(Above photo of Metropolitan Stadium courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)
(Photo of Municipal Stadium on home page courtesy of Cleveland Browns)
Talk of Fame Network
There have been 23 new NFL stadiums built since 1990, offering all the creature comforts that fans didn’t enjoy when football was becoming the new national past time in the 1960s and 1970s.
There are now roofs overhead, valet parking, chairbacks on all the seats, clubs from which to watch the games and more concession items than any 5-star restaurant menu can list. Now the game is only part of the reason to show up at the stadium on Sunday.
Remember when the game was the sole reason for showing up? The comfort of the fan was less of a concern to teams than the product on the field. In this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll, we ask our listeners and readers which of those venerable old stadiums would you like to bring back for a game? There are eight options, including some favorites of the Talk of Fame Network hosts:
Astrodome. Former home of the Oilers from 1968-96. The Eighth Wonder of the World. Astros owner Roy Hofheinz introduced indoor sporting events to pro baseball and football with the opening of what was officially called Harris County Domed Stadium, which allowed the fans to watch and the players to play in perfect conditions, always sheltered from the weather outdoors. But it initially seated only 50,000, increasing to 59,000 by the time the Oilers bolted for Tennessee in 1996. The baseball team left in 1999, moving to a downtown stadium. The Astrodome served as a shelter in 2005 for displaced Louisianans from Hurricane Katrina.
(Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Titans)
Candlestick Park. Former home of the 49ers from 1971-2013. The Stick. Another of the baseball-football stadiums, built for the baseball Giants, which meant a lot of bad seats for football. And the field itself was below field level, so it was always damp and the footing treacherous for players. Players also had to battle tricky winds as a result of the unprotected Candlestick Point location. Seating capacity for the 49ers was initially 61,000, but it gradually increased to 69,000 by the time the team headed south to its new stadium in Santa Clara in 2014. But the Stick was very good to the 49ers, serving as the home for the NFL’s Team of the Decade for the 1980s. The Stick hosted eight NFC title games and was the site of “The Catch” by Dwight Clark in 1981 that triggered the dynasty. Candlestick also was the site of the final Beatles concert in 1966.
(Photo from Talk f Fame Network archives)
Metropolitan Stadium. Former home of the Vikings from 1961-81. The Met. Another of the baseball-football stadiums with great sight lines for baseball but just too few seats for football. The capacity was 41,000 when the Vikings moved in, and it was still under 50,000 when the Vikings finally moved out in 1982, heading downtown to the Metrodome. But in January, when the Vikings were home for the playoffs, there couldn’t have been a colder place on earth than the Met. Hall-of-Fame coach Bud Grant would show up in short sleeves in sub-freezing temperatures, and the psychological edge belonged to his Vikings. The Met served as the home base for Vikings teams that went to four Super Bowls in the 1970s. But without that cold-weather edge, the Vikings couldn’t win any of them.
(Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)
Mile High Stadium. Former home of the Broncos from 1960-2000. Built in 1948 for the minor-league baseball Bears, the Broncos moved in with the arrival of the AFL in 1960. When the Broncos arrived, seating capacity was 34,000. But a series of expansions more than doubled the capacity of Mile High (76,000) before the Broncos moved into newer digs across the parking lot. Mile High was also the site of the first USFL title game in 1983, won by the Michigan Panthers. The Broncos played in five Super Bowls during the years they called Mile High home, winning two of them (1997-98). Except for the two strike seasons, the Broncos sold out Mile High for every one of their games during the four decades they called the place home.
(Photo courtesy of Eric Bakke/Denver Broncos)
Municipal Stadium. Former home of the Browns from 1946-95. For decades this was the largest stadium in the NFL with a seating capacity of 80,000. It also served as home of baseball’s Indians. An iconic NFL venue with one of the most famous fan sections — the Dawg Pound. Those sitting in the end-zone seats often pelted the visiting team with dog bones and biscuits. During the 1960s the NFL would stage preseason doubleheaders in August involving the Browns and three other teams. The stadium hosted eight championship games – three in the old AAFC and five in the NFL — and the Browns won six of them. It also was the site of the ultimate heartbreak — the Elway drive in the 1987 AFC title game that denied Cleveland a trip to its first Super Bowl. The Browns haven’t been home for a conference title game since.
(Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Browns)
RFK Stadium. Former home of the Redskins from 1961-96. A two-sport facility that housed baseball’s Senators in addition to the Redskins. But the circular build of the stadium limited football seating to 56,000. That produced a cozy and loud environment that afforded the teams of Hall-of-Fame coaches George Allen and Joe Gibbs one of the most intimidating home fields in the NFL. When the place got rocking, the upper deck would shake. The Redskins won three Super Bowls calling RFK home.
(Photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins)
Texas Stadium. Former home of the Cowboys from 1971-2008. The Cowboys left a hole in the roof of the stadium, according to former Dallas linebacker D.D. Lewis, “so God could see his team play.” The Cowboys spent their first 12 seasons at the Cotton Bowl before team owner Clint Murchison moved to the suburbs (Irving) into a stadium that would include luxury suites and also required season-ticket holders to purchase personal seat licenses – essentially, paying for the right to buy tickets. Texas Stadium, with a seating capacity of 65,000, provided the home field for Dallas teams that went to eight Super Bowls, winning five.
(Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
War Memorial Stadium. Former home of the Bills from 1960-72. Affectionately dubbed, “The Rockpile.” The AFL Bills moved into this aging stadium for their inaugural season despite a seating capacity of only 35,000. Expansion over the decade pushed the attendance to 46,500 before the Bills left for the suburbs and Rich Stadium in 1973. The Bills played in three consecutive AFL title games from 1964-66. Two of the games were at the Rockpile. Buffalo won the AFL title in 1964 with a 20-7 victory over San Diego but lost the 1966 game to Kansas City, 31-7, and with it the right to represent the AFL in the first Super Bowl.
(Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)