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The Chicago Park District completed a complete re-sodding of Soldier Field on Wednesday after two preseason games, a handful of prep games and two U2 concerts over the past month.

Promises for a beautiful field were not met. I'm not sure how it will look on television sets, but from my perch in the press box at the five-yard line in the Southeast corner of the stadium, it doesn't look too good. It's very apparent that a sod job has been done. There are a handful of workers surveying the turf and players are beginning to trickle out on the field. They did paint the "C" in the right spot at midfield this time. It was clear before the last preseason game vs. Cleveland that the "C" was initially drawn in the wrong spot.

Tight end Desmond Clark ripped the surface in his blog two weeks ago. Players have made it clear they've never approved of the surface. I can't say how it will be from a performance standpoint. It might look bad and actually perform well. From a visual standpoint, probably not what the Bears were hoping their home turf would look like.

The Bears were one of 21 NFL teams to freeze or lower tickets prices for 2009 (their tickets remain at the same price as 2008 seats) but the average cost of a ticket to a game is up 3.9 percent leaguewide this season.

That's due in large part to the large structure that's been erected in Arlington, Texas, Dallas Cowboys Stadium, this according to the Team Marketing Report.

The average cost of a ticket to Jerry Jones' football palace is $159.67, a figure that blows away the previous high by more than $40. New England established a previous high last year with an average ticket cost of $117.84. The Patriots remain at that price this season. The Bears come in with the fourth-most expensive average ticket in the league at $88.33, nudged out of third place by the New York Giants by 30 cents. However, the Bears are the third-most expensive team for a family of four to see a game at, according to the report, at $501.33, up 3.5 percent because of changes to some concession rates.

Here is a breakdown of how the Bears fare according to the report:

Average ticket: $88.33, No. 4 in league
Average premium ticket: $312.50, No. 5 in league


The Soldier Field playing surface looked lousy last Thursday night when the Bears hosted the Cleveland Browns in the preseason finale, and the view from high above the turf in the press box was not deceiving.

It looked bad from the players' perspective, too, but that is nothing new.

Veteran tight end Desmond Clark, entering his seventh year playing home games at Soldier Field, was critical of the field in his blog in an entry titled "Our field is terrible.''

"Let me get all of my negative energy out first. Did you guys take a good look at our field. If you did you had to be disgusted. Lets take a look at some of the things before I make my statement about how I feel. Just assume you didnt read the title of this blog. Last week we played on a field that was immaculate in Denver. We have only played one game at Soldier Field. We are basically the biggest market in the league and I say that because New York is split between two teams. Green Bay has a nice playing surface. It was not always this way until the last couple of years when they revamped it by adding a synthetic grass that is woven in with the real grass. Some of our opponents comments: "yall play on a cow pasture" "this is the [worst] field in the league" "what the hell is going on with this field". These are a few comments that come to mind. What the hell is the park distict of Chi cgo doing when it comes to taking care of this field. They have to resod the whole field before we play Pittsburgh, which will lead to loose turf. Basically, to some it up in a sentence, we have one of the worst fields in the NFL and there are no excuses why the Chicago Bears, of all teams, should have to play on such a bad surface. Thank God preseason is over and here we come Green Bay. Sunday night football, couldnt think of a greater way to start the season"

I say this is nothing new because Bears players hammered the Soldier Field playing surface last year. In a bi-annual survey conducted by the NFL Players Association, 52 Bears players responded and they ranked Soldier Field as the worst natural grass surface in the league. Overall, the leaguewide survey conducted during team meetings between September and November named Soldier Field the fourth-worst grass playing field, ahead of only Pittsburgh, Oakland and Miami.


The wobbling economy has hit the NFL hard in some markets but the Bears remain strong.

Forbes released its annual list of franchise values on Wednesday and the Bears came in ninth at $1.082 billion. What's better, the club ranks eighth in operating income at $41.6 million. It's no surprise that Dallas was tops on the list at $1.65 billion, a figure bolstered by the sparkling new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Washington came in second at $1.55 billion and Daniel Snyder was the runaway leader in operating income at $90.3 million, almost $20 million more than the next closest team.

The rest of the top 10 in current value--New England, New York Giants, New York Jets, Houston, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Bears and Denver. Nineteen teams were valued at $1 billion or more, but for the first time in a decade there were franchises that lost value. In fact, eight teams dropped in value, led by the Oakland Raiders, who dipped seven percent to $797 million.

The publicly held Green Bay Packers were 18th at $1.019 billion with an operating income of $20.1 million. Because their books are public, Forbes can obtain great detail on the franchise.

Forbes noted that the Bears are the second most expensive stadium to attend a game at according to Team Marketing Report behind only New England. Forbes characterized the Bears' contract with the Chicago Park District to play at Soldier Field as a sweetheart deal.

The Bears have one of the best stadium deals in the NFL. The team pays $5.7 million a season in rent and gets all football-related revenue at Soldier Field. A big plus for the Bears: $35 million a season from premium seating. The Bears also have one of the leanest operations in the NFL, a tradition that started with the team's founder, George Halas. As a result, the team should still make a fortune this season despite not increasing ticket prices.

But one writer believes the Bears should be doing more, much more with their corporate opportunity. Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports, the former longtime NFL writer for Sports Illustrated, released his annual ranking of the owners, or the bottom half of the owners. The top half comes on Thursday. Silver hammers the McCaskey family, ranking them 30th, ahead of only runaway maverick Al Davis in Oakland and Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Interesting tidbit this morning on

The Bears will likely be opening the 2009 season on the road. At least according to an official U2 Web site they will be. The band has a list of dates and sites for its upcoming U2 360 Tour and the first North American date is Saturday, Sept. 12 at Soldier Field. That's one day before the first Sunday of the NFL season. Of course, the schedule will open on Thursday, Sept. 10, but the Bears are highly unlikely to be hosting a game that night. Typically, that date goes to the defending Super Bowl champion.

Long day with plenty of non-related football activity. We're happy to get this Fourth Down Territory in before the day is out.

Q: Since the Bears signed the quarterback from Carolina, Brett Basanez, do you see them releasing Rex Grossman? That would just be so awesome.

Nada, Parts Unknown

A: You have nada clue when it comes to the situation, apparently. Grossman is out of contract and will become an unrestricted free agent when the period opens Feb. 27. You cannot release a player you do not have under contract.

Why would it be awesome for Grossman to be released?

It's very apparent he did not fulfill the expectations that the organization had for him, or those that he probably had for himself. Grossman has not been a pariah like Cade McNown was. Grossman hasn't been a former No. 4 overall pick busted twice in five weeks for booze incidents that he was eventually cleared of in court. Grossman didn't get it done. I'm not a Grossman backer, Grossman supporter or Grossman apologist, and you can find those types. I didn't care that he got booed at Soldier Field by hometown fans, who pay for tickets and can do as they please. But I can't understand how he is Public Enemy No. 1 for so many people. Fans are disappointed, understandably, by the Bears' long struggle to right the position. Grossman is just one guy who didn't get it done. It strikes me that he's somehow become the target for the failings of an organization. Grossman didn't draft himself. He didn't sign Jonathan Quinn. He didn't draft McNown. He sure as heck didn't trade for another quarterback from Indiana in Rick Mirer. But people want to see him fall flat on his face, preferably in a puddle of mud. Seems like the blame is being misplaced here. Grossman should get credit for handling himself like a pro during six seasons with the organization. Just remember, he didn't tell booing fans to stay at home and serenade their television set. Who knows if it will work out for him elsewhere. We'll see.

The Bears will announce today that season-ticket prices will not increase for 2009. The club has been holding internal meetings for some time to map out the coming year, and a big part of the budgeting process is determining how much revenue will be generated through ticket sales. The Bears joined roughly three-quarters of the league, according to commissioner Roger Goodell, in keeping their prices level.

Soldier Field is the smallest stadium in the league (the Colts used to be 32nd before moving into Lucas Oil Stadium) and that limits the ability of the club to collect money. The Bears ranked eighth last year in average ticket price. When you factor in fewer seats, that put them closer to the middle of the pack in terms of total ticket revenue generated.

Bears president Ted Phillips discussed the decision, issues related to it and some more football. Here is a Q&A:


TP: We've typically increased prices every year, some years more than others just to be able to keep our ticket revenue in the middle of the pack given that our capacity is small. So, a year ago I would say to you that we were anticipating increasing ticket prices again. And frankly it's really no more complicated than taking a look at the very challenging economic environment that every fan, every person in America is facing. It's not not just a down economic year, it's an unprecedented situation that has huge impact on every citizen and we felt for that reason it was the right thing to do.

After raising ticket prices in at least some manner for eight straight years, the Bears will freeze their prices for 2009.

In light of a struggling economy, the club decided that it was the best strategy even as occupants of the smallest stadium in the 32-team league. The Bears average ticket price was eighth in the league last season.

``Frankly, it's really no more complicated than taking a look at the very challenging economic environment that every fan, every person in America is facing,'' team president Ted Phillips said. ``It's not not just a down economic year, it's an unprecedented situation that has huge impact on every citizen and we felt for that reason it was the right thing to do.''

TAMPA, Fla.--Let the debate about the playing surface at Soldier Field continue.

The NFL Players Association released its 2008 Playing Surfaces Opinion Survey Thursday and once again the Bears' homefield did poorly.

The leaguewide survey conducted during team meetings between September and November named Soldier Field the fourth-worst grass playing field in the NFL, ahead of only Pittsburgh, Oakland and Miami. The three best were Arizona, Tampa Bay and San Diego. It wasn't just road teams that were dogging the surface. Bears players chose Soldier Field as the worst grass surface in the league.

INDIANAPOLIS—Under the cover of the scouting combine, the Bears announced they will be raising ticket prices across the board in Soldier Field for the 2008 season.

The press release follows:

The Bears have been 13-3 at Soldier Field over the last two regular seasons and their mark is 15-4 at home overall counting the playoffs. The finished 8-2 in 2006 at home, including the postseason, and the only time they have had a better mark at home is 1985 when they were 10-0.

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