SBJ/Sept. 20-26, 2010/Facilities

What does $1.7B buy in NYC market? Two stadiums in one

Jets & Giants field illustrationPatrick E. McCarthy (2) / Photo Illustration by Clayton Harrison
The Jets played their first regular-season game in their new home (left side) one day after the Giants played theirs (right side) in this photo illustration combining shots from the two games.
Early in the New York Giants’ regular-season opener at New Meadowlands Stadium, the boo birds re-emerged after a winter of discontent to voice their displeasure with poor special teams performance by the Men in Blue. The next night, the same chorus could be heard over the Jets’ struggling offense.

Old habits die hard. In both cases, it didn’t take long for Giants and Jets fans to feel at home in a facility they claim equally as their own. It’s the first NFL stadium designed to adapt to the look and feel of two teams in one market, a $1.7 billion chameleon dressed in steel and concrete.

For the Giants, a franchise whose rich history dates back 85 years, New Meadowlands Stadium presents a tremendous upgrade over the cramped old venue that carried their name for 34 seasons. The Jets, meanwhile, AFL upstarts and redheaded stepchild at Giants Stadium since 1984, are now on equal footing after failing to get their own facility built on the west side of Manhattan. After 50 years, they finally have a building where they can apply the Gang Green brand inside and out on game days.

 The teams use different names for the stadium on their season tickets, a sign of the tensions inherent in the project, not to mention the lack of a naming-rights sponsor for now. But whether it’s New Meadowlands Stadium, “New Giants Stadium,” or “Home of the Jets,” the fact that two teams representing two distinct cultures were able to get the darn thing built will prove to be their greatest legacy, said Jets owner Woody Johnson.

“It was a challenge because no two teams had ever done it before,” Johnson said. “I think the manual we wrote through our experience will help other teams that have to do it, and I think it will be more the rule than exception.”

“In the big markets, you’re going to have teams sharing stadiums, Los Angeles and maybe Northern California,” Johnson said. “Stadiums of the future are going to be really expensive, and municipalities may not be willing to spend like they did in the past, so they’re going to be financed creatively. That will be the trend [in the U.S.] and worldwide.”

Giants co-owner Steve Tisch referenced the Packers Hall of Fame at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, the roar of the crowd at Qwest Field in Seattle and the fan experience at New England’s Gillette Stadium as inspirations for developing New Meadowlands Stadium.

The compromises necessary to create a home stadium for two teams can be a burden. For example, the stadium’s gray exterior suffers from trying to reach a happy medium for both teams. The lighting on its steel louvers, whether blue or green, is turned on only for night games, leaving a structure void of color outside for Sunday afternoons.

But 20 video towers surrounding the stadium largely make up the difference. The Jets and Giants can program those pillars with messages tied to their respective organizations and sponsors, in addition to showing live game action. The sheer number of those screens is unique in an NFL environment.

Both teams have their own exclusive, permanent spaces bookending the Commissioners Club. The Legacy Club is the Giants’ statement defining their place in NFL history. The Jets answered with the hip, industrial warehouse feel of the Green Room, their own little SoHo inside the stadium.

“I often say that if you were going to build two brands from scratch for one marketplace, you would probably build the Jets and Giants because they are very different,” said Thad Sheely, the Jets’ executive vice president of finance and stadium development. “Their histories, their futures, all the characteristics and attributes that you would talk about for both teams, nothing could be truer than the way we bring our new stadium to life.”

 

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