Touchdown, Steel! 10 American Football Facilities Built With Steel

(Photo: Minnesota Vikings)

AISC's IDEAS2 Awards program has celebrated landmark structures built with structural steel since 1960, and among these architectural icons are several NFL stadiums.

Football is an American institution (and football season is just around the corner!) so it only makes sense that these stadiums are built with domestic steel. Check out 10 IDEAS2 Award-winning NFL structures below.

And whether your team has built an epic football stadium, a small sculpture, or anything in between, if you think it can make the cut, we want to hear about it. Visit to enter your recent steel masterpiece into our 2020 IDEAS2 Awards program. Submissions are being accepted until September 27.

(Photo: Tony Webster, CC BY 2.0

1. U.S. Bank Stadium – Minnesota Vikings

Minneapolis – 2018 Merit Award, Over $75 million

U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis is reminiscent of a Viking longship—though at 1.7 million sq. ft and able to seat more than 66,000, it is a bit larger.

The home of the Minnesota Vikings, which hosted Super Bowl LII, is defined by its complex geometry, innovative transparent ethylene-tetra-fluoro-ethylene (EFTE) roof, iconic pivoting doors, and panoramic-view concourses. Although operable walls exist in a few other stadiums, the five 55-ft-wide by 75- to 95-ft-high, curtain wall clad structural steel hydraulic mechanized pivoting wall panels at U.S. Bank Stadium are unprecedented in both scale and operation.

(Photo: Root Photography) 

2. Daily's Place at TIAA Bank Field – Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville, Fla. – 2018 Merit Award, $15 million to $75 million

Professional sports team owners of all types have long looked for ways to monetize their stadiums beyond their respective seasons. TIAA Bank Field, home to the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, has taken things even further with the addition of an adjacent new, all-weather team training facility that also serves the dual purpose of increasing the vibrancy of downtown Jacksonville.

Daily's Place, named for a local convenience store chain, is a first-of-its-kind facility: a 5,500-seat concert venue that connects a new, 94,000-sq.-ft indoor football training facility to TIAA Bank Field (recently renamed from EverBank Stadium). Both new spaces are covered by a fabric roof that is elegantly suspended from a sinuous exposed steel roof structure.

(Photo: Hillsdale Fabricators)

3. Hard Rock Stadium Shade Canopy Erection Plan – Miami Dolphins

Miami Gardens, Fla. – 2018 Presidential Award of Excellence for Erection Engineering

How's this for a construction challenge: Erect a 14-acre structural steel shade canopy weighing more than 17,000 tons over an existing NFL stadium. Thanks to Ruby+Associates, which provided full erection engineering services to fabricator/erector Hillsdale Fabricator, the challenge was successfully completed.

Designed by architect HOK and structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti, the canopy was part of a $500 million renovation of the 65,000-seat Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, home of the Miami Dolphins, Miami Hurricanes and Orange Bowl. The canopy is supported by a total of eight super-columns. Transfer trusses spanning between pairs of these columns support a 350-ft-tall spire near each corner of the structure, and 64 structural cables, up to 5 in. in diameter and up to 300 ft long, extend from the top of the masts to suspend portions of the canopy.

(Photo: Steve/mrlaugh, CC BY-SA 2.0)

4. AT&T Stadium – Dallas Cowboys

Dallas – 2010 Presidential Award of Excellence in Engineering

AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium), home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, puts the power of structural steel on world display. At the time of its June 2009 opening, the monumental $1.15 billion, 80,000-seat (100,000-person capacity), three million sq. ft, retractable roof superstructure established numerous world and industry firsts, including:

  • The world's longest single-span roof structure (1,225 ft, fully exposed to view).
  • The world's largest roof-hung HD video display board (25,000 sq. ft).
  • The world's largest operable glass doors (180 ft wide by 120 ft high).
  • Operable roof panels that traverse the steepest incline of any North American retractable stadium.
  • A first-of-its-kind rack-and-pinion roof drive system.
  • One of the world’s first installations of a Teflon (PTFE)-coated fiberglass tensile membrane with a photocatalytic titanium dioxide coating that breaks down dirt through sunlight, actually cleaning the roof automatically.

(Photo: Visions in Photography)

5. State Farm Stadium – Arizona Cardinals

Glendale, Ariz. – 2007 National Award, Over $75 million

State Farm Stadium (formerly University of Phoenix Stadium), home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, certainly stands out against the surrounding Glendale landscape. Its metal panel-clad exterior shimmers like a space-age desert flower during the day and glows like an enormous lantern at night.

While its skin makes a bold statement, its skeleton is equally as impressive. Perhaps the most interesting structural element is the 500,000-sq.-ft long-span roof structure, the backbone of which is formed by two lenticularly shaped Brunel trusses (so named because of their resemblance to I.K. Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge) that each span 700 ft. Due to the lenticular shape of the trusses, the structure behaves as a self-resolving superposition arch and a catenary tension element.

(Photo: Marco VerchCC BY 2.0)

6. Soldier Field – Chicago Bears

Chicago – 2005 Merit Award for Adaptive Reuse, Over $100 million

Home to the Chicago Bears, Soldier Field is the oldest stadium in the National Football League. Because it had crumbling infrastructure, outdated facilities, and no club seating, the Bears decided to redevelop the stadium. However, with only 600' between the existing colonnades, it fell more than 100' short of accommodating today's conventional football stadium. The architectural solution was an asymmetrical design with general admission seats on one side of the stadium and stacked luxury suites atop two cantilevered club decks on the other. That configuration, a first in NFL stadiums, saved just enough space to fit a 61,500- seat stadium inside the colonnades.


(Photo: Corky Trewin, Puget Sound Digital)

7. CenturyLink Field – Seattle Seahawks

Seattle – 2004 Merit Award, Over $100 million

CenturyLink Field (formerly Seattle Seahawks Stadium and Exhibition Center) is a $430-million public-private development project. It incorporates a 67,000-seat football/soccer stadium, a 201,800-sq.-ft exhibition hall, and a parking structure on a small site just south of downtown Seattle.

The stadium is located within the space envelope of the old Kingdome but offers two signature 720' tied structural steel arches supporting the stadium roof and no columns blocking views of the field, downtown Seattle, the water, or the mountains.

(Photo: Ed SchipulCC BY-SA 2.0)

8. NRG Stadium – Houston Texans

Houston – 2004 National Award, Over $100 million

NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant Stadium) – home of the Houston Texans and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, covers more than 12 acres and comprises 1.9 million sq. ft. It is also the first NFL stadium with an operable roof. The translucent fabric roof is an architectural landmark for the City of Houston.

The retractable roof structure solves a challenging tenant program by offering the flexibility to play football games in either an open-air environment or in air-conditioned comfort. For the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo—a major tenant for two weeks every year in late February—the rodeo and its concert events can be held in a closed-building atmosphere, much like an arena. The roof supports 170,000 lbs of rigging load for major concert events. 

(Photo: Christopher AmrichCC BY-SA 2.0)

9. Heinz Field – Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh – 2002 Merit Award, Over $100 million

Heinz Field, horseshoe-shaped and two-tiered, seats 64,440 Steelers fans with unobstructed sightlines. Its exposed structural steel framing is equally as impressive as its wide-open view of Pittsburgh's three rivers and the downtown skyline. The upper tier, cantilevering 46' over the suite and club levels, is supported by "quad-pod" column groupings consisting of four massive steel HSS placed at the midpoint alternating structural bays. These branch-like structures essentially halved the typical number of supports used in more traditional framing schemes. They funnel the structure's loads into A-shaped frames carried down through the suite and club levels.

(Photo: bruce.hartCC BY 2.0)

10. Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati – 2001 Merit Award, Over $100 million

The elegant swooping roof is the signature feature for Paul Brown Stadium's spectacular design, diffusing sunlight, creating intimacy within the bowl, and focusing attention towards the field. The goal was to create a sensual line as the roof meets the sky; by applying intricate geometry, structural steel clad with translucent fabric enabled full expression of the canopy's sophisticated design.