The countdown clock hangs on a conference room wall inside one of the construction trailers next to Cardinals Stadium in Glendale, constantly chewing up the seconds before the NFL’s newest building is finished.
Zeros will come up on Aug. 1, the scheduled completion date. The Cardinals will play there 11 days later in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. For a franchise often battered for its poor choices and poor results, its new nest looks like it was everything it was hyped to be.
“There is a buzz in the Valley — people are excited about this,” vice president Michael Bidwill said following a Tuesday tour of the facility. “And people are talking about the team, too.”
Arguments can be made about whether the Cards will be a playoff-caliber team this season. But they will be housed in a building worthy of a winner, a stadium ranked by BusinessWeek magazine as one of the top 10 most impressive architecturally in the world.
About $450 million will have been spent on the stadium and the surrounding landscaping, parking and infrastructure, with the Cardinals contributing $150 million of that, Bidwill said. Most of the seats are in place, save for a small area in the southwest corner. Dust covers the other 60,000 seats, colored either red or grey, each featuring a Cardinals logo. The giant 100-foot by 50-foot video board looms behind the south end zone. Speakers are hooked up around the stadium for the “distributed” sound system that will improve the aural experience.
The tray that will eventually hold the grass field and be rolled into the stadium for games is being built outside the south end zone, where it will rest 340 days a year while the grass takes in the sun. The 17-million-pound contraption will be moved back and forth by 13 rails.
Imagination is needed for some of the other unique parts of the stadium. There will be significant square footage available behind the south end zone, and in a nod to the Cards’ hope to make the building a tailgating destination, room will be made in the area for fans to party before the game during hot weather.
“I got goose bumps just walking through there,” said Cardinals running back Marcel Shipp, who took his first tour of the stadium Tuesday. Bidwill wouldn’t get into the state of season ticket sales, deflecting questions about whether the team had already sold more than 50,000 — which would be a huge jump from where it was last season.
New running back Edgerrin James said when he signed in early March that the team told him the season-ticket base was already above 40,000. There has been a steady stream of season-ticket buyers to the team’s Tempe complex since then.
Capacity for Cardinals games will be 63,400 seats, which includes 7,500 club level seats and approximately 1,500 seats in the lofts (the Cardinals’ name for their suites). NFL blackout rules don't count premium seats, meaning only 54,400 seats per game must be sold to have home games televised locally.
That should be a sure thing for games against Denver, Dallas, the home opener against San Francisco and the Monday night game against Chicago. It also means it will be much harder to get tickets to Cardinals games this season.
But as the clock winds down on construction, finding a way to see the new stadium should be worth the effort.
“We wanted to see something,” Bidwill said, “that would really break the mold.”