Eagles confirm report that they're eyeing $60M in renovations to Linc

Posted: June 20, 2012

THE EAGLES have been tenants at Lincoln Financial Field for almost 10 years. The building has mostly been good to them, save for a little hole in the trophy case that the football side of the operation is working on.

Since ground was broken in 2001, the Linc has been the baby of new team president Don Smolenski, who has been on the business side since joining the Birds in 1998.

Smolenski on Monday confirmed a report that the Eagles are looking at enhancements to the Linc.

"We retained an architect and we're working with the architect to explore ideas," Smolenski told the Daily News. "We haven't figured out ‘the what' or ‘the when.' That's down the path in the process. We're just exploring, soliciting feedback and evaluating ideas."

SportsBusiness Journal obtained a proposal listing some of the enhancements the Eagles are consdering, including field-level boxes, additional seats, improved video boards, renovations to clubs on the east and west sides, and upgrades to the entrances. The plans also mentioned a sports bar/restaurant at HeadHouse Plaza.

SBJ's report cited industry insiders who put the cost of possible renovations at $60 million to $100 million. Smolenski declined to elaborate, but did say the Eagles would be on the hook for any refurbishments.

"The obligations for improvements at the stadium are our responsibility," he said. "But there's a process in which [the city is] involved, in terms of evaluating what we're doing and reviewing it."

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said the administration has had some preliminary conversations with the Eagles about the possible renovation. Under the terms of the lease, the city gets to sign off on any plans, but McDonald said the city does not plan to invest any money into the project.

"They are proposing something; we're very interested to look into what they're proposing," McDonald said.

Before joining the Eagles, Smolenski was the chief financial officer for the International Hockey League. His father worked for Xerox and the family moved constantly. He travels with the Eagles and probably has seen more stadiums at more levels of sports than he can recall. Obviously, the NFL is the gold standard of American facilities.

"Whether it's some of the unique seating sections in Seattle, the four video boards in MetLife Stadium [East Rutherford, N.J.] or some of the seating amenities at Cowboys Stadium, there are different pieces that you look at and you try to evaluate," said Smolenski, 45.

The sports complex has undergone a dramatic makeover since Jeffrey Lurie bought the Eagles in 1994. Veterans Stadium and the Spectrum have been replaced by the Linc and Citizens Bank Park, The foul smell from the trash depot on Packer Avenue has been replaced by McFadden's and XFinity! Live.

Some Vet Stadium diehards regard the Linc as being a little too sterile, but generally the facility gets high marks for cleanliness and good sight lines.

"You can't stay frozen in time," Smolenski said. "Disneyland is opening a new ‘Cars' section this week [June 15]. It's about changing and staying fresh. That's the process we're evaluating at this time."

Field-level suites are the newest rage among stadium upgrades, and with good reason. The Cowboys' new palace has 48 such suites which sell for $200,000 to $240,000 annually, SBJ reported. On the low end, that's $9.6 million in extra revenue. That's a lot of cowboy hats.

The Linc has 172 suites with 3,040 seats and 10,828 club seats. Overall capacity is a little more than 69,000.

The Eagles' have won 60 percent of their games at the Linc, but have yet to have a Super Bowl parade roll through. If they ever do get their hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy, Smolenski wants to make sure it will have a worthy home.

"Jeffrey has made it a priority from a business perspective for us to keep the building maintained at the highest level and keep it as new as the day it opened," he said. "We hear that from our colleagues around the league and people that come through the building. They are impressed at how well it has been maintained." n

Daily News staff writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

Contact Ed Barkowitz at barkowe@phillynews.com.

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