Going to an NFL game nowadays is not just a simple weekly event in cities across the country, it’s a unique experience. A key part of that is the setting itself, whether you’re standing field level at one of the latest mega-stadiums or tailgating in the parking lot of a venerable old venue. So what is the best stadium in the NFL? Athlon Sports takes a stab at ranking the very best (and worst) of the 2017 stadiums 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)
Let’s face it, there’s a reason why the Oakland Raiders have been linked with a move to Los Angeles and even San Antonio in the past few years before finally announcing they’re going to Las Vegas: the Oakland Coliseum is a crumbling mess that is decades past its prime. Add in the issues that result from the mixed use as both a football facility and baseball field and you’d be hard-pressed to find a place in the NFL that presents many more challenges than solutions when it comes to both fans and players on game day. The Coliseum will always be home to the infamous “Black Hole” and occupy a place in the memories of those in the Bay Area, but it seems pretty clear why the Raiders’ time as tenants is just about up.
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When the Rams moved into this downtown Los Angeles venue last year after years in St. Louis, they probably noticed that not much really changed from their days in the Coliseum back in the 1970s and ‘80s. While a few coats of paint have been applied and USC has spruced up the place a little as part of renovations, there are still plenty of signs of age for NFL fans who haven’t caught a college football game at the place in recent years. The good news is it’s all temporary while a billion-dollar mega-stadium is being built a few miles from the beach that should vault the Rams from the bottom of this list to the very top.
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The Chargers have left San Diego behind and the atrocious venue that was Qualcomm Stadium for supposedly greener pastures up in Los Angeles. While it will be a few years before they get to realize the dream of playing in a sparkling new stadium with all the amenities, they will instead try to make do with the smallest site in the league and attempt to play in a soccer stadium. The cozy confines will make for a unique game-day atmosphere but the cramped venue won’t be super pleasing to anybody eventually.
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For most of its existence, FedEx Field was the largest stadium in the NFL in terms of capacity but has recently gone on a run of taking out seating in recent years. Some of that may be due to the team’s dreadful performance on the field over the years but it also can be seen as trying to roll back a few negative changes made since the stadium first opened. The atmosphere can be good when the team is playing well and there’s a slight chill in the air on a crisp fall Sunday but that only helps mask the numerous drawbacks the field has when it comes to everything from transportation to long lines to a mediocre experience in the concourse.
While the Jaguars have been rebuilding their franchise on the field, the same could be said of their home stadium. New video boards, upgraded club seats, several flashy fan zones and even a pool have helped people forget about the team’s on-field performance and enjoy the party-like atmosphere each Sunday. There are still signs that the bones of the stadium are not quite to the level of some of the newest stadiums in the league but one might not notice those things as much when you’re entertained to the level that you are in Jacksonville.
Being right on the shores of Lake Erie is both a blessing and a curse for the home of the Cleveland Browns. On one hand, it’s a nice spot in the city and not far from the must-see tourist attraction of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the other hand, that lake effect can create a miserable day out for kickers and fans alike when the cold and bitter wind is blowing with full force —typically made even worse by the home team’s play on the field. The facility itself is fairly nondescript and middle of the road but one can’t help but admire the resolve and ferocity of the Dawg Pound section regardless of the score.
Located right along the banks of the Cumberland River, Nissan Stadium’s biggest asset is that you’re right in the shadow of downtown Nashville. Other than that though, the venue itself is fairly unremarkable and there’s not any one standout feature other than being able to walk to a game from the lively bar scene across the river. The atmosphere also tends to be bland and the tailgating scene is lacking compared to other NFL spots.
By all accounts, the place formerly known as Ralph Wilson Stadium is perfectly fine as a place to host a football game but nobody is going to go home from a game in Orchard Park thinking about the stadium’s features or outdated look. Instead, the focus for Buffalo Bills games is all about the ambiance – the tailgating scene, the raucous crowd, the food and the swath of beverages available. Yes it can be cold, windy, and snowy for games but those in the city are used to it after so many years circling the wagons.
The Bengals’ home is far from the fanciest place in the league but The Jungle can rock like the rest of them when things are going well for the team on the field. The design allows for some nice views of the rest of the city and the canopy-clad sections along the sidelines provide plenty of good places to watch a football game. The experience has improved over recent years at the stadium even if the on-field product has gone up and down.
Despite all the memorable moments and big events hosted by Raymond James Stadium, ask anybody about it and they’re very likely to bring up the big pirate ship that sits in the corner. It’s naturally a big draw for kids and certainly unique as far as NFL venues go but it’s likely the only standout feature that everybody will mention. While it can be a fun game-day experience with everything going on, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ lack of success on the field tends to hamper things by the end of the day.
The Dolphins have had only slightly more quarterbacks start for them than this stadium has had name changes but there’s certainly a nice new vibe in these digs since major renovations. While things like new seats, a pair of massive new video boards and a host of other options like in-seat televisions are nice upgrades for fans, it remains to be seen if the atmosphere for home games will continue to improve under the hot South Florida sun.
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The oldest regular-use stadium in the league was updated significantly as the result of a transformative 2002 renovation. That bequeathed us a spaceship-like interior look that presents an interesting clash with the old Roman-style columns on either side of the exterior shell. Design aside, the venerable old Soldier Field is still home to plenty of passionate fans who will have an opinion on the team’s performance no matter how things are going.
Recent renovations have helped hide some of the age the stadium has been showing but few things have helped out more than the Carolina Panthers’ recent on-field surge. The crowd is clad in plenty of Cam Newton jerseys and always lively to the point where there’s a quality atmosphere. The setting is unique given the Charlotte skyline that hovers over the edges of the upper bowl and there are a handful of nice food options too.
There are times when Ford Field seems too big and cavernous and there are other times when the Detroit Lions fans are fully engaged where it’s just about perfect. While the exterior is nothing to write home about, incorporating an old warehouse into the design is unique and the amount of natural light that streams in on Sunday afternoons is great.
As of now MetLife is the only stadium to host two NFL teams and that comes with some unique positives and negatives. The ability to flip a switch and go from Jets’ green to Giants’ blue is a neat trick and either fan base will have no problem bringing some raucous New York atmosphere to a game when needed. Still, the color changing aside, things can feel a bit bland in this monstrosity of the Meadowlands.
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.
In terms of amenities, it’s hard to top the technical wizardry that comes with the slick new stadium down in Santa Clara, Calif., that one can barely even compare it to old Candlestick Park. As nice as the place is when the weather is perfect though, the location couldn’t be further from San Francisco and the atmosphere has been dead ever since Jim Harbaugh left.
It’s easy to spot this massive monstrosity from just about anywhere you drive around the Big Easy and it’s become an unmistakable part of the city’s past, present and future. While the stadium itself is well past its prime, the place still has an incredible vibe to it thanks to a great — and very, very loud — fan base that is into every play. Plus, it’s hard to beat the fact that you can be in the heart of New Orleans just minutes after stepping outside.
There’s hardly anything around the site aside from the remnants of the old Astrodome but things improve quite a bit once you step into the air-conditioned shelter that NRG Stadium provides from the Houston heat. The place kicked off a wave of new domed stadiums when it was first built and has held up well as a place with all the amenities you need to take in an NFL game. The loud and boisterous Texans fans add to a lively ambience and make this a tough place to play no matter how good or bad the team is.
Unique features like a New England lighthouse, the open concourse areas and a bridge make this a fun place for fans to enjoy themselves before, after or during a game. The location (and resulting traffic) away from Boston isn’t the greatest but the amount of winning that has gone on in this place and the passion of Patriots fans makes this a place that few visiting teams enjoy coming to.
While Philadelphia was often the site of horror stories about their old stadium prior to “The Linc” opening, the home of the Eagles no longer has to worry about those issues any more. There’s good access to transportation around the area and the tailgate scene is top-notch prior to the team taking the field. The Philly fans make this a tough place to go as an outsider but for those at home, there are few better places to watch a football game.
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.
One of the most distinctive stadiums in the country still to this day, the “spaceship” design of the place continues to host big event after big event even if the Cardinals aren’t in action. There’s not a ton around the place which can make for a tough tailgating spot but Arizona fans are loud and fun inside when the game is going on. Wide concourses are a big plus, there’s plenty of natural light and the field itself is pristine after being slid inside in the most unique setup around. Add in plenty of air conditioning and this is certainly an oasis in the middle of the desert.
One of the newest stadiums in the league is already one of the crown jewels of the Midwest considering it was awarded both a Super Bowl and Final Four before it even opened its doors. Vikings fans have always created a boisterous home environment that can be deafening and the return to a domed stadium only amplifies things, albeit with fancy modern features like large glass doors to bridge the elements outside with those on the field and, of course, massive video boards.
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The newest venue in the NFL will open its doors as the league’s crown jewel given everything that has been pumped into the $1.5 billion site. The old Georgia Dome next door was a perfectly pleasant place to watch a football game but things will get turned up by a factor of 10 at the new place given all the updates from the roof design to fan amenities down below. No matter your opinion of Atlanta sports, it’s hard to deny they don’t have a great new shiny object of a stadium now.
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The altitude the stadium sits at gives the place a justifiable nickname but this venue has always been about much more than where it is located. There are few bad seats in the house and the always raucous crowd makes this one of the toughest places to play in the entire NFL. There are few things the designers didn’t include despite the stadium’s age and having the state’s Hall of Fame in the same place is pretty cool too.
Few things are more representative of Pittsburgh than the atmosphere of a sold-out Steelers game at Heinz Field. The location is top-notch with views of the rivers flowing by and the city skyline just beyond the jumbotron at one end. What really makes things special is when those terrible towels start waving and the place starts rocking like few places in the NFL do. It’s a welcome sight for those in black and gold and quite intimidating for opponents at the same time.
Everything is bigger in Texas and few things are more representative of that than the place affectionately called JerryWorld. This place really kicked off a new wave of world-class stadium design and just about every little touch was taken care of in the design and construction of the place. The massive video board gets all of the attention — and for good reason.
No it’s not the newest or nicest place to watch a football game but only a handful of stadiums in the world can match the atmosphere Arrowhead has during a Chiefs game. Annually one of the loudest venues in the country when fans are at full blast yelling at opponents, there’s an ambience around this place that is just about perfect on a chilly Sunday afternoon.
Despite being a bit smaller than Arrowhead, the 12s at CenturyLink match their Midwest rivals in terms of noise level and the canopy roof helps funnel everything down onto the field to make life miserable for opposing offenses that can do nothing other than a silent snap count. Add in a picturesque location right next to downtown Seattle and a host of technologically-savvy amenities and things are just about perfect for an NFL game at the Seahawks’ home stadium.
Aside from fans of the Packers’ NFC North rivals, just about every football fan would agree that the historic Lambeau Field is the class of the league. It’s got history in spades given so many memorable moments from NFL history that have taken place here and renovations of the years have preserved that charm while updating amenities to equal the rest of the league. Add in a top-notch atmosphere and there’s a reason why many want to make a pilgrimage to take in a game at the venerable venue in the heart of Wisconsin.