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New Meadowlands Stadium getting ready for soft opening

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When Mark Lamping talked about a truly soft opening of the New Meadowlands Stadium, the chief executive of the $1.6 billion home for the Giants and Jets wasn't kidding.

Fans showing up for a college lacrosse tripleheader on Saturday will see that the concourse around the stadium isn't complete, the access roads leading into the 82,500-seat facility aren't finished, and there's work to be done on some of the concourses and the concession areas in the upper levels.

And the 4,000 or so people who work at the stadium and have undergone 16 hours of training are going to be working their first game. So they might be as confused as the fans coming to the stadium for the first time.

"There will be some fumbles and dropped passes like any training camp," Lamping said before giving a tour of the stadium to about 40 media members Thursday.

Lamping said the positive aspect to opening the facility some four months ahead of schedule, and holding several concerts and an international soccer game, is it will allow the staff to work out the kinks before the Jets and Giants open the regular season in September.

The outside of the new stadium is metallic, looking somewhat like an open venetian blind. The inside is spectacular, with fans bound to be impressed by the cozy feeling of the seating and four Jumbotron screens that are 118 feet long and 30 feet high, with each presenting a crystal clear picture from its mid-stadium level.

"The idea was to put them lower in the bowl than typically where they would be and have them in a location that, no matter where you're sitting or where the action is, you can always see two video boards," Lamping said.

The facility, to be called the New Meadowlands Stadium until the Giants and Jets find a title sponsor, is taller and bigger than the adjacent Giants Stadium, which opened in 1976 and served as the dual home of the Jets and Giants since 1984.

The new stadium, constructed in 34 months, can be converted from a Giants game to a Jets game in a couple of hours. Buttons can be pushed to change signage from Giants blue to Jets green almost instantaneously. The end zones with the team names can be switched by rolling up two rug sections on the Fieldturf surface.

Even the outside of the stadium can change colors by shining light off the stadium fins. The fins also serve to limit the rain and wind entering the stadium.

The new stadium, which includes 9,500 club seats and 222 luxury suites, has 1.9 million square feet, about a million more than Giants Stadium.

The suites are large, particularly the 20 units that seat 400 people in the Commissioner Club. The suites range in price from $750,000 to $1 million and give the occupants access to both teams.

The common area of the Commissioner's Club is impressive, with black walnut walls and bamboo floors. The mezzanine level has 7,000 club seats.

For those who have the less expensive seats near the top of the stadium, the upper levels are high. However, the seats don't make you feel like you are sitting on the side of a cliff.

All the concessions, suites and sound systems are tied into a data center in the basement of the building.

Lamping said the demolition of Giants Stadium should be finished by July and the land should be transformed to parking hopefully by the start of the NFL regular season.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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