Not quite finished

The almost-ready New Meadowlands Complex provides a comfortable, if soulless experience.

Entering into a bathroom in an NFL stadium, you’d be a fool to except paper towels.  Finding the dispenser empty, fans generally think nothing of sopping wet hands on the walk back to the game.  However, when it’s opening day for New Meadowlands Stadium, wanting the basics is not so far-fetched.

The $1.6 billion stadium debuted during the Big City Classic, but where a positive is found, a negative is often only a few steps away.  The New Meadowlands Stadium creates a confusing environment for the average fan.  It offers a few new perks and avoids disaster, but fails to deliver the grandeur of other modern age venues.  

Photo: Noah K. Murray | The Star Ledger
Fans arrive for the Big City Classic lacrosse matches which opened the New Meadowlands Stadium. The old Giants Stadium is at right.

The first element noticeable about the new stadium is gray, gray and more gray. The warehouse-feel of the stadium is unwelcoming.  With high ceilings, a swath of gray and rolling doors, the arena lacks color.  Viewing from the outside, the paneling looks similar to extremely large Venetian blinds.

The seats become a visual disaster on every level because there is no conformity or discernable reasoning for the color organization.  Perhaps the designer went to Lowe’s and picked up the paint sample for gray.  There are seats of five different colors, all varying shades of gray stuck next to each other at random.  It’s a hodgepodge of 82,500 bland seats that do not quite fit together.

The wider concourse creates less crowded corridors than the old stadium, but the open-air atmosphere creates a large amount of wind and offers little shelter from the elements. At twice as large as Giants Stadium, the space is a welcomed change.

Although there is a variety of food available, the concession prices make it nearly impossible to feed a family on one wallet.  A cup of soda runs $5, water is slightly cheaper at $4.25, while a cheesesteak (good New York staple, no?) costs $8.50.  On opening day, technical glitches at the cash registers held up fans at halftime and backed lines up.  While waiting, the menus appear on flat screen televisions at certain stands, but the old black and white signs still exist at others. 

There are positive aspects inside the confines of the new arena, and monumental strides show.  The four new video boards provide crystal clear replays and game time video, a marked improvement from the past.  Located on the second level near the end zones, the placement of the boards allows fans a place to see the missed action no matter where they are seated.

The stadium lacks the traditional garbage due to the significant increase of receptacles.  Additionally, the recycling effort appears in every corner of the stadium and across all concourses.  The seating provides a comfortable view with sufficient legroom and even cup holders, but the material of the seats is on par with the gray plastic that my mailbox is made of.  Something else new on the scene is family bathrooms, which create a more child-friendly environment.

The steps for the aisles find a perfect medium for getting down to your seat.  Giants Stadium’s steps felt like climbing Everest, but it’s far from difficult here at New Meadowlands.  The parking lot provides enough space to tailgate and hang with friends before game time.

Exposed insulation, unfinished sections and high prices make you feel as if you’re standing in the old decrepit Giants Stadium, except here they charge $2.00 for a small cup to put ketchup in.  After all these eyesores, it’s about time for a drink. But at $8.50 for a Bud Light, and $9.50 for premium beer, only those with deep pockets can afford to shell out.  

Although “new” precedes Meadowlands in the stadium’s name, the digs are hardly up to New York City standards.  Perhaps once everything is completely finished with the kinks all sorted out, the stadium will become a destination for football.  Until then, video boards and leg room fail to make up for the stadium's other numerous shortcomings. 

With new seats, recycling program and beverages the New Meadowlands Stadium offers a different experience from the past. Copyright 2010 Heather Crowley |

With new seats, recycling program and beverages the New Meadowlands Stadium offers a different experience from the past.  (PHOTO: Heather Crowley)

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