Reinvesting in Lincoln Financial Field


“Still gives me chills,” Don Smolenski, the Philadelphia Eagles’ president, said of the feeling he gets when he enters Lincoln Financial Field, 1020 Pattison Ave., which broke ground in May of 2001.

Last summer, the Eagles’ front office announced a $125 million revitalization plan and last week, Smolenski led an eager troupe of sports reporters excited to see the Linc’s new look.

While Veterans Stadium, or the “Vet,” was the home of the Eagles from 1971 to 2003 at 3501 S. Broad St., Lincoln Financial Group purchased naming rights in ’02 for nearly $140 million to be paid over 21 years.

Almost exactly ten years after its opening, the team announced a team-up with Gensler Architecture and Turner Construction that will be finished before the Birds’ home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 7, also their first regular season game.

The changes are almost entirely cosmetic, but some will also provide welcome technological improvements to the control room such as more cameras for better gameday videography and replays. One of the most obvious and largest improvements are two HD video boards in the end zones – 22,000 square feet of Panasonic. According to the Lincoln Financial Stadium Revitalization Fact Sheet, the boards will be “High-Definition video boards made up of 10 mm pixels, which makes them the highest-resolution boards in the NFL.” The larger north end zone video board was also expanded by 100 feet, more than tripling the teams’ video board square footage.

The project adds 1,626 new seats in the “Seating Bowl,” bringing the stadium’s capacity to 69,176: approximately 800 in the southwest corner, 600 in the northeast corner, and 200 in the northwest corner. The installation of two bridges allows for fans to perch with great sightlines, but it also connects the home from visiting seating. It is now a 2,600-foot walk from the home to the visitor side on the upper concourse.

For some fans, the open practice that took place Monday afternoon was the ideal way to come check out the improvements that have been accomplished with a total of 1,700 workers over the course of 400,000 man hours. The free and open-to-the-public training sessions that, prior to last year occurred at Lehigh University, are now a chance for fans to sit in seats they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Dana McCoy, an East Passyunk Crossing resident, said it was her first time in the Eagles’ home.

“The last time I went to a game was at the ‘Vet.’ It’s my first time here, and I think it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s just beautiful. Every seat looks like a good seat, and it’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t normally have.”

Fort Washington resident Lisa Ledwith sees the public practices as ideal “for us non-ticket holders.” The lifetime teacher made the trip from Montgomery County with her husband, partly because “free is always the right word,” but also because when she caught the Lehigh practices two summers ago, she “became a more devoted, loyal Eagle fan” and said “I get to sit in seats I could never afford.”

In the control room, expanded by 30 percent to accommodate more visuals staffers, Smolenski broke down some of the technical improvements. They invested $5 million into scoreboard control and graphics for the video boards. The facility can now call on 19 angles for replay, adding four more stations to a total of six. They went from six to 22 camera angles overall, and upped their 3-D animated graphics game.

On the field, Smolenski spoke into a radio dispatch and “Touchdown” flashed on every board in the stadium. At the open practice, the fight song graphics never looked so good.

Bill Stroby and his 12-year-old son, Nick, sat at stone tables outside the field before the practice. They’d come in from Brigantine, N.J., and said they typically make no more than two games per season, noting that home contests are much bigger events at the Linc than at Citizens Bank Park, 1 Citizens Bank Way.

“I definitely like the higher seats for sightlines because you can see what’s going on,” Stroby said.

An expanded visual arsenal may improve gameday experiences even for fans in the nosebleeds.

Fred Masciangelo and his wife Melody came in from Blackwood, N.J., partly because it was free and tickets are “too expensive.” The 20th-and-Ritner-streets-raised retiree is a Phillies season ticketholder and an avowed “Four for Four” (an Eagles, Phils, Flyers and Sixers fan). He believes supporters are willing to “pay a couple bucks more for updates as long as it’s not over-the-top.” Masciangelo often prefers to watch at home.

The largest improvements may, in fact, affect the ticketholders who pay the most. The Suite and Club level, as well as the SCA and Panasonic Club levels, just wrapped complete makeovers including furniture, carpeting, imagery, signage and brand new televisions (1,185 brand new TVs have been installed throughout the stadium). But some improvements will make everyone happy: better signage for finding seats and sections, more points of sale and digitalized menus, Wi-Fi capability for 45,000 simultaneous users and 44 murals have been installed.

As Smolenski was surrounded by reporters on the field’s mixed natural and synthetic grasses, many asked if this effort was an outright grab for Super Bowl contention. He said no, but it would be a great thing for the team and the city.

Gretchen Winterbottom, an Old City resident and friend to McCoy, said “Why not? There are all these facilities down here.”

The fan was enjoying her lower-level seats and said “it’s so different being here down at this level. I’m used to being higher up.”

But Smolenski seemed totally genuine in his excitement for the improvements to the fan experience on gameday, the final product of a process where he and his office solicited feedback from fans and ticketholders about what they want to see improve.

“We listened and we developed a plan of action,” he said in a press release. “Our main goal when we began this project was to dramatically enhance the gameday experiences for our fans. They deserve an exciting and fun experience when they visit Lincoln Financial Field, and we are committed to that.”

Staff Writer Bill Chenevert at or ext. 117.