In the midst of a long article on the NFL’s concussion crisis (which is really a football crisis, but the NFL really really doesn’t want you to think about that), the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer includes a quote from league VP Eric Grubman that’s pretty amazing:
The next generation of NFL stadiums could be markedly different than the ones we now know, Grubman said. He envisions smaller and more intimate venues, possibly more like basketball arenas, with standing-room-only clubs at the corners.
“What if a new stadium we built wasn’t 70,000, but it was 40,000 seats with 20,000 standing room?” he said. “But the standing room was in a bar-type environment with three sides of screens, and one side where you see the field. Completely connected. And in those three sides of screens, you not only got every piece of NFL content, including replays, Red Zone [Channel], and analysis, but you got every other piece of news and sports content that you would like to have if you were at home.
“Now you have the game, the bar and social setting, and you have the content. What’s that ticket worth? What’s that environment feel like to a young person? Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in that seat, or do you want to be in that pavilion?”
That’s certainly where some teams are already headed, but it’s still somewhat alarming to hear the head of business operations for a major sports league suggest that his teams need new stadiums so that people can go there to watch on TV because actually watching the game with your own eyes sucks. Not that it’s not true, and given that people happily paid $200 to stand outside the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas and watch on a big screen, Grubman might even be right that it’s what fans want. Still, it’s an indication that the football business is likely to head in some really weird directions in the remaining decades before it becomes the next bear baiting.