The NFL opens a pair of glitzy, new stadiums this season for the Los Angeles Rams/Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders. While it’s unclear how many, if any, fans will get to sit in these state-of-the-art marvels this season, their debut does bring excitement, inspiring ESPN to rank the 28 current NFL stadiums in use.
We considered multiple aspects of the NFL experience to come up with a 1-28 ranking. We did this by surveying 31 NFL Nation reporters, collecting cost information from SeatGeek for tickets and Team Marketing for concessions and parking. We did plenty of independent research and had some lively discussions. Spoiler alert: Cheeseheads will be happy, while those in our nation’s capital will not.
The formula we used is outlined below.
Atmosphere (20%): The overall feel of the stadium, from how modern or retro it is, overall aesthetic, atmosphere created by fans, ease of getting around, etc. Our NFL Nation reporters submitted their best and worst in this category.
Features (20%): The bells and whistles that make each stadium unique. Each reporter listed the best and worst features for their home stadium as well as others they had visited.
Traditions (15%): The distinct rituals that each stadium and fan base engage in on Sundays, gathered and rated by NFL Nation reporters.
Tailgating (15%): The party outside of the stadium before and after the game, rated by NFL Nation reporters.
Location (10%): Where the stadium is situated compared to dining, entertainment and hotels, proximity to major tourist attractions, plus a mobility score accounting for public transportation to and from the game.
Cost (10%): The combined cost of a ticket, regular hot dog, 12 ounces of domestic beer and parking fees. Ticket prices are a three-year, secondary-market average set by SeatGeek, while hot dog, beer and parking prices are Team Marketing figures from 2019. Also, we added SeatGeek’s get-in price (to the 10th percentile in 2019) to give the thriftier fan a dream scenario.
History (10%): A ranking based on the importance and significance of past games played at a stadium. Super Bowls, name plays and legendary games were factored in the most, but winning football and non-NFL events (college bowls, Final Fours, etc.) were also considered.
You can use it as a bucket list, of sorts, or just a reason for debate. Without further ado, here are the rankings to help plan your next post-COVID NFL trip.
Atmosphere: 1 • Features: 3
Traditions: 1 • Tailgating: 3
Location: 27 • Cost: 24
What’s good about it: A lot. Lambeau has history as the host of three NFL championship games, including the “Ice Bowl,” and has been home to the Packers during runs to 15 division titles, nine conference titles and seven overall championships (including four Super Bowl titles). Originally named City Stadium, it was renamed to Lambeau in 1965. It has preserved much of its aesthetic history during multiple renovations, even preserving some of the original bricks. But when surveying our NFL Nation reporters, one aspect of the stadium seemed to stand out among the rest: the Lambeau Leap. Packers players jumping into the stands following a touchdown has become a Sunday staple in Green Bay and on NFL RedZone. Bottom line: This is THE bucket list stadium in the NFL.
What needs work: Lambeau ranked in the top three in five of seven categories. It got dinged for its location, more than 100 miles from Milwaukee and set within a town of just more than 100,000 people. An overall lack of hotels, restaurants, bars and points of interest in the immediate area are mostly mitigated by the stadium’s extraordinary tailgate scene, and it does have the Titletown complex. Besides, the neighborhood surrounding can be part of the charm. Lambeau’s cost is also on the higher end, but that’s the price of success and having the best stadium in the league.
NFL Nation commentary: “If you’re fortunate enough to walk through the tunnel at Lambeau Field, you will cross the same bricks that the likes of Bart Starr and Ray Nitschke crossed. The same bricks that Brett Favre, Reggie White and Aaron Rodgers crossed. Throughout its various renovations and expansions, one thing has remained intact: history. It’s why the Packers kept a strip of brick — embedded into the new concrete — from the original walkway to the field. Above it is a plaque that reads: ‘Proud generations of Green Bay Packers Players, World Champions a record 13 times, have run over this very concrete to Greatness.’ It’s enough to give you chills.” — Rob Demovsky
2. CenturyLink Field, Seattle Seahawks, est. 2002
Atmosphere: 2 • Features: 2
Traditions: 2 • Tailgating: 17
Location: 2 • Cost: 27
What’s good about it: Almost everything. CenturyLink ranks in the top two in four of seven categories for good reason. The hoisting of the 12th Man flag before every game gets the Seahawks’ rabid fan base yelling at a fever pitch, as CenturyLink has twice set Guinness World Records for loudest crowd noise at an outdoor stadium. CenturyLink’s downtown location makes it very convenient to get to by metro (there’s a station right by the stadium) and puts it within easy walking distance of the bars and restaurants in Pioneer Square. Seahawks fans have seen three NFC titles won in the stadium (including Richard Sherman‘s tip and Russell Wilson‘s OT walk-off TD pass to Jermaine Kearse) and the “Beast Quake.” And the view of the Seattle skyline from the stadium is pretty sweet, too.
What needs work: Great experiences cost money, and Seahawks games definitely put a dent in the wallet. Going to a game at CenturyLink Field is the second-most expensive experience in the NFL, as the average ticket goes for just under $300. And the beer isn’t that cheap, either. The downtown experience also limits tailgating, as lack of space around the stadium causes most fans to come in from other parts of the city for the game and retreat to nearby bars and restaurants after it.
NFL Nation commentary: “Seahawks fans are not the late-arriving types, so the better part of CenturyLink Field’s roughly 69,000 seats are occupied when it comes time for the stadium’s most well-known tradition, which happens moments before kickoff. And the 12 Flag raiser isn’t announced ahead of time, so there’s some degree of mystery until he or she is revealed in a video tribute that starts the ceremony. It’s always someone with ties to the state of Washington, and it’s particularly ear-splitting when it’s a Seahawks luminary.” — Brady Henderson
Atmosphere: 5 • Features: 6
Traditions: 5 • Tailgating: 1
Location: 21 • Cost: 11
What’s good about it: Tailgating. The Truman Sports Complex is home to both the NFL’s Chiefs and MLB’s Royals, and while there may not be much around other than freeways, the expanse of the combined lots leaves plenty of room for tailgating. The smell of BBQ from the parking lot in hot weather or cold will stick with you. With stomachs full, Chiefs fans have always been a raucous group and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, they achieved the loudest crowd roar in a sports stadium with a measurement of 142.2 decibels during a game against the Patriots in 2014.
What needs work: It’s 17 miles from Arrowhead to Union Station, where the Chiefs completed their victory parade, but as mentioned above, the tailgating mitigates many of the location issues here. The team lacks an overall history of success at Arrowhead, but after hosting the past two AFC Championship Games and with Patrick Mahomes signed through the 2031 season, that might not be an issue much longer.
NFL Nation commentary: “The stadium is often clouded in smoke from the many grills occupied by a full range of meats. It can be a full assault on the senses. As much as any NFL stadium, Arrowhead, with its vast parking lots, is defined by the tailgating scene. Fans often line up outside the parking lot gates before they open to get a head start on the day’s activities.” — Adam Teicher
Atmosphere: 6 • Features: 9
Traditions: 3 • Tailgating: 5
Location: 5 • Cost: 20
What’s good about it: Heinz Field has sold out every game since it opened in 2001, but that’s not even the coolest Steelers tradition. The unfurling and waving of the Terrible Towels gives the Steelers one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL, and the playing of “Renegade” by Styx ups the ante even more. But the Heinz Field experience goes well beyond that, as the stadium is located right by downtown Pittsburgh and is within walking distance of several bars and restaurants. Heinz has a vibrant tailgating scene, and the view of the bridges and downtown Pittsburgh are pretty impressive.
What needs work: The amount of success the Steelers have had (six Super Bowl championships and many other epic playoff moments) makes securing a ticket to Steelers games pricier than in most markets, and getting a hot dog in Heinz Field isn’t cheap either. Also, driving in and out of Heinz Field can be tricky thanks to its proximity to the Ohio River and the Fort Duquesne and West End bridges. Parking can also be difficult to find because of where Heinz Field is located.
NFL Nation commentary: “Heinz Field wasn’t around for the glory days of the 1970s, but since it opened in 2001, it’s quickly become a bucket list NFL destination for its views of the rivers and the Pittsburgh skyline and its traditions. Terrible Towels frequently take over stadiums across the country, but there’s something even better about seeing the sea of yellow at Heinz. Add in the opening chords to ‘Renegade’ when the defense takes the field late in the game, and the scene is downright chills-inducing.” — Brooke Pryor
Atmosphere: 4 • Features: 4
Traditions: 4 • Tailgating: t20
Location: 4 • Cost: 19
What’s good about it: The baby of the top five, U.S. Bank has already seen its share of memorable moments, including two name plays in the “Minneapolis Miracle” and the “Philly Special.” Not a bad start, kid. Pair those plays with the raucous “Skol” chant, the indoor/outdoor aesthetic provided by the glass walls and a superb downtown location and it’s not hard to figure out why this purple palace is already ranked so high. Never hurts having a Viking ship out front, either.
What needs work: Cost and tailgating are where U.S. Bank suffers a bit in our formula, but it wasn’t a big hit overall. Some concerns about the width of the concourses and the glass exterior being a hazard for birds have also been raised. As new stadiums go, though, this is the standard.
NFL Nation commentary: “Age is just a number. While U.S. Bank is only 4 years old, its traditions, like the chill-inducing Skol clap, sounding of the Gjallarhorn prior to kickoff and the fire-breathing dragon tunnel that players run out of, make it worthy of being at the top of this list. Members of Minnesota’s defense have constantly lauded the advantage they get from the crowd noise that reverberates inside, thus creating an uncomfortably loud scenario for opposing offenses to work with while defenders hunt down quarterbacks in the process.” — Courtney Cronin
Atmosphere: 3 • Features: 1
Traditions: 10 • Tailgating: 13
Location: 17 • Cost: 25
What’s good about it: The biggest TV you could ever want, for starters. The gigantic video board that hangs from the ceiling goes from one 20-yard line to the other, giving Cowboys fans an up-close and personal view of the action on the field no matter where in the stadium they are sitting. The supersized HD video board is part of the luxury-box feel of AT&T Stadium, as the stadium is clean and full of plush, comfy seats.
What needs work: Like many stadiums near the top, it’s not cheap to go to a Cowboys game, as it’s the fourth-most expensive experience in the league. Much of that has to do with the exorbitant $75 parking fee, by far the most expensive in the NFL. The expense, coupled with the allure of AT&T with opposing fans, can diminish the Cowboys’ home-field advantage. The Arlington location isn’t the greatest, either.
Todd Archer reflects on how Jerry Jones dreamed big when coming up with AT&T Stadium and why it is still an integral part of the NFL.
NFL Nation commentary: “From the day AT&T Stadium opened in 2009, the center-hung digital board has been the talking point. Its $40 million cost was more expensive than all of Texas Stadium. The board stretches from one 20-yard line to the next and is 72 feet high. For fans in the upper reaches of the stadium, they can see the sweat on Dak Prescott‘s face during the game. Considering the high definition, it does make you wonder if the Cowboys lose a little bit of a home-field advantage because it seems like more fans watch the big screen than they do the action on the field.” — Todd Archer
7. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia Eagles, est. 2003
Atmosphere: 12 • Features: 12
Traditions: 6 • Tailgating: 4
Location: 13 • Cost: 26
What’s good about it: Attending an Eagles game at the Linc is an intense experience that starts with one of the best tailgating scenes in the NFL. After the pregame party (where cheesesteaks and hoagies are in great abundance), the game experience is quite spirited, too. Between frequent playing of “Rocky” music and the singing of “Fly Eagles, Fly” after every touchdown, there’s a lot to cheer about. Eagles fans are known for their passion and dedication, so if you’re big into making noise — especially booing anything and everything — you’ll have fun.
What needs work: The Eagles are the third-most expensive NFL experience, in large part due to the success they’ve had the past two decades. The price of domestic beer is the most expensive in the league, as it costs almost $10 for a 12-ounce brew. The craziness of the Philly faithful can be overwhelming to some, and the stadium is separated from the sights of downtown Philadelphia, though you can take a train from there.
NFL Nation commentary: “Pulling into the Lincoln Financial Field parking lot on Jan. 21, 2018, it was instantly apparent that the Vikings would be lucky to escape the NFC title game — forget escaping it with a win. There was a ground-shaking, volatile energy in the tailgate lots that shifted from euphoric when an “E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!” chant or the fight song broke out to borderline dangerous when a speck of purple passed through the sea of green. If you were a part of the family — which is rich with traditions and scars spanning generations — it was heaven. If you were an outsider infringing on their turf, it was hell. That’s Eagles fandom in a nutshell.” — Tim McManus
Atmosphere: 18 • Features: 5
Traditions: 7 • Tailgating: 10
Location: 25 • Cost: 14
What’s good about it: It’s pretty difficult to ignore the 43-ton, 103-foot high replica of a pirate ship in the north end zone. While the ship was somewhat divisive among our NFL Nation writers, the majority marked it as one of the defining features among all NFL stadiums. Its cannon blasts — fired once every time the Bucs reach the end zone and for every point scored — will have your attention if nothing else. The stadium is also home to one of the top moments in Super Bowl history: the toe-tap, game-winning touchdown by Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes.
What needs work: The stadium’s location out by the airport means there are plenty of hotels, but food and bar options are not plentiful. It’s a tailgating scene, plain and simple, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
NFL Nation commentary: “No matter how many times I go there, I still jump when the cannons fire. It catches me by surprise every time. It’s just so loud. If you see me on the field during the team’s warm-up an hour or so before kickoff, and they test the cannons, you WILL see me jump.” — Jenna Laine
9. Empower Field at Mile High, Denver Broncos, est. 2001
Atmosphere: 11 • Features: 8
Traditions: 14 • Tailgating: 12
Location: 12 • Cost: 21
What’s good about it: Denver ranked right in the middle in many categories, but it does have plenty of character: The Mile High Salute, the “In-com-plete” chant, there’s even even a horse that parades around the field. And don’t forget the advantage gained by the altitude as the league’s only Rocky Mountains outpost. It’s played host to three AFC Championship Games, two of them wins by the Broncos.
What needs work: It’s somewhat telling that Denver’s overall rank is higher than most of its individual parts. It doesn’t do anything wrong — its cost is the price of success — it just doesn’t have that defining characteristic that sets the venues ahead of it apart.
NFL Nation commentary: “At 5,280 feet above sea level, the locale is unique. There are some atmospheres-come-latelys in the league, but with Rocky Mountains on the horizon, a vibrant downtown, a light rail stop AT the stadium and every seat sold since its opening, Denver has consistently been one of the league’s best.” — Jeff Legwold
Atmosphere: 7 • Features: 10
Traditions: t21 • Tailgating: t20
Location: 6 • Cost: 3
What’s good about it: Fans and media rave about the convenient downtown location, whether that’s for Colts games, the Big Ten football championship or the NFL combine. When you look out the retractable window into downtown you always know you’re less than a 10-minute walk from St. Elmo’s Steak House and that famous shrimp cocktail. You can afford it after getting great value at Lucas Oil.
What needs work: The tailgating rank is low, but that’s mitigated by the location. Tradition-wise, there are mixed feelings about the pregame striking of the anvil. And while this was the house that Peyton Manning built, most of his career was played at the RCA Dome. Still, it’s a worthy entry on your bucket list.
NFL Nation commentary: “It’s in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. No car needed. Tailgate lots are a very short walk to the stadium. There aren’t many cities where you can watch a 1 p.m. Colts kickoff, catch a bite to eat and then walk a couple blocks over to check out a 7 p.m. Pacers game.” — Mike Wells
11. FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland Browns, est. 1999
Atmosphere: 19 • Features: 15
Traditions: 9 • Tailgating: 7
Location: 11 • Cost: 5
What’s good about it: Despite the product on the field, the Browns’ game-day experience has a lot going for it. It’s one of the least expensive tickets in the league, the tailgating in the Muni Lot is among the league’s best and the Dawg Pound is one of the NFL’s most passionate rooting sections. If you feel like exploring before the game, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in easy walking distance and the bars and restaurants in downtown Cleveland aren’t far away.
What needs work: Not only has FirstEnergy Stadium not hosted a playoff game in 20 years, the Browns have made the playoffs only once. That makes this stadium last when it comes to history, as Baker Mayfield‘s debut — and the subsequent ending of a 19-game winless streak — is arguably the biggest “moment” at FirstEnergy. The lack of winning football makes those stiff, cold breezes off Lake Erie even more uncomfortable.
NFL Nation commentary: “Since FirstEnergy Stadium opened in 1999, Cleveland owns the worst home winning percentage in the NFL. In the last decade alone, the Browns won only 29 home games. It’s no wonder then that FirstEnergy Stadium is devoid of history or notable moments (though we’ll always have the Baker Mayfield/Bud Light fridge night!).” — Jake Trotter
12. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons, est. 2017
Atmosphere: 8 • Features: 7
Traditions: t21 • Tailgating: 19
Location: 7 • Cost: 12
What’s good about it: The futuristic roof, transparent walls and crazy 100-foot, ring-shaped Halo video board all receive high marks. Its location in downtown Atlanta within walking distance of the College Football Hall of Fame and CNN, among other attractions, is tough to beat. But let’s be honest, $1.50 for a hot dog (in 2019)? At an NFL game? Sign us up.
What needs work: While the fan experience here is top notch, it doesn’t quite have the historical ambience yet. The stadium did host a dud of a Super Bowl — Patriots 13, Rams 3 — in which the highlight was probably Big Boi’s performance at halftime (and he wasn’t even the headliner).
NFL Nation commentary: “There’s a good reason why the Falcons’ home has been voted No. 1 in the NFL for three consecutive years for food and beverage, and not just because it has the lowest-price concessions in the league. There’s variety on the menu, with vegetarian and vegan options. And fans constantly speak about the friendliness of the staff and their speed.” — Vaughn McClure
13. State Farm Stadium, Arizona Cardinals, est. 2006
Atmosphere: 13 • Features: 16
Traditions: t21 • Tailgating: 15
Location: 22 • Cost: 4
What’s good about it: Echoes from the past. The stadium is home to two of the greatest moments in Super Bowl history: The David Tyree helmet catch for the New York Giants in XLII and Malcolm Butler‘s interception at the goal line for the New England Patriots in XLIX. The stadium is also a regional hub for big events that have included other memorable plays such as Boise State’s Statue of Liberty walk-off play in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Take a moment to pay tribute to Pat Tillman, whose statue resides outside. Tillman, who died in combat, left his career as an NFL player to enlist in the Army following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
What needs work: While it’s had some moments on the field, the overall impression is not much of an impression. NFL Nation writers noted its poor location and lackluster setting as well as just a lack of overall personality. The team’s Big Red Siren announces the Cardinals’ entrance onto the field, but was established in 2013 and seems somewhat forced.
NFL Nation commentary: “State Farm Stadium might just be the best big-game stadium in the country. And it’s seen some of the most memorable plays in NFL (and college football) history. From its layout to its ear-piercing acoustics to its Great Lawn outside, it knows how to host the biggest of games, from Super Bowls to CFP games. When State Farm Stadium gets loud, it gets crazy loud.” — Josh Weinfuss
14. Bills Stadium, Buffalo Bills, est. 1973
Atmosphere: 26 • Features: 26
Traditions: 11 • Tailgating: 2
Location: 22 • Cost: 2
What’s good about it: When “table jumping at tailgating” is listed multiple times as a top characteristic in a survey of NFL Nation writers, you know you’ve got something unique. The Bills experience is all about fun, whether that’s in the parking lot or singing “Shout” at the top of your lungs inside. Plus, there’s not a bad seat in a house that has seen incredible success on the field (see the 1990s), including the biggest comeback in NFL history — 32 points! That game is known simply as “The Comeback.”
What needs work: The stadium, known as New Era Field until July, is showing its age with very few aesthetically pleasing characteristics. Traffic in and out of it is a nightmare with very few route options. And once you get settled into your seat it can feel like a near-literal wind tunnel.
Marcel Louis-Jacques explains how much Bills fans enjoy the Orchard Park experience.
NFL Nation commentary: “A second-place finish in tailgating is going to be a tough sell to a fan base that religiously braves the elements to watch a man get doused in ketchup every Sunday. Either way, the Bills’ stadium is a no-frills environment where fans gather for two reasons — to watch football and have a good time. Low ticket prices and ample surrounding tailgating lots make both of these goals attainable.” — Marcel Louis-Jacques
15. M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore Ravens, est. 1998
Atmosphere: 14 • Features: 13
Traditions: t21 • Tailgating: 14
Location: 15 • Cost: 7
What’s good about it: Ravens fans get good bang for their buck at M&T, as it’s a cost-effective experience, especially considering the usual high quality of football the Ravens produce. The concession stands feature a lot of local favorites (such as tasty crabcakes) and the seating configuration puts fans right on top of the action. The location is right by Camden Yards and not far from the Inner Harbor, and the Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas statues are a nice touch.
What needs work: Despite the Ravens’ success the past two decades (two Super Bowl titles and three AFC title game appearances), the amount of historical moments at the stadium is lacking, as most of Baltimore’s big moments have happened elsewhere. The Ravens actually have a losing playoff record at home. The urban location of the stadium also makes for limited parking, but all in all this is a solid stadium to attend.
NFL Nation commentary: “M&T Bank Stadium doesn’t feel like the oldest one in the AFC North. It features some of the largest and best high-definition video boards, an assortment of food and lively pregame festivities at RavensWalk, which makes it feel like tailgating downtown. The Ravens have continually made investments in making sure the look of M&T Bank Stadium hasn’t declined. As part of a $120 million upgrade in 2019, the team added escalators to the upper deck, a new sound system and LED lights.” — Jamison Hensley
Atmosphere: 15 • Features: 11
Traditions: t21 • Tailgating: t20
Location: 1 • Cost: 15
What’s good about it: The location is second to none, with Nissan Stadium just a short walk across the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge from the rollicking honky tonks of Broadway. There’s also some history here, with Derrick Henry‘s record-tying 99-yard touchdown run serving as the appetizer for some play called the “Music City Miracle” — arguably the most amazing in NFL history.
What needs work: The stadium received low marks for personality and tradition. For fans in need of it, just walk back across the bridge to get your fill. The tailgating scene is also on the lower end for the NFL, but the surrounding area nullifies that factor quite a bit.
NFL Nation commentary: “The buzz from the bars on Broadway is carried over a short walk across the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge to the stadium. Fans celebrate by doing the pregame dance from the Disney movie ‘Remember the Titans.’ The game-day scenery is accented by the beautiful Nashville skyline.” — Turron Davenport
Atmosphere: 16 • Features: 14
Traditions: 21t • Tailgating: 20t
Location: 18 • Cost: 17
What’s good about it: NRG Stadium was the home of two of the most epic Super Bowls in history (especially if you’re a Patriots fan), as Tom Brady led the big game’s biggest comeback in Super Bowl LI and Adam Vinatieri kicked a last-second, game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Deshaun Watson also led a solid playoff comeback this past season. Besides that, Texans fans can enjoy concessions full of tasty, local food such as barbecue and Tex-Mex.
What needs work: The area around NRG Stadium doesn’t have much in the way of attractions or restaurants, especially since Six Flags Astroworld (once across the highway) closed several years ago. Traffic can be a nightmare leaving the stadium, the retractable roof is rarely used despite NRG being the first NFL stadium with that feature and the Texans haven’t been able to create a tradition rivaling the “Luv Ya, Blue” saying or “Houston Oilers No. 1” song.
NFL Nation commentary: “NRG Stadium has only been around since August 2002, but it has showcased some huge moments ranging from the Patriots’ infamous comeback against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI to the Texans’ comeback playoff victory against the Bills. Although the stadium has hosted two Super Bowls, two Final Fours and the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Texans’ lack of playoff success has produced limited home-team, postseason action in 18 seasons of Texans football.” — Sarah Barshop
18. Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans Saints, est. 1975
Atmosphere: 22 • Features: 23
Traditions: 19 • Tailgating: 11
Location: 3 • Cost: 22
What’s good about it: A lot of awesome things have happened here. The Superdome has hosted seven Super Bowls, including the coronation of the 1985 Bears and the first of the Patriots’ six Super Bowl titles. The Saints have also created lasting memories, including Steve Gleason’s blocked punt touchdown in the grand reopening in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina. Heck, Muhammad Ali fought here. The location within walking distance of the French Quarter is nice, too.
What needs work: The old girl has been through a lot (it sustained considerable damage during Katrina) and the years are taking their toll. The Superdome feels its age and then some, as the air conditioning is more meat locker than refreshing respite from muggy Louisiana afternoons. And we all remember the power outage during Super Bowl XLVII. The concourses get extremely crowded and the concession options are limited and don’t reflect the rich New Orleans food culture well.
NFL Nation commentary: “Sure, I guess you could rank the Superdome all the way down at No. 18 if you don’t care about deafening crowd noise, being able to walk over to the historic French Quarter for world-class dining or the sheer history of this place. Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, the ’85 Bears, Tom Brady and Joe Burrow have taken turns winning championships over five decades inside this iconic building — which also provided one of sports’ all-time great revivals after Hurricane Katrina.” — Mike Triplett
19. Ford Field, Detroit Lions, est. 2002
Atmosphere: 20 • Features: 17
Traditions: 8 • Tailgating: t20
Location: 8 • Cost: 8
What’s good about it: Ford Field’s location in the heart of downtown Detroit gives Lions fans the opportunity to walk to many of the city’s best restaurants and bars for pregame and postgame activities. It’s also within walking distance of the Greektown district, several casinos and the Joe Louis statue. It’s relatively affordable to attend a game at Ford Field and the Lions have some fun traditions, from the birthplace of Thanksgiving football to the singing of “Forward Down the Field.”
What needs work: While the fight song is fun to sing, it doesn’t get much play because the Lions have been pretty unsuccessful since the stadium opened. Ford Field has never hosted a Lions playoff game, with the only postseason action being a relatively tame Super Bowl XL between the Steelers and Seahawks. Because of this, the atmosphere at Lions games is usually lacking despite getting to watch stars such as Calvin Johnson.
NFL Nation commentary: “Ford Field is a stadium with good sightlines from almost every seat, finally some decent Wi-Fi and when it needs to get loud, it can get extremely loud — including forcing Chicago into nine false starts in a Monday Night Football game in 2011. Games like that and recently against the Packers and Chiefs show how loud and active Ford Field can be if the Lions put a winner on the field. So the potential is there for the structure and the fan base, it’s just on the team to produce.” — Michael Rothstein
Atmosphere: 9 • Features: 25
Traditions: 20 • Tailgating: 6
Location: 23 • Cost: 18
What’s good about it: The museum. The 49ers don’t have a lot of history at Levi’s yet — though last season’s run to the Super Bowl is certainly a start — but this franchise has one of the richest histories in the league and that’s showcased at the museum on the north side of the stadium. There’s even an authentic replication of coach Bill Walsh’s old office — right down to his desk.
What needs work: The stadium is sterile and decidely not in San Francisco. That has, at times, been a tough pill to swallow for locals with memories of Candlestick Park right on the Bay. Instead of the chilly winds from the upper levels of Candlestick, this stadium seems cursed with extremely hot seats on the “sunny side” of the stadium.
NFL Nation commentary: “Levi’s generally gets downgraded for a lack of personality and for being located in Santa Clara, a 45-mile drive from San Francisco. It lacks the charm of Candlestick or the innovation you might expect from a new venue in the heart of Silicon Valley, but a better product on the field will likely bolster how it’s perceived moving forward.” — Nick Wagoner
Atmosphere: 17 • Features: 24
Traditions: 12 • Tailgating: 9
Location: 19 • Cost: 16
What’s good about it: The chants. “J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!” — famously led for many years by Fireman Ed — is a true orginal. “De-Fense!” — coined by Giants fans at old Yankee Stadium — no longer wholly belongs to the G-men but always feels right in Gotham. The stadium’s location isn’t ideal but gets a boost for having a train stop.
What needs work: The aesthetic isn’t great. One NFL Nation writer described it as an “oversized air conditioner with unsightly slats.” Much like Levi’s Stadium in the Bay Area, getting a consistent winner in here would do wonders.
NFL Nation commentary: “MetLife Stadium has as much history and tradition as the iPhone. It has hosted only two postseason games in 10 years — a Giants playoff game and Super Bowl XLVIII (a dud). New York-area fans are desperate for a winner and would bring plenty of energy to the drab hunk of metal and concrete if they only had a team (or two) worth cheering for.” — Rich Cimini
22. Soldier Field, Chicago Bears, est. 1924
Atmosphere: 24 • Features: 26
Traditions: 16 • Tailgating: 8
Location: 9 • Cost: 23
What’s good about it: Soldier Field has had a colorful history, as it was the site of the “Monsters of the Midway” 1985 Super Bowl champion, hosted “The Fog Bowl” against the Eagles in the 1988 playoffs and both the men’s and women’s World Cup. The Doric columns give Soldier Field a distinct look, and its Lake Michigan location puts it right by Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum. It’s also within walking distance of Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain.
What needs work: When a renovation goes so terribly that it causes a stadium to be delisted as a National Historical Landmark, well, that’s going to prompt negative reviews. The elegant Greek and Roman architecture was overwhelmed in the 2002 makeover, as Soldier Field went from being a timeless classic to an eyesore that has been compared to a crashed spaceship. The capacity of 61,500 is the smallest in the NFL, driving up ticket prices in the football-hungry Chicago market.
NFL Nation commentary: “Talk about your all-time backfires. New Soldier Field looks like a spaceship landed along Chicago’s lakefront. Too harsh? Well, the National Park Service apparently agreed when it stripped the stadium of the landmark status following renovations. And Soldier Field has one of the NFL’s smallest seating capacities. Last I checked Chicago was the league’s third-largest market. Brilliant move!” — Jeff Dickerson
Atmosphere: 10 • Features: 27
Traditions: 13 • Tailgating: 18
Location: 20 • Cost: 28
What’s good about it: Gillette Stadium has been the focal point of playoff football since opening its gates, hosting 23 playoff games, including six AFC Championship Games. Five of those title games were won by the Patriots, giving Gillette an aura of invincibility that gets the home fans going pretty quickly. Gillette also has its share of cool traditions, from the minutemen firing the muskets to the blaring of the fog horn.
What needs work: Gillette was majorly dinged due to two factors — cost and traffic flow. While the Patriots’ success makes high prices understandable, the typical game-day cost is more than $200 more than the next-most expensive team. That will likely come down now that Tom Brady is gone, but the pricing is ridiculous. Getting to and from Gillette is also a nightmare, as the limited options in and out of the stadium cause gridlock. The remote Foxborough location isn’t great, but the Patriot Place complex somewhat makes up for that.
NFL Nation commentary: “High-stakes games (and there have been many) often lead to sky-high ticket prices on the secondary market. It’s not always ideal, but longtime Patriots fans know the alternative; in 1992, when the Patriots were stumbling to a 2-14 record, only 19,429 were in attendance for a 6-0, late-season loss to Indianapolis. They couldn’t give those tickets away. Meanwhile, one area to give the Patriots some ticket-based credit: They’ve never had PSLs at Gillette.” — Mike Reiss
24. Bank of America Stadium, Carolina Panthers, est. 1996
Atmosphere: 23 • Features: 22
Traditions: 17 • Tailgating: t20
Location: 10 • Cost: 10
What’s good about it: The views. Not only can you catch a glimpse of the striking towers of uptown Charlotte from many of the seats, but the seats themselves are all angled toward midfield to better watch the game. There’s not a bad seat in the house. The stadium’s central location is walkable from all parts of uptown, including from multiple breweries for pregame and postgame fun.
What needs work: The stadium will celebrate just its 25th birthday next season, but writers surveyed say it already feels old — missing many modern amenities or unique features, though it did add express escalators during a recent renovation. On top of that, a tailgating scene that could be ripe with Carolina BBQ is lacking overall in part because of near-constant uptown construction.
NFL Nation commentary: “Even with recent upgrades, BOA is far behind the standards of most modern-day facilities. Most amenities fans want in terms of bling and atmosphere are average at best. It’s one reason new owner David Tepper has vowed to build within 10 years a new stadium with a retractable roof so he can host Final Fours, and perhaps one day a Super Bowl.” — David Newton
25. Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Dolphins, est. 1987
Atmosphere: 25 • Features: 21
Traditions: 18 • Tailgating: t20
Location: 28 • Cost: 9
What’s good about it: Hard Rock Stadium has been the home to six Super Bowls in 32-plus years of operation. Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes won their first titles in Miami, while Joe Montana led an epic, 92-yard, game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII. Hard Rock has also been the home of the Orange Bowl since 1996 and tickets to Dolphins games are relatively affordable. The new canopy also provides relief from the hot South Florida sun.
What needs work: Location, location, location. While its Miami Gardens setting might have been chosen to make it accessible to fans in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, it makes it an absolute pain to get to from downtown Miami and places such as South Beach. Traffic in and out of the stadium is brutal, and there is very little around Hard Rock Stadium as far as restaurants, bars and hotels. Two decades of substandard football has also wiped out the passion of Dolphins fans, who typically arrive late, if they show up at all.
NFL Nation commentary: “Maybe the old Hard Rock Stadium deserved to live among the cellar dwellers. But the 2020 version after a half-billion dollars in renovations? No way. It’s a new-look stadium that should be in the top half, not the bottom half. Just look at Super Bowl LIV, which went down beautifully and with tremendous praise … Look, the location isn’t great — Miami Gardens isn’t glamorous like downtown Miami or South Beach — but the views of the stadium should help make up for this.” — Cameron Wolfe
Atmosphere: 21 • Features: 19
Traditions: t21 • Tailgating: t20
Location: 14 • Cost: 1
What’s good about it: The Paul Brown Stadium experience is the cheapest in the NFL, as you can get a ticket on the secondary market, a hot dog, a beer and park for a little more than $100. It’s also not very hard to get tickets to a Bengals game (which might be a bit of a backhanded compliment), and the downtown location on the banks of the Ohio River provides scenic sightlines. There are also bars and restaurants within walking distance.
What needs work: If it wasn’t for the other NFL stadium in Ohio, Paul Brown Stadium would be at the bottom when it comes to history. Bengals fans have only gotten to see four home playoff games in 20 seasons at the stadium, all of which resulted in losses. Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game anywhere in 30 years, creating an “escalator of sadness” on which downtrodden Bengals fans descend after losses. The despair of the fans carries over outside the stadium as well, as the pregame tailgate scene is uninspiring. I think we figured out why tickets are so inexpensive.
NFL Nation commentary: “Paul Brown Stadium’s location off the Ohio River and views of the Cincinnati skyline are its lone redeeming qualities. While the franchise has invested in upgrades over the years, the stadium that opened in 2000 feels a little older than it probably should. The music volume at field level could be better. The activities between the action could be more engaging. The atmosphere solely rests on whether the team is good enough to fill seats. And that hasn’t been the case the past couple of years.” — Ben Baby
Atmosphere: 27 • Features: 18
Traditions: t21 • Tailgating: t20
Location: 16 • Cost: 6
What’s good about it: It has one of the league’s most unique features with a swimming pool from which fans can watch the game. It has a great location along the St. John’s River. And you’ll probably find yourself shouting “Duuuval!” along with the locals at some point while visiting. Honoring awarded or recently returned military members at the beginning of the fourth quarter is worth sticking around for even if the stadium isn’t.
What needs work: A lot. Though the stadium easily outdistanced bottom dweller FedEx, there are plenty of issues. Among those named by NFL Nation writers: feels old, leaks and the ground under the stadium’s biggest parking lot is contaminated. Yikes.
NFL Nation commentary: “Why does the atmosphere at The Bank get knocked? The Jaguars have had one winning season since 2007. But it was rocking in the late-season home games in 2017, especially the victory over Seattle. And besides: THERE ARE POOLS. Bathing suits, suntan lotion and pina coladas. What, you’d rather have parkas, snow and negative wind chill? Please.” — Michael DiRocco
Atmosphere: 28 • Features: 28
Traditions: 15 • Tailgating: 20t
Location: 24 • Cost: 13
What’s good about it: There’s really not much, as FedExField finished in the lower half of six of the seven categories. The one thing Washington has going for it is its band, which has been a staple of the franchise since the much-cooler RFK Stadium days. The band will have to change the wording of its fight song, though. The cost for a ticket, especially at the get-in price, is pretty cheap, but mostly due to the apathy of the Washington fan base.
What needs work: Where should we start? Name something to complain about, and FedExField has it, which is why it was universally panned among NFL Nation writers. The aesthetics of the stadium lack personality, the views of the field are poor and — in some cases — obstructed, the stadium is in a bad location east of Washington, D.C., and tough to get to and park at. Parking is expensive ($50 a car) and there’s virtually no history at the stadium (only three playoff games and one playoff victory — in 1999). And we haven’t gotten to the downtrodden fan base, which has been beaten down by years of bad football and all of the above, turning from one of the most passionate and loyal to one of the most passive and defeated, contributing to a sullen atmosphere. But besides that, FedEx is fine.
NFL Nation commentary: “Whether or not FedEx is the worst — shout out Jacksonville — it has earned all negative props. From its inception under late owner Jack Kent Cooke it was bad; he paid for it himself but it’s in an inconvenient spot and has a sterile atmosphere. Traffic, when the stadium is full, is a headache. RFK Stadium was a unique place but FedExField simply hasn’t delivered — be it team success or enjoyment.” — John Keim