GREEN BAY, Wis. – They did the impossible with Lambeau Field. They somehow managed to keep the nostalgia and history of the venue intact while bringing it up to date. You know it's still the same place where Bart Starr had the "Ice Bowl" quarterback sneak, but it isn't stuck in 1967.
In other words, they didn't screw it up. It's still the best venue in the NFL.
A lot has changed since 2003, the last time I attended a game here. The outside looks a lot better than the old barn, the video boards are a heck of a lot better than 10 years ago, and the stadium is just simply bigger and better.
But there's still the same feel, an incredible NFL palace plopped down in the middle of an otherwise normal and nondescript Green Bay neighborhood (Lambeau's neighbors include a gas station with a Subway attached right across the street, and a Copps food store a block or so past that). There's still the fans tailgating in the parking lot, the party across the street at Kroll's West restaurant and person after person taking photos of themselves at the home of the Packers.
If you cover the NFL long enough you get a chance to take in a game at every stadium (and maybe even some preseason games at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison and Fawcett Stadium in Canton, and some regular-season games at oddball places like Anaheim Stadium and Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.), and Lambeau is the only one that has to be on every NFL fan's must-do list. But there are other great venues, so here's my top five (I'll let you know how MetLife Stadium in New Jersey is in February, but I've crossed the other 31 active stadiums off the list):
2. AT&T Stadium (Cowboys)
This might be the only other one that should be on every NFL fan's bucket list. It has none of the history of Lambeau Field, but Jerry Jones sure got his billion worth. Nothing can prepare you for seeing the video board above the field in person.
3. Arrowhead Stadium (Chiefs)
The parking lot before the game alone is worth the trip. It's the only place that can compete with Green Bay for tailgating. And the "Home of the CHIEEEEEEEEEFS!" and the end of the national anthem needs to be experienced at least once.
4. CenturyLink Field (Seahawks)
It's loud, it has a great design and it's in a fantastic city. Well worth the trip.
5. Raymond James Stadium (Buccaneers)
Most NFL stadiums are fairly similar. They're all quite nice (except perhaps the three in California, and the Metrodome in Minneapolis), but there's not much that separates them. So having a pirate ship above one of the end zones gives this one extra credit, on top of being a really nice place to catch a game.
Any disagreement with the top five?
- - - - - - -