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

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Complete stadium ratings: Team-by-team glance

Arizona Cardinals (University of Phoenix Stadium, capacity 63,400)
AP Photo/Paul Connors
University of Phoenix Stadium can boast having the country's first retractable grass field.

The Cardinals got it right when they finally put the scorching hot metal bleachers of Sun Devil Stadium behind them. They found a way to build a domed stadium -- essential given the desert heat -- without giving up natural grass or natural light.

America's first retractable grass field sets apart University of Phoenix Stadium. While the roof also opens, natural light shines through even when it's closed. The stadium arguably looks a bit like a giant spaceship from the outside, but Business Week magazine ranked it one of the world's 10 most impressive sports facilities.

Wow factor: 4 wows (out of 5)

St. Louis Rams (Edward Jones Dome, capacity 66,965)

The $30 million in offseason upgrades to the nearly 15-year-old facility do not change the bottom line. The place lacks distinct flavor. It's a big building with seats. Nothing about it screams St. Louis.

The Rams' lease agreement compels the stadium to remain a "top-tier" facility by 2015, meaning it must rank among the eight best in the league. Not going to happen. Two-thirds of the league has built new stadiums since the Rams' facility opened in 1995. Sorry, Ed, but this dome simply cannot measure up by NFL standards.

Wow factor: 0 wows

San Francisco 49ers (Candlestick Park, capacity 70,207)

The place is a dump by rising NFL standards, right down to the faded puke-orange seats. But the 'Stick has history on its side and there's a charm to the place, even while navigating the cramped concourses and craning to see the field from Section 19.

It helps knowing Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice called Candlestick home, but there's a reason the 49ers are pushing hard to build a new stadium in Santa Clara. It's time to move on.

Wow factor: 2 wows

Seattle Seahawks (Qwest Field, capacity 67,000)

This architecturally spectacular stadium fits nicely into downtown Seattle while providing skyline views, massive concourses and no real shortcomings.

Designers achieved an outdoor feel while still protecting 70 percent of seats from rain. The NFL's first field-level luxury suites give the end zones a distinct feel and there isn't a louder stadium in the NFL (most false starts since 2005).

Wow factor: 4 wows