For decades the National Football League was a ballpark-based league, with teams sharing facilities with Major League Baseball teams—Wrigley Field, the Polo Grounds, Tiger Stadium, etc. Today, almost every NFL team controls its own facility, a trend that will continue in the next several years. Here’s a list of NFL stadiums, from oldest to newest.
Soldier Field (1924), Chicago Bears. Several asterisks are in order here. Yes, Soldier Field did open in 1924 as a major event facility, seating 74,280 for major events like Notre Dame/Northwestern football soon after opening. But pro football eschewed it until 1959, when the Chicago Cardinals played a season there before departing for St. Louis. It wasn’t until 1970 that the Chicago Bears moved to Soldier Field from Wrigley Field, and it came with some changes, as the seating capacity was downsized. A 2003 renovation dramatically altered Soldier Field, keeping the historic exterior while adding a next-generation seating bowl.
Lambeau Field (1957), Green Bay Packers. The oldest major stadium constructed specifically for the NFL, Lambeau Field retains the charm of its original bowl configuration with plenty of amenities thanks to a 2003 renovation. To show you the state of the NFL in 1956, consider this: the Packers were still playing at a high-school football field (still used by East High School) and were a few years past playing Milwaukee home games at a Wisconsin State Fair oval. Lambeau Field saved the Green Bay Packers and a game there is one of sport’s most vibrant experiences.
Arrowhead Stadium (1972), Kansas City Chiefs. The football half of the first modern football/baseball sports complex, Arrowhead Stadium has aged remarkably well since its opening. Yes, the stadium has seen some recent renovations, but the seating bowl has the same intimate feel it’s had since 1972.
New Era Field (1973), Buffalo Bills. The former Ralph Wilson Stadium has not aged very well, with the NFL reportedly pushing the Bills to pursue a new stadium. But, looking at this another way, New Era Field is very old-school, with fans braving the elements to see their Bills in action.
Mercedes-Benz Superdome (1975), New Orleans Saints. The second dome home in NFL history (the Astrodome was the first), the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is a major venue in the sports world. Besides serving as home of the Saints, the Superdome hosts major college bowls and Super Bowls and in the past hosted NBA and MiLB action as well as MLB exhibitions. It’s been renovated several times over the years, the last time in 2011.
Hard Rock Stadium (1987), Miami Dolphins. The late Joe Robbie had a dream for his own NFL stadium, and he lived to see Joe Robbie Stadium open. Built for football and later renovated for the MLB Florida Marlins, Hard Rock Stadium has seen plenty of changes over time, including a recent set of renovations that added more shade and group spaces to the facility.
EverBank Field (1995), Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite what many say, this is not the renovated Gator Bowl, one of the great old college bowl stadiums. In 1994 construction began on the old Gator Bowl site; the old 1949 stadium was mostly torn down (except some modern additions, like a section of seating, which was constructed in 1982) and Jacksonville Municipal Stadium was constructed to house the Jags. Since then it’s hosted the NFL, a Super Bowl, major college games and the Gator Bowl, now called the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Bank of America Stadium (1996), Carolina Panthers. Built for the NFL expansion team, Bank of America Stadium (first called Carolinas Stadium, then Ericsson Stadium) is first and foremost a football stadium, hosting ACC championships and a bowl game in addition to the Panthers. At the time, the uptown Charlotte location was unique; now downtown locations are proving to be popular in the NFL. The stadium is in the midst of $47 million worth of renovations.
FedEx Field (1997), Washington Redskins. Poor FedEx Field. It was constructed to replace one of the most beloved facilities in NFL history, RFK Stadium. Yeah, RFK Stadium was old and an uncomfortable place to see a game, but when the Redskins were firing on all four cylinders, the stadium was one of the most vibrant venues in the world. FedEx Field is a lot more corporate and lot more subdued.
M&T Bank Stadium (1998), Baltimore Ravens. An underrated facility, M&T Bank Stadium was built to house the relocating Ravens (from Cleveland) after a few seasons at Memorial Stadium. Located next to Oriole Park in the Camden Yards sports complex, M&T Bank Stadium may not be flashy, but it’s comfortable.
Raymond James Stadium (1998), Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One of the first NFL stadiums where the facility is part of the entertainment, Raymond James Stadium features a 43-ton replica pirate ship in an end zone. When the Bucs score, cannons on the pirate ship fire in celebration. It also hosts the USF Bulls, the Outback Bowl and big events like Super Bowls and national college championships.
FirstEnergy Stadium (1999), Cleveland Browns. Built on the site of Cleveland Municipal Stadium—the “Mistake on the Lake”—FirstEnergy Stadium was built for the expansion Cleveland Browns. Yes, the new Browns kept bleachers in the end zone for the Dawg Pound, and it was designed to minimize cold winds blowing in from Lake Erie.
Nissan Stadium (1999), Tennessee Titans. Another downtown facility (or close, anyway), Nissan Stadium was built for the relocating Houston Oilers and is also known for hosting important soccer matches and large-scale country-music concerts. It was last updated in 2012.
Paul Brown Stadium (2000), Cincinnati Bengals. Named for legendary Browns and Bengals coach Paul Brown and constructed on Cincinnati’s riverfront area, Paul Brown Stadium is part of the city’s sports complex that includes Great American Ball Park and US Bank Arena.
Heinz Field (2001), Pittsburgh Steelers. Constructed near the Three Rivers Stadium location, Heinz Field features plenty of steel in its design after a request from Steelers owners to emphasize steel as a homage to the city’s history. The stadium is currently shared with the University of Pittsburgh.
Sports Authority Field at Mile High (2001), Denver Broncos. The Sports Authority part of the stadium name should disappear this year, but the reference to Mile High Stadium, the team’s former home, should remain. The place rocks: the Broncos continually sell out and the rowdy fans are part of the game entertainment.
CenturyLink Field (2002), Seattle Seahawks. Located next to Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field was built on the Kingdome site and also hosts MLS’s Seattle Sounders. It features a very vertical design that cuts down on heavy winds and exposure to rain while also keeping much of the sound within the stadium. In fact, the crowd noise at a Seahawks game was once measured at 137.6 decibels.
Ford Field (2002), Detroit Lions. Ford Field was built to include a former Hudson’s Department Store warehouse in downtown Detroit, a six-story structure that now houses most of the facility’s suites and club seating.
Gillette Stadium (2002), New England Patriots. A privately financed replacement for Foxboro Stadium, Gillette Stadium was designed to make an impact on fans entering the stadium with an iconic lighthouse and bridge.
NRG Stadium (2002), Houston Texans. The first NFL retractable-roof stadium, NRG Stadium was designed to serve many masters: besides hosting the Texans, the stadium was also designed to host the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo—a major event on the Houston social calendar.
Lincoln Financial Field (2003), Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia fans are among the most passionate anywhere, and the design of Lincoln Financial Field is designed both for these fans and the folks hitting the game in one of 172 suites.
State Farm Stadium (2006), Arizona Cardinals. Rising like a UFO in the West Valley, University of Phoenix Stadium features a unique retractable grass field. The natural grass can be automatically moved outside to soak up plenty of sun while other events are held at the domed stadium.
Lucas Oil Stadium (2008), Indianapolis Colts. Built to look like a traditional Indiana fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium features a retractable roof and a large bank of windows to let in plenty of sun.
AT&T Stadium (2009), Dallas Cowboys. With a total capacity of 105,000, a massive center-hung high-def scoreboard and a retractable roof, AT&T Stadium’s unique roof design pays homage to the team’s former home, Texas Stadium, while the stadium also features plenty of high-end amenities and lots of SRO space.
MetLife Stadium (2010), New York Giants/New York Jets. Currently the only NFL stadium hosting two teams—something that will change when the new Rams/Chargers stadium opens in Inglewood, Cal.—the privately financed facility is designed to sport the home team colors via adjustable lighting and louvers.
Levi’s Stadium (2014), San Francisco 49ers. Hailed as a high-tech marvel when it opened, Levi’s Stadium features plenty of high-speed connectivity and signage. The design may be a little flawed, as the east side of the stadium is a sun field now documented to drive away fans.
US Bank Stadium (2016), Minnesota Vikings. Built on the Metrodome site, US Bank Stadium features a unique exterior design with a bow aimed toward downtown and stunning views of the Minneapolis skyline from end-zone windows. The huge windows and translucent roof are designed to bring in the sunshine no matter how cold the outside temperature.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium (2017), Atlanta Falcons. Will this end up being a next-generation design? With a unique oval scoreboard and a cutting-edge retractable roof, Mercedes-Benz Stadium was specifically designed to change how fans interact with their environment.
SoFi Stadium (2020), Los Angeles Rams/Los Angeles Chargers.
Allegiant Stadium (2020), Las Vegas Raiders.
This article first appeared in the weekly Football Stadium Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? It’s free, and you’ll see features like this before they appear on the Web. Go here to subscribe to the Football Stadium Digest newsletter.