I was impressed with the Eagles' presentation to reporters Friday of their plans for a $125 milllion facelift for Lincoln Financial Field; I think some of the planned changes will give the Linc more character, will define it more as the home of the Eagles and a "Philly" kind of place.
A little of that feel was missing, frankly, from the Linc when it was unveiled a decade ago. I remember writing a story for a special pullout section we did on the opening of the new stadium, a story that entailed more than one lengthy conversation with then-Eagles president Joe Banner. The stadium was Banner's baby, and he put a lot of thought into every detail of its design. Banner was confident Eagles fans would appreciate all the little touches he found important. But as was so often the case during Banner's tenure, the fans and Joe didn't quite connect as strongly as he'd hoped. When the Birds held a summertime open house to celebrate their new palace, public attention focused not on the sleek, ultramodern angles and the sightlines Joe was so proud of, but on the fact that there wasn't a water fountain anywhere in the place. Water fountains weren't something Banner researched on his tour of the great stadiums of Europe.
From the story I wrote then:
"The stadium goes so far beyond the Eagles," Banner says. "You leave something that will be a part of the fabric and the image of the city way beyond me or Jeff Lurie or Andy Reid or Donovan McNabb. A structure of that size and visibility, to the world it kind of makes a statement about where you're from or what you're about. Those kind of details or subtleties matter . . . I don't know that many people get to work on something that the effect of, the use of and the visibility goes way beyond their own lives. This building will be a part of the fabric and memories of this city, probably longer than I'll be alive. "
t's an unfair comparison, because the warm weather and the languid pace of the game are factors that help make baseball parks much more an integral part of the game experience than football stadiums generally are to an NFL Sunday afternoon. But red brick Citizens Bank Park, with its Ashburn Alley and Bull's Barbecue, has always been much more "Philly" than the cool, glass-concrete-and-metal Linc. Adding banners and murals to that bland facade definitely will help.
Although chairman Jeffrey Lurie and current team president Don Smolenski noted Friday that the process of making these changes actually started back in 2010, I still wonder how much of the changes to the look of the place would have happened had Banner still been in charge. Again, the Linc looked the way it did for a reason. Some of these ideas had to have been brought up during the initial construction process, and discarded, by someone, for some reason.
Some of the changes probably would have happened regardless, such as the adding of 1,600 seats and the streamlining of the entry process. I think the Eagles always thought they might end up adding seats, that it was better to start out as intimate as possible, with room to expand. And as Smolinski explained about the entryways, the Linc design actually dates from 1999, before 9/11 and thus before the Eagles contemplated having to pat down patrons.
Overall, though, I think the reimagined Linc shows much more of a connection to the franchise's history and to the sensibilities of its fan base. And I don't think that's a coincidence.
Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: Paul Domowitch on the saga of Cyndi Lauper and NFL Films.