It was 11 degrees just before kickoff Monday night at the coldest Bears home game so far this season. But in a parking lot outside Soldier Field, the Volpe family was grilling out.
Sam Volpe, 52, a Bears season ticket holder for 27 years, stood between a simmering cube steak and a propane patio heater he brought from home.
Yes, he was cold. But “it’s the Bears. I have to be here,” said Volpe, whose son stood nearby but whose wife took shelter in the family SUV most of the night before the game started.
The Channahon family were among hundreds who tailgated outside the game, despite a reported windchill of minus 5 degrees.
The chilly temps delivered a thinner-than-normal crowd for pregame tailgating, said Fred Blitt, 50, an attorney, who said he comes out to almost every home game with a customized party van that was blasting a Kelly Clarkson song as he spoke.
“It’s fun, but you gotta be prepared otherwise you’re going to be miserable,” said Blitt, who said he brought a garbage can filled with wood for use as a fire pit during the pre-game party.
Many fans in the parking lot before the game described themselves as seasoned veterans who knew the best techniques for keeping warm at the game: Layers are key, they said, in addition having something to stand on, like cardboard, as a barrier to the unforgivingly cold concrete. For many, adult beverages also played a role.
Other enduring fans bypassed tailgating and headed straight for the stadium, like Jennifer Canning, 26, of Lombard, who carried a blanket and wore snow pants on top of five layers of fleece-lined pants. Her dad, Chuck Canning, said he wore five layers.
“I’ve been to much colder (games),” Canning said. “I’ve done it for 49 years. If you dress right, you can be warm. I mean, you can be comfortable enough.”
Inside the stadium, warming stations with chairs and heaters were expected to be operating, a stadium officials said Sunday.
Still, the game’s kick-off temperature wasn’t the coldest on record at Soldier Field. Bears spokesman Scott Hagel said Monday that the coldest recorded temperature during a Bears game was 2 degrees, on Dec. 22, 2008, against the Green Bay Packers. The coldest recorded wind chill was minus 15 degrees, on Dec. 18, 1983, also against the Packers.
According to the NFL, the league’s coldest game was the 1967 NFL championship game in Green Bay, between the Packers and the Cowboys. The thermometer sank to minus 13 degrees, with a minus 48 degree wind chill.
A Bears game has never been canceled because of cold weather, Hagel said in an email.
The fans tailgating Monday seemed to understand why.
“It’s what you do when you’re a Bears fan,” said Rich Pietrzak, 34, of Schererville, Ind. “It doesn’t matter what the weather is.”