Thad Sheely strolled around the new $1.6 billion stadium shared by the New York Jets and Giants and said he felt like he was finally home.
After spending 26 years in a stadium named after the Giants, the Jets got to host their rivals last night in their preseason opener.
The first National Football League game at the new Meadowlands stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, marked the culmination of a decade’s worth of effort that’s created the NFL’s most expensive venue. Sheely, the Jets’ executive vice president of stadium development, said the opening game was also a seminal moment in the franchise’s history.
“It’s a dream come true,” Sheely said before kickoff as he walked a concourse tinted green by recessed, Jets-themed accent lighting. “We haven’t ever gotten to do it from scratch before. And now we can say, ‘This is ours.’”
Jets fan Jay Ruehl agreed. The native of Brooklyn, New York, is a season-ticket holder who said he never attends preseason games. Last night, he was among the more than 67,000 fans to show up at the 82,500-seat venue.
“I had to come see this one,” Ruehl said while buying ice cream during the third quarter of the Giants’ 31-16 win. “It’s been an amazing experience. It just feels like home. There’s green everywhere.”
Changing the Stadium
The ability to quickly change between Jets and Giants décor is built into the stadium.
The great hall -- the primary entryway -- features a Jets logo visible from the rear of the parking lot that can spin to read “Giants.” In the team store, Sheely turned around a rack of Jets jerseys to show the Giants’ wares on the opposite side.
Sheely then grinned as nearby Jets fans booed.
“The stadium can transform,” he said. “I’ll switch this back.”
Giants owner John Mara said he preferred the alternate color scheme as he walked through the press box.
“It’ll look good in blue,” he said of the stadium.
Amenities begin outside the stadium, with zones set aside for music and tailgating, along with a spot near the new train station for what Sheely called “railgating.” The plan was to make getting to the game less of a chore, he said.
Inside the stadium, the 20,000 square-foot Coaches Club was designed by Nobu architect David Rockwell, with an on-field patio five yards behind the home team’s bench. A glass-walled room within the club allows fans to watch post-game press conferences. Across the field, the Commissioner’s Club suite features fireplaces and wood paneling.
“It’s hedge-fund alley in there,” Sheely said. “When you walk in you think, “This could only happen in New York.’”
Menu selections include regional favorites such as meatball subs and Italian pork sandwiches. There’s even a martini bar.
The stadium’s four video boards, each three stories tall and a half-block long, can deliver two programs simultaneously while providing statistics and other information from games around the league. One corner of the ribbon board offered close-captioning of the public address system.
“We can provide all those things that, if you were sitting at home, you might be Googling,” said Matt Higgins, the Jets’ executive vice president of business operations.
Super Bowl in 2014
The stadium has been chosen as the host for the 2014 Super Bowl -- the U.S.’s most-watched sporting event. It’ll be the first time the game will be held outdoors in a cold-weather city.
The teams borrowed $650 million each and sold seat licenses -- one-time fees granting fans the transferable right to buy season tickets -- to finance construction of the stadium. Ruehl, who was wearing the jersey of Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez, said the cost of his license was worth it.
“The big screens are awesome and there are just great sightlines everywhere,” Ruehl said.
There were kinks during last night’s opener.
A fire alarm sounded in the first quarter with the Jets in scoring position. Lights flashed and a programmed voice advised fans to evacuate, though the problem was corrected.
Jets fan Nick Gacos said he was too occupied taking in all the new stadium had to offer to notice problems, except for the Jets’ backups blowing a 16-10 lead after halftime.
“It’s an amazing place,” Gacos, of Passaic, New Jersey, said as he headed for the exit with his son during the fourth quarter. “It’ll be even more amazing when they’re winning during the regular season.”