End Is Near for the Vet

Times Staff Writer

After 32 seasons of tough, bitter football at Veterans Stadium, played on turf so bad an exhibition game was once called off because the surface was deemed too dangerous, the stadium will host its final football game next week when the Eagles play the winner of today's San Francisco 49er-Tampa Bay Buccaneer divisional playoff game.

The Eagles will play next season in a new home nearly completed across Pattison Street, 66,000-seat Lincoln Financial Field. The Philadelphia Phillies have one more season at the Vet, as the locals lovingly refer to it, before moving into a still-unnamed site under construction in the Veterans Stadium parking lot.

But the old stadium isn't going quietly. On the cold, hard ground Saturday night, with a temperature of 20 degrees with the wind-chill factor, four Atlanta Falcons were shaken up badly enough to leave the game, at least briefly.

Defensive backs Keion Carpenter and Juran Bolden needed the assistance of a medical cart to get off the field. Quarterback Michael Vick and linebacker John Thierry made it off under their own power with a little assistance from the trainers.

When it first came into existence, Veterans Stadium was labeled "one of those cookie-cutter" edifices by critics, who lumped it with Riverfront in Cincinnati and Three Rivers in Pittsburgh. And that was one of the nicer things they said about it.

Veterans Stadium was blasted not only for the concrete-hard turf, but for leaky pipes, a permeating odor, rowdy fans and roving packs of rats.

Hey, nobody's perfect.


The biggest question before Saturday night's game was the condition of Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb, who had been out for eight weeks after breaking an ankle.

"I feel pretty good," McNabb said after leading his team to a 20-6 victory. "It was good to get out there and fly around again. The main thing was to calm down, not get caught up in the adrenaline rush of just being back out there on the field with the fans going crazy."

Mission accomplished.

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