A Packers fan, Jon Niemuth, is the reason it’s impossible to beat the Seattle Seahawks at home

The Seahawks lost once at home this season — to the Cardinals — but before that, they hadn’t lost at home since Christmas Eve 2011 (to the 49ers, and that was only by two points). When they beat the Saints — whom they play Saturday in the playoffs — on Monday Night Football this year, they set a stadium noise record (set earlier in the season by the KC Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium). Since CenturyLink Field (born Qwest Field) opened in 2002, the Seahawks are 66-30 at home and have forced 130 false start penalties since 2005 (most in the NFL). So how did all this happen? Turns out it started with a Packers fan, Jon Niemuth, as the architect:

“Paul (Allen) has such fond memories of Husky Stadium,” said Niemuth, design director in charge of sports for AECOM, which has designed many professional sports venues. “Washington’s opens up to Union Bay. We came up with a concept in a week — a front door that opens up into the city. We had a big vertical scoreboard and some funky end zone seating.

During the design phase, Mike Holmgren was brought in from Green Bay to run the franchise.

His first two questions were: Why is it open-air and why not artificial turf?” Niemuth said. “He thought both of those things neutralized the home-field advantage. I said, ‘Mike, go talk to your boss.'”

The science of it is fairly basic, but still unique: they used roof canopies, which protect 70 percent of those at the game from rain (a big thing in Seattle). Roof canopies actually capture sound and push it back towards the field — at a place like Lambeau (which was a semi-inspiration for Niemuth, as a Packers fan), the sound actually goes “up and into the air.” (Lambeau’s competitive advantage is often the cold and/or Aaron Rodgers as the QB.) Additionally, in the construction process, they regularly went with hard surfaces, as opposed to sound-absorbing surfaces.

As a result of all this, when this run happened —

— there was actually a blip on the seismograph, meaning the Seahawks fans essentially caused a minor earthquake.

They also have “Big Lo,” a true super fan:

Even some academic types at Harvard have gotten into the act here, explaining some of the ideas behind the home-field advantage, including this chart on point differentials home and away:


There’s interesting methodology there, but at the same time — three of the lowest home success rates by this study are New England, New Orleans, and Philadelphia, all of whom have been fairly successful franchises over the past decade (it’s hard to become a successful franchise if you can’t win games at home; while the Patriots have dropped a few crucial games at Gillette, they’ve still won a handful too — and the narrative on the Saints has typically been “can’t win on the road”).

So, is the Seahawks’ trend going to continue? Probably. They obliterated the Saints this season already, although playoff games tend to be tighter (the Lynch run game ended up 41-36). If you do see San Francisco make the cross-country flight and win in Carolina, it’s possible that SF could come into Seattle and win an NFC Championship Game — that game would be a dogfight — but otherwise, Seattle getting home field seems like a fairly solid bet that they’ll end up in the Super Bowl. Then again, the only NFC No. 1 seed to win a Super Bowl in the past 13 years was the 2009 Saints — so anything can happen.

Ted Bauer