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Article updated: 8/5/2011 7:30 PM

Unsafe field causes cancellation; team goes back to Bourbonnais

The Bears canceled Friday night’s practice at Soldier Field because of unsafe field conditions.

The Bears canceled Friday night's practice at Soldier Field because of unsafe field conditions.

 

Associated Press

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Unsafe field conditions caused the Bears to cancel Friday night's Family Fest at Soldier Field. Fans who paid $8 for tickets will be reimbursed in full.

After the announcement, about an hour before the scheduled 7 p.m. start, fans were allowed into the stadium and were offered free food and nonalcoholic beverages.

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They were also permitted to stay for the fireworks display. Fans who paid $16 for parking were given full refunds as they left.

More than 10,000 tickets were sold to the event, which in past years has attracted more than 20,000 fans. The Bears were immediately bused back to their training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais for a night practice that was closed to fans and the media.

According to Chicago Park District general manager Tim LeFevour, the grass playing surface had developed exposed seams because of the recent extreme heat.

The field was re-sodded 3.5 weeks ago after the U2 concert and before the Manchester United soccer game against the Chicago Fire. There were no problems with the field during Man U's victory over the Fire.

"It was a miscalculation on our grounds crew's part," LeFevour said. "They did not get enough water on the field. Some of the seams opened up."

The Bears host the Buffalo Bills next Saturday night in their preseason opener, but the field is expected to be playable by then.

"It's not an issue we're concerned with next week," LeFevour said. "We know it can be corrected. But in the interest of the team tonight it was the right move to send them back to Bourbonnais to practice."

The Bears and the park district did not detect unplayable conditions less than 24 hours before the scheduled start of the practice.

However, as the day progressed and the field was not watered, seams widened between the two-ton rolls of sod, creating potentially dangerous conditions.

Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips addressed the approximately 1,000 fans who elected to stay inside and wait for the fireworks. Phillips was initially booed halfheartedly. He apologized to the fans and on behalf of coach Lovie Smith and left to a smattering of applause.

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