Veteran players were particularly glad to have the opportunity to check out the new locker room.
"These young guys, the rookies and the second year players, don't have a clue what the old locker room was like," said CB R.W. McQuarters. "It was terrible. The place was cramped. We were always bumping into each other just trying to find some space to get dressed. It was damp and drafty. There wasn't any hot water. It was embarrassing to be there."
What greets the team on game day now is a far cry from the former arrangement. The first thing that the player see as they enter the locker area is a striking blue carpet with a bright orange "Bears" woven into it. Large wooden lockers line up along the perimeter of the central area. Expanded equipment and training sections are located adjacent to the lockers, with a room for media interviews just down the hall.
The visitor's locker room has a similar floor plan and decor, minus the Bears logo on the carpeting. It is located on the East Side of the stadium, across from the home team's facilities.
For the fans, there is just about every amenity available. The Club levels offer spacious atrium food courts sheltered by curved windows that overlook the lake and Burnham Harbor. Expanded concession stands, three times as many as were available in old Soldier Field, are scattered throughout the stadium and will stock all the vittles that sports buffs crave.
A Miller Lite Party Deck, located on a terrace underneath the north video board, offers a spectacular view of downtown Chicago. This venue should prove popular on warm fall and winter days.
But what if you want to watch the game while you're eating or enjoying a Miller Lite? No problem. There are 1000 television sets located throughout the facility. Two 23' x 82' video boards in the north and south end zones will have continual feeds of game action. A 600' LED ribbon screen will display statistics, advertisements and other features. The pictures are so good that even the players might sneak a peek now and then.
"I love those jumbo screens," said RB R.W. McQuarters. "The picture quality is excellent. I know that we players are supposed to keep our attention on the field 100% of the time, but I might catch myself glancing that way every now and then. Hey, I really look good up there."
Another fan friendly feature: restrooms. They're everywhere, even in the North Garage and the Waldron Parking Deck. No more standing long lines while missing the key play of the game.
If you want a souvenir, check out the Pro Shop at the north entrance. It will be open all year round. Or, if you'd just like to revisit some Bears history, the Bears Den located north of gate 15 will have a display of memorabilia and photos of the great players from years gone by.
Ticket holders will enjoy excellent unobstructed sight lines and are closer to the playing surface than they were previously. Each seat is comfortably contoured and has arm rests as well cup holders The angle from the top row down to the field is fairly steep, but not vertigo inducing.
The field itself? Beautiful. It's a lush mixture of 6 types of Kentucky bluegrass designed to provide an optimum playing surface. And, it's heated by an underground system of environmentally friendly propylene glycol and hot water that flows through narrow tubes. No more frozen feet on linemen or cold toes for Bears kickers.
It seems that every new stadium has state of the art audio equipment to get the crowd going. So what about sound system? Glad that you asked. 3 large clusters of speakers and 162 scattered individual speakers will provide a startling 100,000 watts of power. A definite home field advantage.
But wait, there's more. For such a high tech venue, there is a surprising amount of green space .The stadium is surrounded by rolling parkland with spectacular views of the Lake Michigan and of downtown Chicago. There's a sledding hill. A sizable playground is a short stroll away. One of the parking garages has trees planted on its top deck. A spectacular commemorative water wall dedicated to the armed forces graces the north entrances of the venue. This is a far cry from a traditional sports arena enclosed by acres of asphalt, concrete and steel.
LB Brian Urlacher has driven by the site many times, watching in wonder as the area developed.
"I must admit that I've been checking things out for quite a while. It's even better than I ever thought it would be," he said. "Marty Booker and I were here earlier in the summer, just after the turf had been placed. Things looked nice, but nothing was anywhere near completion. To see this today is just great. Everybody who worked here did a super job and we thank them for that. It's all that we players had hoped for and more."
Soon, ticket holders will have the chance to see for themselves. Kickoff is just over a week away.
"This stadium is definitely something special," said head coach Dick Jauron. "Tonight is my first time down here and I just love the place. It almost seems unreal. Everything is in perfect condition just waiting for that first ball to be thrown. Last year was pretty difficult for everybody. You try not to let the constant travel become a negative factor, but I think it does that after a while. We're home now right where we ought to be. I can't wait for opening day."