Chicago Bears stand by NFL decision to start Soldier Field game

November 18, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Soldier Field general manager Tim Lefevour says it was the right thing to do when Chicago Bears fans were evacuated amid severe weather and reports of tornadoes.

"It worked out exceptionally well," LeFevour said.

It happened in the middle of the team's game against the Baltimore Ravens after the NFL made a decision to suspend play. That's when fans were told to leave the stands for their own safety after concerns grew over possible lightning strikes. Fans remained huddled in the stadium's concourse and other areas for about two hours.

A spokesperson for the NFL says safety of the fans is the priority and released a statement which reads in part, "in cases of lightening or other weather-related stoppages, the referee is strongly encouraged to postpone games affected by inclement weather."

And while some question, whether the game should have been played at all, Homeland Security expert Purdue Professor Eric Dietz says although the weather was not ultimately as severe as it was elsewhere, with tornadoes claiming lives and causing massive damage in parts of America's Midwest, city and team officials made the right call.

PHOTOS: Chicago Bears, Ravens game delayed by storms

Approximately 60,000 fans were at the game. Officials suspended game play at approximately 12:30 p.m. and began evacuating fans from the stands and into inner concourses. Bears fans packed into the Soldier Field concourse area after severe weather forced them from their seats.

"It was a little chaotic. There was no rhyme or reason to anything, and people were all over the place," said Michelle Enders, Bears fan.

Steve Klemp was seated in the highest part of the stands and says as the concourse filled up, he and others were left in the elements.

"Unfortunately, they don't have enough gateways for us to get under. So we could not get down, and they kept basically announcing and yelling for us to go down. But we couldn't go down," said Klemp.

As the storm passed overhead, the situation became dire.

"A lot of people had to use the bathrooms, so they were huddling by drains. And it was unfortunate," said Klemp.

But other fans in other parts of the stadium described a less chaotic scene.

"It was very orderly, no trouble. We took cover as directed," said Barbara Watkins, Bears fan.

"They did instruct everyone to move out, move calmly. And they kept us updated, I would say every 20, 25 minutes. They let us know what was going on," said Melvin Houston, Bears fan.

Before the game, Soldier Field officials said they had a plan in place if the weather turned severe, with three weather services and the city's Office of Emergency Management feeding them information.

"We removed a lot of safety hazards, temporary signage, temporary portable concession stands, so you can put people in areas even in high winds that they'll feel safe," said Lefevour.

The game resumed after a nearly two-hour delay, and as a second round of bad weather rolled in, fans streamed out before the end of the game.

"I was actually kind of surprised because we heard all the severe warnings all over the place. And they just let everybody in," said Enders.

The game resumed at 2:25 p.m. Shortly after 2 p.m., players were back on the field and fans were headed back to their seats.