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Sep 2014 Stadium of the Month – Apogee Stadium

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 17, 2014

The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach (Photo Credit - Stadium Journey)

Apogee Stadium (Photo Credit – Stadium Journey)

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I have always been intrigued by the nickname “Mean Green” and the athletic teams of North Texas University certainly get their name out there with this unique moniker. While the school may play in athletic obscurity compared to all of the other big-time DI colleges in the Lone Star State, it should be noted that this is a huge school with over 30,000 undergrads. Located north of Dallas in the college-city of Denton, UNT recently opened a new football stadium in 2011. Apogee Stadium is a modern venue that is a terrific place to watch football. The seating bowl is quite intimate and close to the field, while the character of the facility is really highlighted by the fanned-out V section the in the North End. This represents an eagle’s wings in flight (the eagle is the mascot of the Mean Green). The stadium also includes “The Hill”, a great place for fans to meet and tailgate. While the transportation and fan atmosphere aspects of the stadium experience lack some, the overall aesthetics and building design make this an excellent new stadium for football.

Not only is North Texas a mean kind of green, but they are also an environmental type of green. Apogee Stadium received a LEED Platinum Certification, a rarity in sports facilities. Three wind turbines help to visually illustrate this and the turbines actually power the entire stadium, helping to eliminate the CO2 that it would have emitted. Other forms of technology including recyclable materials and limited water consumption have helped to set a new standard for stadiums. Apogee is one of my favorite kinds of stadiums, a place that the general public does not know about and a place that usually elicits a pleasantly surprised expression upon entering.  

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Stadiums I Need To Get Back To

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 9, 2014

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A lot has changed since my 2003 visit to Montreal…namely a camera that does not use film!

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While my ultimate goal if I’m able to visit a stadium is to see one I have never been to, there is also a part of me that wants to go back to an old place. Of course there are amazing home team venues that I could experience a game in over and over (The Palestra, Camp Randall Stadium, Providence Park, etc.), but the facilities that follow below are ones that I feel the need to return for a specific review reason. Most of the stadiums on my return list are because they pre-date the digital camera era, so I desperately want to get cleaner pictures. Two of those, I plan on taking care of within the next few months: Syracuse’s Carrier Dome and Montreal’s Bell Centre. In addition, here are a few places that I’d like to work in a return:

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1)  Madison Square Garden  –  New York Rangers

A three-year renovation transformed the Garden with a lot of changes. Concourses are wider, while the seating bowl is unfortunately more a standard arena set-up. I’ll have to see if the atmosphere has changed for myself.

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2)  PNC Field  –  Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

I’m struggling on whether this qualifies as a new stadium altogether as opposed to a renovated one. Former Lackawanna County Stadium closed for a year and essentially was re-built. The team went through a new branding as well. I’m leaning towards making this a new stadium, but we’ll put that decision off until later.

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3)  MCU Park  –  Brooklyn Cyclones

This is the highest rated minor-league ballpark out of the 48 that I have been to and I think the fan support/atmosphere has a lot to do with that. While the Cyclones are still a huge draw, I’m curious if the game atmosphere is what I thought it was ten years ago, when I quite early and green in my travels. Regardless, still a great ballpark, just a pain to get to.

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4)  Reilly Center  –  St. Bonaventure Bonnies

Another one with a re-evaluation of the atmosphere, but I mainly want to go back because it was a snowstorm during my visit way back in 2002. I didn’t get a chance to see much of the exterior and we were relatively late so there was not much time to roam the Reilly Center.

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Football is Back!

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 1, 2014

Start a month of football travel with a trip to billion dollar JerryWorld

Finish up a month of football travel with a trip to billion dollar JerryWorld (picture from Stadium Journey)

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Ah yes, American-Style Football is back! This country’s most popular sport always brings excitement this time of year as fans gear up by setting up tailgates, having fantasy football drafts, buying new TVs or actually going to games. This is a stadium site, so of course I advocate heading out to the game, though the dragging out and over-commercialization of the 4 hour FBS events make it a little challenging. While exposure has placed different games on non-traditional days, that also means good news for road-trippers with trips that allow for multiple games and stadium. Here some tempting, great football trips to ponder making this month.

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1) Thu, Sep 4 at 8:00 PM  –  Arizona at UTSA  –  AlamoDome
….Fri, Sep 5 at 7:30 PM  –  Lee at Jefferson  –  Alamo Stadium
….Sat, Sep 6 at 7:30 PM  –  BYU at Texas  –  Royal Memorial Stadium
….Sun, Sep 7 at 4:25 PM  –  Washington at Houston  –  NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant)
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Texas is an easy state to find a great four-day stadium trip and this one is pretty good. It starts in one of my favorite cities, San Antonio and includes a High School Football game, which is a must when in the Lone Star State. Plus, 74-year old Alamo Stadium just completed renovations to upgrade, yet preserve the historical facility. Afterwards, check out 100,000 wearing burnt orange at a Longhorns game. For Sunday, Houston and Dallas are the same distance from Austin, so you can go to either NFL city. I only went with Houston here because I saved Dallas for a late September trip. 

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2) Thu, Sep 11 at 8:25 PM  –  Pittsburgh at Baltimore  –  M&T Bank Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 13 at 12:00 PM  –  West Virginia at Maryland  –  Byrd Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 13 at 6:00 PM  –  Colgate at Delaware  –  Delaware Stadium
…..Sun, Sep 14 at 1:00 PM  –  Jacksonville at Washington  –  FedEx Field
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I love this one…Enjoy one of the best NFL rivalry’s on Thursday Night, then take the open day Friday to either tour Charm City or the Nation’s Capital. Traffic is always a tricky thing to gauge in Maryland, but without it, the drive from College Park to Newark is very doable (1:30). That should be enough time to see one of the most well-supported FBS teams in the country. Then its back down to the DC area to check out a second NFL game. 

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3) Fri, Sep 19 at 7:00 PM  –  Holy Cross at Harvard  –  Harvard Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 20 at TBA  –  Maine at Boston College  –  Alumni Stadium
…..Sun, Sep 21 at 1:00 PM  –  Oakland at New England  –  Gillette Stadium
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While New England is more of a baseball-town, there is also good football and historical stadiums. A visit to an Ivy League game is a must-do at least once and Harvard is a great place to get a taste of the Ivies. Meanwhile, in Chestnut Hill, Alumni Stadium is an intimate and cool facility. Then the tour of Boston suburbs ends in Foxborough with the Pats.

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4) Thu, Sep 11 at 10:00 PM  –  UCLA at Arizona State  –  Sun Devil Stadium
…..Fri, Sep 26 at 8:00 PM  –  Fresno State at New Mexico  –  University Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 27 at TBA  –  TCU at SMU  –  Gerald J. Ford Stadium
…..Sun, Sep 28 at 8:30 PM  –  New Orleans at Dallas   –  AT&T Stadium
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Lots of driving on this one with a total of 15 hours in the car, luckily Albuquerque is in the middle of the trip and it splits up the days nicely. Hopefully, that TBA is not an early start or else it may be a little tough getting to the Metroplex. Otherwise, this trip is a great mix of college venues and cool places to hang out (spend some time in Tempe or Scottsdale after the game). The weekend is topped off in Billion-Dollar JerryWorld.

 

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Aug 2014 Stadium of the Month – The Ballpark at OOB

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 25, 2014

The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach (Photo Credit - Stadium Journey and Paul Baker)

The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach (Photo Credit – Stadium Journey)

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Apologies as I am a little late on this stadium with the season just ending in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, so try to hit up this ballpark sometime next year. On the surface, there may not be much special about watching a game in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. But the history of the stadium is one that makes just hosting baseball in the 21st century quite the accomplishment. Back in the 1980s, a AAA team was bought and moved to the east coast, in the summer tourist spot of Old Orchard Beach (not far from Portland). A new ballpark was built, thoughtlessly named “The Ballpark” and the Maine Guides began play in 1984. Baseball lasted only five years in OOB and the whole tourists coming to see baseball thing didn’t work. The incessant mosquitoes did not help either.

Fast-forward a few decades later and nothing was done with the now crumbling ballpark. In most towns, this usually means the end of a stadium, but this is the friendly state of Maine and in 2008-2009, volunteers took matters into their own hands and worked on fixing up the place before it met the wrecking ball. The hard work paid off and a usable field hosted some amateur baseball. A short time later, the stadium was fixed up enough to become home to a permanent tenant and the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide of the summer-collegeiate FCBL were born. The Tide now have been in their refurbished home for 4 seasons and the remarkable work by the town’s volunteers has led to a stadium they can be proud of. The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach is one of the rare positive stories from a neglected sports facility and the small community can take pride in their efforts.

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The “What Are You Doing?” Picture

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 17, 2014

My personal fave…Let’s stand almost in the middle of my picture so I can blatantly stare and question what you are doing

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I’ve finally had a chance to start working on stadium reviews from the Oregon trip and just completed PK Park in Eugene. I’ll wrap-up a Stadium Journey reivew for that one today and then over the next few weeks work on the remaining three stadiums. In the meantime, I came across an Oregon picture where someone caught in one of my photos had a comical look as they questioned what I was doing. People can be so annoying in that if an individual is doing something a little abnormal (like take a picture of a concession stand), they stare and can’t take their eyes away. Time to point out some of these folks…

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The mouth ajar, slightly annoyed look as if to say "What is he doing"

The mouth ajar, slightly annoyed look as if to say “What is he doing

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The fairly typical unabashed stare

The fairly typical unabashed stare

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The stunned, no-time to look away before being caught in this look

The stunned, no-time to look away before being caught in this look

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Finally, the rare half-smile in a strange picture look

Finally, the rare half-smile in a strange picture look

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Oregon Trip

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 9, 2014

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August 1
It was a pretty crappy travel day that in the end was not as bad as it could’ve been. Having to drive nearly an hour to get to Newark Airport is annoying, but we arrived at our usual satellite parking spot without an issue. However, timing was bad thanks to a police chase that ended on the road used by the shuttle service to get to the airport. 45 minutes later (normally a 5 minute ride), we got to terminal A, already travel weary from the start and stops. We still had time at the gate, only to see the plane delayed 45 minutes. This left us just about 35 minutes to make the transfer in Phoenix to Portland. It drives me nuts how I live near one of the biggest airports in the world, yet the amount of direct flights are limited and reduced thanks to cost and odd times. Anyway, we get on the plane ready to go, only to be stopped due to weather and nearby storms. All planes stop at EWR. When we’re ready to go again, we have to go back to the gate, to re-fuel and find another pilot (FAA 12hr regulations). At 5 PM, over 3 hours late, we finally take off, in what would be a long flight as my legs and rear end were already crampy. Thankfully, the plane we were on would be used for the transfer to Portland, so we didn’t miss the connection. At 10:30 PM (1:30 Eastern), we landed at PDX. That’s almost 16 hours since we left the house. Certainly no complaining as I know there are far worse situations (cancelled flights, lost luggage, missed connections, longer delays, etc), but man I don’t know how travelers frequently go back and forth between coasts. I am beat! Two groups that deserve applauding. Southwest was great the whole time and their on-air staff was upbeat, apologitic and helpful. Also, kudos to Enterprise, who made quickly got this weary traveler on the road and had plenty of car options late at night. I’d rather spend 16 hours by car than dealing with the stresses of air travel, but glad to be in Oregon. A short hotel stay in Portland, then on to Eugene Saturday!

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Eugene
August 2

And we’re off! Somehow we got up early and arrived in Eugene by mid-morning to do a decent amount for the day. This certainly is an interesting place with some unique characters and people on the street. Before cruising through the hokey Lane County Historical Museum, we stopped at crumbling Civic Stadium for a look at the venerable old home of the Emeralds. Really hope the efforts of Save Civic Stadium work as it is sad to see an old park fall to this state. I’ll contribute a little to the efforts when getting back. Then we went downtown for the Saturday Market. Lots of tents, all a little too close together, so I liked the Market I saw in Madison, WI better. However, Eugene’s was still great and the fruit/vegetable/farmers goods selection and quality was impressive. Lasting memory was definitely the “Free Thinkers” section. We checked out the rest of the charming downtown with great restaurants, bars and eye-pleasing landscaped walkways. This is a very outdoor friendly city and bikers were plentiful throughout.

We then went over to the Phil Knight Funded Unive….er, sorry, the University of Oregon. We checked out the Museum of Natural History and then walked campus a bit. It is a nice campus and having the chance to walk the outside of famed Hayward Field was special. Also got to see shimmering Matthew Knight Arena, while then going back and shedding a tear for MacArthur Court. The former Ducks basketball auditorium was one of my favorite college basketball arenas with its famed three-tiered balcony seating and deafening noise. Miss that place. Afterwards, we crossed the Willamette River to the complex housing both Autzen Stadium and PK Park. Eugene’s Emeralds took on Everett in a pretty good contest that saw the Ems prevail with a go-ahead home run in the 8th. Stadium #151 started off poorly with oddly far out parking (in a complex that also fits plenty of cars for football). Then much of the park was designed for UO and it felt like the Emeralds were an afterthought. But once I inside, I really liked PK. Excellent intimate design here with a steep seating pitch. Fun crowd too that got into the game and this was one of the rare times a mascot entertained me (great job Sluggo!). Lots more in the review coming in a few weeks. Well, this post went longer than I wanted, we’ll see if I’m able to keep the upcoming days a little shorter.

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August 3
It’s smokey here in Oregon and being from the East Coast, I thought haze at first, but its smoke from wildfires to the south. Little nervous driving over the next few days and hoping we don’t run into problems. Today there were no issues as from Eugene in the Willamette Valley, we went over and through the Cascades. It’s a cool ride on Rt.124 and the best views came at the lookout where we saw the Three Sisters mountain-peaks (still snow-covered). Sad though as the nearby landscape was burned and charred from the 2003 B&B Complex Fire. We got into Central Oregon and the High Desert area late morning and set up shop in Bend, where there is plenty to do. We started at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Not really a monument, but more of a national park. Lava Butte is a  cinder cone and I never imagined myself on a volcano, but there were we were! We had the chance to drive up the cone and look down into the crater along with check out the surrounding views. Back down near the Visitors Center (which was terrific by the way), you can walk on the old lava flows and it takes some concentration on the creaking, jagged black rock. A short drive away is the Lave River Cave, a unique tube formed by lava. The 42 degree pitch black (but lantern-lit) walk is fun for about 30 minutes, then gets quite monotonous the rest of the way and starts feeling like survival until seeing light again.  

Not often do I use Hotwire, but hotel prices were high in Bend, so I took a chance and landed a great $109 deal at the Riverview Hotel. Can’t figure out if this really is a fancy place, or one pretending to be. We had dinner there, but beforehand, I was able to check out the Bend Elks. They play at Vince Genna Stadium in the WCBL (summer collegiate-league). With a capacity of 3,200, they didn’t make The List, so no official review. At least I think, I’ll be emailing their staff to make sure (just in case, I got all the pictures I needed). Anyways, wasn’t sure if I was going have time to make the game, but it worked out and was able to see about 6 innings of their victory vs Medford. It’s an old venue with cool nooks and crannies to the concourse and outside. Not exactly charming inside with no roof and lots of bleachers, but there was a good crowd on hand that gave the kids a nice hand through the game. It is the biggest park in the league and it’s always great to get watch the small-town charm of a team and league like that. No sports for the next few days before ending the trip with three in a row.

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August 4
The formations that the volcanic chain of the Cascade Mountains have created are amazing and one of those marvels is Crater Lake. We spent the afternoon at that National Park, where the 7th deepest lake in the world glimmers deep blue. Really is an incredible sight and each lookout provides a different view. Too bad the haze/smoke is still lingering as the visibility wasn’t great. Otherwise, loved checking out one of this country’s wonders. The road was nauseating for me as the cliff edge was right along the side of the shoulder (oh man, queasy thinking about it), but I made the 33-mile round trip drive ok and was rewarded with incredible views at the pullouts.

Along with Crater Lake, we saw more of Bend today as the Pilot Butte provided a 360 degree visual of the city below and the rest of Central Oregon. Then at night, dinner was along the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District, a remarkable mixed-use redevelopment of a mill. The place was packed, surprisingly so given it was a Monday evening. Had a pretty solid pie at Flatbread Pizza. One more Bend attraction tomorrow at the High Desert Museum before heading back to the Willamette Valley.
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.Mount Hood

August 5
After spending the morning at the all-encompassing High Desert Museum (which was excellent), we drove another two hours towards Portland. I love travelling this country and being surprised at the layout of a state. There’s always a perception or singular thought of a state’s image and it is great to bust that. Driving in the High Desert, it looked like somewhere else in the US and not Oregon. Then boom! it went from sandy brush to Ponderosa Pine in a minute.  The whole way we were driving towards Mount Hood and we drove up the snow-covered mountain to the famed Timberline Lodge. The historic building is architecturally quite impressive. Even better were the views as we walked up a bit, closer to the towering volcano. Some of the best skiing in the west takes place here and people can ski all year long. No one was out today and it was very nice with temps in the 60s and sunshine. The view looking down on the Cascades is breathtaking as well. While walking around, we ran into some Sons of Ben that were in town to root on their Philadelphia Union players in the MLS All-Star Game tomorrow. Cool people and they were admiring the area as well. After seeing Mt. Hood, it was down to Portland for an early evening. We’re setting up shop in Clackamas, where the price is right and location is good for the next few days.
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August 6:
Strip Clubs, Roundabouts, Hobos and Directionals in front of Street Names. Wherever we have been in Oregon, we have seen multiple of these. Today, we’re in Portland and it was a day fit for the wife. We started at the Oregon Zoo as the Vet Tech in her loves checking out each one. The zoo is within Washington Park, a huge highlight on a hill just west of downtown. After the zoo, we saw why we were in the Rose City. Just down the road is the International Rose Test Gardens and wow, what a beautiful place filled with rows and rows of different colored rose varieties. I think we have desktop computer background pictures that will last a year. Despite the beautiful day, fatigue set in, so we hopped in the car and drove a half-hour to Multinomah Falls, which was very simple to get too. Portlanders really have it nice with this waterfall so close. What a great place to live with all of this natural beauty (too bad it is gloomy weather-wise 3/4ths of the year). For dinner, we love Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and there were several choices. We wanted a true taste of Portland, so the Food Trucks in Rose City Park was the place. PDX671 delivered with amazing Guam-inspired food. Kelaguen Mannok….em-emm! Got back to the hotel in time to see the last 10 minutes of MLS beating Bayern Munich at the All-Star Game. Yeah! Jealous not to be there, but am way too stoked  for Saturday’s visit to Providence Park. It will be hard for the reality to match the hype, but I think the Timbers will deliver. In the meantime, back to sports tomorrow with a visit to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

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Volcanoes Stadium (from Stadium Journey and Marc Viquez)

Volcanoes Stadium (from Stadium Journey and Marc Viquez)

August 7
I forgot to snap a picture of Volcanoes Stadium with my cell phone for easy remote transfer online, so the above one is from Stadium Journey. Anyway, one leftover from yesterday in Portland, here is a breakdown of the sports apparel I saw people wearing thru the day: 1) Oregon Ducks, (2) Portland Timbers (3) Seattle Seahawks (4) Oregon State Beavers and (5) Portland Trail Blazers. I always find it interesting to gauge the popularity of teams in that respect.

Anyway, today we visited the state capitol in Salem. First was the Williamette History Center at the Mill, where upon first look, it seemed to be a museum about a historic mill. However, the history of the entire area was broken down nicely throughout the grounds with informative displays. We were the only ones there and aside from some quirks, it was a great museum. Then into downtown we ventured, to the state capitol building. It was very odd not to see a circular dome at the top as Oregon’s has a strange cylinder with a statue on top. We got to go up on to that cylinder for a 360 degree view of the city and region. This was followed by wandering the historic district and eating at Wild Pear, a very cute little place where I had pulled pork with an amazing marionberry bbq sauce.

Stadium #152 came about 15 minutes away in Keiser, where the Volcanoes of the Northwest League play. What a crappy ballpark. First, boo to their front office and way overpricing tickets (plus telling people that the 200 level seats were ‘sold out’ and just $20 seats or grassy areas were available). Anyway, just an odd design with a huge walkway behind home plate and a mostly bleachered ballpark set far from the field with lots of foul territory. Other negatives include the view of I-5, sun-weathered seats changing the color to pink and splintered picnic tables on the left-field line. Awk, not a fan of this place and I’m shocked it was built in 1997 and 1983. The game took forever too (3:20), but the home team prevailed with a 9-5 win. Not all of the parks will be great and that keeps things interesting.

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 Ron Tonkin Field

August 8
One more geographical region we ventured into today as it was over the Coastal Range to the Oregon Coast. GPS (I refer to her as Garmina) had a little snafu getting out there as we had a few different route options, but it wasn’t too bad. We spent time in Astoria, which has a very unique layout, and got a great overhead lay of the land by climbing the Astoria Column. Every city should have some sort of lookout. The Pacific climate was as expected: cloudy, cool and windy. Back downtown, we ate at Baked Alaska, then went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum. While in the city, I couldn’t stop saying out loud: “Put That Cookie Down Now!” as Kindergarten Cop was filmed here in Astoria (so was the Goonies). Then later in the afternoon, we dipped our feet in the ocean at Sunset Beach.

It was an hour and a half back on winding Route 26 to Hillsboro, where a visit to young Ron Tonkin Field went very well. It was a packed night and you can see why at least some sort of baseball team should be in the Portland Metro. Loved the design of this ballpark and their space utilization is excellent and inviting for those looking to mill around and just hang out. They did a lot of great things in this ballpark and though I’m not a huge fan of the actual seating bowl, everything else is done quite well. I also love that nickname of “Hops” and they have great, clean uniforms (unlike the over-the-top ones from Eugene). It’s amazing how much this area loves beer and nearly every adult had one in hand at this game. The crowd was good and energetic, just too bad so many left after the 6th inning. Hillsboro unfortunately lost this one and we are now 2-1 on this trip. 

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Timbers
August 9
Our last day in Oregon was spent in Downtown Portland. It’s not easy driving around this city and driving downtown is especially tricky with TriMet trains on the street and random road closures. Walking around, I kept thinking about a slogan I saw from The Rose City: “Keep Portland Weird”. That’s all I got to say about that. We started by visiting famed Voodoo Donuts, where the 45 minutes in line was worth the wait (I went with the GrapeAde donut, the wife went for Old Dirty Bastard). Then we walked around the city with stops at Waterfront Park, an old historic Tugboat and Pioneer Courthouse. All good times, but I was really just counting the minutes to Timbers Matchday.

Finally, it was time! Stadium-wise, this is the coolest venue that I have seen as it is incredible how this 1930s facility turned into a modern soccer stadium. From the ivy walls on the exterior, to the rounded covered grandstand inside, I marveled at the quirky re-design that you just will not find anywhere else. Support beams, people watching on a treadmill from the attached fitness center, four-tiered corner suites, old-style bench seating….that’s just a few of the things. I’ll go into much more detail on the stadium in the review, but it is amazing. The atmosphere did not disappoint either as the Timbers Army is huge! They took up so much space and really did themselves proud throughout. It was a sell-out for the rest of the seats, thought I was a bit surprised at the late arrivers and early leavers. Portland beat Chivas 2-0 and that also meant seeing Timber Joey cut logs multiple times! What a great way to end the trip and the 155th stadium I have seen on this lifetime journey was a special one!

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Heading to the Beaver State

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 31, 2014

Oregon_Trip.
I have been eagerly anticipating this trip for awhile and it is finally here! We are off to Oregon, where we’ll be spending 8 days checking out the Beaver State. Stadium-wise, there are four events to look forward to and right out of the gate, we’ll be in Eugene for an Emeralds baseball game at relatively new PK Park on Saturday. The next several days will be spent around the state and checking out beautiful places like Crater Lake, Bend and Mount Hood. Then, we set up shop in the Portland area as the last three days of the trip feature three games in the metro area. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are Thursday, then the Hillsboro Hops are on Friday. Finally, we finish with a place that is on my Top Ten bucket list of stadiums to visit…the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Really excited for that one and we’ll also be in Portland while the MLS All-Star Game is going on. Ticket prices are pretty insane, so we will be passing that one. We also just miss by a day, a suboptimal show by the Men in Blazers. Regardless, seeing a Timbers game will be quite the experience. I think I’ll be writing little blurbs each day on the trip, so check back for a running wrap-up.

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The Nats and The Rocks

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 22, 2014

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Last Friday, we set out for a brief visit into Northern Virginia, making a pair of stops in Wilmington, DE. The first break was to check out the rejuvenated Riverfront section, in preparation for our return to the nearby Frawley Stadium on Sunday. The city did a nice job over the last few decades and the mixed-use area includes some restaurants, the Delaware Children’s Museum and a pleasant Riverwalk along the Christina. We ate at the Iron Hill Brewery for a good lunch which included some beer brewed at the restaurant (Both the Hans Gruber and Raspberry Wheat are excellent). After walking the river a little bit, we headed over to the ballpark for a visit to the attached Delaware Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. What followed was disappointing and weird. The sign on the door said “closed” and though we were able to walk in, the encounter with the person inside was very odd and not helpful. Since this place is hardly open (Tue-Fri 12-5 PM), looks like the chances of a return is low. Boo to that random closing.

From there, it was a fight with the famed DC traffic and we made it unscathed to Burke, VA. We were visiting my wife’s cousins and we spent the few nights there. After hanging out on Saturday, we made the 30 minute drive into DC for a baseball game at Nationals Park. This was my visit to the US capital since a school trip when I was a senior in High School and I enjoyed seeing some of the famed sights on the drive in. It really is amazing to see the rapid development take place in the Southeast neighborhood that houses the ballpark as this once dilapidated area has turned into a sought-out living space with growth seemingly by the day. I never heard much fanfare or exuberance about Nationals Park upon opening and thus I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this park. The outside tries to emulate the architecture of the DC (think monuments, museums and government offices) pre-cast concrete and steel. Inside, concourses had red flooring and there were several openings to enjoy the surrounding views of the Anacostia River, the nearby Navy Yard and on the other side, city views including the US Capitol and Washington Monument. What now seems a requisite of new parks is the outfield hang out area and they do that quite well here. Food was exceptional with a ridiculous amount of options and local favorites (Ben’s Chili Bowl comes to mind). The blue seating bowl lay-out is decent as well, except for that moat around the super pricey home plate seats. It was a perfect night for baseball and the matchup was high-quality too as the NL’s top teams played. However, the game was practically over after a 40  minute first minute when the Nats jumped all over Milwaukee’s Matt Garza. He had his shortest career outing (1/3 of an inning) and Washington batted around, jumping out to a 5-0 lead. They went on to win 8-3 in front of a good crowd and it was a nice warm-up for the real star of the night, that of postgame concert performer Austin Mahone!! (insert teenage screams). I seriously had no idea who it was when I heard the promotion. Expect a more detailed review of Nationals Park up this weekend and I’ll be writing on the ballpark over at Stadium Journey as well.

Sunday, we left in the morning and went back to Wilmington, half-way through our journey home. The afternoon was spent at Winterthur, a grand historic home and museum belonging to H.F. du Pont. The estate is quite spectacular with gardens that are seemingly endless. Very peaceful. Inside, what drew most people here the last few months is the grand Downton Abbey exhibit which includes many of the period clothing worn on the show. Along with the displays, they compared the luxurious living in that time period between England and the US. Our house tour felt a bit rushed and we left later than I wanted, but thankfully Winterthur is only 15 minutes from the ballpark. We got to Frawley Stadium a bit late, but didn’t miss much as I already had exterior pictures completed from Friday. With the team named after the Blue Granite found by the nearby river, I wish that material (or something resembling it) was used instead of the repeated brick. Otherwise, they do a nice job here theme wise with blue featured in seat color and the large sign above the press box. The team shop is called “The Quarry” and other touches can be found on their unique name (but I’m not a fan of the ridiculous Mr. Celery that was born by random). Stadium design is fine, though I could do without so many bleachers. The high general admission seats set way back beyond third base are strangely placed after a 2001 renovation, while it is on this side that one has the best view (no sun and a great look at downtown Wilmington). I loved the remarkable amount of craft beers available at Crafty Lefty’s Brewhouse, highlighted by 16 Mile Brewery. It was a fairly light turnout for the game and we saw a second straight Carolina League event with an interesting ending. Lynchburg was up 4-2 in the 8th inning, when Ramon Torres botched what should have been an inning-ending double play. Later in the inning, the Hillcats added two more. This was important as the Blue Rocks staged a rally in the 9th and they made 6-4. Lynchburg also had an error to keep the game alive as Wilmington tacked on another with 2 outs. The bases were loaded for Michael Antonio, but he unfortunately grounded out and Wilmington fell just short. Remember that just two months ago I saw the visitors make a remarkable comeback, walk-off win. A full review will be coming shortly for Frawley Stadium too, but one other note…terrific job by the organization to honor POWs/MIAs with an open seat at the game. I saw this behind Section I and it really is an excellent gesture.

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Frawley Stadium

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Baseball This Weekend

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 16, 2014

Logos.
With last year’s July baseball weekend excursion into the Mid-Atlantic going so well, we’ll be repeating with another trip to the region this weekend and a pair of new stadiums. On the itinerary are the Washington Nationals and Wilmington Blue Rocks!  It’s a busy weekend, as we’ll be in Northern Virginia to visit cousins and friends, then head into DC Metro for a Nats game at 7:05 PM against Milwaukee. This will be sandwiched by a couple stops in Wilmington, DE. On the way down, we’ll stop to explore the Riverfront section of the city and check out the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, since that is only open Tuesday-Friday. Heading back home on Sunday, a good chunk of time will be spent at Winterthur, just one of the famous DuPont sites (and it also has a Downton Abbey exhibit that the wife really wants to see…I love the show too). After that, Stadium Visit #151 will be at Frawley Stadium as the Blue Rocks take on Lynchburg. Looking forward to it and I’ll have a recap next week.

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July 2014 Stadium of the Month – Frontier Field

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 12, 2014

The wide concourses at Frontier Field have a terrific array of concessions

The wide concourses at Frontier Field have a terrific array of concessions

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When I was trying to come up with July’s Stadium of the Month feature, I wanted food to be the focus as there are some stadiums (specifically ballparks) that have quality food options worthy of dining out for. I racked my brain for a little while and shame on me for temporarily forgetting my first minor-league ballpark that has stood above the next 43 stadium visits I have made. It is Frontier Field in my hometown of Rochester, NY! The community-owned Red Wings play in a facility that has highlighted food since its opening in1996. The food menu is much more than just 872 varieties of weirdly topped hot dogs like all other minor-league ballparks now offer (faking both quality and quantity). Rochester instead offers a selection that can take a visitor a good month of games to sample everything and it starts by staying local. City delicacies include the traditional Zweigles white hot dog (think of a more porkier version) and the garbage plate (may not sound appetizing but it is, make sure to eat with bread). Both can be found at Frontier and while the plate is not truly from Nick Tahou’s, it is close. More local favorites are abound throughout the park as Red Osier offers great Prime Rib sandwiches, Salvatore’s contributes their excellent Pizza and Chicken French or Chicken Parm can be found from Calabria Italian Restaurant. “I could go on forever baby” (thank you Angels with Filthy Souls), but I’ll just throw out a few more items worth trying: The Mac and Cheese, the Flowering Onion, the Crepes and the Chili. To top it all off, there is even a beer unique to the ballpark. Rohrbach’s, a craft brewery in Rochester, features four beers at their stand including “Red Wing Ale”, an excellent beer red ale specifically made for the team. If that’s not enough, traditional Genesee Beer can be found at the park as well (emmmm…Cream Ale).

Frontier still has a special place in my heart as those first smells of the concourse take me back to my childhood and all of the Red Wings and Rhinos games that I attended. Little did I know that over 15 years and 43 ballparks later, it stands above all in the food category. The park itself is decent with the downtown location offering a nice backdrop for games, including the Kodak building towering over the third base side. While I’ve never been fond of the generic seating bowl that seems to fan out from the field too much, the atmosphere for a ball game is very pleasant. Front-office management is top notch (led by Dan Mason) and the in-game stylings on the traditional organ by Fred Costello is much appreciated.

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