SBJ/August 11 - 17, 2003/Facilities

Soccer, Springsteen take Lincoln for test drive

Philadelphia Eagles officials expect the sold-out Manchester United-FC Barcelona soccer match and three Bruce Springsteen concerts to prepare personnel for the Eagles' Aug. 22 debut at $520 million Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles are operating a sports facility in-house for the first time in their 70-year history, but Scott Jenkins, team vice president of stadium operations, has experience christening a new venue. He opened Miller Park in Milwaukee in 2001.

"When you're starting from scratch, there are always challenges," he said, which included the fact that the concourses have no water fountains. Jenkins said 12 units should be installed by October. Until then, free water is available at four first aid stations.

He said, "When we were handed over the building at the 'ninth hour,' there were a few things incomplete. Some concessions stands had to be finished with equipment not working — coolers and ice makers, and there were CO2 problems. But Sportservice did a great job of getting everything open."

There were also a few problems with proper placement of signs to efficiently move patrons through the building, plus the obvious learning curve for new employees, Jenkins said.

"We're fine-tuning things like where to put portable [carts] and directing traffic flow," he said. "We open up the season in a big way, with the first 'Monday Night Football' game [Sept. 8]. By then, we should be in real good shape."

The international soccer game resulted in strong merchandise sales, managed in-house. Jenkins declined to disclose per caps for retail, food and beverage, but he said the Eagles depleted their T-shirt inventory.

"[Promoter] ChampionsWorld told us we had the highest merchandise sales for any of the seven venues," said Jenkins. "We were better than New York, even though they had more people." Attendance was 68,396 in Philadelphia, compared with 79,005 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Jenkins expected about 50,000 to show up last Friday, Saturday and today for the Springsteen concerts. A Terraplas brand protective system was installed to provide a buffer to the Eagles' playing surface from the pounding of feet from 10,000 concertgoers with floor tickets during each of the three shows.

After leaving Veterans Stadium, annually voted the worst playing field in the NFL, the Eagles say they are thrilled with their state-of-the-art turf, a combination of artificial and natural grass produced by Desso DLW Sports Systems, a division of Armstrong Flooring of Lancaster, Pa.

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