The NFL, or National Football League, has become the national sport of the United States. The inaugural season of this vaunted sports league dates back to 1920. Since that year, the NFL has come a long way. From 1960-1989, the NFL experienced a significant boom in business. Thousands attended football games, while millions more were able to watch from home thanks to television. As a result, league and team revenues skyrocketed. Shows like Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Football furthered the NFL’s popularity by bringing the games to prime time television. The league’s championship game, the Superbowl, ranks as one of the biggest North American sporting events of the year. Looking ahead to the near future, we can only assume that the NFL will only get bigger and more popular.
This article will list some of the best NFL stadiums to visit. Each stadium on this list differs in terms of design, size, and the year it was built. But what they all share in common is the unbelievable experience they offer. There’s nothing quite like watching a football game with thousands of fans in a gigantic stadium. It’s an experience T.V. is unable to replicate.
Before we get into the list, let’s look at the history of the NFL.
As stated earlier, the NFL began in 1920. The league was founded in Canton, Ohio, and it was initially named the American Professional Football Association (APFA). Initially, the APFA only included Ohio teams, but soon teams from New York, Illinois, and Michigan were included. All told, 14 teams made up the new league. Some of these teams included the Akron Pros and the Racine Cardinals. As the league expanded, teams like the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears were added. These two teams are still going today. In 1922, the APFA changed its name to the National Football League.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the NFL expanded, constantly adding new teams to the league. The league also introduced the draft of college football players in 1936. The NFL Draft continues to this day. On October 22, 1939, the first televised game occurred between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Brooklyn Dodgers; the Dodgers won 23-14. This historic game was the precursor to the televised NFL games we have today.
Even though the NFL was expanding, college football remained the popular version of the sport. Between the two, college football was the bigger attraction. However, after World War II, the NFL began to rise in popularity, directly challenging college football. This was due to rule changes that led to exciting, high-scoring games. By the 1950s, the NFL had a strong fanbase.
The Greatest Game Ever Played
If there was a singular event responsible for the NFL’s rise in popularity, it would be the 1958 Championship Game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. For starters, both teams boasted star players like Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas and Giants linebacker Sam Huff. Second, the game was action packed with an exciting, tense ending. Tied 17-17, the game went into sudden death overtime. This meant the next score won the game. Unitas methodically led the Colts down the field. At the Giants’ goalline, Alan Ameche took the ball and ran for the winning score. The Colt’s won 23-17.
While this ending was spectacular for those in attendance at Yankee Stadium, it was also for those watching from home. An estimated 45 million people watched the game on television. This figure showed the league that the NFL’s popularity was growing. It also demonstrated that television enabled the NFL to reach more fans. Heading into the 1960s, the NFL would become even larger.
The American Football League (AFL) was formed in 1959 by Lamar Hunt. Hunt wanted to create a football league that could directly compete with the NFL. The AFL had eight charter teams. Some notable teams were the Oakland Raiders and Boston Patriots (later called the New England Patriots). The AFL introduced many things that the NFL later adopted. For example, players’ names on the back of jerseys and a flashier, exacting style of play.
As the 1960s progressed, the AFL flourished. The NFL took notice of their rival’s success and initiated merger talks. In 1966, the two leagues agreed on a merger which established several new policies. Among them was an annual NFL-AFL championship game. The first game was scheduled for January 1967. The game would soon become known as the Superbowl.
The first Superbowl was played between the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers won the game 35-10, becoming the first Superbowl Champions. This inaugural game kicked off one of the most watched and celebrated championship games in American sports. Every NFL team begins their season with Superbowl dreams, but only two will make it to the big game. Certain teams have even won multiple Superbowls, like the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. There have also been many exciting finishes to Superbowl Games, like a last second tackle or a score to win the game in overtime.
For every Superbowl, the NFL turns the game into a grand event with fireworks and elaborate halftime shows. Couple that with the exciting play on the field and you’ll see why the Superbowl ranks as one of the biggest championship games in sports.
An Ever Changing League
In 1970, the AFL fully emerged with the NFL. The league now had a unified roster of teams. Ever since that merger, the NFL has steadily grown in popularity. The 1980s and 1990s were boom periods for the NFL, thanks in part to extensive television coverage, exciting play, and the emergence of famous players. The NFL continued to found new teams, like the Carolina Panthers in 1995 and the Houston Texans in 2002.
The New Millennium only increased the NFL’s success. Advances in technology, like the internet and streaming services, gave the NFL more fans. And in 2021, the NFL will only grow larger than ever before. The league has expanded to 18 weeks of games, along with additional playoff games. The NFL has also reached a new television deal with broadcasters, ensuring that football games will be shown on T.V. for years to come.
The NFL has a long history of dealing with social and racial issues. Integrating racial minorities into teams dates back to the league’s founding years. Initially, minorities were barred from playing on NFL teams. Integration fully began during the 1940s, when teams like the Cleveland Browns added African-American players to their roster. During the 1960s, the AFL demonstrated a liberal signing strategy by recruiting many African-American players. This was in stark contrast to the NFL, which hardly signed African-American athletes.
Recently, NFL players have spoken out against racial inequality. In 2016, several players knelt during the U.S. National Anthem in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. The most famous example is Colin Kaepernick, who many believe is blacklisted by the league for his actions. In 2020, the murder of George Floyd sparked more conversation around racial injustice. Players, coaches, and owners across the league spoke out against racial inequality and police brutality. A popular demonstration was for players and coaches from opposing teams to lock arms as a showing of unity while the national anthem played.
Furthermore, controversy surrounds the names of several NFL teams, particularly those that use or reinforce stereotypes of Indigenous people. The two notable examples are the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Washington Redskins. Washington was signaled out in particular because the team name is a racial epithet, and the logo is also highly outdated and offensive. In 2020, Washington officially changed their team name and logo. They are currently called the Washington Football Team.
The Best NFL Stadiums
Here is the list of the best NFL stadiums to attend for a football game. As noted earlier, these stadiums stand out for a number of reasons. They may be historic buildings, or they offer the most amenities. Whatever the case may be, these stadiums are a must visit for football fans. Let’s kick off the list with one of the oldest NFL stadiums.
Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Home to the Green Bay Packers, the stadium is named in honor of the first Packers head coach, Curly Lambeau. Lambeau Field opened in 1957, and it was the first modern stadium built specifically for an NFL team. Prior to this, NFL teams shared facilities with major league baseball teams. The original seating capacity was 32,500, but that figure grew to 81,441.
Lambeau Field has hosted many famous games. In 1967, the Packers faced the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Championship Game. The winner would go to the Superbowl. The game is nicknamed the Ice Bowl for the frigid conditions it was played in (-26.0 Celsius, -14.8 Fahrenheit). The Packers won after a last minute score by Bart Starr. The Ice Bowl also spawned Lambeau Field’s nickname: the Frozen Tundra.
The stadium has many traditions. After a score, it is customary for Packers players to jump into the front row stands and celebrate with the crowd. This is called the Lambeau Leap. Another tradition is the playing of the Go Pack Go song. The song is usually played when the Packers go on defense, or before the start of an offensive drive.
Since its opening, Lambeau Field has undergone several renovations. These repairs are done to preserve this stadium as the oldest running one in the NFL. In 2007, Lambeau Field opened for its 51st season, an NFL record.
With fun traditions and a rich heritage, Lambeau Field ranks at the top of must-visit NFL stadiums.
Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri
I’m putting these two stadiums together because they are both renowned as being the loudest places in the NFL. Each stadium has competed to determine which is louder, with the title changing hands several times.
Arrowhead Stadium is home to the Kansas City Chiefs. Before the stadium opened, the Chiefs shared Municipal Stadium with two baseball teams. This all changed in 1972 when Arrowhead was completed. Arrowhead instantly gained popularity for its amazing view of the field, and the fact that it was not multipurpose. The only sport played at Arrowhead would be football. Initially, builders planned a 79,000 seating capacity for Arrowhead Stadium. However, the capacity shrunk to 76,416 after renovation work in 2007. This did not diminish the noise generated by the crowd. Arrowhead has always been known as a raucous stadium, which is due to its dome bowl design. The stadium also offers some of the best tailgating experience in the league.
Lumen Field in Seattle, Washington
On the west coast, Lumen Field is the home of the Seattle Seahawks. The stadium is not the Seahawks’ original home. Up until 2002, the Seahawks played at the Kingdome. That stadium was also known for it’s loud atmosphere. Lumen Field opened in 2002 on the grounds of the old Kingdome. Instantly, Lumen Field gained a reputation as the loudest NFL stadium. Many attribute this to the stadium’s unique design: u-shaped roofs partially covering the stands. This design traps sound and echoes it back onto the field. The loudness of Lumen Field created a home-field advantage for the Seahawks. Teams have difficulty communicating when the crowd is at fever pitch. It’s no wonder that Seattle has 59-29 home win record at Lumen.
Both of these stadiums have recorded world record noise levels. In 2013, Lumen Field reached 131.9 decibels, while Arrowhead in 2014 made it to 142.2. In between those records, the stadiums traded the noise level title several times.
Despite the loudness, both stadiums have an enjoyable atmosphere. Both fanbases love their teams, and they show it on gameday. Some people liken it to a college football feeling, where the fans are 100% behind the team and will show their support in many different ways.
If you like loud but fun atmospheres, then Lumen Field and Arrowhead Stadium are two places for you.
AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas
The NFL is full of massive, over-the-top stadiums. The New Orleans Saints have Caesars Superdome, while the Minnesota Vikings have US Bank Stadium. That’s not to mention the massive domes located in Arizona, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. But the king of grandiose football venues is AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Prior to AT&T stadium, the Cowboys played at Texas Stadium, one of the most famous facilities in the NFL. By the 2000s, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted to expand Texas Stadium. Several plans were bounced around. For example, adding 40,000 additional seats and a retractable roof. However, Jones gradually moved away from these plans and decided to build a new stadium.
In 2009, construction on AT&T Stadium finished and the building was ready for business. The stadium truly dazzles the eye. The stadium has a futuristic design with a canted 800 foot glass wall. AT&T stadium also features a retractable roof as well as large retractable glass doors.
The Cowboy’s stadium offers a top-notch experience for fans. The facility can hold up to 80,000 people, but for big games, 100,000 can be seated. For those with extra cash, there are 200 skybox booths located around the stadium. And if you want to get an up-close view of the game, 15,000 sideline seats are available. If you’re having trouble seeing the field, all you have to do is look up at the large HD video screen suspended 90 feet above the field.
AT&T Stadium, nicknamed The House That Jerry Build, is an architectural wonder. The features offered and the sheer size of the stadium makes it a must visit for football fans. Out of all the massive domed stadiums in the NFL, AT&T stadium reigns supreme.
MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey
MetLife Stadium is shared by two teams from the Big Apple: the New York Giants and the New York Jets. For years, the Jets and Giants shared a single facility, Giants Stadium. In 2000, the Jets sought to build a stadium of their own. When that failed after five years, the team partnered with the Giants to build a new stadium. The new building was set to be completed in 2010.
MetLife Stadium has four tiers with 82,500 seats. Also included are 9,200 club seats and 117 luxury suites. Fans sitting near the sidelines get an unbelievable view of the game; they sit just 46 feet away from the field. Because the stadium is shared by two teams, representing each is highly important. Interior illumination switches colors depending on the home team: green for the Jets and red and blue for the Giants. On the outside, video screens at the north and east entrances will show video clips of whichever team is playing.
Just like the city it’s located in, MetLife stadium is grand and dynamic in design. The stadium offers great views of the game, whether you’re sitting in a luxury suite or taking it in near the sidelines. If you happen to visit New York City, make sure to attend a football game at MetLife stadium.
The NFL has come a long way since its inception in 1920. The league has grown into one of the biggest and most popular sports leagues in the world. This increase in success also created bigger and better stadiums. And the NFL is full of great stadiums. Each one provides a fantastic gameday experience for football fans. However, there are a select few which stand out from all the others. Some are historic buildings, such as Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Others are massive, spectacular, domed buildings, like AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas. And some are great for their loud, party-like atmosphere, as is the case with Lumen Field in Seattle, Washington and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
Whatever the case may be, the facilities listed in this article rank as some of the NFL stadiums you should visit when attending a football game.