Stadium Ratings


Dec 9, 2004
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North Carolina
Sunday hangouts
Posted: August 24, 2005
Sporting News

Americans don't get romantic and poetic about their football stadiums like they do their baseball stadiums. We don't produce documentaries on football stadiums or refer to them as "cathedrals." Fans don't make "pilgrimages" to football stadiums -- they do road trips. A football stadium is a place to drink beer and scream, not get misty-eyed and nostalgic.

Perhaps if we looked at some of the stadiums more closely, our appreciation for them would be heightened. A great football stadium can salvage a nice day out of a bad game. It can be a cauldron for passion and create a dramatic environment.

The NFL offers some exceptional jewels -- as well as some exceptional dumps. After visiting all 31 NFL stadiums (remember, the Giants and Jets share one), here is one man's ranking, from best to worst.

1. Qwest Field, Seattle

The best place in the world to watch football might not be your easy chair after all. This is the hidden treasure of America's stadiums. The architecture reflects the great Northwest, and the design offers magnificent views of it. From various points around the stadium, you can see Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and the Seattle skyline. The stadium design flows beautifully with neighboring Safeco Field, home of the Mariners. The triangular seating section in the north end zone is a fine touch. Qwest Field is located not far from downtown Seattle in a trendy area that's great for pregame and postgame partying.

2. Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

The thing I love most about this place is its strong identity. From the palm trees in the end zone to the flags that line the top of the stadium, this place screams Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 103-foot-long pirate ship in Buccaneer Cove in the north end zone is the best feature in any NFL stadium, and the communal areas are better than any other stadium's. The open end zones give the place an airy feeling. Very few parts of the stadium are shaded, so Florida's sunshine seemingly is everywhere during day games.

3. Reliant Stadium, Houston

This is a stunning building that's all glass and light. It literally sparkles. In fact, it looks more like a modern place of worship than a place for football. Still, it's a spectacular venue for a game, regardless of whether the retractable roof is open. The unusual roof, which is made of a translucent fiberglass fabric, allows for natural grass, which players appreciate.

4. Ford Field, Detroit

This is the best indoor stadium ever. The brick and the exposed duct work make this place feel like one of those trendy, oversize lofts that was converted from an old factory. The seven-story atrium and the connection to Hudson's warehouse are nice touches. You have to credit the Ford family because the stadium has helped revitalize the downtown area.

5. Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland

The location on Cleveland's Northcoast Harbor, near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, is excellent. The gaps in the seating bowl allow fans to see downtown Cleveland. The stadium's multitude of glass creates a light, airy feel. The Dawg Pound is a distinctive bow to the tradition of Municipal Stadium, which used to occupy the plot of land where Browns Stadium sits.

6. Lambeau Field, Green Bay

No stadium reflects its team and community better. It's a shrine as much as a stadium, the place where St. Vince worked miracles. Lambeau has the feel of a high school stadium but with more amenities. The renovations that were completed in 2003 added style and elegance to the place. The new atrium is wonderful. Where else can you get married and then cheer your favorite team to victory all in the same facility? What I don't like about Lambeau -- or what my back doesn't like -- is the aluminum bleacher seating.

7. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

What makes Heinz special is the open south end zone. A huge community concourse allows spectators to have views of where the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers intersect. The gold seats are a nice touch. When the Steelers score, the Heinz bottle atop the scoreboard tips and pours. No other stadium has made the potentially ugly specter of a corporate sponsor so entertaining. Heinz Field is pleasing to the eye, and it gives class to Pittsburgh's North Shore.

8. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Lincoln Financial Field is to Veterans Stadium what the computer is to the typewriter. Open corners of the north end zone offer a nice view of downtown Philly and also make this one of the windiest venues in the NFL. The vertical design makes this a noisy, intimidating place for visitors.

9. Bank of America Stadium, Carolina

With Carolina blue providing the accents, this place is easy on the eyes. The facade, with the arched entryways, is beautiful. The panther statues are excellent greeters. This is a comfortable, pleasant place to spend an afternoon.

10. Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

You have to love a new stadium with nostalgic touches. You can glimpse inside from neighboring buildings, and it's named after the team's founder, not a corporate sponsor. The views of the city and the Ohio River give this place flair. The architectural design, which includes a canopy over the upper deck on both sides and an angled upper row of seats in the end zones, is interesting. The stadium's exterior enhances downtown Cincinnati.

11. Gillette Stadium, New England

This is a wonderful place to watch a game in autumn, with millions of burnt-orange and red leaves framing the north end zone. There are nice local touches -- the signature lighthouse and a map of New England made of granite from each of the six states. A bridge that connects the east and west concourses is a nice spot to gather and catch a few minutes of the game. The big problem I have is that this is the most difficult place to get to and from in the NFL.

12. M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

This well-done stadium has two 100-by-24 replay boards, the largest in the NFL. Between those and the sightlines, there never is a reason to miss a play. The location in Camden Yards, next to Oriole Park, offers a nice view of the Baltimore skyline. Purple seats and more than 1 million bricks give the place a distinctive feel.

13. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

Like the Beatles, Arrowhead, which opened in 1972, still plays well after all these years. Other stadiums from its era have become rubble, but this remains a premier facility and a big reason why the Chiefs always sell out. You get a nice feel for the team and its history here. With less traffic and more bathrooms, Arrowhead would rate higher.

14. Invesco Field, Denver

With all the steel treads and risers in this place, the look is cold and the volume is loud. What I like about Invesco is it is one of the most uninviting places for visiting teams. A lot of that is because of the altitude, but this stadium is an asset to the Broncos, as Mile High was before it.

15. Texas Stadium, Dallas

This is the perfect stadium for Dallas, so big and bold. You get the feeling that everything that happens here is a huge event. The saying is that the hole in the roof is for God to watch his favorite team. I'm not so sure God needs the hole, but I like the dramatic lighting it provides. Some of the infrastructure hasn't aged well, but I will miss this place when the Cowboys move to Arlington for the 2009 season.

16. The Coliseum, Tennessee

This stadium creates a strong game-day presence. It doesn't feel as big and intimidating as a lot of other stadiums, kind of like Nashville itself. A large percentage of the seats are on the sidelines, which is ideal for viewing the action. The open end zones provide a spacious feel.

17. Soldier Field, Chicago

My feelings about this place are as mixed as its styles of architecture -- Roman columns and space-age steel. On one of America's great skylines, Soldier Field stands out like a pimple on a pretty face. Yet, this is the best setting in the NFL -- surrounded by museums on Chicago's lakefront. Downtown is visible from most seats, and Lake Michigan is visible from the east concourses. Many of the details that make a good stadium slipped through the cracks when this place was made. Still, it's a nice environment to watch a game.

18. Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona

This is an underrated place to watch football. Located on one of America's great college campuses (Arizona State), this venue was carved from the desert and sits between two buttes that are higher than the stadium. It offers picturesque views of several mountains, including the Superstitions and Four Peaks. A big drawback is most of the seating is bleacher style. This place heats up like a fireplace for the first part of the season as the sun reflects off the aluminum benches. The team will move into new Cardinals Stadium in Glendale for the 2006 season.

19. Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans

This is a striking building from the outside. It's the best of the pure domes, even though it opened in 1975. The Superdome obviously was conceived with vision and foresight, and the concourses and ramps are well-done. But it still is a dome, and the interior is nothing special. The good news for Saints fans looking to forget a tough loss: They are just a few stumbles from Bourbon Street.

20. ALLTEL Stadium, Jacksonville

This stadium is too big for the city; six of eight games were TV blackouts last season. Even covering nearly 10,000 seats, which the Jaguars will do this season, won't help much. The stadium lacks charm and personality, except for the dramatic light towers. Its location on the St. Johns River makes it somewhat difficult to access.

21. RCA Dome, Indianapolis

The interior is somewhat drab, but as domes go, it could be worse. This place, smack-dab in the middle of downtown Indianapolis, is just a few steps from a slew of hotels and inviting restaurants and bars. With a capacity of 57,890, the RCA Dome is the right size for its city, and as NFL stadiums go, it's almost cozy.

22. Giants Stadium, New York Giants, Jets

The only home for two NFL teams has all the appeal of the Jersey swampland on which it sits. Though it's just 6.9 miles from Times Square, this is not a great location for a football stadium. This huge, bland arena has very little personality, save for the legend of Jimmy Hoffa's corpse being buried here and the quirky winds.

23. Dolphins Stadium, Miami

This place should be called Dolphins-Marlins Stadium because a baseball team plays here as well. As with all multipurpose stadiums, each tenant suffers because of the presence of the other. Early in the football season, for instance, infield dirt is visible. There isn't much to distinguish this place, unless you like spiraling ramps. At least the stadium is easily accessible because it is about halfway between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

24. Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo

This is a cold place even in the summer. Cavernous describes it pretty well. This aging arena lacks the amenities and comforts of many modern stadiums, and getting here is tough.

25. Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis

Centrally located in downtown St. Louis, this is not an unattractive building from the outside. In fact, it doesn't even look much like a stadium. But the inside is another matter. The gloomy, dark atmosphere makes for a poor game-day experience. On the plus side, the Rams have found a way to get a tremendous home-field advantage out of this place.

26. FedEx Field, Washington

This is an abomination that lacks the convenience and style of its predecessor, RFK Stadium. You get the feeling this place is more about money than football. When you're here, you feel like a pebble in the Grand Canyon. Everything is overdone, and the corporate presence is oppressive -- there's a ******* on site, for crying out loud. The stadium is in the middle of nowhere, and traffic is a nightmare. But trying to park makes traffic seem like a dream.

27. Metrodome, Minnesota

The only thing worse than watching a football game here is watching a baseball game here. I don't believe I've ever left the place without a headache, thanks to the preposterously loud sound effects. The air-inflated, fiberglass roof allows for some natural lighting, but everything else about this place feels artificial. Its nickname is the Humpdome, but it should be the Dumpdome.

28. Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

A great city deserves a great football stadium, but San Diego doesn't have one. The culture of San Diego and the tradition of the Chargers are lost in this cement monstrosity. One of the last standing old multipurpose facilities, this stadium, which opened in 1967, is totally antiquated. Fans are too far from the action. The best thing you can say about Qualcomm is it's easy to get to, with the trolley dropping off fans just a few feet from the entrances.

29. McAfee Coliseum, Oakland

The location isn't bad, but it's all downhill from there. Nicknames: The Mausoleum; The Black Hole. This run-down, outdated facility is overdue for a meeting with a wrecking ball. Perhaps if the stadium were in better condition, the fans who attend games here would behave more civilly.

30. Monster Park, San Francisco

This crumbling pit has outlived its usefulness, or whatever usefulness it might have once had. Built in 1959, it's the oldest stadium in the NFL -- and it feels like it. Every time I watch a football game here, I get the feeling this place was built for baseball. The location is on scenic San Francisco Bay. But Monster is difficult to get to.

31. Georgia Dome, Atlanta

The odd roof makes this place look like an oversized circus tent. Is there any reason for a dome in this climate? The atmosphere inside and surrounding the stadium is dark and dingy. Frisghtening, almost. It's nice that it's located in downtown Atlanta, but you hardly get the feeling this is prime real estate. The cheesy photos of Georgia that ring the bowl of the arena add nothing. Playing Super Bowls here was like having a wedding in a sewer.

Simply the best ...
Best place to get loud: The Dawg Pound in Cleveland Browns Stadium
Best place to get quiet: One of the four jail cells at Lincoln Financial Field
Best place to meet an ex-convict: McAfee Coliseum
Best place to stomp your feet: Invesco Field
Best place to tailgate: Lambeau Field
Best mingling and meeting spot: The pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium
Best place to get a suntan: Raymond James Stadium
Best place to see a replay: M&T Bank Stadium
Best place to dress well: Texas Stadium
Best Super Bowl stadium: Louisiana Superdome
Best place to watch a night game: Reliant Stadium
Best place to get a nosebleed: Edward Jones Dome, upper level

Senior writer Dan Pompei covers the NFL for Sporting News. E-mail him at [email protected].

I'm somewhat surprised Lambeau didn't rate higher than #6 (especially since Madden has proclaimed it THE shrine to pro football), but no surprise the Metrodump rated toward the bottom.


You retired too? .... Not me. I'm in my prime
Aug 2, 2005
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Central Wisconsin
If talking about facilities itself, I could agree, if it is atmosphere, Arrowhead and Lambeau have to be two of the best.


Jun 6, 2005
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favrefourevre said:
Isn't Lambeau the oldest stadium in football? 1957?
Soldier Field was built in 1924 but I don't know if you can say that this is the same place. The stadium needed something done years ago. I worked there in the 70s and the place was ancient then. Any Packer fans that have made the trip to Chicago to see a game know what I mean. Cramped concourses, terrible restrooms including Port-A-Potties and poor seating. 2/3 of the seats were in the end zones and some were pretty far from the field due to the shallow grade of the bowl configuration. It was built to hold 100,000 fans and was shortened to acomadate football later.They should have bulldozed the place and started over but it was built as a war memorial and you don


Dec 9, 2004
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North Carolina
You are correct, favrefourevre:

Lambeau Field At A Glance

Dedicated: Sept. 29, 1957, Green Bay 21, Chicago Bears 17.

Capacity: 72,601 present; 65,290 to 66,110 in 2002; 60,890 in 2001; 32,500 in 1957 (original)

Original name: "City Stadium" (new City Stadium)

Original Cost: $960,000 (paid off in 1978)

Renamed: Rededicated as Lambeau Field Sept. 11, 1965, following death of Curly Lambeau the previous June.

Owner: City of Green Bay and Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District (operated/maintained by the team).

Field: A 2.5-inch thick Kentucky bluegrass surface in a sand-based sod, on top of a 3-5 inch soil foundation (Level 2), interspersed with 8-inch holes filled with sand, promoting drainage during heavy rain. Level 3 has 10 inches of sand; on top of a heating pipe network. Level 4 is a 4-inch base of pea gravel

Soil Warming System: Installed in 1997 to replace original system, put in by Vince Lombardi for 1967 season (failed during the Ice Bowl); current system contains more than 30 miles of radiant heating pipe, which maintains a root-zone temperature of 70-plus degrees during winter months.

Location: 1265 Lombardi Ave., southwest Green Bay.

NFL Championship Games: Three (1961, 1965 and 1967).

Packers All-Time Lambeau Record (1957-2004):
Regular Season: 149-89-4 (.624)
Postseason: 12-2-0 (.857)
Overall: 161-91-4 (.637)

I imagine the recent renovations of Lambeau and Soldier fields disqualifies them from being considered older than Monster/Candlestick Park.