50+ year analysis finds only modest increase in winning percentage for teams receiving new stadiums

With the Minnesota Vikings on track to perhaps tie their best ever regular season record, Brett Favre on pace to notch one of the best years for a quarterback in NFL history, and Vikings ownership getting more antsy each day about their current stadium, St. Paul is buzzing with the talk of how a new stadium deal with public funding can possibly be reached in light of a struggling economy and soaring state budget deficits.

While Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has not directly stated that a new stadium deal is required to keep the team in Minnesota, there are essentially only two reasons a franchise would want to move forward with a new stadium deal: 1) A new stadium would make the team more profitable for the Vikings ownership (and thus providing an incentive for the team to remain in Minnesota), or 2) A new stadium and facilities are needed to lure and retain top players to the franchise, and thus make the team better.

In the first part of a series of reports on the stadium issue, Smart Politics investigates the latter point and asks, “Will a new stadium lead to a more successful NFL team in Minnesota?”

A Smart Politics analysis of the impact of new stadiums on NFL franchises finds that while such facilities may have helped in some situations to keep teams from leaving their home towns for greener pastures, they have had only a slight positive impact on the team’s ability to perform on the field. Overall, NFL teams have barely mustered a .500 winning percentage over the first five years after new stadiums were built.

Smart Politics examined the winning percentage over a five-year period before and after new stadiums were opened for 22 of the NFL’s 32 teams dating back to the league’s oldest stadium in operation, Lambeau Field, which opened in Green Bay in 1957.

Ten teams were eliminated from analysis due to insufficient “before” or “after” samples:

· The new stadiums for the Arizona Cardinals (2006), Indianapolis Colts (2008), and Dallas Cowboys (2009) all opened less than five seasons ago.
· The stadiums for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans opened in the year the teams entered the league as expansion franchises (1995 and 2002 respectively).
· The St. Louis Rams’ stadium opened in 1995, the year the team relocated from Los Angeles.
· The Tennessee Titans’ new stadium (1999) opened just two years after the franchise relocated from Houston.
· The new stadiums for the Carolina Panthers (1996) and Baltimore Ravens (1998) opened just shortly after the teams began to play in those cities (one season and two seasons respectively).
· The Cleveland Browns were essentially an expansion franchise when the team returned with the opening of a new stadium in 1999 after a three-year absence from 1996-1998.

Overall, these 22 NFL teams compiled a .462 winning percentage (747 wins, 869 losses, 22 ties) across the five respective years before their new stadiums were built.

In the five seasons after the new stadiums opened, these teams notched a slightly better record, but only four games over .500. With 829 wins, 825 losses and 17 ties, the first five years brought these 22 franchises a collective winning percentage of just .501 in the first five years in their new respective facilities.

Thirteen NFL franchises improved during the five years after the opening of their current stadium: the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, and Green Bay Packers.

The biggest turnaround occurred for the Oakland Raiders, who compiled a 26-41-3 mark (.393) in the five years before their new stadium in 1966 and a 53-13-4 mark (.786) including one Super Bowl appearance in the five years thereafter.

Nine franchises, however, recorded a lower winning percentage during the five years after the new stadium was built: the Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers.

The Vikings, of course, have been down this road before.

In the team’s last five years at Metropolitan Stadium, the team recorded a 40-37-1 record (.519). In its first five years at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the team only mustered a 32-41 record (.438).

If the Vikings ownership could somehow snare a new stadium deal at the Capitol, the team’s 43-32 record (.573) over the last 4+ seasons would rank as the sixth best of teams receiving new stadiums – normally teams are performing worse on the field when ground is broken on new facilities. Only Indianapolis (.788), Miami (.746), Kansas City (.721), Denver (.700), and San Diego (.593) had better records in the five years leading up to the opening of their current new stadiums.

Of course, the regular season is but a means to an end – to make the playoffs and ultimately the Super Bowl.

In the five years before receiving new stadiums, these 22 franchises made 32 playoff appearances en route to four Super Bowl victories (the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV, Denver Broncos in XXXII and XXXIII, and the New England Patriots in XXXVI).

In the five years after receiving new stadiums, these 22 NFL teams made a nearly identical 35 playoff appearances en route to four Super Bowl victories (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, Pittsburgh Steelers in XL, and New England Patriots in XXXVIII and XXXIX).

Perhaps the only significant difference is that five additional teams during the “new stadium” period went on to appear in, but lose, the Super Bowl during the first five years with the new facilities – including four teams with new stadiums built this decade: the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, Seattle Seahawks in XL, Chicago Bears in XLI, and New England Patriots in XLII. The Oakland Raiders also lost in Super Bowl II.

Just two teams went on to appear in and lose the Super Bowl during the last five years playing in their “old stadium” – the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowls XVII and XIX.

(Note: once the data for the three newest NFL data is folded in, that will add one Super Bowl victory to the “old stadium” tally, Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLI, and one Super Bowl loss to the “new stadium” column, Arizona in XLIII).

In sum, there appears to be a short-term trend of new stadiums correlated with greater success for NFL franchises that is bucking the long view and 50-year data sample: overall, there is only a very modest increase in winning percentage for teams with new stadiums.

NFL Franchise Record During the Five Years Before and After New Stadium Openings, 1957-2003

Philadelphia Eagles
Chicago Bears
New England Patriots
Seattle Seahawks
Detroit Lions
Denver Broncos
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Washington Redskins
Atlanta Falcons
Miami Dolphins
Minnesota Vikings
New York Giants
New York Jets
New Orleans Saints
Buffalo Bills
Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders
San Francisco 49ers
Green Bay Packers

NFL team record data compiled by Smart Politics.

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  1. Tony Spadafora on December 1, 2009 at 10:54 am

    It’s not about the on-field performance, it’s about franchise “market value” and Forbes Magazine is the scorekeeper.

    This year NFL franchises are valued at about 4.4X revenues. A new stadium will increase the Vikings revenues by about $50 million/y and the “market value” of the franchise will increase by well over $200 million.

    A chart a “market values” before and after new stadiums are built would be more informative.

  2. Ray Schoch on December 4, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    I’m not knowledgeable enough about the specific figures presented above to pass judgment on them, but in general, I’m inclined to agree with Tony Spadafora’s comment, which leads – logically enough, I think – to a fairly straightforward question: Why should the general public fund with its tax dollars a substantial increase in the “market value” of a privately-owned football team?

    If a new stadium is built, and the Vikings are sold at some future date to a new owner or owners, will the tax-paying public share in the $200 million increase in franchise value paid by the new owners? If a new stadium increases team revenue by $50 million annually, will that revenue increase be somehow shared with the public that built the new stadium?

    I think we all know the answers to those questions.

    There are few examples of corporate/business welfare more blatant than taxpayer-paid sports stadiums, and with virtually no tangible return to the public.

    I moved here from Denver, where the publicly-built “Invesco Field at Mile High” provides a shiny new facility while the team owner, whether the team’s on-field performance is good, bad or indifferent, continues to line his pockets with the local public’s revenue dollars.

  3. bevo on December 5, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I hate to break to you guys but your analysis appear flawed.

    Using a paired sample t-test, I rejected that the hypothesis that the winning percentage before the same stadium were the same as the winning percentage after the same stadium. That is, the difference between the winning percentages is due to the presence of a new stadium.

    The two-tailed t-value is 2.08, which exceeds the 1.96 cut off value at the .05 significance level. Thus, you must reject the hypothesis that there is no difference between two samples.

    This analysis does not mean that a new stadium will predict future success because that conclusion requires a different analysis.

  4. Eric Ostermeier on December 5, 2009 at 11:39 am

    > This analysis does not mean that a new stadium will predict
    > future success because that conclusion requires a different
    > analysis.

    No where in this report does it state (or advocate) that a new stadium will predict future success. All that is being reported here are the 5-year before and 5-year after records — and there is only a a slightly higher (correlative) winning percentage after the new stadium is built.

    In fact, in the ‘big picture’ summation at the end of the report, the word “correlated” is specifically employed to describe the relationship:

    “In sum, there appears to be a short-term trend of new stadiums correlated with greater success for NFL franchises that is bucking the long view and 50-year data sample: overall, there is only a very modest increase in winning percentage for teams with new stadiums.”

  5. Vikings Tickets on January 7, 2010 at 2:21 am

    I’m a huge fan of Vikings and we always watch there game. I hope they win this season.

  6. footballchrisse on May 14, 2010 at 8:07 am

    The increase of wins for a franchise after a new stadium is built can only have psycological source. It probably gives the players a push as there is more attention on them now than in their old stadium. However, the effect probably fizzles away and after a short period of time the team will (again) show it’s true color.

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