Wednesday, May 9, 2018 | 2 a.m.
NFL stadium developers are opting for less seating capacity in their designs. The reasoning is simple: For some, the convenience of watching at home is better than experiencing the game live.
The Raiders' future home in Las Vegas will follow the trend with their $1.8 billion, 65,000-seat (70,000) stadium.
“In stadium development, we’re seeing stadiums going smaller,” Raiders President Marc Badain said last week at a Henderson Chamber of Commerce event. “As the at-home experience has improved so much, getting people to come sit in what are now fourth and fifth decks has proved challenging.”
Five of the most recent seven stadiums that were built seat 71,000 or less: Atlanta’s 71,000-seat (expandable to 83,000 for large events like the Super Bowl) Mercedes-Benz Stadium; Minnesota’s 66,655-seat (73,000) US Bank Stadium; San Francisco’s 65,500 (75,000) Levi’s Stadium; Indianapolis’ 67,000-seat (70,000) Lucas Oil Stadium and Arizona’s 63,400-seat (72,200) University of Phoenix Stadium. Only two stadiums built since 2006 surpass 71,000 seats capacity, Dallas’ AT&T Stadium (80,000) and New York’s MetLife Stadium (82,500).
The Raiders already headed in that direction at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, covering about 11,000 seats to reduce the seating capacity from 64,200, to 53,286. Badain said the change increased demand for tickets.
The team kept that in mind as it planned the Las Vegas stadium project. The Las Vegas stadium will tie for the fourth smallest NFL stadium once built in 2020.
“When we looked to do a stadium here, to be honest with the demand, we probably could have gone bigger,” he said. “But, we like it to be intimate, we like it to feel like every seat is over the action and this stadium is designed that way.”
Instead of going for the biggest stadium size possible, Badain said the Raiders wanted the building design to stand out.
“We felt it was more important to have an iconic building, one that fit the market, so we settled at 65,000 seats,” he said. “I think we hit the right number.”
Badain expects the trend of smaller capacity stadiums to continue going forward, as teams look to balance out the intimacy factor and the live experience. The Los Angeles Rams/Chargers 70,240-seat (100,240) stadium will also open for the 2020 season.
“There’s a team who is looking to build a stadium in the next 10 years, and they’re talking about going to 50,000 seats,” he said. “The next evolution will be a smaller building and try to match or exceed that at-home experience, in terms of technology and what the fan experience is like.”