New Meadowlands stadium pushing high-tech envelope

November 20, 2008 5:22:22 PM PST
Imagine tailgating at an NFL stadium without having to sit in traffic, buying a hot dog and beer without having to open your wallet and walking along the concourse without feeling like the player on the receiving end in one of those "NFL's Hardest Hits" videos. The New York Jets and New York Giants want to turn that fantasy into reality in 2010 with a $1.6 billion stadium they say will feature wider spaces, easier access and high-tech capabilities unseen in other pro sports facilities - including Giants Stadium, where both teams play now.

"The biggest difference I think fans will see is it will be a more comfortable experience," Giants co-owner John Mara said Thursday during a tour of the new stadium, which is about 60 percent completed.

The enhanced comfort could begin with a train ride to a new station being constructed next to the stadium, followed by a stroll over to the east side of the stadium, where fans who have reserved a grill and picnic area in advance can participate in tailgating without the tailgate.

Getting inside the stadium should be much easier, said Mark Lamping, the former president of the St. Louis Cardinals who is CEO of the company formed by the Jets and Giants to build and operate the stadium.

"Everything is about double" the size of the current Giants Stadium, Lamping said. "The access points to get in are about double to what fans experience now. There are currently 17 access lanes, and that will double to 38. There are 80 individual turnstiles now, and that will increase to 125."

Both owners and Lamping said Thursday the stadium construction is under budget and ahead of schedule. About 950 workers currently are working at the site, and about 1,500 are expected to be involved by spring.

Though the stadium doesn't look a lot bigger to the untrained eye, Lamping said the new facility is just over 2 million square feet, compared to the 1 million square feet in Giants Stadium.

That disparity figures to be most noticeable in the concourse areas, which Lamping said average about 40 feet wide, or more than twice as wide as the old stadium's.

"This will make it much easier for fans to get around once they're in the building," Lamping said.

What they'll find are more concession stands - about triple the number in Giants Stadium - and 30 percent more restrooms.

Making purchases, whether it be a plate of nachos or the latest Eli Manning jersey, can be done by scanning a bar code from a cell phone or PDA that also will be scanned as fans enter the stadium in lieu of a paper ticket.

It's part of an integrated digital network that Lamping said will be the first of its kind used at a pro sports stadium.

There will be no excuse for missing any of the action, with more than 2,000 video screens and individual monitors spread throughout the stadium. Included in that number are four high-definition video replay screens that are five times the size of the two screens in use at Giants Stadium.

The 30-by-110-foot screens will be mounted on the middle level of the stadium by January or February, Lamping said.

The game is still the thing, though, and the new stadium won't alter one of the old stadium's signature features: The bowl seating design with both ends enclosed.

"It should be a very hostile environment for an opposing kicker who's trying to kick a field goal to win a game," Lamping said. "And it should also be a very noisy facility."

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