The biggest change in the NFL stadium landscape for 2017 comes in Atlanta, where Mercedes Benz Stadium prepares for its regular season debut in September. But Arthur Blank’s shiny new toy – complete with some of the cheapest concession prices in all of sports – is hardly the only stadium change that fans across the country can chew on.
No fewer than eight NFL stadiums underwent renovations during the offseason, with upgrades ranging from new videoboards to fan-friendly plazas and amphitheaters. Here is a rundown on some of the notable stadium changes heading into the 2017 NFL season:
BANK OF AMERICA STADIUM, CHARLOTTE
Fans in Charlotte became the first to observe the upgrades first-hand, as the Panthers opened Week 1 of the preseason on Wednesday night against the Texans. What they saw was the fruits of a $47 million renovation.
Among the changes were overhauls of the 300 and 400-level clubs, as well as upgrades to the 100-level concourse. But the most dramatic change happened literally on the field, with an $800,000 replacement of the turf, as well as a new irrigation and drainage system. The field appeared to hold up well during Wednesday’s game.
The Panthers also built a new technology building near the stadium, housing cellular equipment designed to make it easier for fans to use their mobile devices in the stadium.
“We want to give our fans every reason to come to the stadium. We know the younger generation watches sports differently. Of course, we want everyone in the bowl cheering on the Panthers during the course of play,” [executive director of stadium operations Scott] Paul told the Charlotte Observer.
FORD FIELD, DETROIT
While Detroit’s sports news is focused on the debut of the Red Wings’ and Pistons’ new home, Little Caesars Arena, $100 million in upgrades took place at nearby Ford Field.
The biggest change was in the video displays, which were upgraded with end zone boards measuring 39 1/2 feet tall by 152 1/2 feet wide. The videoboards were just one component. The stadium also saw upgrades to premium spaces along with several changes to its north end. Those changes included updates to 125 suites and added football-themed designs, like yard markers on floors, pictures of players and Lions-colored decorations and designs. There are also grab-and-go food concessions, a fully updated Corner Bar that features a 90-foot bar with several video boards and a video wall that contains game information.
On the north side, a 4,000-square-foot kitchen has been installed and there are significant new additions, like the Miller Lite Taproom and the Comerica Gridiron Club, which includes outdoor seating and a large fire pit.
GILETTE STADIUM, FOXBORO
The biggest offseason dilemma facing the Patriots was where to put their fifth Super Bowl banner. The space where the banners were located before summer renovations only had room for four.
“We had a high-class problem because we had no more room to put banners, so we had to change the construction around,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said this summer. “We have a little surprise for our fans that night that should be very cool.”
Other changes to the stadium will improve fan enjoyment, beyond stirring memories of the dramatic fourth-quarter comeback against the Falcons. The landings in each of Gillette Stadium’s four corners will now offer covers, featuring garage-style doors that can be adjusted for the conditions. In addition, the Patriots are installing a new drink rail, along with a full-service bar with that includes a canopy.
The upgrades are an extension of the work started after the 2014 season, when the Patriots demolished 1,500 seats in one of the end zones to build the Optum Field Lounge.
HARD ROCK STADIUM, MIAMI
Upgrades to the stadium have been underway since after the 2014 season, and continued this offseason with new designs to the suite level. New walkways and promenades were also added to help connect attendees to the stadium, and the parking lots can now be paid for using SunPass.
M&T BANK STADIUM, BALTIMORE
The Ravens and the Maryland Stadium Authority put $144 million into upgrades, with the main changes in 2017 coming in the form of video technology. The Ravens replaced the videoboards behind both end zones with new displays that will be double the width of previous screens, and measure at approximately 200 feet wide by 36 feet high. Along with the investment in the new videoboard, the Ravens expanded their audio/video control room, and installed new lenses, control equipment, and 4K cameras. The team also planned to add more robotic cameras and 11 new manned cameras.
The Ravens also installed new LED ribbon boards. The boards will be located along the suite level of M&T Bank Stadium.
Over the coming years, the Ravens will continue to overhaul the stadium, including improved access at M&T Bank Stadium and changes to premium areas and food services.
Prior to the 2018 season, M&T Bank Stadium will receive new escalators and elevators in its southeast corner, with the same slate of improvements set to take place in the northwest corner before the Ravens begin their 2019 campaign. Plans are also in place to upgrade the stadium’s sound system, and make improvements to the club level and the kitchen area.
RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM, TAMPA
The Buccaneers made $150 million in renovations in 2017, which included an overhauled West Stadium Club, a new team store, an expanded Hall of Fame club and a new locker room for the Bucs.
The redesigned West Stadium Club incorporates modern style with high-end finishes and furnishings, while providing more than 60,000 square feet of total lounge space – an increase of more than 25 percent from the original event space. Additional new amenities include oversized 26-foot by 15-foot video walls at each end of the Club, four additional smaller video walls positioned over two centrally-located bar spaces, and 178 new 4K video displays throughout the Club.
“These are exciting times for our organization, both on and off the field,” said Buccaneers chief operating officer Brian Ford. “The redesigned West Stadium Club will be a game-changer for our fans that are looking for the best views of the action along with the comfort of an air-conditioned lounge. The new team store will also be a great destination for our fans looking for exclusive merchandise that they won’t find anywhere else.”
Other stadium enhancements included a new 18,700-square foot Buccaneers locker room, which will triple the size of the previous one, and a refresh to the Raymond James Stadium press box.
EVERBANK FIELD, JACKSONVILLE
The Jaguars recently opened a 5,500-capacity amphitheater called Daily’s Place – the crown jewel of a $90 million renovation. A “flex field” indoor practice facility was opened just prior the start of Jaguars training camp.
“It’s been a long 237 days [since groundbreaking],” Jaguars president Mark Lamping told Jaguars.com shortly after Daily’s Place’s grand opening. “But at least from the initial response from the first couple of shows, it’s a really unique and a very, very popular facility.”
With Daily’s Place, the Jaguars expect to increase overall revenue for the organization and fan-traffic to the arena surrounding EverBank Field, not unlike other NFL facilities such as Patriots Place at Gillette Stadium.
LAMBEAU FIELD, GREEN BAY
The Packers also added a public space similar to Jacksonville, called Titletown District, a 35-acre commercial, recreational and residential development constructed just to the west of Lambeau Field. It is one of the latest and greatest examples of an NFL stadium catering to far more than just football.
Titletown District has its share of shops and restaurants, a hotel and spa, and even a Sports Medicine and Orthopedics Clinic. But what separates this project from all others that have come before it is its unique 10-acre park and plaza, which as its crown jewel contains the finest in frozen tundra: a 60-foot sledding hill.
“Of all the aspects of the Titletown District, I think the park and plaza is unique,” Packers president Mark Murphy said during a recent media tour. “A private developer would not have as much space devoted to a park and plaza.”
The park, which also has an ice skating pond, promenades, adult game area, playgrounds and NFL-sized football field, is expected to open in September, with the sledding hill and skating pond slated for November, when temperatures better support such winter activities.
“There’s an awful lot going on on this hill.” Ed Policy, Packers vice president and general counsel told the Green Bay Press-Gazette in April. “We are going to have a tube return. We’ll have snow-making machines. We will have ice melt (equipment) on the steps that lead you to the top of the hill.”
The crest of the sledding hill is 45 feet high and 45 feet wide at the top, expanding to 60 feet wide at the base. It will have a 30-degree slope for 150 feet, then level off for another 150 feet. The hill will serve as a picnic area and amphitheater in non-winter months.
Lodge Kohler contains 134 guest rooms and 10 suites, as well as a restaurant on the fifth floor that offers views inside Lambeau Field.
“Normally, you’d put the restaurant on the first floor, but we couldn’t pass up the view,” Christine Loose, group director of lodging for Kohler, told the Gazette. “ We knew that was the right thing to do.”
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