This article originally appeared on www.stadiumjourney.com
The smell of freshly popped kettle corn is ever-present, as a 53-piece band marches through an alley outside the stadium hours before the game. You stroll by a fan with a lime green Mohawk and a menacing Batman design etched into his navy blue painted face.
It is 38 degrees and the first weekend of December, but the man is dressed in a Seahawks jersey and a kilt. He is joined by a cadre of fans sporting a similar look, including one boy who could pass for a fourth grader.
Attending an NFL contest at Qwest Field, the eight year old home of the 2005 NFC Champions, provides one of the most unique game day experiences in the league. Panoramic views of the Puget Sound from the west, the Cascade Mountains from the east, and the downtown Seattle skyline from the north can be seen from the upper level concourses of the stadium.
The stadium contains a Salmon exterior and a 760-foot long white roof, the equivalent of three Boeing 747’s parked end-to-end. Two 260-feet arches hover above the roof to give Qwest Field its distinctive shape. Inside, opposing teams are greeted by the “12th man,” considered by many to be the most raucous supporters in football.
“We’ve got the greatest fans in sports,” Seahawks coach Jim Mora said. “One thing about Qwest is as a football team you really can take advantage of that energy. It’s a suffocating experience to come in there and play in front of that crowd. They suck the air out of the place. With our fans what we’d like to do is create an environment where the opposing team doesn’t feel safe.”
FANFARE Rating: 26
Food & Beverage: 5
The concessions at Qwest Field are top-notch, with a number of offerings that Seattle is known for. Though there isn’t one Starbucks inside the stadium, spectators can still grab a cup of coffee at Café Appassionato ($5 for a latte). Freezing fans can warm up with drinks from stands at every section of the stadium.
Tourists often come to Seattle expecting the best seafood in the Northwest and can sample the menu at Ivar’s at several locations in the stadium. One of the more popular items from Ivar’s is the restaurant’s clam chowder that fans often bring back to their seats in bread bowls. Ivar’s is located in all three levels of the stadium in sections 133, 208, and 311.
Thai restaurants are also a big hit in Seattle, and Seahawks supporters can whet their appetite at Rocha Thai & Asian Kitchen in Section 105. For other fans looking for traditional stadium food, Qwest Field offers both hot dogs ($5 for one) at Seattle Dogs and pizza at Pie in the Sky Pizza ($5 a slice). Seattle Dogs is located in Sections 124 and 149, while Pie in the Sky Pizza can be found at Sections 107 and 122.
In terms of alcoholic beverages, the selection at Qwest includes generic beers such as Miller and Coors ($6.25 for 16 oz.), as well as several microbrews. These include: Amberweizen, Hefeweizen, IPA, Curve Ball, and RedHook ESB ($8 for 12 oz.). For the fans brave enough to sneak in their own liquor, they can mix it with cans of Red Bull ($3.75 each).
The atmosphere at the 67,000 seat facility is exciting and intense. Before every game, fans are treated to a thundering pyrotechnic display as the Seahawks’ players enter the field. The team is led by its mascot Taima, an Auger Hawk that flies out of the tunnel to a rousing ovation from the crowd.
“He’s a fairly calm bird,” said Dave Knutson, the owner of the hawk. “When he’s flying out of the tunnel (leading the team) there’s pyrotechnics going 300 feet. He has to handle a lot.”
Fan interaction during the game is a critical aspect of the viewing experience. There are frequent shots of the crowd during breaks in the action on a vertical scoreboard, behind the north end zone.
In the past, some Seahawks fans lucky enough to appear on the screen have also seen their images on cans of Jones soda, the team’s official beverage. This season, fans have also been entertained with Pop Warner football games before the Seahawks take the field and Chihuahua races at halftime.
Qwest Field is located just outside the historic Pioneer Square District, known for its litany of art galleries, antique shops, and bookstores. Outside of the stadium, there are several bars to watch the Seahawks’ rivals before or after the game. Three of the more well-known places to grab a drink include: F.X. McRory’s Steak Chop & Oyster House, Cowgirls Inc. American Saloon, and the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill.
Patrons of F.X. McRory’s have visited the legendary Seattle pub since 1977. The establishment includes an expansive whiskey bar captured in a famous painting by LeRoy Neiman. Down the road, fans can test their rodeo skills on the free mechanical bull at Cowgirls Inc. The Hawks Bar and Grill opens at 8 a.m. on NFL Sundays and is usually shoulder-tight with Seahawks fans in the hours before a game.
Fans : 5
In the past couple seasons, Seattle fans have been less than welcoming towards the opposing team. Since 2005, the Seahawks lead the league in opponent false start penalties at home with 92 (2.42 a game). Opponents of the Vikings, the next closest team, have committed just 80 false starts during that time.
The Giants alone committed 11 false starts in a 2005 loss, as the blaring crowd noise gave LT Luke Pettigout fits. For the season, visiting teams were whistled for a league-high 24 false starts at Qwest Field. Players, coaches and team representatives cherish the massive home field advantage the stadium provides.
The open end of the stadium behind the north end zone contains an area known as the “Hawk’s Nest,” and can be deafening. The section is composed of metal bleachers and is the most boisterous area of Qwest Field. In Mike Holmgren’s final home game as a Seahawks coach last December against the Jets, Seattle fans withstood a blizzard and still filled the stadium to capacity.
Even Holmgren, though, was not spared by the rowdy behavior of the “12th man.” As Holmgren left the field for the last time, he ducked to avoid snowballs launched by fans from the Hawk’s Nest.
A large portion of the aforementioned fans sporting Mohawks sit behind the other end zone in the south end. There sits another colorful fan nicknamed “Pimp Daddy,” who is one of the more recognized Seahawks fans.
Dressed in a blue button down suit with a Seahawks logo, blue fedora with a green feather, lime green tie and fluorescent green shoes similar to ones worn by Deion Branch, the fan is a staple of the Seahawks community. He also carries a doll with an identical outfit that he has nicknamed “Mini-Pimp.”
Though there is a car garage with a capacity of 2,000 vehicles next to Qwest Field and team officials say there are 6,500 spaces near the stadium, parking is difficult to find. It is expensive in most lots ($25) and drivers are accustomed to circling the field before finding a spot. Recent construction of a ramp onto I-90 has not made the situation easier.
Return on Investment: 3
An average ticket for a Seahawks 2009 home game costs $61.25, which is relatively cheap considering the average ticket for 20 teams in the NFL is more expensive. An average ticket for a Seahawks game is also more than $13 less than the league’s average price for a ticket ($74.99), according to teamarketingreport.com .
The cheapest club seat in the stadium costs $95, while the most expensive club seat goes for $280.
By the time tickets, parking and meals are factored in, it could easily cost a family of four several hundred dollars to attend a Seahawks game. The stadium provides clear sight lines, though, and there are few bad seats in the house. If you can ignore the fact that the Seahawks have struggled to win in the past two years, the investment might be worth it.
For the out of town fan, Seattle could be a fun destination for a short trip, especially during mild autumn weekends in the Pacific Northwest. Mt. Rainier is a short drive from the city for a Saturday hike and other outdoor activities such as biking and fishing are also popular. The Space Needle and Pike Place Market with its famous flying fish are also two tourist attractions worth seeing. ####