Bear market for tickets to team’s frigid game on Saturday, among coldest in Soldier Field history

By Wednesday afternoon, grandstand seats that typically go for about $150 apiece were on the block for just $15 before fees on all the major ticket resale websites.

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A worker spreads salt as snow and ice are caked on the seats at Soldier Field before a November 2015 game. Temperatures are forecast to top out at 10 for Saturday’s game, after a snowstorm sweeps Chicago.

A worker spreads salt as snow and ice are caked on the seats at Soldier Field before a November 2015 game. Temperatures are forecast to top out at 10 for Saturday’s game, after a snowstorm sweeps Chicago.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

That dome is sounding better by the day for some Bears fans.

An enclosed suburban stadium might be in the playbook for the team years from now, but it’ll merely be a toasty fantasy for the shivering crowds that pack into a frigid Soldier Field this weekend after the season’s first major snowstorm barrels through Chicago.

That’s got many fans calling an audible this week, as ticket prices have plummeted for the Bears’ matchup on Saturday versus the Buffalo Bills — a contest that could end up among the coldest games ever played on the lakefront.

By Wednesday afternoon, grandstand seats that typically go for about $150 apiece were on the block for just $15 before fees on all the major ticket resale websites.

A few lower-level seats near the Bears sideline were going for less than $100 before fees, virtually unheard of in the team’s generally robust secondary ticket market.

While that could have something to do with the Bears’ last-place 3-11 record, it’s also due to the forecasted high temperature of 10 degrees — sure to feel even more bone-chilling from the upper deck with winds gusting in off the lake.

The teams are slated to kick off at noon Saturday, shortly after the expiration of a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service. Forecasters are predicting several inches of snow to pelt the area starting Thursday afternoon, with temperatures then plummeting into the single digits and winds gusting up to 50 mph to create blizzard conditions through Friday.

Saturday is expected to be marginally warmer with slightly calmer wind, but the weather service is still warning of “life-threatening” temperatures and wind chills.

Plenty of fans say they’re ready to weather the elements on Christmas Eve.

“It’s a badge of honor for guys like us to say, ‘Hey, screw it, let’s go,’” said Tim Shanley, who runs the Chicago Bears Tailgating Club. “We know what we’re doing, and we’re gonna do it. It’s like a conquering thing.”

Bears fans cheer during a freezing cold game at Soldier Field in December 2008.

Bears fans cheer during a freezing cold game at Soldier Field in December 2008.

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A resident of Austin, Texas — where temperatures are still in the 50s — Shanley has flown into town for just about every Bears home game over the past 15 years.

“You’ve gotta be prepared mentally and physically to stick it out,” said Shanley, who recommends putting cardboard under your feet inside the stadium to ward off some of the cold from the concrete.

That goes for the team on the other side of the football, too. Diane Wilczewski, a lifelong Bills fan who lives in La Porte, Indiana, said the cold is old hat for a team used to playing in the snow.

“We’re definitely diehard fans,” she said. “We’re moving the tailgate to my house, but pretty much everyone is still in at this point.”

Fellow seasoned Soldier Field pros Brian Anderson and Mike Fates — who have been hosting tailgates in their “Halas Hauler” for the better part of two decades — agreed it comes down to preparation and persistence.

“It’s all about layers. You can’t leave anything exposed. Ski goggles help,” Anderson said.

“And if the Bears are getting killed, you leave in the third quarter,” Fates said.

Depending on how low the mercury goes, the game could land on the all-time list of the coldest gridiron matchups at Soldier Field since the team moved there in 1971. The forecasted high of 10 would put it in a tie for #5 on a list previously compiled by the team.

The coldest game on record came Dec. 22, 2008, at a paltry 2 degrees Fahrenheit during a matchup with the Green Bay Packers. But it never felt colder than Dec. 18, 1983, when another Bears-Packers game saw the wind chill sink 15 degrees below zero.

Chicago Bears players breath in the frigid air during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 22, 2008, at Soldier Field.

Chicago Bears players breath in the frigid air during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 22, 2008, at Soldier Field.

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“Bear weather” could become a thing of the past, though, if team brass follows through with a plan to build a massive stadium complex in northwest suburban Arlington Heights.

Executives have said the potential $5 billion development would include a stadium with a roof, but it’ll take several years to complete it even if they’re able to secure the funding and government approvals needed to complete the project.

Shanley said he has mixed feelings about the prospect of a climate-controlled stadium.

“It’s not gonna feel like the Bears, that’s for sure.”

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