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Thursday, September 17, 2009
AFC South: Rating the stadiums

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky


» Complete stadium ratings: Team-by-team glance

Houston Texans (Reliant Stadium, capacity 71,054)

Reliant Stadium is an impressive building that fits right into the love Texas has for all things big, though it’s not to the scale of Cowboys Stadium. The one-time Eighth Wonder of the World, the Astrodome, sits beside Reliant, and seems like a small pod preparing to dock with the mother ship.

Upstairs is pretty steep, but it seems to me there is a good view from everywhere in the building, which also serve as the team’s headquarters. When the retractable roof is closed, it can be awfully loud in there. Ticket-buyers just need more to cheer about. Smartly designed to fit soccer games, too.

Wow factor: 4.5 wows (out 0f 5)

Indianapolis Colts (Lucas Oil Stadium, capacity 63,000)
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
The Colts are in their second season playing in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Entering its second season as the replacement for the RCA Dome, Lucas Oil Stadium has an exceptionally airy feeling for a retractable roof stadium even when everything is closed. The roof parts side to side rather than end to end, and a gigantic window facing the city also opens. (Shadows cast on the field with the roof open last Sunday made for some difficult TV watching, some viewers said.)

You can walk to it from virtually any downtown hotel or restaurant, and you’re better off eating before the game because the food offerings are one giant weakness. It’s a unique building that surpasses Reliant by just a touch as the division’s best.

Wow factor: 5 wows

Jacksonville Jaguars (Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, capacity 67,164)

I’ve long said it’s an underrated venue, but it’s a pretty straightforward building with no discernible bells and whistles, which is why it would be better if it had more neighborhood surroundings. It also serves as home to the Jaguars' headquarters and the annual Georgia-Florida game.

Lots of people like to point out that the team’s ticket-sales struggles come despite the tarps covering large sections of seats. But even minus those seats, the place holds more than either Soldier Field and Heinz Field. I’d put it at the top of the bottom tier, but I’d sure rather watch a game there than in venues like the ones in San Francisco, San Diego, St. Louis or Minnesota.

Wow factor: 1.5 wows

Tennessee Titans (LP Field, capacity 69,143)

The best thing about LP Field is location. Fans can park or party in the heart of downtown, then walk over one of a couple bridges in 10 minutes and get to the game. The building that’s been known as Adelphia Coliseum, the Coliseum and now LP Field was not overbuilt. Open concourses behind just one level of stands in both end zones provide a nice, open feel.

Recent updates improved the scoreboards and JumboTrons. It's also soccer ready. But measured against many other buildings we’ve seen pop up since 1999 -- like those in Indy, Houston, Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia and New England -- LP doesn’t rank as a place for pizzazz. I rank it middle of the pack.

Wow factor: 2 wows