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Airing of Grievances

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 23, 2015

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Giant graphics like these that stay on the screen forever is just a small sampling of Fox’s sucky soccer coverage

 

I’ve got a lot of problems with you people! The following is not stadium-related, but it’s always fun to get these sports issues out into the open….

 

-  My favorite sport of college basketball is getting harder to watch for a number of reasons, but the last two minutes of games is eye-gouging. The start/stop nature is being exacerbated by an insane amount of replay reviews as officials find the need to go to the monitor for every single out-of-bounds play or extra tenth of a second off the clock. Not to mention that we need to look at the replay just in case somebody pushed another player, such a heinous act! I’m ready to throw something when officials have two of themselves look at the monitor, then the other referee, then talk about it, then talk forever to the coaches, then talk to the broadcasters, then make the call. It’s almost unwatchable. Andrew Murawa had a great article over at Rush The Court on the issue.

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-  Robert Allenby….Really?

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- I’m still trying to figure out how exactly Chris Fowler came to become ESPN’s #1 Play-by-Play college football announcer. Shouldn’t you have to put in some time as an actual announcer instead of getting anointed for such a huge gig. Aside from a few Thursday Night games, Fowler strictly was/is a studio host and how ESPN caters to him is a such a joke, especially since it’s not like he has wowed in his position. If you are going to boot Musburger fine, but tell me why far more deserving, long-standing broadcasters like the excellent Brad Nessler or the terrific Sean McDonough do not get that promotion. How this is just accepted by everyone, I have no idea (PS, same thing happened on tennis, where Fowler sidled his way in to demoted Cliff Drysdale).

-  Fox’s atrocious soccer and studio coverage deserves it’s own post. From the obsession with standing around a fake soccer field to the Gus Johnson experiment to the unlikeableness of Eric Wynalda…they are as bad as ESPN World Cup / NBC Premier League is good. I’ll stick with one point today and it is a simple one. Why do they have to put on a graphic that takes up 15% of the screen at the end of the game to tell us who won!!! While watching the Everton-West Ham 3rd Round Replay penalty shootout (that one hurt real bad as an Everton fan), Fox puts a graphic up saying West Ham wins. I couldn’t get a screenshot, but the graphic is the same layout as the one in the picture at the top. We just watched the freakin game finish, why do you have to place this giant banner that West Ham won and leave it on the screen for a minute! They did this last year too when Arsenal won the FA Cup. I think the viewer can see that they won, so watch the celebration pictures. Errrr!!!!!

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-  How is Zac Rinaldo still playing in the NHL? This goon consistently makes dirty, late hits that put players in jeopardy and that was seen again Wednesday as he concussed Kris Letang and even bragged about it after. He’ll get suspended, but then will be right back in his uniform a few games later. Even some Flyers fans think he is an embarrassment, which is saying something. It seems that a player has to be stretchered off for the NHL to actually take notice, despite all of their hypocrisy gibberish about player safety.

 

Finally, we have to end on a good note. If you want a smile on your face at the end of a long day, I urge you turn on any Pac-12 basketball game that is broadcasted by Bill Walton and Dave Pasch. I’ve loved Bill for awhile and I can’t describe the things that come out of his mouth. I laughed out loud several times last night, probably the most when he called Karl Ravech “Kevin Radish” and Pasch responded by saying “He’s only been with us at ESPN for about 25 years”. Anyway, enjoy just a small sampling of the amazingness…Throw it down big man, One Time!

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Hoops with the Dukes and Vulcans

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 12, 2015

A.J. Palumbo Center

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Even though the temperature never exceeded 8 degrees on my drive across Pennsylvania Saturday Morning, a bright blue sky was all that mattered. I could deal with the cold since I wouldn’t be spending much time outdoors, but gloves were certainly needed for the exterior photos. My first visit to Pittsburgh in 2008 was awesome and I really enjoyed the city. Driving though is a pain as while all the bridges, rivers and hills make for spectacular sights, the roads are confounding. At least getting to my first destination was smooth and I arrived on the Bluff for Duquesne’s home basketball game around Noon. I also got a great view of the Consol Energy Center as the home of the Pens is a couple blocks from the A.J. Palumbo Center. After dropping $10 for parking (boo downtown campuses), I got inside the small corridor and into the arena. I liked the bright layout and though simple, there were enough quirks to keep me interested. A 2010 renovation really did this place wonders and turned it into a quality small arena. There are four sections of seating divided between A and B levels with the corners open. With only about 1500 in attendance, I picked the B3 section to sit in, which was a nice elevated upper area that sits over the hospitality area. Renovations also led to wide chairbacks and a really nice scoreboard. A couple suggested improvements to the staff: add some signage in the building for the somewhat hidden downstairs corridor on the north side of the building. I had no idea it existed and it led to more bathrooms, concessions and basketball displays. Also, turn down the sound system and the heat. Otherwise, the building is a step up from conference foes LaSalle and Fordham, but not as good as their opponent on the day, Rhode Island. Full reviews on the whole experience will be updated soon.

The small crowd was into it for the first half as the Dukes surprised Rhode Island with decent defense and they had multiple double digit leads before the half. As the Rams crawled back, the fans faded too and the comeback was complete as Rhody took their first lead in forever with just 1:14 left. Duquesne’s Micah Mason (who was impressive on the day) made a floater to put Duquesne back on top. Only 21 seconds remained when Rhode Island got the ball back and after they missed on the ensuing possession, a scramble for the ball led to a foul and Jared Terrell made both for a 61-60 lead. Given my history with Rhode Island, I was convinced I’d see something special as Duquessne’s Derrick Colter let a jumper go at the buzzer. But it was not to be and the Rams escaped, and I mean escaped, with a one-point win. Blah, I can’t stand that maniac Danny Hurley on the sidelines (he got T’d up during the game) and watching them run off the court with a win sucked. For the Dukes, it’s been since 1977 since they’ve made the NCAA tournament and fans unfortunately are accustomed to these stinging losses. Fun fact, this is the fourth time I’ve seen Rhode Island play and all of the games have been entertaining. They are 2-2 when I’m attendance.

My GPS had some issues with the downtown roads, confusing them for the overhead interstates, so luckily I wrote down the way to get to the Liberty Tunnel and out of the city. I was on my way to California…the borough. It took about an hour to reach Cal U of PA, for my first Division II arena. They built a Convocation Center that should have been called the Controversy Center instead. A corrupt and blind administration led the push for the $59 million, 5,000 seat building. Keep in mind that the combined population of the borough and the college is just 14,000. A feasibility study pushed for a smaller, cheaper building, yet the now fired Angelo Armenti got his way and the school is stuck in debt. Not one event has sold the place out, even graduation. It doesn’t end there as enrollment is down, the school just laid off 30 of their staff and the football team had to forfeit a game this year because of players involved in a brawl in the town. Yikes. So while yes, this facility is nicer than probably half of the ones in Division I, it has not come without problems.
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CalU Convocation Center

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Putting that aside, as you would expect for that money, it is a nice place. The brick building starts with a video message board on the outside showing flames (the school is known as the Vulcans). Deep red seats wrap around 3/4ths of the court and they extend a good distance back with a wide walkway overlooking the floor from the top end. When I walked in, I was surprised to hear so much noise as the women were wrapping up and the crowd was really into it. Turned out to be a great finish and Indiana (of PA) won in OT. As I got ready to watch the same two teams with state names do battle on the Men’s side, it was surprising to see a good chunk of the crowd gone. That energy from the earlier contest disappeared too as each time a basket was scored, maybe 10 people clapped. IUP made sure to keep the arena quiet (though half of the fans inside were their’s) as they jumped out to a 20-2 lead and never looked back. The Hawks took care of CalU 69-45.

I stopped at Spuds in the sleepy town and though they specialize in funky fries for college kids, I got a decent sandwich in the completely empty place and got to my hotel to catch the end of the Ravens-Pats playoff game. It was back to Jersey on Sunday and expect to see a pair of reviews up on the website later this week. I’ll be writing for Stadium Journey as well. It was definitely nice to experience some college basketball again!

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Saturday Basketball in Western PA

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 6, 2015

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It’s January and college basketball is in the process of getting into the conference-play portion of the season, the best time to make a visit for a couple of games. I wanted to make sure that students were back on campus at whatever arena I went to see and most are still on break this weekend, except out in Western PA, where both Pitt and Duquense are into the Spring Semester. Unfortunately, they play at practically the same time (12 and 1 PM respectively). With my shift for work not ending until 12 AM Friday Night, sleep will be limited before heading out early Saturday Morning for the five hour drive, so I’m going with Duquense’s 1 PM game against Rhode Island at the AJ Palumbo Center. Now surprisingly in that region, there are a couple of D-II basketball arenas that make The List with a seating capacity over 3500, so the timing works out nicely as after the Dukes game, I’ll drive 50 minutes to the south to California (PA) for a 5 PM tip at their relatively new Convocation Center. Should be a quick, efficient journey before heading back to NJ Sunday Morning.

Studying all of this stuff for awhile, I think I have plans for future day trips to this part of the country. My thinking for separating trips out is Pitt and Indiana (PA) bball; Steelers and Pitt volleyball; Penguins and Johnstown hockey. We’ll see if that pans out, but it’s a nice/neat thought at least. In the meantime, I’ll focus on Saturday…look for a recap next week with reviews to follow including a pair at Stadium Journey.

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Wowed in Buffalo

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 29, 2014

FNA Interior

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Both the NHL schedule-makers and Mother Nature lined up beautifully for me to get back to a Sabres game during the long Christmas Weekend as Buffalo took on the Islanders. Despite this being a “Gold” game, the 2nd highest tier out of 5 in Buffalo’s price structure system, I was able to score nice corner seats for half the price at $40. It’s been five years since the last time I made it to the First Niagara Center and it’s been rough watching the team hit rock-bottom with seemingly everything going wrong on the ice. As things looked dreadful to start this season (with one eye towards the prize of the 2015 NHL draft), the young kids have actually started playing with some heart and effort, turning in some nice results in the process. With Sam Reinhart a year away in Juniors, Zemgus Girgensons has been a stud, while others have looked good at times.

Walking to the arena, the landscape has certainly changed with the completion of the HarborCenter. While this blocks that nice view of the decent exterior sitting at the foot of Washington Street, this building is a huge deal for the city. With two rinks (including an 1800-seat one), a hotel and the massive restaurant 716 Food and Sport, this often-neglected section is better off. This is thanks to Terry Pegula, the region’s Knight in Shining Armour. God Bless this Man. As owner of the Sabres, he has made lots of great tweaks to the building since last I saw it in 2009, including the Alumni Plaza on the outside with a statue of the French Connection. Inside, Blue and Gold finally is the dominant color scheme.

After grabbing a Beef on Weck and snapping some updated photos, we settled in to our seats just as Doug Allen was ready to belt out the Anthem (The Finger-Point Guy!). I do love his rendition. Despite having a passionate following with often decent game turnouts (no matter the crapiness of the team), I was completely ready to blast our fan base in this space. Quite often, the atmosphere at FNC is dead and there is no energy in the building and this occurred even when the Sabres were fielding playoff teams several years ago. But on this night, the crowd was lively and even if maybe it was because lots of out-of-towners like me came back home and got to a game, it was great to see. Despite the energy, the “Let’s Go Buffalo” chants faded as the Islanders took a 3-0 lead thanks to a dismal and sloppy showing in the Second Period. In the 3rd, a Nicolas Deslauriers shot got thru and cut the lead to 3-1. Then shorthanded, Girgensons took a perfect pass and shielded the defender to put home a wrist shot that got the crowd really going with an extended ovation. With 8:09 left, Chris Stewart finished the comeback and the game was tied at 3. After an exciting overtime, about 80% of the building was full and the fans responded with a nice long ovation before the shootout, which the Sabres won. This was only the second time in franchise history that Buffalo came back to win from a three-goal deficit in the third period. It was an awesome night, something that I haven’t felt as a Sabres fan in quite awhile. 

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2014 Year In Review

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 22, 2014

Providence Park Interior

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It’s that time of year again for reflection as we conclude our 5th year of this website and 12th year of visiting stadiums. There was a lot to enjoy in 2014 which included a week in Oregon and a game in six other US states. In all, 14 new venues were reviewed and with our first child on the way, that number likely will drop a little next year as we excitedly look forward to that life-changing event. Let’s take a look at the past year in stadium visits:

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Favorite New Stadium:  Providence Park……As if there was any question on this. If I had a Bucket List, this venue would be close to #1 as I have been fantasizing about making a visit and it was a key reason we chose Oregon for a summer vacation. The home of the Portland Timbers combines everything that I love in a sports venue: history, unique design, special touches and amazing atmosphere. There will be no other soccer stadium like this in the country and the re-design to become home of Portland’s MLS team in 2010 is remarkable. Add in the Timbers Army and you have a very special place.
………Honorable Mention: Ron Tonkin Field, K-Rock Centre, Nationals Park

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Worst New Stadium:  Volcanoes Stadium……What an awful ballpark. It’s amazing that Volcanoes Stadium is only 17 years old as this park feels like 1985. The edge of suburban setting in Keizer, OR sets the stage for a blah experience in a drab stadium. The lowlight is the faded-red seats which now resemble a pink color.
………Honorable Mention:
Jack Kaiser Stadium

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Favorite New City:  Kingston, ON…..Just yesterday, the Limestone City was featured on Rogers Hometown Hockey. Kingston was the site of our second OHL trip and I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty and vibrancy of this city on the shore of Lake Ontario. A walk down Princess Street is full of eclectic eateries and it may be possible to go a season with trying a different post-game establishment after each Frontenacs contest. The city’s architecture is appealing and a lot of history can be explored on a visit here. 
………Honorable Mention: Portland (OR), Lynchburg, Charleston (WV)

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I Need Light:  Barclays Center…….Jay-Z’s obsession with all things dark is a little overboard. Along with the Nets logo and Barclays Center interior, the lighting is kept to a minimum, so much so that walking up and down stairs in the upper deck of seating is a challenge. I could not even read my program without the use of a cell phone flashlight! The whole spotlight on the court thing may look cool, but let’s save the dimmed lighting for theatres.

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Best Restaurant:  Depot Grille…..Only a few weeks before our visit, this restaurant was closed because of a train derailment. Everything was back up and running in this scenic spot at the bottom of Lynchburg’s downtown hills. The old train depot decor really makes this place a great spot, while the classic American food is decent as well.
………Honorable Mention: Harpers Burger Bar in Kingston, ON;  PDX 671 in Portland, OR;  Shake Shack in Brooklyn, NY

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Best In-Stadium Food:   Ben’s Chili Bowl…..Not for those with weak stomachs, this DC institution is popular all game long at Nationals Park. In a ballpark full of great food options, I went with Blue Smoke (BBQ), but did at least have a sample of Ben’s famous “half-smoke”, which is a sausage smothered in chili sauce. Good stuff.
………Honorable Mention: Junior’s Cheesecake in the Barclays Center; Pork Bahn Mi in Ron Tonkin Field

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Best Game  Lynchburg vs Winston-Salem……In what was a good year for the home teams (10-4), the only good finish to a game took place on Memorial Day in the Carolina League. We went to the ninth inning with Lynchburg down 6-4. Aided by a pair of walks, the Hillcats loaded the bases and with one out and Jose Peraza at the plate, the game was in doubt. Peraza ripped a single to left field and a misplay by Courtney Hawkins led to three runs scoring as the jubilant Hillcats celebrated on the field. This also marked the first walk-off hit I have seen live.
………Honorable Mention: Colgate vs Holy Cross
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Championship Teams:  Hillsboro Hops…….After the Beavers left Portland in 2010, there was no baseball within the Portland Metropolitan area. That did not last long as Hillsboro, a suburb 30 minutes to the west, ended up building a ballpark that drew a Northwest League franchise. With clever branding and a shorter season, fans have filled Ron Tonkin Field nightly and they were rewarded with a championship this season. Our game featured a rare loss by the Hops, but that was an anomaly as Hillsboro went on to win 20 of their last 26. That included a sweep of Vancouver in the championship round.
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Best Drive:  US-97 and US-26 from Bend to Portland…..We went everywhere in our week-long trip thru Oregon and after spending some time on the edge of the high desert (where we saw the Bend Elks play), we made the 3-hour drive back to Portland with some incredible scenery. The Central part of the state is unknown to many as the terrain is more stereotypical Arizona than Pacific Northwest. The entire time, snow-capped Mount Hood is the focal point and quickly, the route climbs back into the Ponderosa Pines that surround the famous mountain. From there, it is all downhill to the Rose City.
………Honorable Mention: US-220 in Western Virginia, I-68 in the Panhandle of Maryland 

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Worst Drive:  I-81 to Hamilton, NY…..This isn’t so much a bad drive as it is more annoying than anything else. Colgate University’s campus is smack dab in the middle of New York state. With no highway access, there really isn’t good way to reach the tiny, charming town of Hamilton and some old-school map skills are needed for the best route. Rolling farmland generally follows the ride along the quiet two-lane roads, which can be a little scary if on them at night. 

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Best Side Trip:  Vandalia Gathering…..West Virginia has a backwoods reputation that limits visitors to those just focused on outdoor recreation. However, I would encourage everyone to also venture into Charleston, where we found the little city along the Kanawha River to be full of great people. Each May, the grounds of the State Capitol host a celebration of all things Appalachia and before a game to see the West Virginia Power, we hung out at the festival enjoying jam sessions all over with banjos, violins, fiddles and the like. This was followed by a visit to the free and excellent West Virginia State Museum. Great food, great people, great sounds, Charleston was a pleasant surprise.
………Honorable Mention: Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn, Yale University in New Haven, Lynchburg Museum in Lynchburg

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Best Return Visit:  Bell Centre…..With nearly 150 more stadium experiences under my belt, a trip back to hockey heaven in Montreal was long overdue. My brother joined me for a memorable return to Quebec that included a trip up Mont Royal and a walk-through Old Montreal. Despite the constant cold and nursing of Eric’s leg infection, the trip was great and a Canadiens game remains a top experience in the NHL. I may not be a huge fan of the building itself, but the atmosphere is terrific and the team hall of fame is remarkable.
………Honorable Mention: Red Bull Arena, Carrier Dome

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Dec 2014 Stadium of the Month – Independence Bowl

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 15, 2014

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Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA (image from Stadium Journey)

 

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This month’s featured stadium is more out of sympathy and enlightenment than anything else and ironically, I was thinking of doing this before Tim Brando went all berserk. As a bowl destination, Shreveport, LA does not exactly drum up images of excited college fans flocking in. Nor should it really as the largest city on the I-20 corridor between Dallas and Jackson is merely a stop-over for many. Dig a little deeper and there are reasons to enjoy a visit in what is a gambling hotspot (there are 5 casinos between Shreveport-Bossier City). Aside from the slots and tables, there are several museums and a rejuvenated downtown section along the Red River that is worth checking out. Of course, the food is always an excellent reason to head to Louisiana and Shreveport is no different with plenty of great spots for Cajun, Po-Boys and a remarkable Strawberry Pie.

So what about the stadium? This is one of the rare places with a huge seating capacity and no home tenant. The 49,565-seat facility plays to area high schools every Friday Night and then its only other time on the “big” stage is once a year for a bowl game, typically between two middling teams. While the location off of I-20 is ideal for driving in, the surrounding neighborhood and distance from the city is generally undesirable. What I do like about this stadium is the historic simplicity. Built in 1925, but renovated many times over, you have a bowl topped by a sideline upper deck with ideal views. Atmosphere and amenities are not a reason to visit Independence Stadium, but a too-often overlooked city and stadium deserve at least some attention and the consideration of a trip.

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The Yale Whale

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 6, 2014

Ingalls Rink Exterior

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With college hockey so prevalent in my part of the country (the Northeast), I was surprised that it took until Visit #155 for me to see a college hockey venue. Now a decade ago, I spent plenty of time at the old barn (Romney Fieldhouse) watching Oswego State hockey, but that place barely held 1000. What better way to kick off a new genre of venues than at the home of the 2013 National Champions, Yale. The drive to New Haven is always a pain thanks to I-95 and I left work on a Friday, right at 1 PM so I could avoid rush hour and get some outdoor shots. Hoping for a long-term relationship, I would be testing out my new Nikon CoolPix P530 as an upgrade to my Canon Powershot A590 that served me so well over the years. 

It was around 3:30 when I reached Yale’s urban campus in New Haven, where parking is sucks. I had to swallow my pride to use a garage that would cost me $9 for just two hours. This was my second venture through the area and what a remarkable campus it is with beautiful buildings and an incredible tree-lined street in the middle of a city. The afternoon sprinkles paused just enough for dry pictures to be taken of Ingalls Rink, an architectural marvel created by Eero Saarinen. His 1950s design is a humpback shape that explains why the rink is called “The Whale”. This is certainly the defining feature of the arena and it gives the building unique character.

With gates not opening for another few hours, there was a little time to kill and somehow in a busy place I found myself alone at each stop. First, I passed the New Haven Museum, where I convinced the front desk to let me in for free with less than an hour until closing time. In a very quiet building, there was time to check out the history of the region, while the other portion of the museum was art (boring). From there, I walked down Whitney Ave for a quick bite, looking specifically for pizza, which is a staple of New Haven. Town Pizza would have to suffice and again there was nobody there (a little concerning at 5 PM, though I know its early). The salad was good and the pizza was ok, but nothing spectacular. Glad I used the bathroom after I ate instead of getting an impression of the place beforehand as yikes was it run down. I knew this was the best option in the walking area and it reluctantly had to do.

Then it was game time and I moved my car to the garage next to the arena for $5. Inside, the seating swails like the outside, where there are a good amount of seats in the middle before lowering around the corners and ends. It’s all wooden benches, so not the most comfortable, but they have been refurbished. Many choose to stand behind the seating bowl and this certainly offers the better view of the ice. That architecture uniqueness shows off inside too, where there seems to be oceanic ebbs and flows to the designs and walkways. The notable roof remains interesting to note throughout. While the surface area of the building is tiny, a recent renovation in 2010 added space and hallways below the seating bowl and Yale did an excellent job of filling this section with history and displays. That’s where you can always suck me in. As we got close to puck drop, the crowd was very slow to arrive, but eventually, they filled about 85% of the seats. While Ingalls is noisy acoustic-wise, it doesn’t really come from the fans, who mostly resign to “ooohs”, “ahhhs” and the occasional roar during a goal. Yale dominated the shot total for the first few periods and they built a 2-0 lead. Each time RPI cut it to one, the Bulldogs were there to push it back to two. In the end, the Elis pulled away 5-2 with the team ending the game saluting the crowd. This was a nice introduction to the college hockey world and I’m looking forward to more in the coming years. Look for a detailed review next week and an updated Stadium Journey entry.

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Ingalls Rink Arena Interior

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Basketball Arenas Update

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 29, 2014

Stony Brook Arena Exterior

Finally, after many years of waiting, Stony Brook Arena has been renovated and reopened

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Looking through all of the 351 schools that play Division I basketball, I was surprised that this season did not feature any brand new arenas. However, four teams at least find themselves setting up shop in a different facility. Out on Long Island, after playing in the horrible Stony Brook Arena since 1990, the Seawolves were promised a renovated facility in 2007 and the team subsequently moved to tiny Pritchard Gymnasium on what was initially thought to be temporary. As state renovation funds were frozen, the upgrades never got going and Stony Brook remained in their high-school like gym for several years. Finally, a few years ago construction began and the “new” Stony Brook Arena is back hosting basketball. I’m looking forward to returning at some point as the previous version was atrocious with a ridiculous amount of deficiencies for a relatively young building. Of course, a bank had to attach their name to the new place and it will sadly be called the Island Federal Credit Union Arena. Ugh. 

Staying in the America East, Maine is moving off-campus as they will now play their games 15 minutes to the south in Bangor, where the 5,800 seat Cross Insurance Center just opened. Also moving to a downtown multi-use facility is North Dakota State, but that move is not permanent. For the next two seasons, the Bison will be in Scheels Arena while they have their new arena built, to be called Scheels Center. Sheesh. While TCU’s arena gets renovated, they will be playing games this season in the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center, which is home to the Fort Worth School District. It will be kind of strange to see a Power 5 team play in an arena that does not even seat 5,000. Lastly, as Comcast continues its ridiculous brand change, Maryland’s arena is now called the Xfinity Center.

In the NBDL, two franchises are out and three come in. The new team is Westchester (NY) and though the Westchester County Center is below my required capacity (I think…as its hard to find exact numbers), this seems like an ideal place for the Knicks’ affiliate. Meanwhile, Springfield moved to Grand Rapids and that introduces a new line on The List as the DeltaPlex Arena is the home for the Drive. While the capacity is stated at 5,000, the seating chart does not seem to reflect that. I’m curious if the graphical representation is misleading or if in fact they are closing or curtaining off sections. The Tulsa franchise moves to Oklahoma City into the Cox Convention Center (where the AHL’s Barons play), but it is what happened in NE Oklahoma that is more interesting. I’ve written before how the Tulsa area incredibly has several arenas with a capacity of at least 3,500. Well inevitably one has failed. The 66ers had to relocate as the SpiritBank Center in Bixby essentially closed. Saddled with financial trouble, the arena is no longer having any major events. In fact, the website now just goes to a catering company operating at the facility. Keep in mind, this place was completed in 2008 for $50 million, quite a bit money for what is now essentially a business complex.

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Nov 2014 Stadium of the Month – EnergySolutions Arena

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 20, 2014

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EnergySolutions Arena before new scoreboard (image from Wikimedia Commons)

 

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This month’s Stadium feature brings us to what is a dying breed in the NBA…a relatively young arena with great sightlines but not enough money-making specialty seating. Out in Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz play in EnergySolutions Arena, but I can’t warm up to that name so let’s go back and call the old Delta Center. Built in 1991, the arena is large but intimate as two decks of seating feature a significant amount of green seats (capacity is close to 20,000). It is clearly built with basketball in mind and with just one ring of small luxury suites, all fans get to enjoy decent seats and views no matter the row location. This brand of arena from the late 80s and early 90s is fading as money-hungry owners and teams demand new ones to fill their pocket, even though these 20-25 year old facilities are completely serviceable. We’ve already seen Orlando’s disappear and Sacramento’s will be gone soon too. Higher ups are trying to get a new arena to replace the Bradley Center in Milwaukee as well and let’s hope they fail as their sole efforts are to make more money. So far in Utah, things are quiet and their current home arena seems safe. Besides this place even survived a tornado!.

There is more to the Delta Center Jazz experience worth taking in. The downtown location in a great city surrounded by beautiful scenery is ideal and inside, Utah’s fans are some of the loudest in the NBA. Go back to the days of the 1997 Finals against Chicago and remember how deafening it got. Hopefully the fans aren’t fixated on the new scoreboard instead of looking at the floor as the screen is incredible for those that like those amenities (it’s too large for my liking). The building also has history as several Winter Olympic events were held here in 2002. Not many of these arena types are left in the NBA and if you are going for strictly a great game-watching experience, check out this arena in Salt Lake City.

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Kingston-Montreal Weekend

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 11, 2014

K-Rock Centre Exterior
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Before even reaching Canada, we had another overlying story to contend with this year. My brother joining me on the trip, Eric, had a leg infection discovered the day before and with the potential serious impacts that can result with spread or evolution of infections, at the first sign of a fever, we were out of Canada and into a hospital. Thankfully we made it thru both days as the leg healed and antibiotics helped the wound tolerable to walk on.

Aside from a constant rain in upstate NY, it was an uneventful ride, while the hilarious AutoRap app created the entertainment until arriving in Kingston. Once in the Limestone City, I got a first taste of winter with temps in the 30s, which is exceptionally cold when you are used to the mild temps of the prior season. We parked along Brock Street and grabbed lunch at the Golden Rooster Deli before fighting thru the biting wind to see the city. With a low skyline, the downtown is full of historic buildings, many of them filled with an eclectic mix of great restaurants. After getting some outdoor pictures of the nearby arena, we walked past the striking City Hall, down Ontario Street to the Great Lakes Maritime Museum. Though met with a strong sense of boredom by Eric, we checked out the very thorough and descriptive museum, which displayed everything marine oriented. Good for anyone with a strong interest in that, but it was a little dry even for me. I wanted to check out the Original Hockey Hall of Fame, but they are rebuilding and just have a few displays in their far away location.

Dinner was at Harper’s Burger Bar and then we walked to the Rogers K-Rock Centre, the only sports facility I know with the shameful double advertisement as Rogers bought the radio station, just like everything else it is snatching in Canada. The building rates very well and is overall nice with little touches that make it more appealing, like the hints of limestone and the nearby remnants of the original Fort Frontenac. Inside, the concourse features a Kingston Sports Hall of Fame, which includes Don Cherry as a member. A fairly standard oval bowl circles the rink, while at the top is a nice walk around feature for standing and drink rails. Festivities for Remembrance Day were quite touching before the game and a decent crowd was there for the event. The Frontenacs were not able to put on a good show as they were sloppy, lethargic and offensively challenged. North Bay opened the scoring in a rather dull game with a goal by Nick Paul at 11:21 of the 2nd. The killer was a PP goal with just 3.4 seconds left and the Battalion were in control as they led the shot total 22-13. By the way, those North Bay uniforms are hideous and I can’t believe they kept Brampton’s nickname when the franchise moved. Anyway, a pair of bad Kingston penalties led to another North Bay goal and it wasn’t until this point (halfway thru the 3rd) that the Frontenacs woke up. Spencer Watson finally scored with a little more than three minutes left and they were close to getting a second. Alas, North Bay added an empty netter and won 4-1. Overall, a decent arena in an even better location with a downtown worth spending some time before or after a game.

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Guy LaPointe Retirement

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Montreal was a three hour drive away and we left around 8 AM. It’s interesting how as you go further east in Ontario, the road signs are both French and English, yet the second you reach Quebec, any English in the signs disappear. The people however are very helpful in Southern Quebec with the language and it amazes me how bilingual Montreal is. The first stop was Mont Royal, where I led Eric in the wrong direction before getting us to the Chalet and the amazing overlook of the entire city. We scored parking for the day at a modest $10 in Place Bonaventure, a shopping/office complex that included our hotel. Getting out of the area was a maze as we looked like bumbling idiots trying to get out.

After reaching daylight, it was a decent walk to Old Montreal for lunch and some walking thru the historic streets. We saw the Basilica Notre Dame and Jacques-Cartier Place before making another long walk to the Bell Centre. I’ve read about Montreal’s Underground City and the miles of climate-controlled tunnels but where is it? Without finding an entrance, we walked in the cold and finally reached the ugly building late afternoon. The Bell Centre is such a blah brick building and there is a ton of construction around it. We spent time first at the wonderful Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fame before going inside. My second time here and I still am not a fan of this place. It is too big and the only quasi-affordable seats in the upper-deck are ridiculously high up. Lots of obstructions block the rafters/scoreboard view from the 400 seats, along with really dark lighting. Now the atmosphere is another story as this is the Canadiens’ best feature with loud fans filling the arena with cheers and chants like “Go Habs Go” and “Ole”. Montreal also knows how to do ceremonies and I felt honored to be there on a night that Guy Lapointe saw his number retired. It was very classy and well-done. The pre-game intro was great too, but nothing like the one they were doing in the playoffs last year. After a slow start, a Brendan Gallagher blast gave the Canadiens the lead in the second period. Minnesota tied it up five minutes later, but a goal by Lars Eller with 50 seconds left in the period gave Montreal back the lead and then they scored a pair in the third as the crowd really started enjoying their Saturday Night. By a slight margin, old MSG was louder during a regular season game I saw, but this was close. One more walk to the hotel finished off 5.5 miles of walking on the day (whoops forgot Eric was on a bad leg). It was a tiring, but fun trip and look for a Kingston review late in the week and a Stadium Journey Bell Centre update later on.

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