SBJ/June 18-24, 2012/Facilities

Eagles plan big Linc refurb

The Philadelphia Eagles are planning major changes at Lincoln Financial Field, including adding seats and building new field-level suites to generate more revenue from the 10-year-old stadium and improve the fan experience.

A proposal issued in mid-May by the Eagles for preconstruction manager services and obtained by SportsBusiness Journal lists the potential improvements for a project spanning the next two offseasons.

Lincoln Financial Field has ample space for field-level suites, says its lead designer.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Tim McDermott, the team’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, confirmed that the Eagles have hired Gensler as the project architect. Otherwise, McDermott would not discuss project details because the team has not finalized the elements of construction.

“There will be some fan enhancements tied to the game experience and new products that generate revenue,” he said. “We are several weeks away from determining what are those
final products.”

The project’s total cost could be in the range of $60 million to $100 million, according to industry sources familiar with the Eagles’ intentions. It is not clear who would pay for renovating the city-owned stadium, and McDermott would not comment on the funding issue.

The preconstruction RFP states that after 10 years of use, the stadium renovation will “improve video technology to current HD standards and update guest amenities in response to feedback received from longstanding season ticket holders, premium partners and sponsors.”

In order of importance, the document lists the priorities as video board replacements, seating bowl fill-ins in the northeast and southwest corners, new field-level clubs, renovations to clubs on the east and west sides, suite improvements and gate entry upgrades.

The Linc’s facelift would be the most costly renovation to date among a group of nine NFL stadiums built during the past 10 years. That number excludes extensive renovations of Arrowhead Stadium and Lambeau Field, a restoration of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and the reconstruction of Soldier Field, all older facilities. Some other high-dollar changes are under way or being considered around the league (see box).

The 69,000-seat Lincoln Financial Field is known for strong sight lines, well-designed clubs and a seating layout with distinct neighborhoods so fans in those areas have their own identity. The team’s success with six playoff appearances since the stadium opened in 2003 has made it one of the higher-generating buildings in the league, but the Eagles obviously feel they need more high-end spaces. The stadium has 172 suites, 10,800 club seats and two large sideline lounges, but the proposal lists the addition of a new club in the south end zone and “Field Suites” at both ends.

Should the Eagles build suites at the event level, the stadium would fall in line with four other NFL facilities built over the past decade, where customers pay six figures annually for an ultra-premium experience that in most cases includes seats up in the bowl to watch the game.

REDEVELOPMENT ZONE

Other current and potential projects around the NFL:

* Construction is under way in Green Bay for a $143 million expansion of the south end zone at Lambeau Field, financed in large part through a public stock sale. The stadium opened in 1957 and completed a $295 million makeover in 2003, the same year Lincoln Financial Field opened.

* The Buffalo Bills are staring at a potential $200 million renovation of 39-year-old Ralph Wilson Stadium after Populous completed a study on how to improve the facility. Much of the total would go to infrastructure upgrades, and financing is still up in the air.

* The Carolina Panthers hired Populous in October to develop a 10-year master plan to improve Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, which opened in 1996. At this time, there are no updates on the project, Panthers President Danny Morrison said.

— Don Muret
Lucas Oil Stadium, Cowboys Stadium, MetLife Stadium and CenturyLink Field, which the Seattle Seahawks opened in 2002, one year before the Linc, were all designed with field-level premium spaces. At Cowboys Stadium, 48 field-level suites sell for $200,000 to $240,000 annually.

The Eagles would be the first to build field-level suites in a stadium retrofit. Populous competed for the job in Philadelphia and considered some similar ideas for event-level seats, said Dan Meis, who worked at the firm for 18 months before leaving earlier this year to restart his own practice.

Meis was NBBJ’s lead designer for Lincoln Financial Field and knows the building well. Ron Turner, his old partner at NBBJ, is now a principal at Gensler, the Eagles’ designer moving forward. Gensler is also the architect for AEG’s proposed Farmers Field in Los Angeles.

“Lincoln Financial has the advantage that there is ample available space [to build field-level suites], so it isn’t particularly difficult and they would be highly valuable,” Meis said.

A brewpub, which would be a free-standing building, also is proposed for the HeadHouse Plaza, a 100,000-square-foot area outside the stadium now used for interactive zones and corporate tailgating before Eagles games, college football and other special events.

The Eagles are selecting a general contractor for the renovation. Contractors had until June 1 to submit proposals, according to the document.

The team of Turner Construction, Keating Building and McKissack Group built Lincoln Financial Field at a cost of $512 million.

The Eagles’ consultant leading the renovation is Bill Senn, a sports facility developer and owner’s representative who worked on MetLife Stadium, home of the Jets and Giants.
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