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Can you believe it? Bears ditch plastic beer cups at Soldier Field

A fan peruses the beer selection during a recent Bears game at Soldier Field. | Chicago Sun-Times staff photo

A fan peruses the beer selection during a recent Bears game at Soldier Field. | Chicago Sun-Times staff photo

Bears fans preoccupied with their division-leading team on the field might not have noticed that the beers in their hands at Soldier Field have changed containers.

For the first time at least since the stadium’s 2002 renovation, vendors this season have been doling out beers to customers can and all, instead of pouring them into plastic cups.

“We wanted to bring cans to Soldier Field because they are more environmentally friendly,” said Marty Maloney, spokesman for supplier MillerCoors. “The cans provide a ready-to-consume and recyclable container, eliminating the need for cups and cutting down significantly on waste.”

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Industry sources said the can revival had been a couple years in the making, but concerns about drunken fans hurling full cans of beer at people on the field held back the switch.

Several high-profile cases of beer-tossing buffoonery in the early 2000s caused many pro teams to re-think their serving policies. And a flying beer can narrowly missed a baby when enraged baseball fans tossed debris onto the field at a 2015 Blue Jays playoff game in Toronto.

Industry insiders keep an eye on such incidents — “Nobody wants their logo to turn up on the field with an incident like that,” one source said — but they are relatively rare.

“Who wants to throw an $11 can of beer?” the source said. “That’s an expensive projectile.”

Beer cans are back in the hands of fans at Soldier Field this year. For years, vendors were required to first pour beers in plastic cups. | Chicago Sun-Times staff photo

Beer cans are back in the hands of fans at Soldier Field this year. For years, vendors were required to first pour beers in plastic cups. | Chicago Sun-Times staff photo

Most professional venues see a few such instances per season — just about all pro teams now serve most of their beer in cans, except for the Cubs — but can-toting Bears fans have been mostly well-behaved. The supplier wasn’t aware of any can-related infractions at Soldier Field so far this season.

“There’s not a whole lot to say other than it has gone well this season,” Bears spokeswoman Meghan Bower said.

Good thing, too, because Bears fans will have tossed back nearly a half-million cans by the end of this season’s Soldier Field finale Sunday against Green Bay.

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About 20,000 cases of beer are sold at the stadium every year, according to insiders, including at the Bears’ 10 preseason and regular season games and at a few concerts. The stadium seats about 61,500 people.

At 24 cans per case, that’s 480,000 cans of beer. Stacked end to end, the cans would stretch more than 50 miles.

Football statisticians can confirm that comes out to 60,000 gallons of suds sold over the year. That’s enough to fill nearly seven huge gasoline tankers.

And that’s not counting draft beers sold at some concession stands and club suites — not to mention all the beer consumed outside Soldier Field in the bountiful BYOB tailgating scene.

“Bears fans can knock them back,” the industry source said.