Bears considering artificial turf at Soldier Field

Bears considering artificial turf at Soldier Field
July 30, 2014, 11:45 am
Tony Andracki

This should make the players happy.

Soldier Field's natural grass surface has come under fire consistentely over the last few years as constant complaints from NFL players, coaches and analysts have streamed in.

But that might not be an issue for much longer.

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Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips said on the Kap and Haugh Show Wednesday the organization would be willing to move to artificial turf on Soldier Field.

"I've never shut the door on the possibility that - at some point in the future - Soldier Field does the transformation from grass to infield surface," Phillips said.

The show's hosts - Davids Kaplan and Haugh - mentioned reports that artifical turf may lead to more injuries.

With so much at stake, Phillips and the Bears are doing their research.

"Player cost is not going down - there's millions of dollars on the line every year and I want to be extra careful," Phillips said. "Because once we decide to make that change, it's never going back to grass. So, I'm currently in the process to gather the most recent data."

The Bears lined Soldier Field with AstroTurf for 16 years through the 1987 season before going back to natural grass. That means Walter Payton - who almost never missed a game in his 13-year career - ran solely on AstroTurf in Chicago, which is also widely considered to be inferior to the modern-day artificial turf.

In terms of team performance, is the grass field hurting the Bears?

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Phillips doesn't think so:

"The reality is, the win-loss record of the Bears [at home] in December and January is awfully good, so you can't point to the surface for a reason for us not being able to win late in the year," he said.

But is he right?

Since Phillips began his post with the Bears prior to the 1999 season, the team is 21-15 in games at Soldier Field in December and January, including a 3-3 record in the postseason. (Note: The Bears played at Memorial Stadium in Champaign in the 2002 season.)

But over the last three seasons, the Bears are just 1-5 in games at Soldier Field after Dec. 1.

It's too close to the start of the 2014 season to make any changes now, but keep an eye on this story as it develops heading into 2015 or beyond.

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