Ranking the Top Fan Stadium Experiences in the NFL

Gordon BlockContributor IIISeptember 7, 2011

Ranking the Top Fan Stadium Experiences in the NFL

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    The lockout is over. The preseason is over. After months of fevered anticipation, NFL fans will head to their stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams in the regular season.

    When it comes to the in-person fan experience, some stadiums have gone the extra mile to appeal to their fanbases. Others have not. 

    One question looms large over a list ranking the top fan stadium experiences: What determines a good stadium experience in the first place?

    Fancy scoreboards? Good sight lines to the field? Tradition? Delicious food?

    In all honesty, there isn't one complete answer to determine this. Thus, for ranking this slideshow, the ordering will be determined based on a collection of rankings on different parts of a fan's experience

    In addition to two breakdowns of overall stadium enjoyment, this list relied on ranking breakdowns based on stadium food, atmosphere and ticket prices. Rounding this list out is a ranking of NFL tailgate experiences done by fellow featured columnist Matt Stein.

    Here are the rankings for the top fan stadium experiences in the NFL.

31) St.Louis Rams: Edward Jones Dome

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    Year created: 1995

    Max attendance: 66,965

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 29th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: T-16th (with Cincinnati Bengals)

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 28th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 25th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 30th

    Pros: Rapidly improving product on the field.

    Cons: Limited parking space for tailgating, poor in-stadium beer selection, overpriced concession stands.

T-29) San Diego Chargers: Qualcomm Stadium

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    Year created: 1967

    Max attendance: 71,294

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 26th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 27th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 22nd

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 20th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 23rd

    Pros: Nice weather (great for tailgating if you're OK keeping it in a limited space).

    Cons: Lousy sight lines to the field, Chargers fans regularly outnumbered (particularly during games against the Oakland Raiders).

T-29) Minnesota Vikings: Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

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    Year created: 1982

    Max attendance: 64,121

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 30th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 25th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 31st

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 5th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 27th

    Pros: Cheaper ticket prices, loud fans can keep games interesting. 

    Cons: Limited tailgating opportunities, long bathroom lines, team appears to be on slight decline, collapsed roof may be an issue.

28) Atlanta Falcons: Georgia Dome

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    Year created: 1992

    Max attendance: 71,228

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 27th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 21st

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 25th 

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 19th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 24th

    Pros: Team looks great heading into 2011 season, convenient public transportation access, highly praised tailgate food.

    Cons: Pricy concessions, obvious criticisms of a football dome in Atlanta, fans don't like the stadium.

27) Jacksonville Jaguars: EverBank Field

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    Year created: 1995

    Max attendance: 67,164

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 22nd

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 24th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 29th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 13th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 22nd

    Pros: Short walking distance to downtown Jacksonville, decent ticket prices.

    Cons: Limited tailgating scene, Jaguars may struggle in 2011, humdrum stadium design.

26) Cincinnati Bengals: Paul Brown Stadium

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    Year created: 2000

    Max attendance: 65,790

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 31st

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: T-16th (with St. Louis Rams)

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 24th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: Fourth

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 28th

    Pros: Very reasonable ticket prices, chili from Cincinnati is highly rated.

    Cons: Lousy in-stadium food, the Bengals will definitely struggle in 2011, tailgating scene subdued.

25) Detroit Lions: Ford Field

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    Year created: 2002

    Max attendance: 64,500

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 16th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 20th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 21st

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: Ninth

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 31st

    Pros: Good beer selection in the stadium, team looks to be on the rise in 2011.

    Cons: Hard to repress the memories of past failed seasons, poorly ranked tailgating scene around the stadium.

24) New Orleans Saints: Louisiana Superdome

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    Year created: 1975

    Max attendance: 76,468

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: Sixth

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 18th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 15th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 30th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 26th

    Pros: Great fanbase, strong team for 2011.

    Cons: Limited parking around the stadium, pricy tickets.

23) Oakland Raiders: O.co Coliseum

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    Year created: 1966

    Max attendance: 63,026

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 17th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 26th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 30th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 18th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: Third

    Pros: Wild fan support (the Black Hole can be the craziest fan group in sports), active and strong tailgating community.

    Cons: Concerns of violence at stadium (particularly for non-Raiders fans).

22) Cleveland Browns: Cleveland Browns Stadium

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    Year created: 1999

    Max attendance: 73,200

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 21st

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: T-13th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 23rd

    Seatgeek.com Average ticket price ranking: 17th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: Eighth

    Pros: Active tailgating community, easy access to downtown Cleveland.

    Cons: Not friendly to fans of opposing teams, mixed opinions on nachos served in dog food bowl (for the Dawg Pound).

21) San Francisco 49ers: Candlestick Park

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    Year created: 1960

    Max attendance: 69,732

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 11th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 31st

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 26th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: First

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 21st

    Pros: Good in-stadium food, very reasonable ticket prices, weather is usually great.

    Cons: Niners have not made the playoffs since 2002-2003, recent violence during preseason game versus Oakland Raiders showed major gaps in stadium security, stadium is not aging very well.

20) Buffalo Bills: Ralph Wilson Stadium

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    Year created: 1973

    Max attendance: 73,079

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 28th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 30th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 20th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: Seventh

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: Fourth

    Pros: Loyal fanbase, active tailgating base, decent ticket prices.

    Cons: Uninspiring stadium design, team hasn't won a lot in the past decade.

19) Tennessee Titans: LP Field

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    Year created: 1999

    Max attendance: 69,143

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 23rd

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 22nd

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 18th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: Third

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 19th

    Pros: Good value on ticket prices, good fanbase.

    Cons: Titans will be rebuilding in 2011, not a great place to tailgate if you don't like country music, lousy in-game beer selection.

T-17) Carolina Panthers: Bank of America Stadium

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    Year created: 1996

    Max attendance: 73,778

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 15th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 23rd

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking:17th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: Second

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 25th

    Pros: Good value for tickets, Cam Newton has emerged as quarterback of the team's future, city of Charlotte is nice.

    Cons: The Panthers might not be good for a while.

T-17) Miami Dolphins: Sun Life Stadium

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    Year created: 1987

    Max attendance: 75,192

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: Seventh

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 28th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 27th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: Sixth

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 14th

    Pros: Weather is usually excellent, decent ticket prices, average tailgating scene, good stadium food.

    Cons: Baseball diamond on field is distracting, team may struggle in 2011 season.

T-15) Indianapolis Colts: Lucas Oil Stadium

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    Year created: 2008

    Max attendance: 63,000

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 24th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: T-seventh (with Philadelphia Eagles)

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: Sixth

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 27th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 16th

    Pros: Stadium looks excellent and is based in a great location, Colts will be good in 2011 (whenever Peyton Manning is ready), stadium gets loud with roof closed.

    Cons: Pricy tickets, relatively standard stadium food.

T-15) Washington Redskins: FedEx Field

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    Year created: 1997

    Max attendance: 81,807

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: Third

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 29th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 19th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 14th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 15th

    Pros: Good stadium food (who's up for some Hooters wings during a game?), diehard fanbase, great NFC East rivalry games.

    Cons: High parking prices, heavy traffic going to game, concerns about safety around stadium.

T-13) Arizona Cardinals: University of Phoenix Stadium

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    Year created: 2006

    Max attendance: 63,400

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: Eighth

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 10th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 10th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 16th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 29th

    Pros: Innovative stadium design, protection from heat during warmer parts of the early season, good local food options.

    Cons: Cardinals have been inconsistent since Kurt Warner left the roster.

T-13) New England Patriots: Gillette Stadium

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    Year created: 2002

    Max attendance: 68,756

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 25th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: Fourth

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: Seventh

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 26th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 11th

    Pros: Great tailgating scene, Patriots should be very solid in 2011, team boasts very loyal fanbase.

    Cons: Limited food options inside the stadium, Foxboro location is somewhat out of the way for many fans.

12) Seattle Seahawks: CenturyLink Field

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    Year created: 2002

    Max attendance: 67,000

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: First

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 15th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: Third

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 21st

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 32nd

    Pros: Team's fans made for loud opening playoff win versus the New Orleans Saints, great food and beer selection inside the stadium.

    Cons: No tailgating experience at the stadium, team may be struggling in 2011, tickets are somewhat pricy.

11) Chicago Bears: Soldier Field

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    Year created: 2003

    Max attendance: 61,500

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 9th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 11th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 12th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 28th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: Ninth

    Pros: Great food and beer selections through the stadium, team is performing well, great location for stadium.

    Cons: Games can be icy cold (that may be a pro for some), very pricy tickets.

10) New York Giants/New York Jets: MetLife Stadium

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    Giants/Jets: MetLife Stadium

    Year created: 2010

    Max attendance: 82,566

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 14th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: Sixth

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: Eighth

    Seatgeek.com Average ticket price ranking: Giants 32nd, Jets 15th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: Giants 17th, Jets 18th

    Pros: Good public transportation access, neat design elements to make the stadium work for both teams.

    Cons: A stadium for two New York team resides out of state, pricy tickets (especially for the Giants).

9) Kansas City Chiefs: Arrowhead Stadium

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    Year created: 1972

    Max attendance: 76,416

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 20th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 19th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 13th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 11th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: First

    Pros: Reasonable ticket prices for a playoff team, great tailgating scene outside the stadium, crowd gets very loud during games.

    Cons: Average food selection inside the stadium, some concerns about violence in the neighborhoods around the stadium.

T-7) Denver Broncos: Sports Authority Field at Mile High

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    Year created: 2001

    Max attendance: 76,125

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 18th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: 12th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 11th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 10th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 12th

    Pros: Nice tailgating scene, reasonable ticket prices, well-designed stadium.

    Cons: Price for food inside stadium is high for even stadium food, fan favorite Tim Tebow does not look like a starter anytime in the near future in Denver.

T-7) Baltimore Ravens: M&T Bank Stadium

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    Year created: 1998

    Max attendance: 71,008

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 12th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: Fifth

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 14th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 22nd

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 10th

    Pros: Nice tailgating options, Inner Harbor area of downtown Baltimore area can be very pretty, Ravens fans are very passionate.

    Cons: Somewhat pricy tickets, eight-dollar hot dogs seem a little expensive

6) Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys Stadium

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    Year created: 2009

    Max attendance: 80,000

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: Second

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: Ninth

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: Second

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 29th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 20th

    Pros: Cowboys Stadium is huge. It is almost impossible to take your eyes off the gigantic video screen hanging over the field. Great food options.

    Cons: Very expensive tickets, especially for the quality of seats (or lack thereof).

T-4) Philadelphia Eagles: Lincoln Financial Field

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    Year created: 2003

    Max attendance: 69,144

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 19th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: T-Seventh (with Indianapolis Colts)

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: Fifth

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 24th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: Fifth

    Pros: Eagles are a very exciting team to watch, tailgating scene is energetic, hardly any bad seats in the house.

    Cons: High ticket prices, average to subpar food and beer selections at concession stands

T-4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Raymond James Stadium

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    Year created: 1998

    Max attendance: 65,857

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 13th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: T-13th

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: Ninth

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 12th

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: 13th

    Pros: Great weather most weeks in Tampa during the season, nice tailgating options, decently priced tickets, the Pirate Ship.

    Cons: The Buccaneers will make some early mistakes as one of the youngest teams in the league, average food and beer offerings inside the stadium, the Pirate Ship.

3) Green Bay Packers: Lambeau Field

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    Year created: 1957

    Max attendance: 72,928

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: 10th

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: First

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: First

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 31st

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: Second

    Pros: Tradition, great fan support, solid tailgating opportunities.

    Cons: Tough to land tickets. Weather can get shockingly cold, so be prepared to bring extra layers if you're going any time after November.

T-1) Houston Texans: Reliant Stadium

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    Year created: 2002

    Max attendance: 71,054

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: Fifth

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: Third

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: 16th

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: Eighth

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: Seventh

    Pros: Very reasonably priced tickets, great tailgating outside the stadium, nice selection of food and beer in the stadium.

    Cons: The Texans have been close to getting over the hump to their first playoff appearance but have said the same thing the last two or three seasons.

T-1) Pittsburgh Steelers: Heinz Field

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    Year created: 2001

    Max attendance: 65,050

    Esquire Magazine food ranking: Fourth

    Sportsroadtrip.com ranking: Second

    Nationalfootballpost.com ranking: Fourth

    Seatgeek.com average ticket price ranking: 23rd

    Bleacher Report tailgating ranking: Sixth

    Pros: Very loyal fanbase, great atmosphere during games, active tailgating scene around the stadium (get there early!). Team looks to be bound for another deep playoff run in 2011.

    Cons: A surprising number of health code violations in recent years (61!).