Fans hustle to get to warm refuge after game

Both Bears and Bills fans were hustling—as best as they could on slushy, slippery walkways—away from Soldier Field Saturday afternoon after the fifth-coldest home Bears game ever kicked off with temps at 9 degrees.

The Bills earned a 35-13 victory that marked the Bears’ eighth straight loss, but there was no shortage of fans despite the frigid temperatures and sub-zero wind chills.

Brent Tamamoto, a longtime Bills fan, attended his first NFL game ever Saturday at Soldier Field with his wife, Sheri, and two sons, Dylan, 14, and Wyatt, 16. He said he was there to see the Bills clinch the AFC East .

“It was freezing, but it was fun,” Tamamoto said. “We had a good time. The Bears fans were great. They were very respectful and courteous.”

The Tamamoto family traveled to Chicago from Hawaii, arriving just after kickoff after their flight was delayed. They plan to stick around the city until New Year’s Eve, they said.

Dylan and Wyatt both agreed that while not necessarily fans of the winter weather or the Bills just yet, going to the game in the cold was a “good experience” and something they would do again as long as their dad was there, too.

When asked why the family left Hawaii to celebrate in the Windy City, Brent Tamamoto’s response was, “Why not? It’s a white Christmas!”

Harman Sanchez bought tickets to the game last minute when the prices dropped dramatically due to the winter storm. He and his son de él, Diego, are Bears’ fans from the North Side of Chicago, and Diego said they “wanted to try a cold game.”

“I’m used to it, so it was no big deal,” Sanchez said. “I used to work outside.”

“I go to school in Wisconsin, so this is pretty much the average weather there,” Diego Sanchez said.

Both father and son said they would take on a cold game again in the future.

Leslie Garcia said her dad Enrique got game tickets as a Christmas gift from his boss, so she decided to go to the game with him because she had never been to one before. Garcia and her dad are from the suburbs of Chicago, and she said her dad is a big Bears fan while she doesn’t know much about them but wanted to tag along anyway.

She said she “grew up in the cold” but said the heated areas inside the stadium were a help.

“I was pretty layered,” she said. “I’ve got two pairs of socks, winter boots, three pairs of pants, two undershirts and a jacket, gloves, everything. I tried to just stay as warm as possible. If I was feeling really cold, I’d just go in and warm up.”

Medical teams and stadium staff had been at the ready after the last two days of bitter cold and harsh winds weren’t enough to keep fans away.

Soldier Field had medical teams throughout the stadium and several treatment areas for attendees to be checked in, according to director of sponsorship and media Luca Serra. Additionally, there were two warming areas for those that did not have club seats.

Serra said after the game Saturday the medical teams reported no weather-related medical issues during the game that required transport to any hospitals.

Among other measures, fans were prohibited from using tents, flags, fire pits, deep fryers, open flames, infrared panels or propane heaters while tailgating in the lots. They were also discouraged from bringing cardboard to sit or stand on during the game.

adperez@chicagotribune.com

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