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Linc’s structure, playing surface a bigger problem than family-friendly atmosphere

Oct 24, 2013, 1:22 PM EDT

09The700LevelLinc

When a team’s home losing streak spans beyond both a Roman and Football calendar year, people tend to take notice. And when some of them believe the underlying reason is the owner’s insistence on turning what used to be the league’s toughest place to play (the Vet) to, basically, a country club, (the Linc), they start calling up talk radio and complaining. Loudly.

All told, when it comes to the Eagles slide – nine games, beginning with a 26-23 overtime loss on Oct. 14 last year to the eventual 4-12 Lions – you could argue the Linc is the problem.

But not for its cozy, family-friendly feel.

For its acoustics and playing surface.

First, there’s the Linc’s open-air structure. Ideally, it would’ve been built as a dome. (To that end, if elected commissioner of the world, my first act may be to put every relevant professional and college sporting event in a dome. I digress…) Problem is, building a stadium with a roof, even a retractable one, is significantly more expensive. Pennsylvania taxpayers put up $85 million to fund the Lincoln Financial Field construction project, eventually valued at $512 million. Imagine the price tag had there been a roof.

Why a dome? It shelters you from the elements and exposes your opposition to relentless noise, both of which should translate to team success. At least in theory – the net effect is a tough to quantify. Still, Eagles fans who think the lack of rowdiness at the Linc directly impacts the scoreboard would agree, bottling up sports’ most passionate fan base couldn’t hurt.

But having a roof isn’t the only way to a create stadium pulse.

Take this, from TIME Magazine, on CenturyLink Field, home of the Seahawks:

While the vocal cords of Seahawks fans surely deserve credit for piercing ears, so do the designers of CenturyLink Field. Even though it’s a mostly open-air stadium, the building traps noise. … Two huge canopies — one on the east side of the stadium, the other on the west side — cover 70% of the seats.

“The main thing that creates noise is any type of overhanging structure that reflects sounds back into the stadium,” says Andrew Barnard, a research associate at Penn State‘s Applied Research Laboratory, specializing in structural acoustics.

Seattle’s stadium has two additional overhangs, functioning as the bottom of the upper seating bowl, that cover the lower seating bowls. “Sound also reflects off the bottom of the upper deck, and back onto the field,” says Barnard.

Maybe the most important function of that structure:

“Fans get caught up in it,” says Stewart. “They experience an intense increase in the sound levels that they would not normally experience in an outdoor environment, and are energized by it.” As a result, they scream even louder.

Only thing sciencey about the Linc’s structure is wind turbines. Yay?

In fairness, even the Seahawks didn’t see the “12th Man” coming. The architect, Jon Niemuth, called the effect a “happy accident.” Tough to crush Jeffrey Lurie and Co. there.

The decision on the playing surface, however, is questionable. The Linc uses a reinforced natural grass surface, called DD GrassMaster, in which artificial fibers stabilize the grass blades and roots. Some great work by IgglesBlog in 2008 delves deeper, exposing the “real source” of the problem: the field’s absurd usage, given that it doubles as home of the Temple Owls and, as we learned over the summer, concerts.

But whether the grass would hold up better if not for ownership’s ambition to, you know, make money and stuff misses the point. It shouldn’t have been grass at all. It should’ve been field turf, the same surface used in three of the four stadiums built since the Linc. (The fourth is the retractable grass inside Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium, clearly not practical for Philadelphia.) And in three of the four built before it.

Especially for a cold-weather city in a sport that, at this point, plays warm-weather football.

Even if the NFL didn’t implement the rule changes that, some say, made the NFL “the arena league” until 2005, two years after the Linc opened and four years after the financing was approved, the Eagles had a progressive, pass-first coach in 1999. They didn’t have the same speed they do now, but, for a coach/front office that insisted they didn’t need elite wide receivers to be successful, you’d think they’d do whatever they could to… enhance the effectiveness of the scrubs they trotted out there.

They didn’t. So, we have this.

On complaints that the Linc is calm, safe, well-policed: if you think this, this, this, this, this, this and this — and this and this – are good, swell, worth team wins, something to strive for, you have issues. You also don’t seem to care too much about eradicating the stigma about Philly sports fans that’s persisted for, like, ever.

As for the instability at quarterback the past few years: Even the Cardinals, fixed with the league’s most active turnstile under center (Palmer, Kolb, Skelton, Lindley, Hoyer, Bartel), have managed to go 12-7 and 5-1 in OT at home since 2011 with teams that won a flimsy. 8, 5 and, now, 3 games. At minimum, you should run into 2/3 home wins per season… on accident. That’s how awfully, marvelously bad this has been for Philly.

What’s sad is, if the Eagles still played the same brand of football they did in the early part of the decade, both points would be moot. Their defense would thrive on what may be unofficially the sloppiest field in football. (Of note, the Eagles were 30-18 in the regular season 5-2 in the playoffs under the late Jim Johnson thru 2008.) And fans would ballyhoo loud as ever, helping fuel a team that was already likely to win.

(Enrico’s note: not all of us here at the Level believe the Birds should play in a dome or on turf. This is the opinion of the writer of this article, Matt.)

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MKH973 Catch him every Saturday from 12-2 on 97.3 ESPN-FM. 

 

 

  1. dawkisgod - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    For a blog with almost always the highest quality thought quality this has to be the stupidest story I have seen here. Dump Matt.

    Reply
    • Me - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:58 PM

      At least it’s not theevster…

      Reply
      • theevster - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:08 PM

        rude

    • 33 - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      I like to read things I disagree with, whether to strengthen or challenge my own opinions. Dude did some nice work, whether you/I agree with it or not.

      Reply
  2. DOOPerman - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    I would have preferred they built The Linc with a roof. The toughest place to play in the NFL isn’t Seattle in my opinion, it would have to be New Orleans Mercedes Dome or whatever it’s called now. The only downside of playing in a Dome is that when it comes to playoffs or games late in the year and you have to play outside you’re not use to the climate. The Linc has no home field advantage feel to it what so ever. Maybe its because of the defense not being good for the past 5-10 years, or maybe its because the offense is so inconsistent but either way, its awful. I don’t think there is any way to change the stadium to get that home field advantage back other then playing better at this point. I just hope when I go to my one game a year they at least make it competitive. Last year I was at the Dawkins retirement game, which we all know, happens to be their last home win lol…Maybe, just MAYBE we can get past the G-Men this weekend…maybe…

    Reply
    • Matt Schein - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      So you’re the reason were losing..please go to the game Sunday!!

      Reply
  3. Marvin Monroe - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    Everybody knows the problem with the Linc: Phillies outfielders wearing the opposing teams jerseys to the game.

    Reply
  4. dr. love - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    This is an interesting article, but really, all of this stuff doesn’t matter. It is all gingerbread. The fact is that this team has both been unlucky, or have made poor personnel decisions, or both, since we’ve only made it two Supes and last won in 1960.

    Whether the fans like it or not, whether the visiting teams are annoyed by the fans or not, and whether the amenities are nice or not, the game is won on the field. Dome teams lose big games and home field advantage is overrated. Hell, I was there when the Birds lost to the Bucs in what should have been the biggest home field advantage in Philadelphia sports history in that NFC Championship. The Eagles lost to the Rams in ’89 in a sleety Vet, when we were the cold weather team and they were the pansies from LA.

    The fact is that the stadium doesn’t matter.

    Reply
  5. willh888 - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    I thought the Linc was awesome the first time I went to a game. I finally realized it was a terrible place for football around the end of the 1st quarter. Coming from the Vet where opposing teams were trapped by all that noise and anger.. you slip right on into the Linc which is best compared to Arthur Ashe Stadium.

    As for the playing surface, look at what almost every other North Eastern franchise has done besides crappy Washington.. turf. Natural grass is fun I guess.. if the games were played from June-August. Even now in October the grass looks like a beat up horse track. I also wanted to add my often repeated gripe with arizona’s home field.. fake. crowd. noise. It was louder on 3rd and 3 than it was after a Cards TD. Couldn’t even talk to the person next to you on third down.. and the stadium was a quarter Eagles fans.

    Reply
  6. Bob - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    Its 2 parts here:
    1. The Eagles need to give the crowd a reason to bring the noise and for the better part of 9 games its not happening. Performance drives the atmosphere, don’t care what stadium we are talking about. If Seattle sucked, it would not be as loud. Look at KC just last year.

    2. The fans. I believe the diehards are mostly priced out. The noise is there, in spurts but its not the Vet. I had standing room in the end zone Sunday and got glared at for yelling on 3rd down and telling people to get their asses out of their seats. I’m embarassed at the lack of noise. Yes design doesn’t hold noise but its not 100 percent the problem

    Reply
    • Matt Hammond - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:35 PM

      “The Eagles need to give the crowd a reason to bring the noise and for the better part of 9 games its not happening.” valid. but. wouldn’t you agree it would be more fun to yell — to cheer OR boo — if the stadium’s acoustics made every sound you made a roar, as if there was a megaphone affixed to your chin? domes, in essence, make it easier on the fan because their effort goes a longer way. they help do fans’ work for them.

      Reply
      • Bob - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:58 PM

        Oh I agree to a point with that and noted it in my last sentence of my 2nd point. Think its a combo of all the above

    • Jay D - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:51 PM

      I hate when people yell at people and tell them to get up and get loud…..
      yea we get it ..get loud…now turn around and watch the game.

      Reply
      • Bob - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:14 PM

        I’m already facing the field as I say it without my nose in my I phone. And my yelling was for the D not at people (that part reads wrong). If you wanna be slient all day, its your right. But I’m not paying to be in a library. Our D deserved better support from 70000 then they got Sunday

  7. yishmeister - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    This article makes no sense. I guess the other teams are immune to the problems created by the actual field for the last 9 games.

    Let’s not forget the fact that the defense has been shit, and there has been no consistency on offense.

    What are you smoking Hammond?

    Reply
  8. 33 - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    that’s an interesting tidbit about the happy accident in Seattle. I saw the Eagles play there once, when the Seahawks were terrible. I was down near field level… Loudest crowd I’ve ever heard at a sporting event. (and, having been there and seeing how far the oyster shells hang over the field, it’s amazing to me the architect didn’t consider the impact on sound. I assumed it was intentional and thought it was brilliant.

    Personally, I still prefer the outdoor stadium. I speak from ignorance in that I’ve never been to an indoor game, but it just doesn’t seem right… I love being outside for a football game.

    Reply
    • Matt Hammond - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      meet me halfway — retractable roof? (though i HATE shadows.) there is a novelty to being outside, especially in the fall, crisp air, nothing like it. but i think you’d warm up to a dome more than you realize. think of it this way — imagine the flyers (or, um, good, entertaining hockey) stadium experience for a… football team. cray, no?

      Reply
  9. Mark432 - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    All the NFL stadiums suck. The NFL has completely forgotten about the man who built their league. The guys featured in the beer commercials endless played on our TVs every Sunday. It’s all about the club levels now.

    Reply
  10. Chris F - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    Another reason for the crowd not bringing their ‘A’ game is the fact that during every break, the Eagles play music, or have advertising being blown into your ears. At the Vet, there were breaks of silence that allowed the crowds to get more rowdy and fired up competing over who would have a louder Eagles chant. I go to every game, I sit in those seats. Yes, the Eagles have priced out some of the fans, but almost every bit of us in the upper levels are on our feet yelling and screaming like idiots without fear of being looked at funny, but the fact that the Eagles/Linc is so quick to squash the noise levels and enthusiasm is boggling to me. I prefer outdoor stadiums and there are ways to trap the noise while outdoors. If the quality of play were better, the crowd would be louder. The fans would be more inspired to be rowdier and louder than we already are. Some of the blame has to go to the organization themselves for making money where they can and turning the game day experience into a business.

    Reply
  11. 2sentz - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    I think Arrowhead is as loud/louder than Seattle, and that’s having been to 1 Arrowhead and 4 Seattle Eagles games.

    3 stellar points made by other above that I’ll build on here:

    1. Type of fan: Senior office managers and accountants don’t cheer as often or loud as lunchpail guys, and never will.

    2. Layout of stadium: If your not literally in your seat, you can’t cheer. The crappy layout of the Linc eliminates every fan hitting the pisser, grabbing a beer, walking in the concourse or waiting to re-enter their section because the layout is so spectacularly spectator-unfriendly. Imagine if the 20% of fans not in their seats were also cheering, like in the Vet days.

    3. Earsplitting crap and ads constantly playing through speakers. Fans are squashed of all ability to build emotional momentum except during the rare few minutes of consistent game action, and even then it only happens on 3rd down on D.

    I like this article and think the turf and dome/canopy issues warrant mention, but strongly feel the above three points matter far more than playing surface.

    Reply
  12. sfitz0076 - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:12 PM

    The Linc is fine. The Vet was a dump. The Vet is gone. Get over it.

    Reply
    • Bob - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:17 PM

      This team has lost 9 freaking games in a row at home. That is not how I define fine

      Reply
      • Mike 2 - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:27 PM

        Exactly. They have lost 9 in a row at home. It’s the stadium’s fault. Because they are 9-0 on the road during that same span.

  13. YES - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    Matt, could we get an analysis of how the Linc’s structure and playing surface impacts the Eagles’ likelihood of drafting a franchise QB in the 2016 NFL Draft?

    Reply
  14. Mike 2 - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    The Linc is not family friendly. It is corporate friendly. There is nothing family friendly about the place. It’s too expensive to take kids. And the physical layout is horrible for taking a kid. The concourses, escalators, ramps and bathrooms are hard to navigate with a child. Don’t take a kid under the age of 10 there. The upper level only exists to be the roof of the luxury boxes and lower levels.

    Reply
  15. Jason R. - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    Other places have added artificial turf after opening with natural turf, right? I think there’s something to be said about dome/warm weather teams going to cold weather places to play that gives the outdoor/cold home team an advantage.

    *remembers Carolina and Bucs playoff loses*

    You know what, never mind.

    What actually does worry me is the crappy turf, the last thing they need is an RG3 playoff game type situation. Especially potentially 8 times per year.

    Reply
  16. somekat - Oct 26, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Playing a indoor/warm weather team in the winter at home is an advantage. Period. Just because the Eagles failed to take advantage of it on several occasions, does not mean it isn’t there. The numbers speak for themselves. Warm weather teams, travelling to cold weather cities late in the year have a Cleveland Brownish win percentage.

    If something happens 90% of the time, and you happen to be on the losing end for on of the 10%, it is idiotic to pretend like the 90/10 advantage doesn’t occur because you didn’t reap the benefits.

    That would be like Packers fans spending the rest of their lives saying “it’s not an advantage having the other team at 4th and 22, because this one time…………..”

    Reply

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