Wednesday, June 16, 2010
First impressions of new Jets stadium
The new Meadowlands stadium can seat more than 82.000 fans.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Somehow, the new Meadowlands arena looks both cozy and enormous.
At the New York Jets' public minicamp finale, their last practice until they reconvene for training camp, my first gaze at the inside of their $1.6 billion home gave me the impression of intimacy. Seats in the lower bowl seem close to the turf. Field-level seating areas put fans right behind the bench areas.
But that was from my perch in the press box. Once I walked out of the tunnel and onto the field, what struck me was the stadium's massiveness. I craned my neck to look up, up, up to see sky above the upper deck's rim.
"Are you kidding me? This place is awesome," Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "This place is a dream come true to be opening a stadium like this. In New York, it's great."
The four gigantic, high-definition video scoreboards pop out. They measure 30 feet by 118 feet in each corner of the stadium. The displays provide such a clean and magnified picture that your eyes might be drawn to them more than live action, as mine were several times throughout practice.
Jets coach Rex Ryan recalled his first look at his new stadium.
"I remember texting my wife, saying 'Oh, my god. I'm the head coach of this team that plays in this stadium. This is amazing,' " Ryan said Tuesday. "It blows you away.
"I haven't been in a finer stadium. I haven't seen Dallas' yet because I’ve heard that one is unreal, but hopefully we’ll get there."
The next Super Bowl will take place in Texas Stadium.
The remnants of the old stadium can still be seen from Section 332.
The Jets announced a crowd of 12,000 attended Wednesday's free exhibition, but they were so scattered around the 82,500 grey seats -- neutral because the New York Giants also play there -- it was hard to judge.
Fans were loud, but it was difficult to imagine what kind of personality the place will have on game days.
"Wow," was Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery's initial reaction. "Seeing the fans and hearing the fans ... There's a good group of fans here, but it's not a packed stadium. It felt like it was more fans that it was. I can't even imagine it being a packed stadium and us running out of that tunnel. It's going to be something special."
It was easy to see why NFL owners voted to stage the 2014 Super Bowl here. The Miami Dolphins' stadium, a frequent Super Bowl site that finished third in the 2014 competition, pales in comparison to the gem I explored Wednesday.
I scaled the steps in Section 332 to get a bird's-eye view. About of a third of the way up, my quads began to burn from the steepness of the stairs. To maintain a close feel and maximize capacity, I guess the architects had to build straight up.
I stood on a Bob Uecker seat to peer over the edge at the old stadium, which is in the final stages of demolition. All that's left are concrete visages where rows of upper-deck seats used to be and a lone skeleton of a light stanchion standing sentry.