoff spot. 

With a domed stadium, Chicago would have what the other cities have had and will have: Super Bowls. Chicago is world-renowned; why shouldn’t it host a Super Bowl?

It’s not just Super Bowls that Chicago is missing. The Big Ten championship game could’ve been played in Chicago instead of in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Chicago would’ve been able to host the Final Four. 

New York might be suggested as a glimmer of hope for Chicago. The truth is, New York was lucky that there wasn’t any snow during last year’s Super Bowl or the week leading up to it. Also, MetLife Stadium has a capacity of 82,566, over 20,000 more seats (and tickets) than Soldier Field. 

So yes, we did win the draft, and it will be a great experience at the Auditorium Theater when the dreams of college hopefuls come true and fans celebrate at the Fanfest at Grant Park. But it’s an indication that Chicago shouldn’t be expecting to host a Super Bowl in the near future.

It’s not all bad news though, Bears fans. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel promises that he will start to look into the Soldier Field grass and investigate why exactly grass has trouble growing when it’s on top of a lake.

Michal is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @mdwojak94.