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Massive new state-of-the-art video boards, 1,600 new seats, an expanded gift shop, free WiFi for fans, dozens of historical murals depicting great players and moments in franchise history, bridges connecting the upper decks and quicker stadium entry are among the highlights of a $125 million expansion and revitalization project the Eagles are planning for Lincoln Financial Field over the next two years.
“We’ve had discussions with season ticket holders over the past couple of seasons to find out what was important to them,” team president Don Smolenski said. “We listened and developed a plan of action. The revitalization of Lincoln Financial Field that will take place over the next two years is a direct result of those conversations.
“Our main goal when we began this project was to dramatically enhance the game-day experience for our fans. They deserve an exciting and fun experience when they visit Lincoln Financial Field, and we are committed to that.”
Smolenski said the project will be paid for by the Eagles, although the NFL will assist in financing.
Construction on the Linc began in May 2001, and the stadium replaced decrepit Veterans Stadium for the 2003 season.
Owner Jeff Lurie said the enhancements were not planned to enhance a Super Bowl bid, but he did acknowledge that they could help his efforts to bring a Super Bowl to the Linc (see story).
Although the Linc is still relatively new – the fifth-newest stadium in the NFL – there are several areas Eagles brass identified as early as 2010 where it could be improved, enhanced or expanded.
“We decided we were going to, at an early stage of the life of Lincoln Financial Field, try to address and think about every which way we could possibly could to make the fan experience even better,” owner Jeff Lurie said. “It’s kind of like a situation where you love a house, but you want to even make it better.”
Lurie said that because technology is changing and growing so fast, it’s important for professional sports teams to constantly evaluate what they offer fans and stay on the cutting edge instead of simply waiting to build a new stadium every 40 years.
“It requires teams to be very vigilant about investing in their relatively new stadiums,” he said. “You can let it play out until you’re really behind the eight-ball as a stadium, [but] why not take it and be ahead of the curve? And that’s really what this is all about.”
The two-year project is being designed by Gensler Architecture of Burlington Township, N.J., with construction by Turner Construction of New York.
Because of the NCAA lacrosse tournament and other events booked for the stadium during the offseason, there wasn’t time for all the improvements to be made in time for this year’s opener, Sept. 15, against the Chargers.
The enhanced video boards, seating expansion, bridge construction and club-level enhancements are expected to be ready in 2014. Everything else should be finished this year, Smolenski said.
Here’s a look at some of the key improvements the Eagles are planning over the next two years:
High-definition video boards
High-definition video boards with upgraded sound systems will be installed in both end zones, extending the width of the field just above the field-level seats.
The boards will be capable of carrying 360-degree video, animation, scores, stats, highlights and replays.
“We’re going HD all the way across, so we have the ability at memorable moments or key, significant moments to go full video all the way across,” Smolenski said. “[The difference in] the visual qualities, it’s so dramatic. These will pop.”
Seating capacity will increase by 1,600, with 800 seats being added in the southwest corner (facing I-95 on the Wells Fargo Center side), 600 in the Northeast corner (facing Citizens Bank Park) and 200 in the Northwest corner (facing the corner of Broad and Pattison).
Bridges will be built connecting the two sides of the stadium, so fans moving from one side to the other will no longer have to take escalators down and back up.
The seating expansion will increase seating capacity to 69,194, which will still make it the ninth-lowest in the NFL.
“Since we built and finished the field, there have been some much larger stadiums built, especially in our division,” Lurie said. “We didn't want to go there to retrofit in a way in which to get to a much bigger number. We love that intimacy. We think it's better short-term, long-term and I think the fans prefer it as well.”
Improvements at stadium entrances
All three main entrance gates will be expanded and reconfigured to allow more fans to enter the stadium at the same time, which the Eagles hope will reduce or eliminate the long bottlenecks that form at the gates in the minutes before kickoff.
“We’re expanding really the footprint on the outside - the concrete footprint that allows us to expand our search areas,” Smolenski said.
“Therefore, we can kind of move people through quicker, get them in the building quicker, this will help us out significantly in crunch time when we need to process about 30,000 fans in the last 15 minutes before kickoffs because they leave their tailgates and want to come right in. Hopefully, we’ll be able to better accommodate that crush.”
Smolenski said the problem isn’t with fans actually entering the stadium but going through security, which wasn’t really a major issue when the stadium was designed in 1999. That’s where the improvements are planned.
“Back in 1999, it was a different world,” Smolenski said. "[The improvements] allow us to increase the number of search points so we can get people through that part faster and then quickly into the building.”
Free Wi-Fi for Fans
An intergrated wireless network including an estimated 607 access points will be installed that will allow fans free wireless access during games through the stadium and also in the Headhouse Plaza.
Smolenski said the system will be able to accommodate 45,000 simultaneous users.
“It’s a wireless network that will work in conjunction with the robust distributive antenna system that we have to enhance the in-stadium experience,” Solenski said, allowing fans to stream video, check fantasy football stats, etc.
Suite Level Enhancements
All suites will be refurbished, with new carpeting and furniture in time for the 2013 season.
Suites will also be outfitted with customized wall displays depicting players and moments from throughout Eagles history.
“Earlier this year, we went to our suite holders, and we provided them with a series of images where they could choose from to put on the walls for their suites,” Smolenski said. “So they had the opportunity to select what kind of graphic they may want. So … they got to choose from [Chuck] Bednarik, to Jerome [Brown], [Brian] Dawkins, a couple of Reggie [White] they got to choose from.
“We also gave them some moments, like when Dawkins was going to crush and strip the ball from [Ben] Roethlisberger, [Brian] Westbrook gets a touchdown, [Donovan] McNabb with the NFC Championship trophy, Troy [Vincent] and the lateral [from James Willis], the Miracle at the Meadowlands.
“We know what they want, and we're already in the process of putting that up alongside with the carpeting and the other work we're doing in the suite areas.”
• The Eagles are also planning to move the Touchdown Club indoors from the Headhouse Plaza into a formerly undeveloped storage area on the ground level of the west side of the stadium. An escalator will be built that can take fans directly to the club level.
• The Pro Shop will be expanded to reduce crowding on game days, and improvements will be made that are expected to greatly reduce congestion in check-out lines.
• Concession stands will be expanded and improved, allowing a greater variety of offerings to fans.
Fans interested in following the progress of construction of the various projects can do so at www.PhiladelphiaEagles.com/LFF.