Listening to the Lunch Break today, a question was brought up near the end about new stadiums. The question was, does a new stadium help a team, does it give them an advantage in some way moving into one of these big new stadiums that are becoming popular now?
Derek, Nick, and Josh missed the answer, in my opinion. Yes, as they pointed out, a new stadium can usually hold more fans, which adds to the long-held perceptions of home-field advantage. But to me, the real advantage comes courtesy of a new field, something unfamiliar, uncharted territory.
Look at Texas Stadium. The hole in the roof causes a change in how the players experience the weather during a game. The crown on the field, I believe it’s about a 2 foot crown. For those of you that have never been on the field at Texas Stadium, I’ll explain a little.
The center of the field, right down the middle of the hash marks, is the highest point on that field, from endzone to endzone. And as you walk from the center of the field toward either sideline, you’re walking down hill. A good example the stadium staff likes to use is to say if one person laid down flat on one sideline, and another laid down flat on the other sideline, neither person would be able to see the other because of the crown. It’s the highest crown in any professional football stadium.
Take that and consider how it changes a game. The passing game is different because of the extra height from the center of the field, where the pocket tends to be, and the sidelines on those deep fly routes. That extra height changes how the ball needs to be thrown, and a mistake in making that adjustment by the quarterback means the ball goes too far or falls short. Sure, maybe the receiver can make up for it, long or short, but making the player do the extra work to reach for the ball is an advantage for the home team.
The running game can be affected as well. Have you ever tried running up or down hill? The same feelings apply to a player running the ball on that field.
So when you look at a new stadium, that no one has played on before, like the new stadium in Arlington, there are advantages to be had by the Cowboys this next season. Every team that comes in, those who have history playing at Texas Stadium, will be trying to adjust to the new field. The Cowboys though, they’ll have adjusted during training camp and practices.
I’m not saying the impact of a new field is huge, but it’s always an impact, regardless.
Add to it the field conditioning, and you see another way it can have an impact. Just look at how we all talked about the grass at Heinz Field before the Pittsburgh game. I bet the Steelers weren’t worried about the grass; they’re the home team.