With the NFL season underway, several stadiums around the league are set to debut their latest upgrades.
The mix of NFL stadium renovation projects completed over the offseason comprises a wide range of changes, spanning from major upgrades to improvements that, while more minor in scale, still affect the fan and/or team experiences. In terms of age, it also is a broad mix, with some of the league’s oldest and newest stadiums receiving various upgrades coming into the 2019 season.
Of the renovation projects led by an NFL organization, the most notable is the work done at M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens undertook the third and final phase of a privately financed $120 million renovation project by completing the installation of new escalators and elevators, along with club and suite level improvements. Separately, the Maryland Stadium Authority—which owns M&T Bank Stadium—funded the installation of new LED Sports Lights, installed by Musco Sports Lighting.
That concludes a renovation project that has resulted in several improvements to M&T Bank Stadium since it began prior to the 2017 season. Among the other changes that were made over the three-phase project include new 4K ultra-high definition video displays, the installation of corner-notch suites in the upper bowl, sound system upgrades, a permanently installed SkyCam, and more.
Major changes took place at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where USC has completed a $315-million renovation. Through the renovation, the Coliseum received a seven-story tower featuring premium viewing areas, seating bowl upgrades—including the installation of new handrails and seats—technology improvements, and the restoration of its distinguished peristyle. While this renovation was led and financed by USC to improve the fan experience for college football, it will have immediate implications for the Los Angeles Rams, as the 2019 campaign is set to be the team’s last at the Coliseum before the opening of its new stadium in 2020. Read our overview of the Coliseum renovation here.
The Kansas City Chiefs used this offseason to complete upgrades at Arrowhead Field that should improve the fan experience. Seats were replaced throughout the stadium’s upper level, which for the first time offers seating with cupholders. In addition, the Chiefs completed a reapplication of waterproofing measures in the upper level, while creating the Drum Deck—a space that gives the franchise’s pregame drum ceremony a prominent location within the facility.
Perhaps the most noticeable change, however, is an upgraded west-end video display that was installed in partnership with Daktronics. According to an announcement issued in July, the project resulted in the replacement of 16HD technology installed in 2009 in favor of 10-millimeter Surface-Mount Device (SMD) technology—increasing the resolution by more than 2.5 times—and brings the first High Dynamic Range (HDR) video display to professional football. The video display fits into the same footprint as its predecessor, measuring 37 feet high by 150 feet wide.
Daktronics was also involved in another notable technology upgrade at an NFL facility for this season, as it partnered with the Miami Dolphins to install a new continuous LED ribbon display at Hard Rock Stadium. The new ribbon display is touted as the longest in professional sports, measuring 2,105 feet long.
During the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will debut an Intel True View replay system at Raymond James Stadium. Utilizing 38 5K ultra-high definition cameras positioned throughout the stadium, the system allows for an immersive 360-degree reconstruction of plays. The Buccaneers have made other changes to the gameday experience at Raymond James Stadium, including revamped food offerings.
Elsewhere, a handful of teams made changes that were directed at premium areas. The Houston Texans improved suites at NRG Stadium for Luxe members, replacing all flooring with an upscale wood-style finish. That continues a series of upgrades in these areas over the last three years. At U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings are unveiling redesigned premium areas, including the Little Six Casino’s Club Gold, Polaris Club, and CenturyLink Lodge and the CenturyLink Cabins.
U.S. Bank Stadium also received a new turf field over the offseason, and it was not alone among NFL stadiums, as the Atlanta Falcons will be playing on a new FieldTurf surface this season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. These projects are notable in that U.S. Bank Stadium and Mercedes-Benz Stadium are the NFL’s two newest venues—opening in 2016 and 2017, respectively—but they have been active for other events over their short runs. Both have hosted Super Bowls, with Mercedes-Benz Stadium housing an MLS squad on a full-time basis and U.S. Bank Stadium welcoming non-NFL events like the Final Four, soccer friendlies, and concerts.
For Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this will be the first NFL season in which it utilizes a venue-wide cashless transaction model. Cashless transactions were implemented for MLS’s United this spring and will now be in effect for the NFL season.
A total of $8.3 million was approved for 2019 upgrades to the home of the Denver Broncos, highlighted by the installation of new LED lighting. Notably, the Broncos struck a 21-year stadium naming-rights deal with Empower Retirement, making the facility known as Empower Field at Mile High. Technically, the deal is still pending approval by stadium owner Metropolitan Football Stadium District, but it would end the franchise’s search for a new naming-rights partner.
Although their due diligence on crafting a new stadium proposal continues going into this season, the Washington Redskins have completed some improvements at FedEx Field. That includes upgraded concession options, along with renovations to the Merrill Lynch Touchdown Club, the addition of the Bud Light Party Pavilion and Concourse in the east end zone, and digital ordering systems in each suite.
The Seattle Seahawks have overhauled the pre-game entertainment experience at CenturyLink Field, including the addition of The End Zone. Located in Touchdown City, The End Zone will offer kids activities, giveaways, and photo opportunities, along with a chance to view the live broadcast of the Seahawks Radio Network Pregame Show.
At Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears are honoring their history with new statues of Walter Payton and George Halas. Coming in at 12 feet tall and 3,000 pounds, the statues were unveiled by the Bears this week outside Soldier Field’s Gate 0.
The most recent offseason was a busy one when it came to NFL stadium upgrades. Now that the season has arrived, these improvements can be showcased to fans, providing another intriguing layer to this season.
Image courtesy Arrowhead Stadium.
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