Upgrades could put Linc in Super Bowl picture

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES Rendering of one of the two new end-zone video boards Lincoln Financial Field will get this year.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES Rendering of one of the two new end-zone video boards Lincoln Financial Field will get this year.
Posted: January 31, 2014

IT'S AN ALLURING concept. It is the chance for a city to show its best side; a chance for a franchise to host its bully-boy peers.

The Eagles are approaching the finish of their $125 million facelift at 10-year-old Lincoln Financial Field. They announced yesterday a partnership with Panasonic that will bring a new meaning to watching a game at the Linc - and might help lure the biggest game of all.

They will spend $25 million on audio-visual upgrades that include high-definition video boards in each end zone. Both are 27 feet high, with one of them 192 feet wide, the other 160 feet. There will be other video gadgetry all over the stadium: two LED ribbon boards almost 2,500 feet in combined length; three large video displays at other points in the building; and even four screens outside the stadium to entertain fans before they enter.

To what end?

"To make it the best experience possible for our fans," said team president Don Smolenski.

And, maybe, so Jeffrey Lurie can impress his peers with Philadelphia's suitability to host the Super Bowl when the owners meet in March?

"Yes, Jeffrey has told me he's interested to see how things go in New York this weekend," Smolenski said. "Philadelphia is a world-class city, with world-class restaurants, hotels, attractions, and, of course, fans. There are dynamic places downtown to create an amazing experience for this game.

"And we would have a world-class building for the actual game."

When a city and a franchise combine to erect a new stadium, the pair usually hopes for a Super Bowl to be played in the stadium at some point. The argument against hosting the Super Bowl in a city with a cold-weather climate and an outdoor stadium long has rested on, well, that cold-weather climate.

When Smolenski spoke last night, the temperature outside his offices at the NovaCare Center was 15 degrees. The wind-chill index was 3 degrees.

The forecast called for rain and a high of 42 degrees on Sunday.

Those conditions Sunday should be slightly worse 95 miles north, at MetLife Stadium - an outdoor field where the Broncos will face the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. If the game is watchable - if the weather does not ruin the competition - there will be little argument against a city such as Philadelphia playing host.

The NFL's normal process would forestall any possibility until Super Bowl LIII in February 2019. The stadiums in Phoenix and Houston will host their second Super Bowls in 2015 and 2017, respectively. The 2016 game will be played in the 49ers' new home in Santa Clara, Calif. The 2018 site will be chosen from among Minneapolis, Indianapolis and New Orleans.

Besides, any hope of hosting in 2018 would mean an accelerated process in Philadelphia of packaging a plan for presentation, which would involve the cooperation of the team, regional and city officials.

No such process is ever accelerated in Philadelphia.

It likely would take the team and the politicians a year or so to get their pitch together.

The Birds would have to first sell the concept to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league officials. If approved, the Eagles would hope to create buzz at the 2015 owners meetings, which usually are held in March, then win a vote at the owners' spring meetings, usually held in May.

So, the 2019 Super Bowl . . . and that, only if things go well this weekend.

The league will not be eager to endure another round of the criticisms that already have accompanied holding an outdoor event during a Northeast winter. Those criticisms will escalate if Sunday's game becomes an ugly mess.

But certainly, New York, like Philadelphia, has broad enough shoulders to bear the security burden and to entertain the notables who make these sorts of events landmark. It is the world's center of commerce, a melting pot of diversified cuisine, a cauldron of international virtue and vice.

Philadelphia is no slouch in any of those departments. The stadium upgrades cannot hurt.

The Eagles will add 1,600 seats and erect two bridges to connect the upper concourses - improvements, Smolenski said, that produced "a standing ovation" when he announced them during a focus-group session.

He expects a similar reaction when the first fans experience the pixel orgy this summer at Eagles preseason games and One Direction concerts Aug. 13 and 14.

That's right: Harry Styles' hairdo in HD.

It should be done in July, Smolenski said, the work completed by Panasonic's Eco Solutions North America division; fitting, considering the Eagles' green profile.

Smolenski and Lurie were impressed by the new technology in the Patriots' stadium, in Green Bay and in Denver; wowed by DodgerVision in Los Angeles. They asked several companies to bring 9-by-16-foot screens to the Linc and compared the products side by side.

Panasonic won the job and cemented a relationship that includes naming rights for a 3,900-seat portion of the stadium . . . from which, one would expect, patrons will have a good view of the upgraded video screens.

"Man, they are going to pop," Smolenski promised.

They might not impress the NFL enough to risk another Super Bowl in the north.

But they can't hurt.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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