DETROIT-Ford Field, the new home to the Detroit Lions, will offer a lot of new amenities to fans. The $500-million, 1.8-million-sf stadium opens in Downtown this Saturday for its first game, a preseason contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Lions previously played in the Pontiac Silverdome, about 25 miles north of Detroit However, the Ford family, known also as the founders and owners of Ford Motor Co., ecided to build a new stadium in Detroit next to the new Detroit Tigers baseball park.

Ford Field will be unique in that it will be the only football stadium that has an open view to the outside. The stadium has a wide-open window that allows fans inside to look out onto the Downtown Detroit skyline, says Paul Tonti, vice president of Detroit-based SmithGroup Inc. the chief architect on the project.

“Ford’s vision was that they want you to know that you’re in the city of Detroit, they didn’t want the generic stadium,” Tonti says.

His firm worked with five other architectural teams to design the new stadium, which will seat 65,000 and will offer 132 luxury suites.

A few baseball stadiums, such as the Tiger’s Comerica Park, include open skyline areas, but no football stadium has done it, Tonti says. He adds the stadium is also meshed perfectly into a portion of the former Hudson’s warehouse building. The Hudson main retail building was demolished four years ago, but the 500,000-sf warehouse remained.

“Fifty percent of the warehouse is being used by the stadium for Lions suites, locker rooms and team and club areas,” Tonti notes. “The other half will be leased to office, retail and hotel uses.”

The Lions are marketing the space, and have yet to decide whether to include a hotel in the space mix, Ford officials say.

Finally, another design strategy was to make the playing field 42 feet below the street level.

“This does wonders for line of sight,” Tonti says. “Plus, we only need two concourses, not three, where in some stadiums the upper seats are three floors higher than the field.

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