Football season is in full swing and almost every week, we see an article about how loud a particular stadium is from fans cheering. These elevated sound levels, which seem to be a source of pride for the home fans, make it difficult for the opposing team’s offense to call plays. Read on to learn more about how loud the stadiums really are and what effect that has on players and fans.
The loudest NFL stadiums, according to sound levels measured on the field, are Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Century Link Stadium in Seattle, and the Superdome in New Orleans. What makes these stadiums so loud when fans cheer? There are many factors including seating capacity, whether or not the roof is enclosed, the shape of the stadium, and how reflective the surfaces are inside. One that hasn’t made the list yet, but is already notorious for its noise, is Minnesota’s new US Bank Stadium. It is the first sports facility in the United States with a transparent roof, permitting outdoor light without weather restrictions. The Dallas-based firm HKS Architects designed the stadium roof using ETFE film technology, which is already widespread in Europe and Asia, to enable year-round use for a variety of events. It is said that the angle of the roof reflects more of the sound toward the visiting team benches.
When I go to see bands, I always bring ear plugs with me in case it’s too loud in the venue. Likewise, some of the TV Networks distribute ear plugs to their crews at the NFL’s loudest venues. However, fans are generally not thinking about wearing ear plugs during the game.
We’ve measured sound levels from live bands, and those levels generally range from 105 to 115 dBA (A-weighted decibels). According to Guinness World Records, levels measured during crowd roars are 123 dBA at the Superdome in New Orleans, 137 dBA at Seattle’s stadium, and an ear-shattering 142 dBA at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City! Granted, these aren’t continuous levels like one experiences when watching a band, but they are much higher and could potentially damage hearing if one is exposed to them long enough.
This begs the question, does it really help the home team? Does Seattle’s 12th man have an advantage over an 11-man team? According to statistics, the win rate of home games this season in total is 41-36. The home field win rate of Kansas City, Seattle and Minnesota combined is 7-0. Maybe there is something to this strategy.
The loud-stadium advantage logic only holds true if the fans cooperate. They are supposed to cheer loudly when the visiting team is on offense and be quiet when the home team has the ball. Fans being fans, this doesn’t always happen. The Minnesota Vikings had five false-start penalties in the first two home games this year. On the road, they had none. Vikings guard Alex Boone put it this way…. “It’s loud for some reason in the stadium. There are a lot of times where we can’t hear the center. We could barely hear the snap count today a couple times – a couple false starts, because guys wouldn’t know when the snap was going. I’m not saying it’s the fans’ fault, but I’m just saying, it would be nice if they would shut the f*** up a little bit.”