AN OVERVIEW ON HOW I ARRIVED AT MY NFL RANKINGS
If we’re brutally honest, the main job of an NFL stadium is to house the studio audience for the nation’s most popular TV show. Despite that, our pro football stadiums are some of the most palatial, extravagant buildings in the country. Which is crazy when you think that some of these places only house its main tenant 10 times a year. But they just keep getting fancier and more luxurious with every new wave. Many of the most recent buildings top these rankings; they are truly marvelous structures.
Unlike baseball stadiums that work best in a vibrant part of the city (usually downtown), about half of the NFL palaces are built away from the city center in locations where there’s plentiful space for team-owned parking. I don’t begrudge an NFL suburban location as much as I would in baseball (or hockey for that matter) since most of the pre-game action of the NFL experience occurs in the parking lot tailgates. Plus an NFL game is a full day commitment anyway; so long as the trip out isn’t outright onerous, so be it. And where a roof often detracts from a baseball park, it’s perfectly fine in a football stadium given the season. In fact 7 of my top 10 picks are roofed venues.
Unlike my baseball rankings that are based on many visits, I’ve had to rank the football stadiums largely based on first impressions. Hitting all the football fields is a multi-year endeavor, and is one that I’ve really only decided to try to complete in the past 3-4 years. Of the 31 stadiums in existence during the 2019 season, I had managed but a single game visit to 23 of them. Some of these places may benefit from repeat visits more than others, so consider this a more of a “beauty contest” rather than a deep analysis of the stadium merits.
The rankings are relative and based on fan atmosphere, attractiveness of the stadium inside and out, concessions, and the quality of the non-premium seating bowl (I tend to sit between the 30’s in the first few rows of the upper deck). Stadiums accrued demerits for significant pain points such as awful access, brutal concession lines, sub-optimal fan support or perceived price gouging. It’s meant to be focused more on the stadium experience rather than the entire game day experience. To some extent, EVERY NFL game day experience is a blast. You could stage these contests at bare bones high school stadiums and they’d still be memorable given the usual pageantry and ancillary fun.
Let’s kick off starting at #31