Soldier Field grounds crew drops ball

An embarrassing situation for the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Park District, which owns and operates Soldier Field, inconvenienced the football team Friday night and thousands of fans set to attend a practice at the stadium.

Team officials canceled the practice about an hour before it was to start at 7 p.m. CDT when they deemed the playing surface was unsafe.

Tim LeFevour, the general manager at Soldier Field, blamed high heat for drying for drying out new sod that was laid down recently and creating seams that could be potentially dangerous.

“Over the last few weeks, we've had some extreme heat conditions,'' LeFevour said, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. "It was a miscalculation on our ground crew's part. They did not get enough water on the field. Some of the seams opened up. It's not an issue or concern with next week's game. We know it can be corrected. But in the best interest of the team tonight, it was the right move to send them back to Bourbonnais to practice.''

But the team wasted much of the day taking a bus ride about 60 miles to the stadium and then having to return. Fans were irate with the situation, and they had to battle congestion for the nearby Lollapalooza concert to arrive at the stadium only to be informed there was no practice.

The Bears are practicing now at Olivet Nazarene University but the session is closed to the public and media. Fans were refunded money for tickets and parking.

"I feel very bad for the fans who fought that lollapalooza traffic to come out,'' safety Chris Harris said. "All we have to do is win the Super Bowl and we will be even.''

The Bears host the Buffalo Bills in the preseason opener for both clubs Aug. 13 at Soldier Field. LeFevour promises the field will be safe and prepared by then. Soldier Field consistently ranks as one of the worst playing fields in the league in NFLPA surveys. Star players Brian Urlacher and Jay Cutler strongly criticized the conditions of the field last season.

The Bears prefer a natural grass surface to a synthetic one. The Chicago Park District would prefer an artificial surface because it would be more cost effective.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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