Eagles' New Home Will Be High-tech Haven City Planners Gave Preliminary Approval To The Stadium Plan. Completion Is Scheduled For 2003.

Posted: January 12, 2001

The City Planning Commission gave preliminary approval yesterday to the Eagles' $320 million stadium, offering a glimpse of such high-tech features as three-story-tall video screens in each end zone and a sound system designed to eliminate echoes.

And about triple the number of toilets found in Veterans Stadium.

The commission's unanimous decision - an important first step - allows the team to obtain zoning and building permits to begin construction next month on an 85-acre site east of the First Union Center in South Philadelphia.

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED JANUARY 13, 2001, FOLLOWS: A story in yesterday's Inquirer gave an inaccurate count of restroom fixtures at Veterans Stadium and the new stadium to be built for the Eagles. At Veterans Stadium, the ratio is one fixture per 319 men and one fixture per 92 women. At the new stadium, the ratio will be one per 184 men and one per 73 women. The story also gave an incorrect price tag for the new stadium. It is expected to cost $395 million.

The stadium, with 66,000 to 68,000 seats and featuring the decidedly low-tech playing surface of grass, is scheduled for completion in 2003.

Each seat in the stadium, designed specifically for football, will afford a clear view of the field.

In addition to audio and video enhancements planned throughout the stadium, the building's luxury suites will offer state-of-the-art TVs and likely Internet connections.

"There will be a universe of difference from the Vet and maybe even from the other new [stadium] buildings that have recently opened," Joe Banner, the Eagles' chief operating officer, said in an interview. "That is how fast the technology is changing and how aggressively we want to approach it."

Because the Eagles want the latest technology, decisions on some details will not be made for 12 to 15 months. But the size of the scoreboards and the type of audio system have been set because the architects needed to include that information in the stadium plans.

Liquid-crystal display video scoreboards measuring 27 by 96 feet will be at each end of the field, so that at least one can be seen from each seat, said Patrick Winters, senior associate at NBBJ, the Southern California architectural firm that won the Eagles contract. He said the same approach was taken at the Baltimore Ravens' new stadium in Maryland.

The scoreboards, Banner said, will be the "biggest and most dynamic anywhere in the NFL" and will "create a visual stereo" experience for fans. They are about the same size as those at PSINet Stadium, where the Ravens play.

The sound system will eliminate the echoes of the traditional approach, which relies on speakers clustered in the end zone, Winters said.

"We have what we call 'distributed sound,' where all over this building there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of small speakers," Winters said. "And those speakers are calibrated to each section so you don't get echoes.It is a much clearer sound, and everybody can hear. Those are also tied into the visuals, so that what you are seeing on the board, you are hearing at the same time. It becomes like a big surround-sound theater."

The system also would be capable of delivering announcements to specific sections instead of broadcasting them to the entire stadium.

Banner said that, with the design, "we're trying to tell everybody that we are going to do something that is conspicuous and outstanding, a little bit different, but not so different that it's uncomfortable."

Plans call for 163 luxury suites in the new stadium, compared with 143 in the Vet, which opened in 1971. The luxury suites will form two tiers ringing the stadium, one just above the field-level seats and another above the club-seat decks.

The stadium will have 9,000 club seats, which also will carry a premium. Among the perks in the club sections will be slightly wider seats, a pregame buffet, and wait-service during the games.

Two concourses with rest rooms and concession stands will ring the stadium. The Eagles promise a wider variety of food than the current standard. Winters said plans called for specialty food carts to be set up along the concourses as well as food booths set into the structure itself.

On the matter of rest rooms, Eagles spokesman Ron Howard said there would be one fixture for every 92 male fans and one for every 73 female fans. Compare this with the Vet, which has one for every 319 men and one stall for every 184 women. Fans and team owners have complained bitterly about those ratios at the Vet.

A tower will rise above the stadium's entrance at 11th Street and Pattison Avenue. Wrapped around the tower's open-air patio will be a message board that can be used to display scores of other games.

Winters said the exterior of the stadium was designed with a pair of wing-like coverings over the upper stands. Those wings will both form some protection from the elements for some fans and serve to focus stadium noise back toward the field, enhancing the game experience for ticket holders.

The seating will have breaks at the stadium's four corners. The slits would allow fans to look out toward the city, and passersby would be able to glimpse the crowd inside. But outsiders will not see the action on the field. Also planned is a head house, which will accommodate a team store, sports bar and restaurant.

A plaza just inside the entrance also will give a clear view of the field for those inside. Winters said a 15-by-20-foot video screen would face out on the plaza, so those in the plaza could watch an earlier game, highlights, or whatever is on the scoreboards. The video screen will be capable of handling high-definition TV, which will become the standard.

The sound and video systems will be experienced by every fan, not just those in the higher-priced seats, Winters said.

But those watching the game from premium suites will have access to additional high-tech perks. Banner said the Eagles plan to equip the suites with televisions so new, they are still in development. And, he said, the suites probably will include Internet access.

By the time the stadium opens, Banner said, advances in wireless technology will support game-related applications that will delight fans. "There are some amazing things you could do in a football game with that technology," he said.

Banner said ticket prices were not expected to rise too much between now and 2003, though he did predict increases to reflect inflation and some new stadium costs.

"People who can afford to come to our games now should be able to afford to come to the games then," he said.

Martha Woodall's e-mail address is martha.woodall@phillynews.com

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