Was Ed Sheeran’s concert at Chicago’s Soldier Field the biggest ever?

Soldier Field estimates 73,000 people attended Saturday night’s Ed Sheeran concert.

In a tweet posted to the lakeside venue’s Twitter account On Sunday, the claim was that Sheeran’s concert was “the biggest concert that’s ever been here.”

Chicago’s stadium has hosted a variety of people — football players and circus performers, politicians and civil rights activists, observers of religious and cultural milestones, “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen and Special Olympics supporters with megaphones — in its nearly 100 years.

Looking back through Tribune archives, the stadium hosted more than 100,000 people multiple times during its first two decades.

The last time Soldier Field topped 73,000 people for a ticketed concert was 45 years ago when The Rolling Stones headlined the venue for the first time.

The stadium was packed on a steamy summer day: July 8, 1978, with 80,000 fans, the Tribune reported. The opening acts were Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Peter Tosh and Journey, with new vocalist Steve Perry. The Stones’ set list included most of the songs on the quintet’s latest release, “Some Girls.” Later that evening, Mick Jagger dropped in on a Lefty Dizz set at Kingston Mines. The band also jammed along Muddy Waters while in town.

The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger is out front during their show at Soldier Field on July 8, 1978 in Chicago.
The weather cooperated beautifully, delivering refreshing breezes and 70 degree temperatures under sunny skies to the estimated 80,000 fans at the July 8, 1978 Rolling Stones concert at Soldier Field.

Crowds that form for parades or demonstrations are typically difficult to count, but are more accurate for ticketed events such as concerts or games, Steve Doiga census expert and former chair of journalism at Arizona State University, told the Tribune in 2015.

He says you have to use the capacity of the venue as a test – how many people can actually fit in?

Reconfiguration of Soldier Field from 1979-82 then a $611 million overhaul of the stadium in 2002-03, would permanently remove some seating. So the capacity for ticketed concerts does not often exceed 70,000 – not even for Springsteen in 1985.

Earlier this summer, Taylor Swift sold out three shows at Soldier Field with more than 60,000 in attendance for each show. Swift also sold out two shows in 2015 – with 55,431 tickets purchased for Sunday’s show and 54,445 tickets purchased for Saturday’s concert.

So the crowd size for Sheeran’s concert was unusual, but not unprecedented.

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