Eagles unveil Phase 1 of Linc renovations

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Eagles unveil Phase 1 of Linc renovations

September 13, 2013, 7:15 pm
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Two days away from their 2013 home opener against the Chargers on Sunday, the Eagles are set to re-open Lincoln Financial Field with a few changes.

And a little more character.

The Eagles announced in June that they would be investing $125 million in upgrades to the Linc, and on Friday, team president Don Smolenski unveiled what's been completed under "Phase 1" of the renovation.

"We opened up in [2003], so it's our 11th football season, but it's like our 10th anniversary," Smolenski said. "This is like our house, and our season-ticket holders live in the building with us and how we experience the building is very different from how they experience the building. Between our own observations and their input, it became a dialogue over time. It became a conversation.

"So just like you have to invest in your house -- you have to put on a new roof, you have to put in a new hot water heater -- the building is 10 years old. Even though it feels like I just closed on the financing and the construction yesterday, it was 11 years ago.

"And so being able to take all that feedback from the fans and incorporate it into the building, it feels like it gives it new life and new energy."

Although the high-definition video boards and bridges connecting the east and west sections of the stadium are still a year off, Phase 1 represents $35 million worth of work.

Smolenski said he actually received a round of applause during a meeting with ticket holders when he announced the plans for the bridge. In that sense, the goal of the upgrades is clear: "It's all about improving the fans' experience on game day, and getting people in their seats with less delay," he said.

One of the first changes fans will notice as they file in on Sunday is the expanded ticket gates to better allow for the pregame crunch of tailgaters trying to stream into the stadium right before kickoff.

Once inside, the team's pro shop has been expanded and registers have been moved, outer sidewalks have been widened, and 30 fryers have been added to concessions stands along the main concourse -- all in the name of cutting down on lines.

While you are in line, however, or merely roaming the stadium, you'll notice aesthetic changes to the concourse. New LED lights have brightened previously darkened areas, and large graphic boards have been added throughout the stadium. The graphics feature former Eagles greats and are grouped by position. You'll see Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent and Eric Allen in one area, and Donovan McNabb, Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham in another.

In the upper-level, since there is less physical space on the outer walls, images of great moments in Eagles history -- like Brian Westbrook's punt return against the Giants in 2003 -- have been added in the tunnels leading to each section.

Black and white images of Dawkins, McNabb, Jeremiah Trotter and others have also been added inside the Linc's elevators.

Speaking of Dawkins, the banners previously hung of him and Reggie White have now been moved to the rafters in the upper level. All the Eagles' retired numbers hang above the seats on the west side of the stadium, and all the Eagles' championship banners hang on the east side.

All of it works to give the Linc a bit more personality than its had in the past.

"We want people to see images of their heroes throughout the building," Smolenski said.

Other changes to the building include refurbished luxury suites and the construction of a new area for the Eagles Touchdown Club. Members of that club, who were previously housed in an outdoor tent, have now been moved inside to a new room with a buffet, bar area and plenty of TVs.

All the fans, however, will benefit from changes to the stadium's internet connection. The Eagles partnered with a company named Enterasys, which installed a similar system at the New England Patriots' home, Gillette Field, to create a wifi setup that supports up to 40,000 simultaneous users. Anyone who doesn't fit on the system can obviously use the the global connection on their phones.

In addition, the Eagles' mobile app will allow fans to check different angles of the game, including from a camera in the Eagles' tunnel, and even access NFL Red Zone on their phones.

"Whether you're in your yard, or at Starbucks, or at presidential inauguration down in Washington, D.C. with hundreds of thousands of people, you're not thinking about how many people are in the space with you, you're just thinking about you and your experience," he said. "When you walk into a stadium of 70,000 people who are trying to make phone calls and upload photos and share those photos, that's part of the experience.

"Adding the wireless network adds more capacity to do that and the system is design to grow and expand over time."

The changes off the field come at time when Chip Kelly's Eagles are bringing plenty of change to the way football is played on the field.

"It wasn't necessarily planned that way," Smolenski said, "but it's kind of come together that way."

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