The NFL enjoys some of the most lucrative television contracts in sports, but the league still has put an emphasis on improving the fan experience. In an effort to boost ticket prices and demand, new stadiums have been erected to cater to all the consumers’ needs. In the wake of all this new construction is the story of the cities and teams that are woefully behind.
For a city like Buffalo, there are enough issues just trying to keep the Bills in town, while for a city like San Diego, there is a neighbor to the north (Los Angeles) that has the NFL’s blessing and a large media market breathing down its neck. These two cities and more face the daunting task of eventually having to build new stadiums to keep up with the crowd, not to mention to also keep their teams around.
The league’s 10 worst stadiums are not necessarily too small, too old or too bleak. Each stadium has its reasons for failing to measure up to the NFL’s standards, but for a few of these cities there will be no attempts made to get off this undesirable list.
10. TCF Stadium – Minnesota Vikings
– Opened in 2009
– Cost: $303 million
– Capacity: 52,525
– 37+ luxury suites
Playing at the on-campus home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers for 2014 and 2015 might sound pretty bad, but at least the stadium is modern and the field is relatively new. The temporary home of the Minnesota Vikings does have a massive LED scoreboard, some nicer club seating and has even been awarded LEED Silver Certification for its energy efficiency and positive environmental impact. The experience has been intimate and chilly for Vikings fans who were used to the comfort afforded by their old home, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
A new stadium is being built for the Vikings, but for now TCF Stadium will have to suffice. At least the locker rooms are better than those at Qualcomm Stadium and the fan experience might be better than that experienced by fans attending a game in Oakland. The stadium is still rather small for a professional football team and the amenities and concessions are not quite up to NFL standards. The fact that it’s a temporary home is the reason it’s not higher on this list.
9. EverBank Field – Jacksonville Jaguars
– Opened in 1995
– Cost: $121 million
– Capacity: 67,246
– 75 luxury suites
Maybe it’s partly due to the product that is on the field, but the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars lacks the bells and whistles that are now typical components of most modern NFL stadiums. A nice “Bud Zone” bar has been added with a bigger video display and even a swimming pool, but the frills and entertainment value for the fans still doesn’t add up. Home to the Super Bowl in 2005, there has been a serious lack of meaningful games since that time.
EverBank Field remains more or less a jewel in terms of field condition and upkeep of the facility as a whole, but too boring and simple to ever host another Super Bowl. At this point, the fans are more interested in someday hosting a playoff game as opposed to another Super Bowl. Without much hope with that one there is certainly little hope of getting a new stadium built anytime soon.
8. Soldier Field – Chicago Bears
– Opened in 1924
– Cost: $13 million
– Capacity: 63,500
– 133 luxury suites
Soldier Field is the oldest stadium in the league and despite $632 million in renovations (spent in 2001-2003), the stadium is still not worthy of hosting a Super Bowl any time soon. The facility has long held a big measure of historical significance until it was delisted as a National Historic Landmark in 2006. The last round of renovations changed much of the stadium’s appearance, improving the fan experience and overall look at the expense of cutting into the stadium’s capacity in the process. For a market as big as Chicago and the rich history of the franchise, the stadium still comes up short.
There have been two serious attempts to relocate the Bears, in 1989 and 1995, but both plans were rejected by local government entities. Soldier Field does have the mystique and tradition that rivals Lambeau Field to the North, but still falls short on capacity especially considering the size of the Chicago metropolitan area.
7. Edward Jones Dome – St. Louis Rams
– Opened in 1995
– Cost: $280 million
– Capacity: 66,000
– 120 luxury suites
The Edward Jones Dome is one of the smaller stadiums in the league, but its inclusion on this list has more to do with fan experience than anything else. Tailgating is not easy, the experience costs too much for the average fan and the atmosphere inside the dome does little to provide a significant home field advantage.
The Edward Jones Dome is only 19 years old and yet is also considered antiquated by today’s NFL standards. The dome might have been impressive when it was first erected, but the lack of amenities included at the time of its construction has only contributed to its perceived old age. The dome received $30 million of renovations in 2009, but the St. Louis Rams can still break their lease in 2015 if the stadium is deemed to not be in the top tier of NFL stadiums by the season’s end.
6. Georgia Dome – Atlanta Falcons
– Opened in 1992
– Cost: $214 million
– Capacity: 74,228
– 173 luxury suites
Big and bland, the Georgia Dome is the biggest indoor sporting facility in the United States. That said, in the world of NFL stadiums big does not necessarily equate to better. Opened in 1992, the Georgia Dome is no longer a state-of-the-art facility and its cavernous interior has not exactly given the Falcons a lively atmosphere. The dome has also had its share of issues brought on by inclement weather conditions. The roof, made of teflon-coated fiberglass fabric, has had issues with tears and rips that once saw a section of the fabric rip off and fall to the section below, damaging the seats and even the concrete aisle.
The Georgia Dome is going to be replaced by a new multi-purpose facility with a retractable roof. The Georgia Dome has been far from intimate for the Falcons and its roof has been pretty flawed from the start, so local lawmakers understand its deficiencies. Once a novelty, the Georgia Dome is no longer deemed to be dynamic enough in the trendy NFL.
5. Sun Life Stadium – Miami Dolphins
– Opened in 1987
– Cost: $115 million
– Capacity: 75,540
– 193 luxury suites
Sun Life Stadium has managed to host five Super Bowls, as well as many other memorable events, but the stadium has been unable to remain worthy when it comes to the NFL’s current standards. The stadium has long been recognized as a venue that offers little comfort for attending fans. Fans in the north stands are subjected to the Florida heat in fall and the overwhelming majority of fans are left unprotected from the often heavy Florida showers. A multi-purpose stadium, Sun Life Stadium also has poor sight lines and has enormous sidelines that keep fans far away from the play on the field.
Sun Life Stadium is also getting old and no longer offers the glitz and glam of all the newer NFL stadiums. Miami has been a good Super Bowl destination, offering good weather and plenty of hotel rooms for visiting fans, but Sun Life Stadium can’t seem to keep up to its city’s name. The stadium is likely about to undergo its eighth name change since opening in 1987, but sponsorship will do little to improve the stadium’s deficiencies.
4. Ralph Wilson Stadium – Buffalo Bills
– Opened in 1973
– Cost: $22 million
– Capacity: 71,957
– 121 luxury suites
Ralph Wilson Stadium is big and does offer fans some great views of the game, but most of the stadium is still over 40 years old. If its age isn’t enough to present a strong enough argument for making it on this list, there might be the swirling wind that makes for an unfavorable location to begin with. Built substantially below the ground, the stadium walls do little to shield the fans and play on the field from the prevailing Lake Erie winds. The Buffalo weather caused a game to be played in Detroit this season and if any team could use a domed stadium, Buffalo would seem to top just about any list.
The problem with Buffalo is its limited resources and how little the city has to offer the Bills outside of its rabid fans. The current ownership group has vowed to work with the city and stick around, but building a new stadium in a market as small as Buffalo will not be an easy task.
3. FedEx Field – Washington Redskins
– Opened in 1997
– Cost: $250.5 million
– Capacity: 79,000
– 243 luxury suites
For quite a few years, the capacity of FedEx Field was the NFL’s largest with seating for over 90,000 fans. The stadium is big and has a quite favorable capacity, but that doesn’t instantly equate to a favorable fan experience. Many seats have been taken away to add party zones and make it easier to sell out games, but the stadium is still far from a fan favorite. In addition to the seating, the stadium is hard to get to with public transportation and the grass surface has been a constant source of criticism throughout the league.
The process of designing a new stadium has begun and the Washington Redskins have an avid enough fan base to get something done. Until then, the field has been upgraded and the stadium is far from antiquated. Additionally, owner Daniel Snyder, has bigger issues with simply keeping the Redskins name.
2. Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego Chargers
– Opened in 1967
– Cost: $27.75 million
– Capacity: 70,561
– 113 luxury suites
Having the perfect weather and parking lot for tailgaiting, Qualcomm Stadium has been considered to be more than sufficient for many of the San Diego Chargers fans. The facility that is getting close to being 50 years old, is more to blame. Locker rooms are inadequate, press boxes are ridiculous and the concrete structure has cracks and shows signs of age, but the stadium also lacks many modern amenities found in newer stadiums of the NFL. The city of San Diego has not been able to step up to the plate to help finance a new stadium in order to keep the Chargers in San Diego.
Qualcomm Stadium has enjoyed the benefit of being in a convenient location that allows fans from as far as Orange County and Temecula to attend Chargers games. The Chargers want a new stadium as badly as the NFL wants a new team in Los Angeles. With Qualcomm Stadium well past its prime, the clock is ticking in San Diego to keep the team around.
1. O.co Coliseum – Oakland Raiders
– Opened in 1966
– Cost: $25.5 million
– Capacity: 56,057
– 143 luxury suites
The old Oakland Alameda Coliseum (O.co Coliseum) is the only multi-sport facility still in use for both MLB baseball and NFL football. That in itself is enough to make this list. Factor in the age of the facility, the poor sight lines, curvature that places many fans on the 50-yard line further away from the field, and the lack of overall amenities and the O.co Coliseum spikes right up to the top of this list. What puts it over the top is all the plumbing issues that have included sewage backups that have been legendary and sources of ridicule throughout both major sports leagues.
Old and dilapidated, there is agreement that the structure needs to be replaced but facing the ordeal of having two displaced teams to coddle has not sat well with Oakland and Alameda County officials. It will be hard to find a solution that suits both sports teams, but the big void in Los Angeles still hasn’t been filled and the Raiders even have a fan base that would love to welcome them back.
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