Top Ten NFL Football Stadiums
It goes without saying that most National Football League (NFL) fans are loyal to their hometown team – the team they grew up watching, or have followed for the longest period of time. Also, it’s not unusual for team allegiances to get passed down from one generation to the next, much like a cherished family heirloom. In other words, NFL fans almost always swear allegiance to one particular team for whatever reason, forsaking the other 31 teams for better or worse. Such allegiances are a large part of what makes the NFL fan base so strong, and why football is the most popular sport in America.
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Nevertheless, unless you’re a seasoned sports journalist, you’ve most likely only been to a handful of professional stadiums. Below is a list of 10 NFL stadiums, in no particular order, that are worth visiting should you ever have the chance.
1. Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers
Named after Curley Lambeau, a former player, coach and founder of the Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field is the oldest stadium in the NFL today. Among Lambeau Field’s claims to fame are the fact that it was the first stadium built exclusively for an NFL team, and the oft-copied tradition of the ‘Lambeau Leap’ in which a Green Bay player jumps over the wall separating the field area from the stands and celebrates for a few moments with the fans. Though the below-freezing temperatures and frequent blizzards make it an unfriendly place towards the end of the season, Packer fans are among the most loyal in the league. In fact, the waiting time for purchasing season tickets tops 30 years. Though other teams boast more contemporary stadiums, Lambeau Field’s history and tradition makes it worth checking out.
2. Cowboy Stadium, Dallas Cowboys
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the brand new Cowboys Stadium, which boasts 80,000 seats and enough standing room to top out at a total capacity of over 100,000 people. Completed in 2009 with a price tag of over one billion dollars, the stadium’s claims to fame include the world’s largest high-definition television screen (the 160-by-72 foot video display that hangs in the middle of the field), a fully-retractable roof, and the title of world’s largest domed stadium.
3. Heinz Field, Pittsburg Steelers
Though it’s only been around since 2001, Heinz Field brought with it Steeler Nation, the Terrible Towel, and a streak of sold-out home games that stretches all the way back to 1972. In a nod to the history of Three Rivers Stadium (where the Steelers played prior to 2001), Heinz Field stayed in the downtown Pittsburg area and was built very close to where the former stadium once stood. Aside from the football, Heinz Field also features the ‘Great Hall,’ a concourse that runs along one side of the stadium and is considered one of the best of any NFL stadium.
4. Qwest Field, Seattle Seahawks
Also among the newer stadiums is Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks. Though the city of Seattle isn’t normally on most people’s lists of sport-heavy cities, the Seahawks can claim bragging rights for having one of the loudest fan bases in the game today. The stadiums design contributes to the deafening atmosphere; certain structural elements focus sound waves towards the field. The acoustics come in handy by making it difficult for opposing teams to communicate on the field. Both ends of the stadium also offer picturesque views: The downtown Seattle skyline to the north and Mount Rainier to the south.
5. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Chiefs
Though Seahawks fans can claim they have the loudest stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs can boast about having the loudest fans of any team. Despite the fact that they’ve struggled in recent years, fans in the ‘Sea of Red’ (the name given to the Chiefs faithful, who regularly sport red clothing) make checking out the ambiance at Arrowhead Stadium worth the effort. It’s also reportedly home to one of the best tailgating experiences in America.
6. University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona Cardinals
University of Phoenix stadium is one of the newest stadiums in the NFL, older only than the new Cowboys Stadium and Meadlowlands Stadium. While the weather and atmosphere of the stadium itself are quite amicable, and the interior of the stadium is very modern and amenity-friendly, there is one thing in particular that the University of Phoenix stadium is famous for: A completely removable, mobile, real grass field. When the stadium was being built, the designers included plans for a system that would allow the entire playing field to be moved in and out of the stadium. This process makes it easier to maintain the field, and allows for events that require a hard surface (concerts, expos, etc) to take place with relative ease and no risk of damage to the field itself.
7. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland Raiders
The OAC Coliseum, home of Oakland, California’s two professional sports franchises, is a stadium that doesn’t boast any standout architectural qualities. The tailgating scene is average, and nothing about the design really stands out. The team itself, aside from a few decent seasons last decade, doesn’t generate much attention. But there is one specific reason why the Coliseum belongs on this list: The Black Hole. Located in a section of stands by the home team’s end zone, the ‘black hole’ is a collection of diehard Raiders fans who dress up in intimidating costumes—spiked shoulder pads, black and silver face paint, and skull masks are the norm. They also have a reputation for unruly behavior, especially if the Raiders are losing.
8. Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If there’s one venue that takes its team’s theme more serious than the rest, it’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The pirate motif is evident in all the various facets of Raymond James stadium. Pirate music constantly blares throughout the stadium. A 100-foot replica pirate ship sits under the scoreboard. Cannons aboard the ship fire beads, rubber footballs, and t-shirts every time the Bucs score. Although most patrons are mostly concerned with the football game, there are plenty of other attractions to keep you entertained here. And the warm, Florida weather doesn’t hurt either.
9. Lucas Oil Field, Indianapolis Colts
If there’s an expiration date on any of these entries, it probably applies most appropriately to Lucas Oil Field. While the facility is relatively new (opened at the start of the 08-09 season) and features noteworthy elements like a retractable roof and movable window wall, most fans who frequent Lucas Oil Field come for one reason: To see the Colts win.
10. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia Eagles
Lincoln Financial Field has several noteworthy characteristics, but isn’t really known for one particular standout quality. What qualifies it to make this list has more to do with the team than the actual facility. Thanks to a series of successful seasons and a handful of playoff berths in the last 10 years, it’s the Eagles fans that really make catching a game here worthwhile. Much like the fans of Raider Nation, the ‘Philly faithful’ still fill the seats every season, despite never having actually won a Super Bowl.
Which is Best?
There are many ways to rank a football stadium, from concessions prices to parking accessibility to revenue statistics. At the end of the day, the only way to really know for sure is to take in a game at every stadium out there. That way you’ll have a first-hand knowledge of what each has to offer—plus, you’re bound to see some great football games.