Goodbye to Over 30 Years in the Making

<p>The Philadelphia Eagles have been one of the most successful teams in the NFL in the last two seasons. After posting a pair of 11-5 seasons and recording 3 playoff victories, expectations are understandably high. But there are some people in the NFL, fans of the league and the team who say that this season cannot end fast enough, and the teams success or failure has nothing to do with their feelings.<p>

Since 1971 the Philadelphia Eagles have called Veterans Stadium home. I think this term is a bit of a stretch since you are supposed to feel safe in your home and the environment inside the "Vet" is anything but safe. "The Nest of Death" is what many of the regulars who attend the Eagles games call the stadium and that is what it has felt like to a few visitors when they left the Veteran Stadium playing surface. Serious injuries with some that have proven to be career ending, have happened on this surface and with alarming regularity. The NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) has a number of polls they pose to the players every year and every year when the players are asked which stadium has the worst playing surface Veterans Stadium comes up #1.

The biggest factor Veterans Stadium has played in Eagle operations is a stat that won't show up in the boxscore when you turn to the sports section. Those inside football and the organization itself do not want to make a guess on the number of free agents who have passed by the Eagles because the playing conditions were so poor. Since the early 90's free agency has played a huge role in building a football team and it is something the Eagles have missed out on. Year in and year out the team seems to have room under the salary cap and of course the fans want to go out on the market and bring in a marquee player. With the carpet in Veterans Stadium traditionally showing huge gaps in seams and having visible areas where the surface is either raised or lowered is downright scary. I must admit I always thought the conditions of the field were over exaggerated until I walked on the field myself for the first time in 1999. It was then I realized we didn't hear enough about the dangers the surface presents.

Last year the Eagles started construction on a new stadium, a venue that is set to open in August of 2003. Just last week the Eagles announced a major partnership with The Lincoln Financial Group, the marketing name for Lincoln Financial Corporation. The Lincoln Financial Group relocated to Philadelphia three years ago and is one of the industry leaders in the financial field. The Lincoln Financial Group struck a deal with the Eagles to have the naming rights to the new stadium at the tune of $139 million for the next 20 years. The stadium is well ahead of construction and now the fans of Philadelphia have a name to put with the new sports venue…Lincoln Financial Field.

Last season the Eagles opened the NovaCare Complex which serves as the Eagles training facility. The Nova Care Complex is the largest facility of its kind in the NFL, combining that facility the with Lincoln Financial Field set to open and the Eagles recent success and you have a wonderful situation. The city of Philadelphia is abuzz with expectations and predictions surrounding the Eagles chances. Philadelphia is the 4th largest TV market in the US and the 3rd largest TV market in the NFL. Success has not come to the city recently in the 4 major sports with the city's last World Title coming in 1983 when the Philadelphia 76ers swept the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA title. For the Eagles it has been an even longer run, the last time the Eagles won an NFL title was 1960. The Eagles of 1960 were the only team to ever beat a Vince Lombardi coached football team in a title game as the Eagles defeated the Packers 17-13.

As you can see there is plenty to be excited about in Philadelphia but one question remains. Can the city of Philadelphia overcome their near 20 year drought without a championship in any sport? The Philadelphia Eagles will be doing their part to bring a championship to the city and allow Veterans Stadium to go out in style.


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