The Jets won’t only be facing the 5-4 Seahawks on Sunday, they will be facing a passionate “12th Man.” The most hostile atmosphere in the NFL is most likely in Seattle where the cheers and jeers rain down on the opposition -- just like the architects designed it.
CenturyLink Field is a notorious advantage for the Seahawks and has consistently been named by opposing players as the loudest stadium in the league. One of the architects of the facility, Los Angeles-based AECOM, had the specific goal of turning the 67,000 seat outdoor stadium into one that looked and sounded like a dome. The irony is that the Seahawks previous home, the Kingdome, was among the most sterile facilities in the league in terms of fan volume.
Their impact on the game is a point of pride for Seahawks fans, who look to create as intimidating of a feel as possible around a home game. These fans put the “sound” into Puget Sound.
“Size matters: CenturyLink’s total area is in the 980,000 square foot range. Everything about the design has a purpose and as a result maximizes revenue, fan experience and game day atmosphere,” said Jon Niemuth, AIA, NCARB, LEED and the Director of Sports, Americas for AECOM. “The typical NFL facility tops out at 1.6 million square feet. By comparison, the Cowboys’ stadium is pushing 3 million square feet.”
The story is legend around the Pacific Northwest. During the wild-card round of the playoffs in 2011, the loudness of the crowd celebrating a Marshawn Lynch touchdown at CenturyLink Field supposedly registered a small tremor at a local monitoring station in Seattle. Such is the impact of the stadium’s design on the game. In 2005, there were 25 false start penalties by the visiting team, further proof of how loud the crowd is in a stadium designed to hold in the sound.
This intimacy is just part of what makes CenturyLink such a unique venue. The stadium was the first to incorporate VIP luxury suites at field level and it was arguably the first NFL stadium to use a scenic downtown as a backdrop.
It also includes a “12th Man” grandstand behind one end zone.
“The roof helps capture sound. For an exterior ,the sound is held better and the roof has an almost amplifying effect. The ‘12th Man’ is loud -- designed to be a ‘Joe six-pack,’ affordable-ticket section that is often the first area to sell out, its construction is made to be loud. The ‘12th Man Part II,’ the seating tower [later] built as an aluminum grandstand -- you stomp your feet and it makes lots of noise. The original and replacement Mile High Stadium seating bowl is/was made of plate steel -- [with] the same effect,” Niemuth said. “The sound system is distributed, versus a single cluster, end zone-speaker location. CenturyLink uses a distributed sound system in the bowl [which] puts the sound locally where the fans are. It is a better quality and more proximate volume, not a new concept but I think this further enhances the ambience.”
The Jets know the “12th Man” mentality is one they must deal with on Sunday. All week long, the team has been pumping extra volume into their practices, turning the speakers up extra loud and blaring music when the offense is on the field to mimic the atmosphere in Seattle.
A few years ago, the Panthers pumped the sound of airplanes into speakers dotting their practice fields to try and replicate the Seahawks’ home-field advantage.
“We have to just let it go and make it so loud where it’s miserable for all of us. I think it’ll be a peaceful thing when our defense gets to practice. We can turn that volume down a little bit. I think that’s the best way to simulate it,” Ryan said. “It’s still a 100-yard field and all that stuff. Those things don’t change, but the intensity of the crowd, I think you try and get the speakers and obviously the communication is tough.”
And while he was still respectful of what is likely the toughest place to play in the NFL, at least one Jet didn’t seem overly intimidated by the looming noise factor. The team’s Wildcat quarterback and backup, Tim Tebow, thinks that CenturyLink, despite the passionate fans and superior design, won’t be as bad as what he saw in college with the Florida Gators. He said LSU’s infamous “Death Valley” will exceed the volume in Seattle this weekend.
Tebow said a loud atmosphere gets him “fired up,” but it remains to be seen if it will affect him when he’s in the game on Sunday.
“I’ve never been to Seattle but college stadiums compared to NFL is not too much of a comparison, in my opinion, from how loud the crowd is. Pretty much most of the SEC places were a lot louder than, at least, the places I’ve played in,” Tebow said. “The loudest I’ve probably heard an NFL stadium was the Broncos when we beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs. That got pretty loud. But besides that, it’s not that many people and I think some of the way the stadiums are shaped as well [make it not as loud]. I don’t think it should be too big an issue.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.