Technological Chameleon – The New Meadowlands Stadium

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Finally, after four pre-season football games, a collegiate lacrosse tournament, several  Bon Jovi concerts, and an international futbol game (US vs. Brazil), the New Meadowlands Stadium opened “for real” on Sunday, September 12, 2010, with the NY Giants playing the Carolina Panthers.  The stadium then held its second “real” game in record time, with the NY Jets playing the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football the very next day.  It’s good to get the regular NFL season going, because the stadium is, after all, a football stadium first and foremost.  The Giants had a happy opening, winning 31-18, while the Jets were less joyous after being beaten 10-9 by the Ravens.

The Jets and Giants are co-owners of the huge stadium through their joint venture, the New Meadowlands Stadium Company LLC.  At 2.1 million gross square feet, it’s more than twice the square footage of the old Giants Stadium.  The approximately $1.6 billion or $1.7 billion venue (depending on whom you talk to or what publication you read) is the newest M&H Sports (Merritt & Harris, Inc.’s sports facility group) project to open.  (As the construction consultants, we know the actual cost, but you’ll have to keep guessing as we are sworn to secrecy.)  The stadium is the 30th major sports facility the group has worked on.  M&H Sports provided document and budget reviews and is monitoring the construction for the stadium’s lenders.  Whatever the real price, there is no question that it is the most expensive stadium built to date in the United States and probably in the world.  (Wembley Stadium in London at $1.5 billion had held the record.)  The price tag reflects New York area construction costs and the pre-recession bidding.   It’s not as visually striking as the Cowboy’s year-old pigskin palace (M&H Sports’ 29th project), but there is a reason for the building’s seeming austerity.  The design had to present a tabula rasa, upon which the colors, logos, and visual essence of two very different, but equal, owner teams could be applied, and alternated in a very condensed time span.  The answer was to transform much of the neutral form by using LED technology, morphing the basic gray background into shades of Giant blue or Jet green as the game required.

Technology (a reported $100 million of the cost) is where the 82,500 seat facility shines.  Teaming with Cisco Systems and Verizon, the world’s most technologically advanced sports venue was created.  Cisco’s StadiumVision system powers the digital displays that range in size from the four huge 30’ x 114’ Daktronic HD-X Series visual displays (scoreboards) to the more than 2,200 HD monitors spread throughout the building.  A 3’6″ high x 1,818’ long continuous ribbon display board surrounds the stadium interior, while 20 HD video pylons, ranging in height from 20’ x 40’ to 20’ x 60’, are sprinkled around the building exterior.  Suite patrons can order their food on touch screen monitors.  In fact, the building has more HD square footage than any other building in the US.  And all of the billions of diodes emit backgrounds of blue or green, according to which “home team” is playing.  Jet fans no longer have to suffer the indignity of sitting in blue and red seats.  The seats are shades of neutral gray, and there  will be no tell-tale signs that fans are in anything but their own stadium.  For concerts and other entertainment events, the stadium’s decorative and informational schemes can be manipulated to be appropriate to the show.  Verizon has teamed with Cisco to provide 34 HD channels into the stadium, allowing patrons to view multiple games and other video content.  Verizon has also provided a wireless network throughout the stadium to service mobile applications that will bring fans team news, player information, scores and highlights and direct them to the concession stands with the shortest lines.

Mark Lamping, President & CEO of the New Meadowlands Stadium Company LLC, points out, “Through the use of technology, we have set the bar for sporting venues in the future…(and) we bring to our fans one of the most tailored and unforgettable experiences in sports today.”

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