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The Philadelphia Daily News
Among people who work in the business side of the NFL, "enhancing the fan experience" has become a major buzz phrase the past few years.
As overwhelmingly popular as the league is, there are long-term worries about the way TV, tablet and smartphone technology have given people who stay home and don't pay thousands of dollars for season tickets a clearer, more nuanced view of the game than is available to fans shivering their money away in the upper deck.
So it's probably no accident that when Eagles vice president of facility operations Jason Miller was asked yesterday what he thinks fans will notice first about the $90 million offseason facelift Lincoln Financial Field is undergoing, his answer was the new, enlarged LED end-zone video screens.
"As soon as you light those up, that 10-millimeter [pixel] board, northside and southside," they'll capture everyone's attention, Miller said during a media tour of the renovation.
The end-zone screens will be much taller than the originals - in fact, seats there are being removed, but overall capacity will grow by about 1,600 because two corners that had been open under the original configuration are being filled in with seating, connecting the concourses everywhere but on the northwest, Headhouse end - which will feature an LED video tower, Miller said.
"We're also adding LED ribbon boards all the way around the interior bowl, on the lower facade and in each corner, from the end zone to the 20-yard line," Miller said as about 200 construction workers bustled in the background. The ribbon boards in the southwest and northeast corners will feature closed captioning, he said.
This is the second phase of a renovation that began last year. It includes wi-fi installation, concession enhancements, murals celebrating the team's history and refurbishings of the suites and clubs, to make them "fan friendly and more comfortable," Miller said. That last bit might seem odd, given that the stadium opened less than 11 years ago, but again, the Eagles and the NFL know your couch and the corner bar are competing with them for you on a much higher level than they were 11 years back. The Linc will have 1,189 new HD TVs scattered around it when the project is complete. Target date is the end of July, with Italian soccer teams A.S. Roma and Inter Milan scheduled to face off at the stadium Aug. 2.
"It's just like your house," Miller said. "It gets to be 11, 12 years old, sometimes it's time to throw a fresh coat of paint on it.
"The point is for the fan enhancement, to really get them into the stadium, get their food quicker, get their drinks quicker, get them into their seats so they can actually watch the game, because that's the experience that they're here for."
Miller acknowledged the snowy winter set the project back a bit - he said the trickiest challenge is fitting everything into the offseason timeframe, with work starting the day after the Birds' Jan. 4 home playoff loss to New Orleans.
"We built that [possibility] in," Miller said.
Is he confident everything will be complete by the Aug. 2 soccer game?
"We don't have a choice," Miller said, smiling very thinly.
Coincidentally or not, the Eagles play their first two preseason games on the road, Aug. 8 at the Bears and Aug. 15 at New England. The first home preseason game is Aug. 21 against the Steelers. Presumably the Birds will want to schedule a few public training camp sessions at the Linc, as they did last season, after moving camp from Bethlehem, but those dates have not been announced.