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Thursday, September 17, 2009
NFC North: Rating the stadiums

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


» Complete stadium ratings: Team-by-team glance

Chicago Bears (Soldier Field, capacity 61,500)

They won’t give any architectural awards to this structure, which was renovated lickety-split in 2002. To maintain the columns of the original stadium, the Bears squeezed in a new seating bowl that seems as if a spaceship is parked alongside Lake Michigan. The natural grass field, meanwhile, is usually ground into dirt by the end of the season.

But for a game-day experience, nothing beats a Sunday morning spent tailgating by the lake and heading over to the stadium for a noon kickoff. And when the temperatures drop and the wind picks up, Soldier Field is one of the NFL’s best home-field advantages.

Wow factor: 3 wows (out of 5)

Detroit Lions (Ford Field, capacity 65,000)

Ford Field is a beautiful downtown stadium with wide, comfortable concourses. Natural light flows in from two sides. But unfortunately for the Lions, it’s as quiet of an indoor stadium as you’ll come by in this league.

Part of that has to do with no-shows and unsold tickets. But for some reason, sound just doesn’t seem to reverberate inside. The exception is when Theo Spight, my favorite staple of Ford Field, starts singing the Lions fight song.

Wow factor: 2 wows

Green Bay Packers (Lambeau Field, capacity 72,928)
 
  AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
  Lambeau Field is one of the NFL’s must-see stadiums.

For my money, you can’t beat Lambeau anywhere in the NFL. What a superior mix of history, atmosphere and amenities. You’ve got the Packers Hall of Fame, round-the-clock tours and the impressive atrium.

The playing surface, a mixture of grass and FieldTurf, stays in good condition throughout the year. And there’s nothing like seeing 70,000 people dressed in hunter's blaze orange jumping up and down when it's 7 degrees outside.

Wow factor: 5 wows

Minnesota Vikings (Metrodome, capacity 64,121)

Let’s be blunt: The Metrodome is a dump. (It also spawns rhyming fools.) Unless you like using troughs in the men’s bathrooms, or standing in line to walk through the concourse, or walking over 30 people to get to your middle seat, you’re not going to love the Metrodome.

You’ll also encounter obnoxious music selections and a screeching sound system. And make sure you dodge the rolled-up T-shirts fired into the crowd with an air gun. And oh, opposing players: Try not to trip over the seam in the turf where groundskeepers do their best to cover up second base. (Baseball’s Twins are playing their final season in the Metrodome this year.)

Wow factor: 0 wows