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The Best NFL Stadiums?

In last week’s Artvoice, a bold and dynamic plan for a new downtown Buffalo stadium was unveiled, and received a great deal of scrutiny and comment within the Western New York community.

Can Buffalo learn from its NFL peers as plans continue to take shape for what will become the home of the Buffalo Bills in the future? While many teams have built and opened shiny new venues in this millennium, here are five worth paying special attention to, three ranked as the best of the best in our Ultimate Sports Road Trip stadium scoring, and the next two venues to open their doors to NFL football.

Lambeau Field

Green Bay Packers

Renovated: 2003

Total Cost (mil): $295.2

Private Funding: $126.1 (43%)

Public Funding: $169.1 (57%)

Public Funding Sources: 0.5% County sales tax increase, Green Bay Packers State infrastructure contribution

For those who like the idea of a renovation of Ralph Wilson Stadium then look no further than the hallowed halls of Lambeau Field. It’s been in existence since 1957 and has undergone several major expansions and renovations over its near six decade history. The Lambeau Atrium contains shopping, restaurants, retail space, a Hall of Fame and Packers Museum, and is a great tourist destination. Also similar to Buffalo in that it sits just outside of the city with plenty of ample acreage to tailgate and plenty of the way of nearby eateries. Now, if only we could get one of those Lombardi Trophies over here.

Heinz Field

Pittsburgh Steelers

Opened: 2001

Total Cost (mil): $280.8

Private Funding: $109.2 (39%)

Public Funding: $171.6 (61%)

Public Funding Sources: Regional asset tax, Hotel/motel tax, State and federal infrastructure funding, State grant, Ticket surcharges

As good as it gets in an NFL stadium at a city’s urban core. Heinz Field is an open air venue on Pittsburgh’s North Side near the convergence of the Ohio, Monongahela, and Allegany Rivers. Offers striking views of the downtown skyline, enough space for plenty of tailgating, and restaurants to satisfy football fans before and after the game. Inside, the Great Hall main concourse is a veritable football theme park and open year round. Also with close access to interstate highways and a light rail stop that drops fans off at the stadium’s doorstep. Yep, they also have six of those Super Championships that we in Buffalo would dream to have one of.

NRG Stadium

Houston Texans

Opened: 2002

Total Cost (mil): $474.0

Private Funding: $185.0 (39%) *including $77 million in Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs)

Public Funding: $289.0 (61%)

Public Funding Sources: 2% County hotel/motel tax increase, 5% County auto rental tax increase, 10% Parking tax, $1.00 Per Ticket Surcharge, Sales tax rebate on in-stadium spending

For those who like the idea of an all weather retractable roof stadium, here’s where the NFL’s best is located. Houston knew a thing or two about building a venue with a roof on it having built the first one in 1965 with the Astrodome. Although officially within Houston city limits, this venue is not close to the central core of the city, but is served with a new light rail line, and the tailgate scene on game days is one of the most electric in all the NFL.

Opening 2014:

Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco 49ers

Is it the Santa Clara 49ers? The 49ers begin play at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, 45 miles from downtown San Francisco, and the signature element here may be the mode of transportation. There won’t be much in the way of parking and fans are being urged to take the commuter train or light rail to Levi’s from other parts of the region. A $1.3B project in which the city of Santa Clara is borrowing $850M from major banking entities and much of the rest being picked up via the NFL.

Opening 2016:

Minneapolis Stadium, Minnesota Vikings

Last season was the final one played by the Vikings at the Mall of America Stadium (The Metrodome) and on its site will rise their new home. This venue will have a fixed roof (non retractable) and its cost is expected to reach just over $1-billion US, with monies coming from the team ($477M), State of Minnesota ($348M) and Minneapolis covering the remaining $150M through a hospitality tax. In the meantime the Vikings will be playing home games at TCF Field on the University of Minnesota campus for the next two seasons.

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