Frames full of memories.
That’s what longtime Bears season ticket holder Mark Norton says he and his family are losing with the team’s announcement on Friday that it’s eliminating all physical tickets next season in favor of electronic passes to get into Soldier Field.
Norton and his family have been fixtures in the front row of Section 249 since 1971 — and he has the catalog of hundreds of tickets framed in his New Lenox home to prove it.
The diehard joined scores of other fans on social media who bemoaned the team’s stub snub, which Bears president Ted Phillips says is intended to reduce ticket fraud.
“It’s devastating, especially for it to be the 100th season,” Norton said by phone on Saturday. “You can look at any ticket, and there’s a story that goes with it.”
Like his stub from the Dec. 8, 1985, game against the Colts, when the Bears rebounded from their only loss that legendary season. There aren’t many plays that come to mind from that 17-10 win, but Norton will always remember lingering in the stadium after the game with his brother-in-law to sneak down by Bears’ locker room.
“It was a different time, security-wise,” Norton said.
Their light trespassing was rewarded with autographs from a line of Bears greats including William “The Refrigerator” Perry and Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent, who signed their tickets.
Then there are the Walter Payton-themed souvenir tickets used the year after his death. The hologram tickets that went out in 2003 after Soldier Field’s notorious renovation. The framed set of Bears-Packers tickets that Norton gave as a gift to his eldest daughter, who always gets first dibs on a seat for the rivalry game.
“These are special things to hold onto. That’s going to be gone,” Norton said.
As an airline worker who sees shoddy cell service holding up lines with travelers trying to call up their mobile plane tickets, Norton says he’s skeptical the Soldier Field Wi-Fi will be sufficient — or that people will have the forethought to take a screenshot of their tickets ahead of time.
“Especially us older folks,” the 56-year-old said. “I just think it’s gonna be a cluster. If you don’t go an hour early, you’re not getting in for the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ ”
Norton acknowledges, “it’s the end of an era, and that’s the way things go.
“But you wish they would give you a choice.”