PHOENIX — The Chicago Bears’ season is just 164 days away.
The NFL officially announced Monday that the Bears will host the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, Sept. 5 to open the league’s 100th season, confirming a WGN Radio report from Feb. 4 that the Bears-Packers game was likely to replace the traditional league opener usually held at the home of the previous season’s Super Bowl champion.
“It’s really an iconic matchup,” Hans Schroeder, the league’s executive vice president and COO of NFL media, said at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. “Two traditionally great, longtime NFL teams as a great way for our fans to really kickoff what should be a season-long celebration of the 100th season.”
The game will take place at Soldier Field at 7:20 p.m. CT on Thursday, Sept. 5 and will be broadcast on NBC. The New England Patriots, which won the Super Bowl in February, will instead host the Sunday night game on Sept. 8 against an opponent that has yet to be determined.
Along with the opening matchup, the NFL also announced that a free fan event will take place in Grant Park on Thursday, Sept. 5. It will include concerts during the day and a viewing party for those fans who don’t make it inside Soldier Field. WGN Radio reported in February that the league was interested in holding a fan event in Grant Park to help kickoff its 100th season. The league held similar events in Grant Park when Chicago hosted the 2015 and 2016 NFL Drafts.
With word leaking out about the potential Bears-Packers opener over the last couple of months, former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix discussed the matchup after signing with the Bears earlier this month: “I’m excited about it. I think we played the Bears last year, and that game was crazy. It was so loud. Luckily I was on the other side of that win, but we barely pulled that win out. That was a good game.”
The Bears are the only team celebrating its 100th season simultaneously with the NFL, which made Chicago the most natural place to host the league’s opener. The Packers celebrated their 100th season last year and the Bears-Packers rivalry is the oldest in the league.
“As an organization, we are thrilled to be kicking off the 100th season of football in the NFL,” Bears chairman George McCaskey said in a statement. “As a charter franchise, we cannot think of a better way to begin our centennial season by hosting our longtime rival in prime time at Soldier Field.”
The City of Chicago, through the Chicago Sports Commission, partnered with the Bears and NFL to bring the kickoff game to the city.
“Chicago is honored to host the NFL’s 2019 kickoff game and centennial celebration,” mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “George ‘Papa Bear’ Halas and the NFL’s co-founders probably didn’t imagine the federation they established 100 years ago in cities and towns across the Midwest would one day be the most successful professional sports league in the world, but that’s what their vision achieved. Chicago — the most American of American cities — is the perfect venue for this game and on Sept. 5, all eyes will be on Soldier Field as the Monsters of the Midway take the field to celebrate the start of the NFL’s centennial season.”
This will be the second straight season the Bears and Packers will play in Week 1. Last year, the Bears coughed up a 20-3 lead at Lambeau Field and lost 24-23. When the two teams met again in Week 15, the Bears won 24-17 and clinched their first NFC North title since 2010. 2010 was also the last time the Bears and Packers played a night game at Soldier Field, a game the Bears won 20-17 in Week 3.