The NFL game day ordeal runs the gamut from luxury suites at field level complete with USB ports to charge your phone to the nosebleed seats in an ancient venue that haven’t changed much in decades. No matter what city you’re in though, you’re in for a unique experience as teams battle it out until just one is left standing holding the Lombardi Trophy.
But which teams have the best stadium in the NFL? Athlon Sports takes a stab at ranking the very best (and worst) of the 2018 venues around the league based on everything from amenities to raucous home-field advantage and just about everything else in between.
Capacity: 56,063 (for football)
The Raiders still have two more seasons left to go before they depart for the bright lights of Las Vegas but while there will be plenty of nostalgia wrapped up in their final go around in Oakland, the fact remains that the Coliseum is a dump. The crowd in the "Black Hole" is great and new coach Jon Gruden should have the faithful lined up to cheer the team on one last time but there’s no escaping that the stadium is on its last legs (and really well past them). The good news? The Raiders may very well go from worst to first on this list come 2020.
Dan Snyder is slowly going about the process of getting a new stadium in the area, which probably underscores the experience at FedEx on game days given the venue itself is just over 20 years old. Since it will probably be another decade before new digs are ready to move into, Redskins fans will have to continue to put up with nightmare transportation issues, high prices and hardly any remarkable features many other places have to distinguish themselves. It doesn’t help that the field itself is generally more of a dirt patch by Thanksgiving either and the team is typically in the same state of affairs.
FirstEnergy Stadium has a pretty solid location in Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie but the concrete shell itself leaves plenty to be desired. There have been a few upgrades over the years to help bring things more into the 21st century but let’s just say there’s good reasoning behind talk of a new stadium in the near future. The conditions can be terrible in the winter but the fan base that has generally stuck around through an incredible amount of losing can still make plenty of noise. It’s probably just a bit better to watch people going crazy in the Dawg Pound section from home.
If you want to get transported back in time, take a stroll through Orchard Park for a Bills game. It’s worth it just for the ambience that goes into a game from breaking tables at tailgates to taking in an adult beverage or two while watching the team. Despite the high marks the Bills get away from the field though, the fact remains that this is an extremely outdated stadium by NFL standards and the weather can be biting to the point where only the brave can stand the negative wild chills. There have been a handful of minor improvements in recent years but it’s too little to make a dent.
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The Chargers still have issues selling out this super small stadium (previously known as StubHub Center), which is perhaps the most unique way to watch an NFL game in 2019. Give credit to the team for doing what it can to help improve the experience for both fans and players. Tailgating remains one of the bigger misses and the bottom line is that cramming an NFL experience into a soccer stadium remains a big challenge even if it leads to a pretty interesting way to watch the game.
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New Panthers owner David Tepper’s first big job since taking over in Charlotte will come, not surprisingly, in the board rooms and city council meetings as he decides to invest in a hefty refurbishment of Bank of America Stadium or eyes a brand-new facility somewhere in the area (full of fancy new luxury boxes no doubt). There have been some upgrades along the way in recent years as part of a series of nine-figure refurbishments and this is still a pretty solid place to watch some football, but the venue itself keeps falling behind its peers.
What Nissan Stadium lacks in terms of modern amenities it more than makes up for in general atmosphere outside the walls given its location in Nashville. That’s also part of the problem, as it can at times be a lot more fun to do things elsewhere away from the game. The blandness really keeps the stadium in a similar grouping on this list with other places instead of the local flair helping separate the experience.
When things are going well, the Jungle can be a tough place to play at thanks to quality fan support and a solid design. There are some good views from inside the stadium and a pretty notable tailgating experience as well. The weather doesn’t help when fall and winter come though and the team’s recent dip in performance under Marvin Lewis has helped dampen the atmosphere too.
Raymond James is still a quality experience to take in a game or two but it’s starting to show its age in recent years. The good news is there are solid viewing lines from most seats and the compact nature of the design allows fans to be more on top of the action than other places. The pirate ship is a fun gimmick for kids and adults alike but the early-season games in the Florida heat and humidity can be brutal at times too.
Even with the near-total rebuilding of the historic stadium back in 2002, Bears fans have been packing the place and helping bring a game day to life right near Lake Michigan. That said, the renovation made for an awkward mishmash between old and new that looks worse with each passing season. The field regularly tends to be in awful shape for the players halfway through the year and fans that can brave the elements later on typically don’t mind letting the team hear just how bad they are down the stretch too.
Baltimore has done a great job with their stadiums despite their age getting up there and M&T Bank is certainly no exception. While the design and seas of purple seats won’t win any awards, the good location in the city and a wild fan base make for a great place to take in a Ravens game. It’s not the most recent venue but it certainly feels like home for the purple and black.
There was a time when this giant chunk of metal and concrete was one of the worst places in the AFC to watch a game but recent upgrades (and a much more competitive team) have helped turn this into one of the league’s most unique game day experiences around. Want to watch Blake Bortles drop dimes in a bikini? You can do that while swimming around an end zone. Better seating areas, food options and more are also a part of the upgrades, which is helping Jacksonville move up this ranking quickly.
The building of Ford Field really helped revitalize downtown Detroit and has really helped the entire stadium experience as the years have gone on. Tailgating isn’t quite to the level of many other places due to various constraints but this massive venue still checks off most of the boxes you’re looking for in a modern NFL stadium. There are some unique design elements that add to the interior setup but the team’s play on the field might be the most limiting aspect of the field.
As you expect for a new stadium in the heart of Silicon Valley, this place has just about all you are looking for in terms of amenities and surprisingly good sightlines in just about every section. But as nice as everything is, the atmosphere is far more corporate than it was at the 49ers' beloved old home up the coast and the swaths of open seats at times can be distracting. Perhaps the Jimmy Garoppolo era will turn things around on that latter front and if so, Levi’s Stadium could be grouped more similarly to its modern peers.
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The Rams are still waiting to move into their palatial stadium that will be the NFL's best when it opens but until then they can take advantage of one more year at the newly renovated Coliseum, which has been renamed United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. While the nine-figures worth of upgrades that host USC put into the historic venue are still more suited toward college football, the facelift is a welcome one on Sundays too. The once run-down building now looks brand new and all of the club suites are a huge addition for the NFL club -- to say nothing of capacity being reduced to a more manageable size.
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Yes the Superdome has been showing its age for over a decade now but what it lacks in terms of bells and whistles, it typically makes up for in charm. The Saints crowd is raucous and loud for every home game and there are few places where you might be able to have even more fun when you leave after a win. There’s a good reason why big events keep returning to this place even with all the signs of aging going on.
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This place is barely recognizable to some from even just a few years ago thanks to numerous renovation projects. The fan experience has been a big winner thanks to better seats, bigger video boards and a host of fancy new suite areas to go with some tasty food options. Even the new exterior and roof have helped when it comes to typical South Florida weather that is present for a game. The location still isn’t great and the fan support when the team is down wanes quite a bit but it seems as though the stadium is really turning things around after falling well behind in the NFL arms race.
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MetLife is your typical modern stadium experience in the NFL with a slight twist being that it hosts both the Jets and the Giants. The changeover between the two franchises on game day is pretty impressive but neither really feels like they own the place compared to other stadiums around the league. If you can afford the high prices, the seating experience is a quality one but not quite as warm as it is in other places.
In terms of the building itself, NRG Stadium checks off a lot of boxes from the concourse areas to the field to a loud crowd cheering on the Texans every Sunday. When the dome is closed, there are few better places to be to get some much-needed A/C and take in some football too. The area around the stadium holds things back a bit though and hampers yet another solid experience from one of the first to really pioneer the modern stadium design approach.
Formerly University of Phoenix Stadium, Cardinals fans have made this UFO-looking spot quite the home-field advantage for the Cardinals while enjoying all the amenities you’ve come to expect at a big game nowadays. Just about every major sporting event from the Super Bowl to the Final Four has put this place in the regular rotation and it’s easy to see why given how easy it is to stage things here. Perhaps the biggest downside is the location away from a majority of fun spots in the Phoenix area and the lack of hardly anything directly around the stadium to do before or after games.
Even though it’s approaching the two-decade mark, Mile High remains one of the more fun places to watch an NFL game. A lot of that is owed to the orange-clad fans in the sold-out crowd that make the place not only loud to play in but a great atmosphere for a game. There’s the state sports Hall of Fame if you want a dose of history and the place remains one of the more easily accessible stadiums to get to no matter your mode of transportation. It can get bitterly cold as an outdoor venue on the steps of the Rockies but that doesn’t seem to put a dent into the fan support in Denver.
Getting to Gillette is not quite as easy as other spots but once you arrive you’re at one of the best setups in the NFL. Of course the winning helps with the atmosphere for the home team but there are plenty of little unique aspects littered throughout the stadium that make this place cool. People naturally lock in on the lighthouse and video board complex but there are plenty of great seats throughout and there’s a top-notch tailgating scene too. Even the head coach doesn’t mind saying he’s on to Foxborough with digs like these.
The old-school field house look on the outside is a perfect fit for Indianapolis and the football stadium can turn into quite the place to watch the Colts play. While the weather may be bad every fall and winter, the insulated access to the rest of the city is a huge plus for all the fans and there are few bad seats in the place. The convenience of the place all around is one reason why the NFL Scouting Combine keeps coming back to the place year after year as well.
There are some majestic views of the city and surrounding area from the stadium but let’s face it, this place is mostly known for getting wild and loud when the Terrible Towels are waving at full force. That alone makes it a tough spot to play for opponents but the weather down the stretch of the season probably doesn’t help much either — especially on long field goals. Despite getting up there in age, Heinz Field is still one of the best around.
The biggest upgrade to the “Linc” this offseason will come when the Eagles open the year by raising a banner to commemorate their first Super Bowl title. There’s plenty to do in and around the stadium itself, including tons of tailgates that contribute to one of the best scenes in the league. There are all the features you normally associate with a modern venue littered throughout and it’s fairly easy to get to as well. The biggest negative, particularly for visitors, can be the overzealous members of the crowd.
The monstrosity rising up in the Dallas suburbs known as JerryWorld kicked off a boon in building $1 billion-plus stadiums but it remains hard to top the original. There are a number of innovations here that have been copied elsewhere and it remains a must-visit for any fan of football (at every level). Obviously the massive video board is the big draw and makes America’s Team look even better than it usually does every Sunday.
It’s not often you will find a stadium built in the 1970s hanging in this kind of rarified air but such is the case in Kansas City thanks to Arrowhead being a true crown jewel and the loudest spot in the NFL when all the Chiefs fans are yelling at maximum capacity. The tailgating is top-notch and has just about everything under the sun you are looking for. There are still improvements that need to be made to the bones of the place itself but it’s hard to think about most of that stuff given what a great game day experience it is.
Seattle folks have it made with this place, which is in a great (and picturesque) spot in the city. The first thing you’ll notice rather quickly is just how loud things get when the 12s really turn things up and there’s plenty to do during the little bits of downtime too. As long as you’re not an opposing player, particularly along the offensive line, there’s a lot to love about CenturyLink.
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The Bank is fresh off hosting the Super Bowl and did a nearly flawless job of pulling the big event off despite throngs of fans and media in town. Not only is this a technological marvel with several fascinating innovations but you’ve got a great view of the city and the ability to get some fresh air when the weather cooperates. What really makes this place special is the Vikings fans during a game though. Getting loud is one thing; doing so with a giant Gjallarhorn is even better.
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It doesn’t get much better than this no matter what the temperature might be. After all, there’s a reason why the season ticket list is measured more in generations than years. The history of TitleTown’s famous landmark is enough to draw any passing football fan in but the modern updates that renovations have brought over the years have struck the perfect balance for the stadium. The oldest continually operated stadium in the league is also the most special and one only has to be there for kickoff to understand that.
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Many were puzzled when plans were announced to tear down the not-at-all-old Georgia Dome to build this place but spend any time in the stadium and you quickly understand how this has become the new jewel of the league and the home to the Super Bowl. The approach to affordable concession prices has led to a sea change in sports and the options are not skimping on quality. The unique video board leads to some cool effects and the Atlanta crowd has quickly made this place quite hostile. Outside of a few minor issues with the lighting, the newest stadium in the league lives up to the hefty billing.
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