On December 3, 1919, Chicago-based architectural firm Holabird & Roche was chosen to design the stadium, which broke ground on August 11, 1922. The stadium cost US$13 million to construct (US$182 million in 2015 dollars), a large sum for a sporting venue at that time (in comparison, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum had cost less than US$1 million in 1923 dollars). On October 9, 1924, the 53rd anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the stadium was officially dedicated as Municipal Grant Park Stadium, although it had hosted a few events before then, including a field day for Chicago police officers on September 6, and the stadium's first football game, between Louisville Male High School and Austin Community Academy High School, on October 4. On November 22, the stadium hosted its first college football game, in which Notre Dame defeated Northwestern University 13-6.
On November 11, 1925, the stadium's name was changed to Soldier Field, in dedication to U.S. soldiers who had died in combat during World War I. Its formal rededication as Soldier Field was held during the 29th annual playing of the Army–Navy Game on November 27, 1926. Several months earlier, in June 1926, the stadium hosted several events during the 28th International Eucharistic Congress.
The stadium's design is in the Neoclassical style, with Doric columns rising above the East and West entrances. In its earliest configuration, Soldier Field was capable of seating 74,280 spectators, and was in the shape of a U. Additional seating could be added along the interior field, upper promenades, and on the large, open field and terrace beyond the north endzone, bringing the seating capacity to over 100,000.
Chicago Bears move in
The 1961 Chicago Bears practicing for the Armed Forces exhibition game at Soldier Field. The team would later move into the stadium full-time in 1971.
Before they moved into the stadium, the Chicago Bears had played select charity games at Soldier Field as early as 1926, when they played their former crosstown rivals, the Chicago Cardinals. The Cardinals also used the stadium as their home field for their final season in the city in 1959.
In 1971, the Bears moved into Soldier Field full-time, originally with a three-year commitment. The team previously played home games at Wrigley Field, the home stadium of the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball (MLB), but were forced to move to a larger venue due to post-AFL–NFL merger policies requiring that stadium capacities seat at least 50,000 spectators. The Bears had initially intended to build a stadium in Arlington Heights, but the property did not fit the league's specifications.
On September 19, 1971, the Bears played their first home game at Soldier Field, in which they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-15. In 1978, the Bears and the Chicago Park District agreed to a 20-year lease and renovation of the stadium; both parties pooled their resources for the renovation. The playing surface was AstroTurf from 1971 until 1987, and was replaced with natural grass in 1988. On February 27, 1987, Soldier Field was designated a National Historic Landmark.