Top 10 NFL Stadiums To Visit
America is a wonderful place to visit, particularly for Football fans. In a country of enormous contrasts in culture, weather, pace of life and wealth every city is different. Every football team’s home is different; every team’s following is different. For many NFL fans in the UK their favourite team’s home stadium is top of the list to visit but from a neutral point of view where is best to watch a game and why?
1) Lambeau Field, Home of the Green Bay Packers
The unquestioned top stadium in the NFL is historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay Wisconsin. Opened back in 1957 it has witnessed some of the greatest matches and greatest teams in History. Perhaps Lambeau’s most famous game was the infamous ice bowl of 1967 in which the hometown heroes edged the Dallas Cowboys to win the Championship in -26C temperatures. Postseason success and arctic conditions are synonymous with Lambeau Field and the Packers all time postseason record at their near 80,000 home is 14 wins, 4 losses. The season just doesn’t seem complete unless the Packers play a home playoff game in snow and gale force winds. The fact that the smallest city in America collectively all get a say in the team and all the major decisions make the Pack’s followers amongst the league’s most passionate and the atmosphere at Lambeau Field is up there with any in the League.
2) Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Home of the New Orleans Saints
The home of last year’s Superbowl, it’s seventh in all, the Superdome may not be the most historic stadium or most modern but it is one of America’s most famous sports venues. Beyond the Saints it hosts the Tulane Green Wave College Team, the Bayou Classic, The New Orleans Bowl and the historic Sugar Bowl, making it just as important to College football as it is to professional football. Wrestling’s main event of the year Wrestlemania will be held in the 76,000 capacity Superdome in 2014 also. But from a Saints perspective the Superdome is famous for its deafening, partisan home crowds. Veteran future Hall Of Famer Brett Favre described it as the loudest, most hostile stadium he ever played in, so much so that he wore earplugs in games there. Since the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina the city Of New Orleans has pulled together and the Superdome sees all that fighting spirit embodied during home games. The fact that New Orleans is America’s party capital only adds to the attraction.
3) Cowboys Stadium, Home of the Dallas Cowboys
Perhaps the most amazing stadium in all of America is the $1.3 billion, 105,000 capacity Cowboys stadium. The phrase everything’s bigger in Texas and the expectation that the Dallas Cowboys are bigger and better than the rest were very much in owner Jerry Jones’ mind when the stadium was built back in 2009. The 2100 feet HD videoboard that hangs above the field embodies the same vision and is from inside the stadium the defining feature. The huge spaceship like stadium has already held a Superbowl, an NBA all-star game, the NCAA cotton bowl and world championship fights to name but a few and it is widely considered to be among the world’s best stadiums.
4) Soldier Field, Home of the Chicago Bears
Historic Soldier Field has a vast amount of reasons to visit. Home to the Bears since 1971 but open since 1924 it was completely rebuilt in 2003 and now has the perfect blend of modern amenities and history. It is the second smallest stadium in the NFL holding 61,500 but its city centre location makes expansion impossible. The views North of bustling, downtown Chicago and its former world’s tallest skyscraper Sears Tower are in stark contrast to the Greco-Roman architecture of the stadium and green space that surrounds it. The Bears are one of the most storied and successful franchises in football dating back to 1919. They were the most successful pre-merger franchise winning eight NFL titles and one Superbowl. The history of the team and its stadium makes Soldier Field one of the most spectacular settings for Football in the country.
5) MetLife Stadium, Home of the New York Giants and New York Jets
Opened in 2010, MetLife Stadium replaced the old Meadowlands as home of both of the New York franchises. At $1.6 billion it is the most expensive stadium in the world and has the largest permanent seating capacity of any NFL stadium at 82,566. Based on the Allianz arena that hosts both Bayern and 1860 Munich it has an aluminium shell that can be lit Blue for Giants games and Green for Jets games. Metlife is also distinctive for its four HD LED screens in each corner of the ground and unlike most modern grounds its lack of a roof. New York fans are some of the most passionate if also critical in the country and both teams already have established a significant homefield advantage. Although Metlife is in New Jersey its proximity to New York City makes it all the more attractive to visit on a trip to The Big Apple although tickets, especially to watch the Giants are like gold dust.
6) CenturyLink Field, Home of the Seattle Seahawks
One of the most unique stadiums in sport, CenturyLife Field in Seattle is of course a very long way for a British NFL fan but the atmosphere on game day makes up for it. Infamous for its 12th man, CenturyLife may well be the loudest outdoor venue in the NFL and with the travel involved is one of the most difficult for an away team to win at. Opened in 2004 the 67,000 seat facility is also the home of the Major League Soccer team the Seattle Sounders. The u-shape stadium is open at the North for views of downtown Seattle and its many skyscrapers and famous for its 13 story tower scoreboard underneath which is the wonderfully named ‘Hawks Nest’. It is a long way to go but for gameday atmosphere CenturyLife Field has few peers.
7) Heinz Field, Home of The Pittsburgh Steelers
Heinz field, home of the NFL’s most successful Superbowl era franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers was first opened in 2001, it seats 65,000 fans. With the blue collar town of Pittsburgh built on its steel industry (hence the Steelers name) the design of Heinz field included 12,000 tons of steel and unlike most Northern stadiums the field is grass. The Black and Gold are the pride of Pittsburgh’s proudly working class people and the Steelers have sold out every home game since 1972. On gameday Heinz field is a cauldron of noise and waving of the infamous ‘terrible towels’. Steelernation are amongst the most passionate fans in all of football and their team, particularly their legendary ‘Steel Curtain’ defense thrive off the noise and passion of the crowd. The city of Pittsburgh may not be top of many lists to visit in America but it is synonymous with the game of football.
8) Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Home of the Oakland Raiders
Usually known as ‘The Black Hole’, the coliseum is still one of the most daunting places for any team in the NFL to visit. Although the Raiders as a team have become something of a laughing stock in recent years they still have a terrific history of success that few can match. Opened in 1966 and seating just fewer than 65,000 the Coliseum is an old fashioned, outdoor stadium but the atmosphere inside matches any in the country. The legions of silver and black turn up in all manners of star wars masks, movie zombie costumes and any form of ridiculous outfits they can get their hands on. They remain fiercely behind their team however and the stadium being just a couple of hours from Los Angeles, basking in the Californian Sun makes it ideal for holidaymakers to join in the party.
9) Gillette Stadium, Home of the New England Patriots
The Patriots consistent excellence over the last decade has helped grow their popularity and with Football becoming ever more popular across the pond they have become one of the most supported franchises in Britain as their success and that growth have coincided. 20 miles or so from Boston, Gillette Stadium holds just shy of 69,000 people and has now been open for 11 years. The most defining features of the stadium are the Lighthouse and a bridge modelled on Boston’s historic Longfellow Bridge at the entrance. New England in the fall is famous for its beauty and very popular to British tourists and the fall is a pretty good time to catch the Patriots as well while you are there.
10) Raymond James Stadium, Home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Florida is the favourite destination for British tourists in the USA. The year round sunshine, fantastic beaches and world leading attractions send Brits flocking all year every year. Although the Miami Dolphins are the state’s most famous franchise, the much newer but already Superbowl winning Buccaneers are the best to visit for British tourists as Tampa Bay is considerably closer to tourist haven Orlando than Miami or Jacksonville in the far North of the state. Opened in 1998, Raymond James Stadium is most famous for the huge pirate ship behind one end zone which fires its cannons each time the Buccs score a touchdown. The 65,000 seat facility always has a sprinkling of British tourists and is a must visit for any football fan holidaying in Florida during football season.