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By Marc Farzetta
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Despite Lincoln Financial Field being the fourth youngest stadium in the NFL, the Eagles feel their nest is in need of some upgrades. Led by Owner Jeffrey Lurie and team President Don Smolenski, the organization has reached out to numerous fans to see how they can improve the in-game experience.
“It was a listening process,” Lurie said to a small group of reporters gathered at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday. “The result became an investment we’re going to make of $125 million to enhance and revitalize Lincoln Financial Field based on the fan response.”
As for where that cool $125 million is coming from, Smolenski said “that is an investment the team is making” without financial support from the league or from raising ticket prices.
“I really appreciate all the work with the fans because they know best,” said Lurie, “they’re the ones sitting there. They’ve invested a lot of money … emotion is invaluable, but there is a financial investment. This is a way to return their investment and make their investment more valuable by making the stadium better.”
Over the next two years, the Eagles plan to turn their investment into; HD video boards, free WiFi, 1,600 seats, historic team imagery, an expanded pro shop, expanded gates for easier entry and dismissal, a bridge in the upper and club levels to allow fans to walk around the entire stadium, concessions, Touchdown Club and suite revitalizations.
The team plans to have the bridge, seat expansion and video boards installed by the 2014 season, with all else ready by this season’s opener against the San Diego Chargers on September 15th.
The video boards behind both the North and South end zones will be enlarged and enhanced. “When we built Lincoln Financial Field ‘high def’ was not really state of the art in terms of video boards” Lurie said, “we’re going to greatly expand the video boards and make them high definition.”
This year when you’re at Lincoln Financial Field try to imagine the boards being as wide as they are now, but nearly 75% longer, running the entire length of the upper tier. The advertisements that take up space on the sides of the current screens will be taken over by the newly improved video board. Also, LED Ribbon-Board will surround the field at the base of the club level.
Another advancement in technology since the Linc opened in 2003 has been the use of the internet with smart phones and tablets. This coming season, fans will have access to free WiFi throughout the stadium that can accommodate up to 45,000 users at a time. This will come in handy for all the fantasy nuts out there who have to check their stats.
Eagle fans can also expect a stadium that has a greater connection to the franchise’s past. Walking around the complex in previous years, you would see blurred generic football pictures shrouded in midnight green, that kinda-sorta look like Desean Jackson, LeSean McCoy or Donovan McNabb. Fans will now be able to admire historic team images of Eagles past grouped by their positions. For example, section 124-125 is dedicated to the Secondary and will display action shots of Tom Brookshire, Bill Bradley, Herm Edwards, Andre Waters, Wes Hopkins, Eric Allen, Troy Vincent, Lito Sheppard and Brian Dawkins.
Along with the theme of honoring their past, the Eagles will hang banners from both sides of the overhang in the upper levels. Retired numbers will hang on one side of the field and team accomplishments on the other. Also worth noting the section of the northeast corner where the Reggie White banner hangs, will be replaced by a long narrow video board, but Reggie’s name and #92 will be among those hanging from the overhang.
In order to reach their goal of adding 1,600 seats the Eagles will fill in the three open corners of Lincoln Financial Field. They plan to install approximately 800 seats in the SW corner, 600 in the NE corner and 200 in the NW corner.
Within the last year, the Eagles were rumored to have plans for the addition of on-field-suites like the Giants and Cowboys already have. Don Smolenski said those types of suites are still in the mix, just not in this series of renovations.
Again, every change that Lincoln Financial Field is undergoing stems from research gathered by the organization. Lurie said, “In 2010 we started a real interaction with our season ticket holders, with our season ticket advisory board, with focus groups and a lot of interaction with non-season ticket holders, as to what would make the game day experience even better.”
Every upgrade the organization is making seems to be great ideas by the fans and for the fans, but at the same time could also help the owner with another goal of hosting a Super Bowl. “That wasn’t the intention,” Lurie remarked, “but certainly when you are bidding for a super bowl, the committee looks very closely at your stadium, your city, what you can host and you know, Philadelphia would be a great place.”
Follow Marc Farzetta on twitter @MarcFarzetta