Stadium and Arena Visits

Reviews and Photos of Arenas, Ballparks and Stadiums in the United States and Canada during Sporting Events

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A Special Day In The RVA

Posted by Sean Rowland on February 8, 2016

Virginia State Capitol

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Friday was travel day and it started quite early as a quick snow storm meant my work shift began at 2 AM. Fighting fatigue, I still wanted to hit the road immediately after, so I left midday and the ride was ok until I got into Maryland and the dreaded Beltway at rush hour. It was a slow crawl that continued on 95 in Virginia, where traffic goes from 5 MPH to 65 to 25 in minutes. Very frustrating. Finally, it opened up past Fredericksburg and not long after I got to the hotel in Richmond, I hit the sack for a needed lengthy sleep.

Refreshed, I left for downtown Richmond a little before 8 AM so I could check out the State Capitol building before heading to the VCU game. The morning was cold, but in mid-winter form, my body was seasoned to walk outside for an hour as I checked out the surrounding grounds and views from the city on top of the hill. The original building dates back to Jefferson’s design in the late 1700s and as you would expect from this commonwealth, there is an abundance of statues and history here. After an hour here, I moved my car to a lot closer to VCU, but still a 20 minute walk away as I wanted to see Richmond between the heart of the city and campus. Probably not the greatest idea as there wasn’t much to see and a few spots were a little sketchy, so even though parking can be a challenge, I recommend buying a $7 pass ahead of time and parking at the Laurel Street Deck. Despite a young age, the Siegel Center is not the prettiest building on the outside, however past the main doors, the hallways and concourse are nice and brightly lit with Rams memorabilia all around. Inside the arena, the design simply features four sides of one-level seating with a walkway behind the seats. I was not a huge fan of the set-up because of the shallow slope to each seating side, which led to seats further from the court than expected. Plus, the end of the sideline seats went so far beyond the baseline, that it lead to less than attractive sightlines. While I was not a huge fan of the arena design, it did set-up one thing…noise! That is what makes VCU’s Siegel Center a special place and I was absolutely blown away by the atmosphere…

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VCU.

I always knew that VCU had one of the better atmosphere’s in college basketball, but it wasn’t until attending live did I know that it was this good….like Top 10 in the sport good. Fans hang on every single play and the amount of passion in each roar, cheer and boo was notable. They understood the game and it is one of the very few places that I have been to where a scoreboard was not needed to egg a crowd on. It also is insanely loud and I completely believe the 110 decibels it once hit. Then you have the incredible pep band, which makes the scene all the more festive. The Peppas are the best pep band I have heard and they’re playing thru nearly the whole hour pre-game was quite enjoyable. When they play “Havoc” and the “Hey” song with the VCU chant…it is special. The students are terrific too and they play their part in the event very well. The game was against GW and the Rams came in undefeated in the A-10. This was a terrific game of basketball with a great flow and the Colonials showed incredible poise in such a hostile atmosphere. They ended up keeping the game from getting out of reach and then took the lead on a Joe McDonald 3-pointer with a minute left. VCU was down two and had the ball with 10 seconds, but they could not convert a couple of attempts as GW somehow walked out with a win. Despite the tough loss, I walked out of the building blown away by an amazing sporting experience.

The 20-minute walk back to my car allowed me time to reflect and for my ears to stop ringing as I got ready for the next game at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The University of Richmond is a small, private school on the very edge of the city that is very suburban as opposed to VCU’s large urban campus. Before getting to Richmond’s campus, I took a drive down Monument Ave and saw the famous General Lee statue. I also stopped at the only “attraction” near UR and that is the Wilton House. I normally like old house tours, but this one was so incredibly awkward as the tour guide I had would not even be suited to have a phone conversation with somebody. The $8 waste of uncomfortable-ness thankfully only lasted 25 minutes and I hightailed it out of there for an early dinner on Grove Ave at The Continental.
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Richmond
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My early arrival on Richmond’s campus meant that I could park within walking distance of the arena instead of using the shuttle and I also walked past their beautiful football stadium. The campus has terrific scenery and brick buildings and the Robins Center follows the theme with a brick exterior. Even though the arena was built in 1972, a significant renovation a couple years ago essentially turned this into a new arena. I uttered an “Oh Wow” passing from the concourse to the interior as the set-up is terrific. Everything from the seating design, slope of the seats, four premium corner spots, the color scheme and the abundance of athletic logos and wordmarks all flowed so beautifully. The Spiders took on UMass and this game was more common of modern-day sports. It was shamefully announced as a “sell-out” despite about 25% of the seats being empty. The fans were good with a fine amount of noise, but it was only when the “noise-meter” came on where the loudness really increased. Richmond ran away 69-53 from a terrible Minutemen team that settled on almost every possession for a three-point shot. A couple cool things from the visit…the videos involving “Tarrant”, the Spider mascot and the pre-game video that highlighted all of the NCAA Tournament runs by previous Richmond teams.

I’ve been longing for a great college basketball experience and this past weekend certainly delivered with an incredible atmosphere at VCU and a beautiful arena at Richmond. I highly recommend a trip to RVA for anyone who loves the sport.

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Virginia Basketball Trip Restarted

Posted by Sean Rowland on February 3, 2016

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This time we are a go to take a trip for some basketball! After the Blizzard of 2016 cancelled my plans for a college doubleheader in Norfolk, the weather looks beautiful for a return to Virginia. Instead of the Tidewater, I’ll be heading to the state’s capital in Richmond, where the schedule has aligned nicely. We’ll start with a bit of touring downtown on Saturday before hopping a neighborhood over to The Fan for a visit to the Siegel Center and red-hot VCU. The Rams have won 11 in a row and they’ll take on GW. This is probably my most anticipated college basketball game yet as their arena is raucous and their fans aid in producing “Havoc”. After the game, I’ll have a few hours before heading to the opposite world out in the suburban outskirts of the city, where the private University of Richmond plays. Their game at the Robins Center is at 6 PM and it should be a good atmosphere as well with tickets to the game quite limited. I’ll then head back to Jersey on Sunday, in time for Super Bowl festivities. College Arenas #28 and #29 on my list should be great and I’m really looking forward to this one. Back next week!

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Ranking the Stadiums of Philadelphia

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 27, 2016

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A few months ago,  a trip to McGonigle Hall on the north side of Philadelphia completed a journey to all of the stadiums on The List within The City of Brotherly Love. Only Drexel’s basketball arena could be considered as missing, but it was not visited as the Daskalakis Athletic Center only seats about 2500. I’ve really enjoyed checking out games in Philly and I’ve found that their fans have been unfairly stereotyped. Every city has bad seeds and that includes Philadelphia, but the brush fans get painted with here is grossly unfair. As for the stadiums, there are many really good ones that range from modern to classic:

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1)  Citizens Bank Park  –  Philadelphia Phillies  –  Ranking: 79.5

Despite the overplayed “Retro” style, this is a stellar ballpark. Along with a well-designed seating bowl, I really enjoyed Ashburn Alley in the outfield, where fans gather nearly two hours before the game. The historical displays in this area are well done and CBP has food that could sustain fans for an entire homestand. The rating may be a little high because of the inflated Atmosphere ranking since I went in the middle of their World Series runs, but even with an adjustment, this would still be Philly’s best stadium.

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2)  Lincoln Financial Field  –  Philadelphia Eagles  –  Ranking: 75.5

Not far behind is this building just a short walk away in the same Sports Complex. It’s another design that is friendly to the fans and what really makes the home of the Eagles special is the consistent fan support and very loud atmosphere. In many NFL stadiums, it’s easy to spot empty seats, but that’s not the case here. Fly Eagles Fly.

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3)  The Palestra  –  Penn Quakers  –  Ranking: 75.0

Not many cities can boast three sports facilities that are Bucket List worthy, but Philadelphia can and for a college basketball nut like me, The Palestra is near the top. I can still remember that sensation I had five years ago, walking thru the narrow concourse opening inside to a crescendo of noise and a historic gym like no other. 

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4)  Wells Fargo Center  –  Philadelphia Flyers  –  Ranking: 71.5

If you like hockey and are not a Flyers fan, then I’m sure you hate them. As a Sabres fan, I was squirmy in my seat with an uncomfortable feeling at a Flyers game, but from a neutral perspective, the arena experience is decent. The focus is solely on the game and while the arena is kind of blah, it is nice to not see distractions in every corner.

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5)  Liacouras Center  –  Temple Owls  –  Ranking: 69.0

The original “Apollo at Temple” is a much better name, but regardless, the Liacouras Center is a very nice mid-sized arena. As it approaches 20 years in age, it looks much younger and many schools would desire a building this nice. Keeping in mind that Villanova is a suburban school, it is surprising that more Philadelphian’s don’t come out to the games. Temple’s campus is only a few miles north of Center City.

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6)  Franklin Field  –  Penn Quakers  –  Ranking: 66.0

The University of Pennsylvania is just full of history and right next door to The Palestra is the football stadium, At over 100 years old, Franklin Field not only hosts Quaker football, but it also is home to the popular Penn Relays. This place is so much better than any old bowl stadium as Franklin Field has character and unique spots. Check out this corner seat. As for the game, make sure to be in the stands at the third quarter for the traditional Toast Toss.

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7)  Hagen Arena  –  Saint Joseph’s Hawks  –  Ranking: 63.5

I visited Saint Joe’s after the old Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse transformed into Hagen Arena, an expanded and upgraded facility that is still quite cozy. It’s a little claustrophobic inside, but that’s part of the charm. Can you imagine watching the 2004 undefeated Hawks team here and what an enjoyable place it was. After the game, I highly recommend a cheesesteak across the street at Larry’s.

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8)  Tom Gola Arena  –  LaSalle Explorers  –  Ranking: 53.5

This is the only stadium of the bunch that I did enjoy all that much. LaSalle is a pain to get to on the north side of the city and the building is surprisingly cramped for something built in the late 1990s. At the least the game was terrific, as I saw a double OT thriller that the Explorers lost against Manhattan.

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9)  McGonigle Hall  –  Temple Owls  –  Ranking: 48.0

McGonigle used to host all of those John Chaney basketball teams back in the 80s and 90s. Despite the Liacouras Center being built next door, I love how they kept McGonigle alive by having the women’s basketball and volleyball teams play here. I saw volleyball on a Sunday Afternoon in front of a handful of fans and the Owls win meant that Philadelphia home teams went 6-3 in games I attended.

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Arrrggh winter…Upcoming plans

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 17, 2016

Driving to Akron

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I love planning stadium trips…seeing what combinations can be made is enjoyable for organization obsessive people like me and of course, there is the fun of looking forward to traveling and stadium visiting. But every year, I get caught up in this excitement and plan winter trips when I know full well that the weather can wreak havoc on those plans (both for work and driving purposes). Oops, I did it again. After working up a cool trip to the Hampton Roads with an Old Dominion – Norfolk State doubleheader this weekend, our first major storm on the East Coast has shattered those plans. Bummer, as I was especially looking forward to a game at ODU’s Constant Center. On a side note, planning a game for Norfolk State was the opposite of the enjoyable experience I had with ODU. Norfolk State’s communication is poor as the email correspondence I had with them was remarkably disorganized (and they don’t know how to properly use a CC). The work I had to do just to figure out how I could get on campus (a pass is needed to enter campus) earlier in the day to take pictures of the arena was something I haven’t had to contend with in the other 40 college campuses I’ve been on.

Looking ahead, I’m still hoping to make an early March trip work, which includes an NHL game in Pittsburgh. That would be sandwiched between a couple of return visits, one for Cornell basketball and the other for Erie hockey. I’m still trying for a college basketball trip as well, hopefully in a few weeks. It’s probably a good idea to hold off on looking too deep into that, but who am I kidding, I’m sure the research will begin as soon as I finish this post. College basketball offers the most diverse and enjoyable arena experiences, but man is it tough to plan out. 

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Big West Tour

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 7, 2016

BigWest

A lot of sports travelers are about visiting certain leagues and completing all of the teams in an entire circuit. Professional sports is a big task with roughly 30 teams spread out across the US and Canada, while the minor leagues have become spaced out too. So far, I’ve only completed the Eastern League (AA baseball), but that expires in three months when the Hartford Yard Goats officially replace the New Britain franchise. I’ve also talked about how the OHL is an excellent goal if sports trippers want to go that route and travel into Canada. In the college game, money-obsessed commissioners and school presidents have spread out most conferences, so that the big name ones need a plane to reach some league road games. However, there are still a few out there that are in neat and tidy regions (the way they should be). One of those is the Big West.

Beautifully dubbed “The California Bus League” by Kyle Whelliston, the Big West was not always a California-centric league. Schools like UNLV, Boise State, New Mexico State and Idaho spent a lot of time here before moving on. In a rare move, the conference consolidated geographically and with the exception of Hawaii, it is now a league with all schools in the California system (hence a bunch of CSU or UC acronyms). The nine-team league also means they play a true round-robin schedule. For road-trippers, this is such a great conference to strive for completion as many of the schools are around the LA area. Only UC Davis is in Northern California and the whole thing was perfect a few years ago when it was Pacific and not Hawaii in the league (The Tigers are in Stockton, not far from Davis). The arenas are on the smaller side, but there is a nice diversity between small gyms and mid-sized facilities with the highlight arena being the unique Walter Pyramid in Long Beach. The bonus…the weather is warm!!!

Visiting all 351 Division I Basketball arenas is an awesome, but very difficult goal. Seeing all the teams in a particular conference is a nice start and there are others to check out besides the Big West. Out of all the types of sports I go to, college basketball is my favorite because of the wide variety in the trip. From small towns to big cities, tiny gyms to pro-style arenas (and everything in between) and crowds ranging from friends/family to the insanely awesome one in Lawrence on Monday…the sport is the best for those obsessed with this niche of sports travelling.

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The Year in Visits – 2015

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 28, 2015

2015 Stadium Visits

Locations of each stadium visited in 2015

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What would December 26-31 be without a recap of the departing year. Since this website is centered on reviews, It probably would make sense to summarize it all right? In total, we saw 11 new stadiums, ballparks and arenas. Going forward, I still plan on hitting double-digit venues each year, but this year’s number was the lowest in a year since 2007 for very good reason as we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Shayla, into the world. Let’s take a look at the past year in stadium visits:

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Favorite New Stadium:  Lincoln Financial Field……I’m not a huge fan of professional venues within the Big Four as they are overly corporate and stale. But I was quite pleased in the visit to a Philadelphia Eagles game as The Linc has a seating structure different than most stadiums. There are several things that give the place character and it helps that every seat is filled. Fans are passionate and crazy, but not as horrible as every media stereotype indicates. The only deterrence is the boring Sports Complex surroundings. Fly Eagles Fly!
………Honorable Mention: PNC Field

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Worst New Stadium:  Municipal Stadium……Give me a stadium built before 1939 and you usually have me at Hello. But, when arriving in the parking lot at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium, the sad state of this bland, cheap facility was too much for me to cherish. This is old-school minor league baseball and the atmosphere is as such too with the lack of promotions. Typically this is refreshing (like in Williamsport or Elmira), but it wasn’t great here.
………Honorable Mention:
Hersheypark Stadium

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Favorite New City:  Frederick, MD……I had no idea how awesome Frederick is. Many cities have undergone a revitalization in the last few decades, but the City of Clustered Spires really has done a great job. Carroll Creek Park is such a fun place during the warm season and when I was there, the mini-Riverwalk held a craft beer festival. The main street thru town is full of excellent restaurants and pubs, plus the whole city is oozing history (especially Civil War) with interesting markers all over. 
………Honorable Mention: Hagerstown

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Really?:  Cal U. Convocation Center……I love stadiums and the game atmosphere, but even I had to question why California University of Pennsylvania needed a $59 million, 5,000 seat arena. Yes, it is a beautiful place, but the Division II school has had nothing but headaches and problems since the controversial completion of the project, which was vehemently protested by many. The former coal mining town of just 6,400 has not exactly seen a boom in concerts and events either. Now, this arena is never more than half full for any event and CalU struggles with debt and yearly losses.

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Best Restaurant:  Clyde’s…..On a stadium trip to the DC area, my Dad joined me and we spent some time in historic Georgetown. I always thought that Georgetown was only that school in gray I hated growing up and did not know it also is a neighborhood. It is an awesome place to walk around and a great evening was topped off with a meal at Clyde’s on M Street. It’s a classic place decked out in oak and I had the sublime Tuscan Sausage Ravioli.  
………Honorable Mention: Steve’s Prince of Steaks in Philadelphia, PA;  Pita Chip in Philadelphia, PA

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Best In-Stadium Food:   The Schmitter……This sandwich is best known for being at Citizens Bank Park, but it also has a stand at Lincoln Financial Field. Arriving from McNally’s Tavern in the Philly neighborhood of Chestnut Hill is The Schmitter, a sandwich that is “The Ultimate Cheesesteak”. This is not your normal Philly classic as this cheesesteak is loaded with stuff like tomatoes, special sauce, onions and it is on a Kaiser roll. Bring your appetite.
………Honorable Mention: None

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Best Game  Buffalo vs Canisius……During a Thanksgiving trip to see the family, I made the short drive to Buffalo for a return visit to Alumni Arena. What followed was another classic basketball game involving UB, similar to what I saw a decade earlier. After a bizarre sequence led to a five-point possession for Canisius, they eventually got the lead until a bomb from Jarryn Skeete tied the game for the Bulls with seconds left. In OT, the Griffs had the lead for much of the extra session, but a defensive breakdown led to a dunk by UB with less than 5 seconds left for the lead and the win. Great game.
………Honorable Mention: Southern Maryland vs Bridgeport;  Duquense vs Rhode Island
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Championship Teams:  None……The closest we came this year to seeing a championship winning squad was the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Crustacean Nation saw their team reach the Atlantic League Championship Series, but they fell short to another dominant team with the nickname “Patriots”. Somerset won their 6th title three games to one.
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Best Drive:  US-15 in Maryland…..On my way to a baseball weekend in Northwest Maryland, I drove through Pennsylvania via I-78 and then I-81. I then cut southward along Route 15 and it really was a nice drive once I got into Maryland. Hills are all around and immediately after crossing the state line, one sees the quaint campus of Mount St. Mary’s University. Catoctin State Park is next in Thurmont and then Frederick is not too far away. 

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Worst Drive:  US-301 in Maryland……Driving in Philadelphia or DC is obvious, so let’s go with a surprisingly crap drive. That would be Route 301 in Southern Maryland between Waldorf and Upper Marlboro. Given that this is DC suburb territory, congestion should be expected. Adding to the frustration is that this four to six lane road has many stoplights. With big box stores all up and down the sides, it is an aggravating stretch for those on a long car trip. 

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Best Side Trip:  Steamtown……This National Historic Site is located in Scranton and it is great for those looking to channel their inner Sheldon Cooper. Locomotives are the theme here and the historical information and visuals are impressive. They have a roundhouse and a train tour that is perfect for adults and kids. Steamtown is also right downtown and I enjoyed an old-fashioned Texas Weiner afterwards at Coney Island.
………Honorable Mention: Washington Monument in Boonsboro;  National Mall in DC;  Georgetown in DC;  Dr. Samuel Mudd House in Waldorf

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Best Return Visit:  MCU Park……Speaking of Coney Island, I went back to Brooklyn last July to see if the home of the Cyclones is still the highest rated minor-league ballpark that I have been to. It still is. This park does it all right and it takes advantage of an unparalleled setting. All the more special is how the ballpark survived and the neighborhood recovered from Hurricane Sandy.
………Honorable Mention: The Palestra;  Madison Square Garden

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PIAA Championships at Hersheypark Stadium

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 19, 2015

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After visiting Giant Center and Hersheypark Arena, there was one more venue to see in Chocolate Town: Hersheypark Stadium. With so few sporting opportunities at the stadium, I jumped at the chance to finally get there for the PIAA High School Football Championship. I talked a few days ago about how I do not include high school venues on The List, but do include facilities that consistently host their championships. It was about 3:30 PM when I reached Hershey, only to run into a decent amount of traffic along Hersheypark Drive. Maybe it was from people heading to the light display, but it was still daylight. Then I considered the earlier championship game in the A classification at 1 PM and maybe people were leaving, but that wasn’t it either. The last thing I was thinking was a concert on a weekday afternoon, but indeed the Trans-Siberian Orchestra were playing the Giant Center at 4 PM, which lead to the jam up. (Side Note…I love their stuff. Have you ever looked at their Tour Calendar, they load up on shows right near Christmas and must make all of their revenue in this month, which makes sense). Thankfully, I’ve been to Hershey a few times, so I knew that I could avoid the crowds getting into the Hersheypark parking by staying in the left lane and parking at Chocolate World, then walking over to the stadium. I only showed up early so I could get some exterior stadium pictures while it was daylight and while walking around, I encountered Bishop Guilfoyle fans buying their championship sweatshirts after the earlier game just ended. With extra time to kill, I walked over to Hersheypark Arena, where it looks exactly the same as it did in 2010. I sat in one of their old wooden chairs, mesmerized by such a beautiful old building. Fifteen years ago, they still played professional hockey here…hard to believe.

I went into town to grab dinner at the Chocolate Ave Grill. My sandwich was just ok and the waiter paid no attention to me. Around 6 PM, it was back into Hersheypark, where the game I saw was for the AAA Championship as two teams from opposite corners of the state played…Cathedral Prep (from Erie) and Imhotep Charter (from Philly). I got there just as the buses from Prep did as the kids in their orange sprinted across the parking lot to the stadium. It took me a bit longer to get in as I changed in the car…the layers of clothing were necessary for my skinny frame to survive the windy, 35-degree evening. The stadium is split into two sets of sideline bleachers and each school gets a side. Once inside, fans can not cross to the other sideline. That’s bad news for me in trying to photograph the stadium. Wish I knew ahead of time or I would have got a press pass. So, I needed to be creative and after earlier failed attempts, I finally sweet-talked the security guards to allow me over. There are metal detectors before entering the concourse, which meant three separate occasions of taking everything out and passing thru. Once all my reviewing chores were done, I hunkered into an upper corner, seeking protection from the wind and watched the contest while sipping Hot Chocolate.

My re-introduction to high school football left me thankful I don’t regularly travel to these games. It’s been 15 years since I was student at Hilton High School and watched my classmates play, so forgive me if this is naive and no offense to the kids playing…but are these games really this horrid to watch? I expected a lot more from two teams full of Division I recruits and instead got a mistake-filled contest full of dropped balls, fumbles and the inability to throw a forward pass in the wind. The start of the game didn’t exactly get off on the right foot either: It began with a failed onsite kick, where a player was laid out and a subsequent 10-minute delay. The next play was a re-kick that was fumbled. Then the following play, the head referee was hurt after getting knocked over. Yikes. This also wasn’t the best display for the dangers of the sport as the cart and ambulance twice made an appearance. A few bad seeds on the Cathedral side also didn’t help further the stereotype of the overbearing parent of an athlete. Some moron yelled that the coach’s son (the starting QB) sucks and to sit him. Later in the game, I heard this same lunatic tell the kids to “break someone’s leg”. Walking in to the stadium, another idiot said the metal detectors were there because of the people from Philly on the other side. Finally, we have Chris Hagerty, director of “strategic initiatives” (what?) at the school who at their pep rally referred to Saucon Valley High School (the semifinalists who lost to Imhotep 72-27) as something that sounded “more like a salad dressing than a football team“. I ended up rooting for Imhotep during this game and they went on to cruise to the state title, 40-3. It was also impressive at the end to see the class and respect from the Panthers (especially watch the end of the handshake line at around 1:33 below). This is the first state championship for a Philadelphia Public League school and the team dominated the competition all season long. What they have achieved is quite remarkable. I’m curious to see if in the future, we’ll hear the names of some of these players at the next level. Mike Waters ran for 201 yards and had 3 touchdowns, while TE Naseir Upshur rumbled down the field after his two catches. The wind wreaked havoc with Prep as they had 25 incompletions on the day.

The combination of the cold, idiot parents and poor play made this one of the very few stadium trips I have not enjoyed. There’s only around 50 of these stadium/arena types on The List and I’m glad these visits will be few and far between. I’ll have a review of Hersheypark Stadium up in a few days and a Stadium Journey review is coming as well.
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Championship Football in Chocolate Town

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 16, 2015

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I’ve had an internal battle during all my years of doing this on whether to include High School venues. In the end, a number of factors made me go against this route as the lack of reliable information on the venue, along with the general bare-bones nature (even if there are 10,000 bleacher seats) were the swaying factors. I did however want to include facilities that host consistent events and that includes high school championships. This allows me to keep city-owned stadiums and arenas that are more professional in nature on The List. There are more than 50 of them, where their only consistent sporting event held is a high school championship. 

That brings me to this coming Friday, where I will be making my first official visit to a High School event as Historic Hersheypark Stadium in Pennsylvania is the traditional home for the State Football Championship. This event has actually been on my radar for years, but it’s place in the calendar (December) comes during a busy and often cold season. Things have come together nicely this year, but the ridiculously warm weather this season is taking a two-day hiatus right around this time, so the winter gear will come back out of the closet. PIAA splits schools into classifications based on enrollment, so I have four games to choose from. I initially was leaning towards the AAAA (largest school classification) game Saturday Night, but my wife works to the early afternoon and I will be watching my daughter and didn’t want to cut it too close. Instead, I’ll be taking a half-day from work and heading to the middle of Pennsylvania for the Friday Evening AAA title game. Plus, it will be a few degrees warmer and a little less windy. The matchup features two teams at complete opposite ends of the state. Cathedral Prep from Erie will be looking for their third state title when they take on Imhotep Charter, who will try to become the first Philly Public League school to win states. Imhotep is absolutely loaded as they put up 72 points in their semifinal win and they are filled with DI commits. That includes TE Naseir Upshur who is heading to Florida State. Hershey is a great place for a title game and I will be filled with Hot Chocolate, enjoying the game!

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Basketball Arena Updates 2015-2016

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 9, 2015

905

Say Hello to Raptors 905 the newest D-League team. Man, I hope this is not the beginning of a trend for sports team names

 

There is not much change in the arena world of basketball this season as only two new arenas opened at all levels of the sport. In the NBA, we have a pair of new names as Phoenix now plays in Talking Stick Resort Arena, while out in Salt Lake City, “Vivint Smart Home Arena” is the renamed facility that the Jazz play in. What a terrible name and what’s the deal with this place. It was nice and tidy with Delta as the early sponsor. The switch to “EnergySolutions” and now “Vivint” sounds awful. Down a level to the expanding NBA D-League, the newest franchise is Raptors 905. You read that right. Not only is the name bad, but this is another example of a trend that dismisses the smaller city in favor of branding the professional franchise. In case you are wondering, the “905” comes from the zip code surrounding Toronto. This franchise will play in Mississauga at the Hershey Centre, where the Steelheads of the OHL play.

In College Basketball, there are two new arenas opening. Rather quietly down in Oxford, MS, the end is coming for the Tad Smith Coliseum as the University is set to open The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Delays have pushed the grand opening to Jan 7 for the Alabama game. Those blah SEC arenas built in the 1960s and 70s from Louisiana to Georgia are starting to go away, which is a good thing. I really like Auburn’s new arena and Ole Miss’ Pavilion should be great as well. The other new place is Baxter Arena, for DI-newbie Omaha. I mentioned this one a few months ago as the arena doubles as a hockey home for the school too.

Otherwise, there are several renovations, most notably in the land of the Orange Crush. The makeover to State Farm Arena has forced the Illini to start their season at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, which has not been kind so far. Another orange team is seeing an arena makeover as Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum becomes modernized. In the Ohio Valley, there are a pair of teams doing similar things: Removing nearly 2000 seats for nice new chairs and improving fan amenities. Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech are the recipient of those changes. Finally, one thing I can’t figure out is what is happening at UTSA (San Antonio). The Roadrunners media guide says Seating Capacity is 2,700 for their Convocation Center and it is temporary. The Google Machine could not find any renovation results or why this may be temporary. I’d be curious to find out what’s going on.

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Posted in College Basketball | Leave a Comment »

A Big 4 Thriller

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 30, 2015

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In Western New York, the Big 4 is made up of the four Division I schools in the area: Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St Bonaventure (though the Bonnies are a bit of stretch given Olean’s distance from Buffalo-Niagara Falls). Annually, these schools play each other and last Saturday, I took in the first installment of this local round-robin by heading to Amherst for the Buffalo-Canisius game. This was easily the most entertaining game I have seen live in quite a while as the pace was high. Jim Baron team’s love to push it and score and the Bulls were happy to oblige. UB started pulling away in the second half, however the Griffs kept the deficit manageable thanks to the inside-outside tandem of Kassius Robertson and Phil Valenti. With a few minutes left, Canisius was down six when they converted a layup with a foul. A bizarre sequence then followed as Jamal Reynolds missed the free throw, however there was a whistle and then a five minute discussion. The Griffs then took the ball out of bounds with the crowd stumped as to what happened. It wasn’t until reading a recap well after the game that we learned it was an inadvertent whistle and Canisius had the arrow. This is where college basketball could follow suit with other sports and make an announcement as to what the heck happened. The Griffs took advantage by scoring on the ensuing possession. A three with :52 remaining got them the lead and then a terrific block shot by Jermaine Crumpton set up a couple free throws and UB was in trouble down three with :20 left. However, a Jarryn Skeete bomb from the corner tied the game with seconds on the clock and it was on to overtime.

In the extra session, it felt like Canisius controlled the whole period, but the game was tied at 96 with less than a minute to go. A bobbled ball out of bounds meant we had to endure a third video review (Please NCAA, make Coaches Challenges!!! I can’t take these non-stop periods of officials hovered over a monitor). A turnover meant the Bulls could hold for the last shot and they took it down for a crazy ending as a defensive breakdown led to two players following Willie Connor. All alone to receive a pass under the basket was Nate Perkins and he slammed it home. Canisius got a poor shot off at the buzzer on the other end and Buffalo won 98-96. What a great game and I was able to get the last minute of regulation and overtime on video here and here. Sorry for the fuzziness in part of it as I learned zoom is not a good idea on my relatively new camera during video mode. If you can hear a couple of my groans, it’s because I was pulling for Canisius. 

As for Alumni Arena, this was my second visit to the building, the first coming in 2004. This is such an ugly facility with the drab brown brick exterior and the sad “Alumni Arena” panel slapped on. The inside of the arena is strange too as the main seating is a three-tiered sideline structure that has the unique feature of the outer-most sections fanning inwards. Otherwise there is not a lot to like as many of the seats in the 200 and 300 sections have railings that obscure portions of the court. Seats are further from the court than you would expect from a 6,000 seat arena and that includes the other 3 pull-out seating areas (especially the ends). The one good part is the scoreboard and I especially like the metallic “Buffalo” wordmark around the top. Students were on Thanksgiving Break for this game, so the atmosphere was understandably down amongst the 2500 or so on hand. They applauded each basket and didn’t really get all that into the game, though they were certainly following intently. Only the game-tying and game-winning baskets brought the crowd to their feet (and it was maybe half of them at that). Another interesting note is the game I saw 11 years ago was also terrific as Buffalo tied the game on a dunk with no time left. They won that game in overtime as well and it came against Fairleigh Dickenson. Maybe I’ll try to catch the Bulls when their on the road too!

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Posted in Visits | Leave a Comment »

 
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