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The Summer Baseball Leagues Update – 2015

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 22, 2015

Muzzy Field 2

Hello Muzzy Field! On your 100th birthday, we welcome you and the Bristol Blues to The List

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June updates to The List focus on the short-season leagues, including Summer-Collegiate baseball, where those looking for quaint purity can enjoy America’s pastime. Let’s start in New England and one of the more successful circuits, the Futures League. I wrote about the remarkable success and rebirth of The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach last year, however things have sadly gone downhill over the past several months. The owners of the Raging Tide couldn’t keep going and they tried to sell the team to someone in the local community, but there were no takers. The team was sold and moved to Bristol, CT (more on that later) and all that great work at The Ballpark seemed short lived. However, a team would return to this summer community in the form of the new, independent East Coast Baseball League. That lasted all of one month as mis-management led to the ECBL’s quick demise. There were teams ready to go and rather than see hard work and ready players go to waste, a hastily put together North Country Baseball League was formed, involving four of the ECBL franchises, including OOB. With the person running the NCBL also in charge of “Cheeburger, Cheeburger“, it’s hard to see the NCBL stay alive. But all the best to them and I hope this is not the sad end to a true success story in Maine.

OK, where were we? Oh yeah, the Futures League. So the arrival of the Bristol Blues is awesome! That means that Muzzy Field will be hosting games and this 4,900 seat relic is turning 100 years old this summer. On a trip to New Britain in 2013, I stopped to take a look at Muzzy and am thrilled to see a professional team play here. In the Coastal Plain League, we have a couple teams not on The List, but worth mentioning. With Columbia’s Capital City Stadium now gone, nearby Lexington County has become home of the Bluefish and they opened a baseball stadium last month that looks very nice. Also starting play in 2015 are the Holly Springs Salamanders, who have moved into the 1500-seat North Main Athletic Complex. Despite the college field sounding name, it’s also a nice place. There is also a new ballpark in the Prospect League, where the Kokomo Jackrabbits will play. Despite numerous issues at the stadium site, it’s amazing this stadium opened up to baseball after so much controversy (which is still ongoing).

Finally, in affiliated ball we have one change. The New York-Penn League continues to cheat on its name and the Jamestown Jammers have moved to Morgantown, WV. With a classy logo, the West Virginia Black Bears will begin play at Monongalia County Ballpark. It’s neatly built into a hillside with 2,500 fixed seats and more on the berms. The ballpark is actually in Granville, just across the river from Morgantown, and yes, it is the new home for West Virginia University. This is a trend I am disliking as I prefer college baseball to be separated from cities hosting professional baseball. I understand all the reasons why this happens, but am not a fan. Russell Diethrick Park will still live as the Jammers have turned up in the Prospect League, replacing Lorain County. 

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May List Updates

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 12, 2015

Welcome back Skylands Park (err...Stadium)

Welcome back Skylands Park (err…Stadium)

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In the month of May, we turn our attention to baseball’s Independent Leagues. I am happily surprised to see the Can-Am League still trudging along and the circuit even welcomes back a pair of returning teams that I never thought we would see again. In rural Sussex County, NJ, a franchise is back in the league after folding five years ago. The Sussex County Miners will play in Skylands Stadium, which curiously adjusted their name from “Park” to “Stadium”. It’s an interesting place for a team as the county is barely considered part of the NYC suburban network. I wish all the best for the Miners (only a half-hour or so away from where I live), but they need to improve the ballpark and the experience as it is rated the lowest out of the 49 minor-league facilities that I have been to thus far. Also making an unexpected re-appearance is the Capital of Canada. Remember the Fat Cats? Well they are not back, but instead we have the “Champions”. Hmmm…OK. Anyway they will play in a refurbished Lynx Stadium (the old AAA park), which has been renamed (deep breath): Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park. That’s not a person, but rather an advertisement for some advisory firm. I think we’ll call this place RCGT Park.

Over in the American Association, perhaps the nicest stadium in all of independent baseball is almost complete. The St. Paul Saints will move into CHS Field this summer and the gorgeous $63 million dollar ballfield is downtown and full of local character. I highly recommend a Twins-Saints weekend in the Land of a Thousand Lakes. As for Midway Stadium, it will become extinct as the land on which it sits is turned into an industrial park. Also joining the league is the Joplin Blasters. They will play in Joe Becker Stadium, which has had a facelift. It took me awhile to find the real capacity and even though it is listed at 4,200, about 2,500 of those “Seats” are of the grass variety, so they will not be included in The List. This is another place to root success for as Joplin continues it’s rebuild from the devastating tornado four years ago.

In league news, United League Baseball finally folded after prolonged folly. This does unfortunately mean that Texas ballparks LaGrave Field (Fort Worth) and Harlingen Field (Harlingen) go without a tenant. On the other side of the coin, we welcome the Mount Rainier Premier Baseball League and the East Coast Baseball League. Both are quite small, however the latter league includes Old Orchard Beach, where The Ballpark makes the move from Summer Collegiate ball to Independent.

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April Stadium List Updates

Posted by Sean Rowland on April 14, 2015

Say goodbye to the lack of electronics in Wrigley Field's Outfield

Say goodbye to the lack of electronics in Wrigley Field’s Outfield

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After a lonnnggg winter in the Northeast, even those not fans of baseball become happy at the first crack of the bat as that means Spring and warmer weather. This year, there are no new Major League ballparks, but there are a few notable goings-on. The sacrilegious demolition of Wrigley Field continues as being a billionaire just isn’t enough for Tom Ricketts as he finds more revenue streams from the Cubs. That means ad boards! No longer will Wrigley be a complete step back in time as the place gets a makeover, including a video scoreboard. Of course, they’re making a mess out of the whole thing as the Bleachers are in shambles. Even the Cubs website is pathetic in their display of the whole thing. Restore means to “Bring Back”. Wrigley wasn’t exactly dead. Meanwhile, to someone who knows how to properly treat an old ballpark, Janet Marie Smith continues her work on Dodger Stadium and their gradual improvements seem to be for the good. Lastly, Cleveland copied the success seen at Coors Field last year by creating a social gathering bar-type section called The Corner. Expect more trends like this around the league as the sport tries to stay “hip” with the younger crowd and advertise the game as a hang-out. This new section at Progressive Field reduced capacity by about 6,000.

In the minor-leagues, Nashville opens First Tennessee Park, at the site of the old Sulpher Dell ballpark. Not many tears were shed at the moving out of the 36-year old, vanilla Greer Stadium. The only signature piece fans wanted to see make the move was the guitar-shaped scoreboard, which is very cool. It will be interesting to see if this ballpark spurs other development in this downtown section of Nashville. Also in the PCL, the Oklahoma City franchise has been renamed the Dodgers. Boooo to that, I hate when a minor-league team loses it’s identity and character. Hope it’s not a trend as the same thing happened to South Bend.

Down in the South, the Huntsville franchise moves to Biloxi, where the Shuckers will take the field as another clever Brandoise designed team. The Shuckers will have to start play their first few months on the road and still in Huntsville, as MGM Park will not be ready until (hopefully) early June. Not good planning by all involved as the city is on the hook for nearly a $1 million to expedite the process and $10,000 for every missed home game. Probably should have thought that through better. As for Joe Davis Stadium back in Huntsville, it unfortunately is slated to be demolished. In a piece of great news, the Brevard County Manatees once again will partake in the Jackie Robinson Celebration Game. This contest is held at Holman Stadium in Vero Beach (former Dodgertown) and with it becoming an annual event, we see that historic venue back on The List.

In soccer, the lower divisions have resumed play this month and while the NASL sees little change (just the Jacksonville Armada join, making their home in the Baseball Grounds), big moves have been made in the third tier USL. I wrote about this last month and how much I hate it as the USL is evolving into a sort of MLS Reserve League. After LA Galaxy II played last year, there are now 8 MLS franchises that own an USL team playing in the same city. Most of these have some sort of symbol for “2” after their name, while only Salt Lake went with a different name (Real Monarchs, you know for all of that Spanish Royalty in Utah). Four of them play in MLS stadiums while the other four use a smaller facility within the region, none of which make The List. These are UBC Thunderbird Stadium (Whitecaps), Merlo Field (Timbers), Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila (Sounders) and the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughn (Toronto FC). Why I hate this trend is the ugly mix we now have between a reserve league with teams that have way different goals than the other independently run teams. Just make a stinking Division 4 and call it MLS Reserves.

The USL did expand in other ways too as there are five new teams in cities that did not have professional soccer. Again, none of these independently make it on to The List and two of them are using baseball parks (Louisville and Tulsa). The Austin Aztex will set up shop in House Park, a downtown stadium that has been the center of High School Football for decades. It is in a cool spot for the trendy/hipster crowd that likely will take to soccer well. Colorado Springs will play in a refurbished Sand Creek Stadium, right across from Security Service Field. Lastly, St. Louis may correctly be thought of as a baseball town, but there is a deep history and passion for soccer (see the Women’s friendly last week). It’s good to see a team there and they will use Soccer Park in Fenton.
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March Stadium Updates

Posted by Sean Rowland on March 17, 2015

pershing

Goodbye to the Pershing Center in Lincoln (pictured above, image from KFOR1240.com)…but hello again to Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque!

 

This month is about indoor football and the start of baseball, where we will start first…College Baseball began a month earlier and a couple new ballparks have opened, neither of which are on The List as they are under capacity. After years of delays and waiting, Coastal Carolina finally opens their 2,500-seat Springs Brooks Stadium (hard to say). The Chanticleers have a top program and the ballpark matches the direction they are headed. The other park is a product of the stupid conference re-alignment. With the generally weak baseball program of West Virginia joining the powerhouses in the Big XII, a ballpark to at least fit in the league was needed. The temporarily-named Monongalia County Ballpark will serve that purpose, but not just yet as this winter has delayed the opening. Out in Arizona, the Sun Devils followed their rivals’ footsteps as they join the University of Arizona in moving off-campus to a former spring training home. Arizona State leaves Packard Stadium to the briefly vacant Phoenix Municipal Stadium (Oakland moved their Spring Training back to Mesa and a renovated Hohokam Stadium). The move was a success in Tucson, not sure how it will pan out for the Sun Devils. Finally in the SEC, a big renovation to Sewell-Thomas Stadium means that Alabama will play all of their 2015 home games at the Hoover Met, which is still the host of the conference tournament. Georgia also made renovations to their ballpark, Foley Field.

In the world of indoor football, the United Indoor Football League folded, while two leagues merged as the CPIFL and LSFL created Champions Indoor Football. The fewer of these smaller 4-8 team leagues, the better. Not all teams made the move as a few moved to different leagues, while some ceased operations all together. One of those teams sadly was the Lincoln Haymakers. Their home, the Pershing Center has been closed and the future is in doubt for the smaller venue that now sits in the shadows of the gleaming Pinnacle Bank Arena. It’s a sad demise for the venue. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the debut of the Duke City Gladiators brings Albuquerque’s Tingley Coliseum back from the abyss. The venerable facility located on the New Mexico State Fairgrounds will be host to the Gladiators this season.

Going up to the top tier Arena Football League, Pittsburgh and San Antonio folded, while in a surprise move, the Iowa Barnstormers dropped down to the IFL. For decades, the Barnstormers have been a mainstay in the Arena League and they draw quite well in Des Moines, so this move caught me off guard. They will continue to play in Wells Fargo Arena. Meanwhile, Vegas gets a team that will play in the Thomas & Mack Center. In the IFL, to go along with the Iowa move, the Wichita Falls Nighthawks replace the Texas Calvary and in Big Sky Country, the RimRock Arena becomes home to a permanent tenant again as Billings takes the place of the Wyoming franchise that played in Casper. The Casper Event Center will remain on The List as it hosts the state basketball tournament each year. Down to the lower leagues, Georgia (Rome) and Harrisburg are out of the PIFL, while Erie is in. Meanwhile, the AIF and X-League had too many changes for me to muster the energy to discuss.

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The Best League To Take a Trip Through

Posted by Sean Rowland on February 7, 2015

ohl

 

Regardless of sport, for those that enjoy stadium travel in the US and Canada, it can be difficult to find an entire league to visit. Several reasons are to blame for the geographical divergence, money being the main one (I’m looking at you, NCAA). However, there are still a few options for those wanting to travel only by car and none are better than the Ontario Hockey League. Diversity is the biggest positive for choosing a journey through the OHL. Cities range from the capital in Ottawa to tiny Owen Sound (population just over 20,000). There is great opportunity not only to visit the province, but the league also ventures into Michigan and Pennsylvania. The arenas provide a nice variety in size and architecture with old classics like those in Kitchener and North Bay mixed with modern beauties like in London. Finally, a very important factor in my book is the atmosphere and in many of these towns, there is a deep, vested interest in their home hockey franchise. That translates to a much better crowd experience than typically found in the professional hockey minor leagues.

This is why over the last few years I’ve made some trips up to Canada and I am planning on making the trip through the league. My brother Eric has been joining me and my family back in Rochester, NY is a strategic place to branch off from as 19 out of the 20 teams are within a six hour drive (the remaining city, Sault Ste. Marie, is a hike from anywhere). In the last few years we have seen Barrie and Kingston, just enough to wet our appetite for future years and trips. For anyone looking to go the same route, check out The OHL Arena & Travel Guide, a longstanding online fixture that is the definitive source for the entire experience.

There are a couple of other leagues worth an honorable mention……In basketball, the vastly underrated experience is the Missouri Valley Conference. It matches the OHL in many categories and can be done all by car. From Chicago to Cedar Falls to Carbondale and points in between, fans come out in droves during the freezing winter months. Probably the best experience in all of college basketball is at the Roundhouse in Wichita State. The set of arenas is as diversified as the sport has to offer……For a more laid-back leisurely league trip, check out the Southern League, in the AA-level of Minor League Baseball. Comprised of 10 teams, baseball’s everyday schedule allows for this trip to be done in a two-week period if crafty with planning. Lots of new ballparks to enjoy and there are nice places to tour along the way as Jacksonville, Pensacola, Biloxi and Chattanooga all are in the league’s footprint. 

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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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Stadiums I Need To Get Back To

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 9, 2014

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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Two “New” CFL Stadiums

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 3, 2014

CFL.
This may be my first and only post solely related to the CFL and updates to The List. In the professional football league up north, we note two changes to the perennially stable set of teams. In Ottawa, the CFL is back for a third stint and it will be another team nicknamed starting with the letter “R”. It is the RedBlacks and you will not see me putting that in all caps like the team wants. Historic Lansdowne Park is the site of the stadium and a complete renovation/rebuild has led to essentially new TD Place Stadium. Soccer will also be played here next season as the Ottawa Fury become part of the NASL. The whole complex along the Rideau Canal is interesting in that it also includes the Ottawa Civic Center (now branded as TD Place Arena), which is formerly the home to the NHL’s Senators and since they moved to Kanata, the OHL has played there. The Civic Center had a refurbishment and this is one of the architecturally more interesting arenas around as the building is actually part of the stadium’s north stands.

In Hamilton, they also built a new stadium on the site of their old one. After a year in a pseudo-temp facility all the way in Guelph, the Ti-Cats return home where Tim Hortons Field replaces Ivor Wynne Stadium. However, that replacement is not ready quite yet. While management says the facility will be ready July 26 for the opener, there will be plenty of work to go. For one, the scoreboard is not going to be up this season, nor will several bathrooms. And its not even assured that construction will crank enough to get the place ready for football in a few weeks. The more I read, the more it seems that problems have beset this place. I hope for the sake of the fans that had their team pulled away 45 minutes to the northwest last year, that they have a home opener to welcome back their team.

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Stadium List Updates for March

Posted by Sean Rowland on March 24, 2014

Indoor Football

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This month features a hodgepodge of updates with various leagues resuming. Most of the indoor football circuits start back up around this time, so let’s start there. At the top in the AFL, Utah and Chicago are out while LA and Portland are in. LA is interesting in that they are known as the “Kiss” with some really wacky uniforms.  It is the band KISS that owns the team. What is it with rockers getting into the arena league? (Bon Jovi once co-owned the Philadelphia Soul) I won’t go through all of the other franchise changes in the lower leagues, only ones that have an impact on
The List. In the IFL, an arena has reopened after two years of renovations. The Cedar Rapids Titans return back to the US Cellular Center (not to be confused with the other US Cellulared arenas in the Midwest). Chicago’s not able to get this arena game to stick as a different franchise in the area (Slaughter) folded. Now, the only main tenant in the Sears Centre is the little known Outlaws of the CILL (that’s lacrosse).

The CPIFL seems to have a good thing going with a midwestern outfit of generally stable teams. However, the KC franchise did fold and that also closes the book on the ill-fated Kemper Arena. Expect this historic venue to be renovated for other uses or sadly torn down. Meanwhile, deeper in Kansas, I was pleasantly surprised to find an arena I had no idea existed. In 2011, Dodge City completed the United Wireless Arena and this 4,220-seat facility welcomes a CPIFL franchise this spring. Welcome! Elsewhere, the home of the Oklahoma Defenders (located in Tulsa) got a new name: Cox Business Center. Sure, that sounds like a place for football.

In the PIFL, three teams are out, with two of them sadly taking an arena off The List. Albany got booted from the Civic Center, while in Lake Charles, one of the longer running teams in the Louisiana Swashbucklers, folded. That leaves Sudduth Coliseum without sports. Two new franchises came on, including one in Nashville. The Venom will play in the Municial Auditorium, where the Ohio Valley Basketball Tournament has been held recently. We also welcome back Sun National Bank Center in Trenton as they went a winter without hockey, but the expansion Freedom will play on the green turf indoors. There is a league in Texas (LSFL) and two franchise foldings meant we say goodbye to a pair of mid-size arenas in Abilene and Laredo. We’ll ignore the disshevled AIF and say hello to the X-League (no not the XFL). Five teams begin that startup league, along with two new stadiums. First, in Birmingham, the Alabama Outlawz will play at Bill Harris Arena. The other two facilities in the league (Lakeland Center and St. Charles’ Family Arena) feature teams that moved from the UIFL. Confused yet?

In baseball, Spring Training brought a new ballpark to the mix as the Cubs opened Cubs Park in Mesa. Their old home, HoHoKam Stadium, will be renovated this year and eventually house the Oakland A’s next season. While the arms race builds in the college game, only two new parks open and they are both under the required 3,500 capacity limit. UIC introduces Granderson Stadium, while in Seattle, Husky Ballpark offers a spectacular view in the outfield.
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Looking ahead to 2014

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 2, 2014

What will be the future of the Oakland A's (picture from Stadium Journey)

What will be the future of the Oakland A’s (picture from Stadium Journey)

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Heading into the year 2014, there are a lot of interesting stories to follow in the world of stadiums. These are worth keeping an eye on and I am particularly intrigued by some of the following:
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– What happens to the Oakland A’s? This has been a multi-year battle between many different forces with the San Francisco Giants also playing a role in the territorial right of blocking a move to San Jose. Everyone may have a differing opinion on where the team should go, but I think all will agree the Coliseum is just a bad ballpark. I personally don’t mind if Oakland goes to another city, just as long as it is somewhere still in Northern California.
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– How will MLS expansion play out? Doug Garber’s vision of 24 teams by 2020 means that we are likely looking at three more teams to be announced in the coming years. Here’s hoping that they stay away from cities that already have plenty of other pro teams (Minneapolis, Atlanta) and go into smaller markets with rabid soccer fan bases. Otherwise, their looking at repeated mistakes (see: Miami). While I think Beckham will get his wish, that will leave two new franchises. My hope is that they go to San Antonio and Indianapolis.

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– Speaking of MLS, how about planned stadiums? Lots of questions here…Where will NYCFC play when they start in a year? Will the DC stadium situation get completed? When will San Jose’s delayed stadium open?

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– Will new arenas get built in Seattle or Las Vegas? I think the Seattle situation depends on whether an NBA or NHL tenant arrives. Vegas is another story. At some point, the glitziest arena ever will become reality, but who does it and when is the question. Lots of ideas and proposals over the years and they just keep flying in, one more ridiculous than the next.

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– Who will keep up in the College Football Stadium arms race? It seems to be never-ending, but all the big name schools keep expanding their stadium in the name of the Benjamin. This upcoming year it is Texas A&M, Ohio State and LSU that see their facility go over the 100,000 mark for seating capacity.

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How many more crazy court designs will we see on the college hardwood? It all started with Oregon’s “Deep in the Woods” design and in this copy-cat world, other teams have followed suit in recent years. Teams with a beach nearby seem to love this concept (see Fullerton, Long Beach State and FIU, where the ocean and out-of-bounds meet). Unfortunately, I see this trend continuing.

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– How will the stadium-city battles play out? Three cities to watch for…Sacramento, Tampa and Richmond. Both Sacramento and Tampa have had the most media play and publicity. While both are intriguing, an under-the-radar battle is in Richmond, where the site of a new ballpark is hotly debated. The Diamond is in the Boulevard section of Richmond, an easily accessible area of the city. Leaders are looking at the Shockoe Bottom district, however the controversial site is a former slave-trading center and not everybody wants a ballpark there.

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– Will the number of empty seats at professional events continue? Yes. This was most evident during the last month or so of the NFL regular season.
Pittsburgh (where the supposedly greatest fans are) featured tons of yellow open seats the last several home games. Club sections everywhere looked many times like they were filled to half the capacity (Cincinnati and Kansas City come to mind). This isn’t just an NFL thing either as the smaller attendance is occurring in other leagues too, especially MLB. This trend may not show up in the hard numbers as paid attendance figures remain stationary thanks to either inaccurate reporting or inflation due to comps, giveaways or buyouts (see owner Ralph Wilson buying up to 3,500 Buffalo Bills tickets to ensure a sellout). However, the number of people staying home and skipping out on all the high costs is noticeable.
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