Stadium and Arena Visits

  • Archives

Archive for the ‘Trips’ Category

Colgate Football

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 7, 2014

Andy Kerr Stadium.

It was a rainy morning as I left Syracuse and it looked like all the rain gear I brought with me would be put to use for the Colgate game. It took about an hour to get to Hamilton and though the drive was awkward having to use country roads, it did allow me to pass through some pleasant little towns like Cazenovia and Morrisville. Hamilton was similar as this tiny village of just 4,000 sported a main intersection at the center with very development on the outskirts. However, this primary meeting of roads represented a charming little downtown of brick buildings. The theatre and the college bookstore are most notable, while the white-painted Colgate Inn oozes history. Several places beckoned for an early bite to eat, but I chose 22 Utica Street Cafe. Trip Advisor reviews of this are spot on as the cafe looks like it should be good…but my roast beef ‘special’ wasn’t all that and I’m not a fan of a place that does not put prices on their menu. $15 for a sandwich, homemade chips and a drink seemed a bit much. The owner also gave a lot of phony ‘sweeties and honey’s’. It is still an acceptable spot to eat, but my shortness on time led me to change plans for a quicker bite to eat here after originally planning on eating at the Inn. Another good place is the Good Nature Farm Brewery and Tap Room. After walking through the farmers market at the nearby park, it was time for some Raiders football.

The rain thankfully stopped and the soggy grass lot had a handful of both Holy Cross and Colgate tailgaters before the game. It was an odd entrance into the stadium as to get to the main stands, both the ticket stand and those checking tickets can be found right near the parking lot entrance. I had an odd encounter walking past the gate without even realizing and went through without even knowing I was in a ticket designated area. A little strange. Anyway, the main home stands arches upward with all bleachers and the visitors side contains a set of bleachers with a small press box on top. The best part of the experience is that beautiful surrounding view as the vibrant hills in the area are lit up with color in October. It certainly is a pleasant setting for football. The crowd was held back likely because of the weather and the laid-back game day setting applies to the crowd too. The game was refreshing as it is so great to watch football without incessant media timeouts. Colgate went old school as they used ground and pound to perfection in the second half. First, the Crusaders jumped out to a 17-7 lead and a key point of the game was Colgate cashing in with just :04 left in the second quarter as Alex Greenawalt hauled in a 14 yard pass to cut the deficit. A huge interception late in the third quarter led to a 14 play drive that QB Jake Melville finished off with a 1-yard run and the Raiders had the lead 20-17. With Holy Cross driving again deep into opposing territory, Peter Pujals made is second huge pick of the game to keep the Crusaders off the board. Then Colgate finished off the clock with a remarkable 15 play, 7:35 drive that ran the clock out for a victory. Every one of those plays was a run and the Raiders had 55 total rushes for 224 yards. A little bit of light rain and colder temperatures in the second half did not hamper the event and it was an enjoyable game in a nice football setting best seen in October. Look for a full review in a few days, along with a write-up over at Stadium Journey.

.

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

My Rise and Fall with Syracuse Athletics

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 5, 2014

.
Carrier Dome
.
.

Lawrence Moten, Donovan McNabb, John Wallace, Marvin Harrison, Otto the Orange. These are just a few of the guys that were a big part of my sporting life while following the Syracuse Orangemen an hour and a half away in my hometown of Rochester. It was my favorite team, up there with the Bills and Sabres and that passion continued as I went to school in Oswego and got to attend both football and basketball games at the Dome. The culmination was that magical night on April 7, 2003 when I screeched and ran around campus after Kirk Hinrich’s shot fell short and Jim Boeheim raised his hands up as the Orangemen won the National Championship.

After making a career-move to New Jersey and following the incredible sharpshooting of G-Mac, Syracuse Athletics slowly started to evolve just like other Big-Time Athletics in the NCAA. Growing more towards the Kyle Whelliston school of thought, these were small things at first that were just annoying: Branding themselves as “New York’s College Team”, advertising in Yankee Stadium, following the college football fad of having matte helmets with crazy, funky designs and changing uniform colors. Then came the bombshell…A-C-C. Along with Pittsburgh, they were one of the first on the East Coast to make a major league switch and the conference change was for that almighty Benjamin in addition to more exposure (as if they didn’t have enough). With my frustration for the Power 5 conferences growing, along with my deepening love for smaller schools playing in geographically sensical leagues, the Syracuse Orange part of my life was fading. In 2012-2013, I was having a hard time enjoying their games and in basketball season, found myself openly rooting for Montana in the first round of the tournament. Last year, I stopped following ‘Cuse cold turkey and didn’t miss it. Not even my friends back home knew about my disloyal jumping of ship. Ending a favorite sports team relationship is so rare (and out of my character), but I just could not stomach being a fake fan of a team/school. All of the new directions from the program rub me the wrong way and yeah, I miss the good ol’ days, but continuing to follow and root for the Orange wouldn’t be honest to myself.

All of this brings me to today, where I returned to the sight of so much sporting change in my life. Being back amongst the Orange faithful did make me do some reconsidering as I got caught up in the pageantry of game-day, however my visit and review of Syracuse football comes from a purely neutral perspective. I will say though, it did give me great enjoyment to buy a $30 face value ticket (not including exorbitant TicketMaster fees) for just $8.25 on StubHub. Take That! My day in the Salt City began around Noon and I started downtown in the trendy Clinton Square section. Syracuse’s roads are surprisingly bad and misleading as twice I had to detour. The first was on my arrival as the garage I needed was on a road being repaired. Once parked, I ate at Kitty Hoynes and though I didn’t have the Reuben Fritters that Guy Fieri sampled…I did go with a Reuben, which was just meh. The pub did make for a good place to catch the Orioles-Tigers Game 2 playoff game. After wandering the area on a beautifully warm October day, I stopped at the free Erie Canal Museum. It was surprisingly enjoyable that improved by the exhibit, highlighted by the replica Line Boat and the displays inside. I still remember the song Low Bridge that I needed to learn in the 4th Grade. I also made a stop at Destiny USA, a shopping mall whose plans to become the biggest in the US were often delayed and cancelled when I was in college. Well they finally followed through with some plans, just not to the grand scale that was foreseen in the early 2000s. The third floor features an entertainment section with go-cart racing, bowling, restaurants, kid adventures and a Dave & Busters along with some other stuff. It was dead on a Friday afternoon, but it looks like I found a pit stop in several years for future kids on our way to see family.

I made my way towards the Carrier Dome pretty early for picture purposes and that means taking a shuttle bus from the Skytop parking area. Given that it was a Friday, tailgating was limited and I was one of only a few people on the bus at 5 PM for a game starting at 7. If one is not familiar with the area, it can be a little confusing as the shuttle also acts as a regular college transportation system and the Dome is not visible from the drop-off point. Usually first-timers can just follow the crowd, but this was not the case just yet. I spent a little time around with the diverse campus and I always loved how the Dome is right in the middle of it. However, I can never get a decent exterior shot and the surrounding hillside exhausted my efforts to find a good shot. After passing through the revolving doors and feeling that suction of air, I made a couple passes around the generally dank concourses. There are pictures on the walls to help liven things up a bit and it wasn’t until the very end that I found a few display cases worth perusing. Food remarkably remains terrible with practically every stand selling the same worn options of Hoffman’s Sausage Subs or German Franks. The beer on the other hand is flowing with different options all over (keep in mind, this is a rare on-campus facility to offer beer). I still love the Carrier Dome as a football stadium with the seating being intimate and the design decent. While the bleachers may be uncomfortable, pretty much anywhere offers a fine sightline. They don’t call this place the Loud House for nothing and the enclosed Dome setting makes it roar. I’ve been to Wisconsin, Penn State and Notre Dame and when it comes noise, I think Syracuse is loudest with less than half of the fans. This ACC opener only featured a stadium about 3/5ths full, but it was still very noisy, especially as everyone got up on third downs. Just imagine if the program did get back to prominence. The game was a sloppy affair as both turnovers and penalties hurt the Orange. A bad play call gave Louisville a safety in the first half and then poor clock management by QB Terrel Hunt led to time running out at the end of the first half as Syracuse was one yard from the end zone. The second half was not much better as a wide-open Jarrod West dropped a gimme touchdown. Louisville added on more (including another safety) and they won 28-6 as the Dome was empty with a minute left in the game. It was a fun event as I met up with my college roommate and friends and we finished the night by tailgating after the game. Ah the good ol’ days.

.
.

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

Oregon Trip

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 9, 2014

Oregon_Map
.

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

.

Eugene
August 2

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

.Mount Hood

August 5
After spending the morning at the all-encompassing High Desert Museum (which was excellent), we drove another two hours towards Portland. I love travelling this country and being surprised at the layout of a state. There’s always a perception or singular thought of a state’s image and it is great to bust that. Driving in the High Desert, it looked like somewhere else in the US and not Oregon. Then boom! it went from sandy brush to Ponderosa Pine in a minute.  The whole way we were driving towards Mount Hood and we drove up the snow-covered mountain to the famed Timberline Lodge. The historic building is architecturally quite impressive. Even better were the views as we walked up a bit, closer to the towering volcano. Some of the best skiing in the west takes place here and people can ski all year long. No one was out today and it was very nice with temps in the 60s and sunshine. The view looking down on the Cascades is breathtaking as well. While walking around, we ran into some Sons of Ben that were in town to root on their Philadelphia Union players in the MLS All-Star Game tomorrow. Cool people and they were admiring the area as well. After seeing Mt. Hood, it was down to Portland for an early evening. We’re setting up shop in Clackamas, where the price is right and location is good for the next few days.
.

.
August 6:
Strip Clubs, Roundabouts, Hobos and Directionals in front of Street Names. Wherever we have been in Oregon, we have seen multiple of these. Today, we’re in Portland and it was a day fit for the wife. We started at the Oregon Zoo as the Vet Tech in her loves checking out each one. The zoo is within Washington Park, a huge highlight on a hill just west of downtown. After the zoo, we saw why we were in the Rose City. Just down the road is the International Rose Test Gardens and wow, what a beautiful place filled with rows and rows of different colored rose varieties. I think we have desktop computer background pictures that will last a year. Despite the beautiful day, fatigue set in, so we hopped in the car and drove a half-hour to Multinomah Falls, which was very simple to get too. Portlanders really have it nice with this waterfall so close. What a great place to live with all of this natural beauty (too bad it is gloomy weather-wise 3/4ths of the year). For dinner, we love Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and there were several choices. We wanted a true taste of Portland, so the Food Trucks in Rose City Park was the place. PDX671 delivered with amazing Guam-inspired food. Kelaguen Mannok….em-emm! Got back to the hotel in time to see the last 10 minutes of MLS beating Bayern Munich at the All-Star Game. Yeah! Jealous not to be there, but am way too stoked  for Saturday’s visit to Providence Park. It will be hard for the reality to match the hype, but I think the Timbers will deliver. In the meantime, back to sports tomorrow with a visit to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

.

Volcanoes Stadium (from Stadium Journey and Marc Viquez)

Volcanoes Stadium (from Stadium Journey and Marc Viquez)

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

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

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

.

 Ron Tonkin Field

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

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

.

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

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

,

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

The Nats and The Rocks

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 22, 2014

.Nationals

.

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

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

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

.

Frawley Stadium

.

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

Take Me Home, Country Roads

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 23, 2014

wv_lyn
Ahh, those beautiful lyrics from John Denver. This weekend, I’ll be checking out those country roads (well mostly main roads) in that song’s subject, West Virginia! There are two stadium visits on the itinerary, with the first being in the state capitol of Charleston. A visit to Appalachian Power Park will see the Power take on Lakewood. Sunday and early Monday will be spent around Beckley and Lewisburg, then we’ll cross the Appalachians over to Virginia for a visit to Lynchburg. Charming old City Stadium (now known as Calvin Falwell Field) is where we will spend the evening the HillCats host Winston-Salem. Before heading home Tuesday, a stop will be made at Appomattox Court House, site of the Civil War’s end. Let’s give the old running diary a try…

.
Saturday
We woke up with the sun as it was a 5:30 AM departure from Jersey to try and see some of Charleston during the afternoon. It was perfect weather on a smooth drive and we got into the capital city around 1:30 PM. The afternoon made me wish we spent the whole day in Charleston as I was pleasantly surprised by the Capitol Complex. First off, it was the Vandalia Gathering on the surrounding lawns, which is the ultimate West Virginia festival. The celebration of Appalachia includes music, food, arts and crafts. It’s the music that makes the festival with stages featuring concerts highlighting those playing the banjo, fiddle and mandolin. Better yet are the small little jam sessions that break out amongst strangers and friends. With a pepperoni roll in hand, it was a very enjoyable time.

The Capitol Complex is worth a day of exploring and it is highlighted by the gold domed building along the Kanawha River. Statues and plaques enhance the surrounding walk, while inside the building is dominated by marble. We didn’t get a chance to take a tour, but it was open for exploring the main hall. Afterwards, across the way is the West Virginia State Museum, one of the best museums that I have seen (and there have been many). Remarkably, it’s free! The set-up goes thru the state’s history in chronological order via a unique accurate path. On the sides are 26 visually intriguing Discovery Rooms. I could have used some more hours inside, but two would suffice and I would love to come back.

It was a long day, but no rest for the weary as Stadium #148 was the main attraction and that meant heading a mile into downtown at Charleston’s East End, where the Single-A West Virginia franchise plays in Appalachian Power Park. Before getting there, I want to note how weird Charleston’s roads are, despite the tiny city size (specifically near the Capitol and again by our hotel near the river). Anyway, I really liked The App as it goes beyond just blending in with the city. Part of an existing brick building is incorporated into the stadium on the first base line. The defining feature also is a natural set-up for the suites, which are set further back, allowing for a wide, open-air and festive walkway. While I’m not a fan of the shallow and small seating bowl that doesn’t provide the best sightlines, there’s a lot to love with this intimate, charming and eye-appealing park. As for the game….yikes. West Virginia got smacked by Lakewood 7-0 as the Power became the first home baseball shutout I have seen since New Hampshire in 2009. Topping the stadium experience was the “Redneck Night” promotion, which included a real wedding. Minor League Baseball, Ladies and Gentlemen.

.
App_Power_Park

Sunday
Out of the 21 states that I have been to, West Virginia has debunked misguided stereotypes and been the friendliest. Countless nice strangers throughout have engaged me in conversation, which continued today. I got up early to walk around downtown Charleston, including an exterior tour of the Charleston Civic Center (home to the state’s high school basketball tournament). Then it was on to Beckley, about an hour away. The radio was pointed to SiriusFC, where the mighty Leyton Orient (America’s Team) was trying to win their League One playoff for a promotion to the Championship and went up 2-0. I dejectedly found they lost the lead and the game in penalty kicks, the only disappointment of the day.

In Beckley, we started at the Exhibition Coal Mine, which taught me never to complain about my job again. The work of a coal miner is unbelievably hard and it is tough to comprehend how much harder (and more dangerous) it was decades ago. This area is coal country and the museum took us into a coal mine with an informative and quick-witted former miner. Along with a small museum, the grounds include a replica company town, as the employers of the company essentially had their own little village (even with their own currency).

The weather remained gorgeous and we stopped at an old-school drive thru at King Tut’s, where we picked up a cheap but very good lunch and brought it with us to Grandview, part of the New River National Park. Here, we were greeted with an amazingly lush spread of tree-covered mountains and the New River passing by below, with rapids and rafters. We hiked a little trail and took in the beautiful views along the way. The night was capped at the over-hyped, but still decent Tamarack. While shopping for West Virginian goods is the main feature, there is also a theatre with a great range of musician displays. There is also a cafeteria that is anything but what thoughts are evoked when hearing ‘cafeteria’. It is run by the Greenbrier Resort and the food is amazing. I had rainbow trout and a sweet and sour slaw that was delicious. Sports-wise, we’ll finish up by watching the entertaining NYR-Montreal series (Game 4) and then a new ballpark is on the schedule for tomorrow evening in Lynchburg, VA.
.

new_river

.

Monday
We had three options for a morning stop on our way from Beckley, WV to Lynchburg, VA…Lost World Caverns, The Greenbrier or Natural Bridge. It was likely the lesser of the three that we took, based mostly on the amount of time we had, so we saw the Caverns, just on the outskirts of beautiful Lewisburg, WV. The self-guided cave tour was pretty neat with some cool sights, though it was not as staggering as the one we saw near San Antonio, TX. We made our way back to I-64 and then traversed the Blue Ridge Mountains on some winding roads (glad it was daylight) before arriving onto US-29 and into Lynchburg.

The City of Seven Hills is quite charming and we found the same hospitality as in West Virginia. Only a month removed from the too-close-for-comfort train derailment and explosion, we were down near the river for lunch at the Depot Grille. It’s a great spot with the railroad tracks also there, just too bad the brush obstruct the view of the water. The aptly nicknamed city includes a very hilly downtown and we sweated our away to the top of Monument Terrace for a climb up 130 stairs that had many stops for statues and war memorials. At the top is the old courthouse, turned Lynchburg Museum. It’s the type that I love with a thorough display of the history in this city, along with various artifacts. It also included an informative volunteer who loved to share his knowledge (as evidenced by the 25 minute conversation he had with a stranger that called in to check the hours of the museum. What a nice man). Loved this museum and great downtown, which included historical markers.

Then it was on to City Stadium, a traditional park south of the city. It was a 5:00 start and the huge overhang was helpful on this 86 degree sunny day. The game was a continuation of Saturday’s dud, as the home Hillcats got down 4-0. However, out of nowhere, Lynchburg tied it in the 4th inning. Winston-Salem pushed ahead 6-4 and then Lynchburg rallied in the ninth with a walk-off, three run double! A very exciting finish and I need to dig into the archives when I get home to find the last walk-off comeback. The park was significantly renovated in 2005, which turned this classic design into a more modern one, especially with the suites on top of the roof. There was a mix of likes and dislikes for me, which I’ll explore when I get to the detailed reviews in the next week or two. Also, Stadium Journey reviews will be done as well. It was nice to visit both ballparks the last few days and regardless of my preference, I’m always happy not to see a 1990s cookie-cutter design. Tomorrow, we’ll stop at Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park before heading home. Thanks to the Power and Hillcats!

.
city_stadium

.

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

A Comedy of Errors

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 20, 2013

Barrie Molson Centre Exterior

This past weekend, I embarked on a trip with my brother that in the end was successful, but full of missteps along the way. We left from Rochester, NY and it was smooth sailing on an early Saturday afternoon until we hit the Canadian border. It was not traffic or a slow crossing, rather my own carelessness. When we were about four cars away, my stomach dropped before I even took out my passport. I had my wife’s. They are located in the same spot and I never checked the picture and brought hers. Figuring the journey would end before even getting into Canada, the officer let us in (I had my license and my passport number). My concern was getting back into the States, which he said “You’ll be fine”, something I figured he was just saying.

With Maple Leaf flags in front of us, it was on to Barrie, about a two hour drive around Lake Ontario and north of the busy highways in Toronto. First stop was the Barrie Molson Centre, where with the remaining daylight I took some exterior pictures of the arena. It was then off to the hotel, which was crawling with kids as I guess it was a huge hockey tournament weekend. We then went downtown to check out the city a bit and grab some dinner. The city centre was only a five minute drive, but the roads were clogged with traffic. As we approached downtown, more traffic and this time people everywhere. It took a little while to figure it out, but they all were converging for one reason…Santaaaaa!!!!. Despite it being half-way through November and 40 days until Christmas, it was indeed a parade for Santa and to light the tree. With the city practically shut down for this, it was back to the hotel briefly before heading to the game. There was a restaurant at the arena and we figured after a little snack at the game, we would eat afterwards.
.

Barrie Molson Centre Interior

For my first true OHL game, I was really pumped up and the experience was great. I did expect more from the crowd and even though the place was mostly filled up, I felt like they sat on their hands too often. Only after goals was there any real cheering, but the building did get loud. Barrie’s arena is one of the first of the new batches of OHL facilities and I don’t understand why the surface area of the building is so small. They had plenty of room to work with in the suburban setting, but the concourses were cramped and everything inside felt tight. Why not build out more? I did like the inside as their was some uniqueness to the bowl and the restaurant at one end is a nice touch. I’ll save the details for the official review, but here are a couple other random notes: the concourses smelled wonderfully of popcorn….there is no signage for the box office (very annoying for visitors)…..the floors throughout the whole inside were very sticky and desperately need a mopping. As for the game, it was quite entertaining. Barrie blew open a 2-2 affair with six goals in the last period and the Colts won their sixth in a row. This was the beginning of what my brother and I are hoping will be a journey through the entire OHL. It is a league within driving distance from my old home and I appreciate the smaller buildings and community appeal of the league. This is somewhat inspired by the OHL Arena Travel Guide, an excellent site that has been around for a long time and one that I have followed ever since.

Back to our food situation, after we had some really crappy Pizza Pizza (Jersey spoiled me), we waited out the final whistle to head to the other end for the Horsepower Bar & Grill. After sitting and not getting served, we left and ran across the street to Buffalo Wild Wings (where thanks to Barrie scoring more than five goals, we had free wings!). However, at the door, we got turned away thanks to a full restaurant courtesy of the UFC. It was 10:15 PM at this point and desperate, we ran back to the arena, where they said just appetizers were available. Chicken quesadillas it was and 25 minutes later they were awful. The post-game meal was topped off with Katy Perry’s album playing in the background…because that’s what hockey fans love! My brother and I at least enjoyed Calgary-Edmonton with our crappy quesadillas, though we had to look above a TV left on that was now showing snakes on a cable-access animal show.

After that fiasco, we left in the rain Sunday Morning with the hopes of me being able to get back into the US. Even though we were driving back to Buffalo, the Lewiston crossing was our choice, hoping for shorter lines and good karma since we entered from there. Of course, we sat for 45 minutes waiting and the line on either side of was 19 minutes faster (I counted). Getting to the border, there were indeed some issues, but thankfully all my other credentials passed and after a scolding…I was back in USA! USA! With the GPS time of arrival for Ralph Wilson Stadium now at 11:38 PM, it was a frenzied drive to Orchard Park. First, was a shady bathroom stop near Niagara Falls, where I was handed a key to the bathroom on a wooden block. Because of the small neighborhood setting that the Ralph sits in, there is traffic and usually a lot of it. Since most were already there to tailgate, it wasn’t too terrible and we pulled in at about 12:05 PM. After being denied entrance with my umbrella (and that promptly disappeared after the game), it was a sigh of relief as we headed into the Jim Kelly Club for a quick bite to eat.
.

Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Thanks to my brother’s work, we were indeed treated with club seats and I feared the laid-back, corporate setting that I always rip on, but that was not the case. The middle 200 sections were plenty of boisterous and Bills games are always a festive party. It is one of the loudest stadiums in the league (when in full throat) and there is not enough credit for the fan support shown, especially after the last 13 generally crappy seasons. I am a huge Bills fan and playing the Jets, the team I hate the most, brought fear of disappointment. But it turned out to be the best possible result! Buffalo put on an absolute thrashing and the game was made more enjoyable by the abysmal play of one Geno Smith. It was a great afternoon on an unusually mild day and we headed back to the car smiling. An hour of traffic heading back to Rochester, combined with my brother’s unrelenting gas, tempered that smile a bit, but it was still a great game nonetheless. Despite the many issues during this trip, it was well-worth it and quite enjoyable. I’ll have a review of Barrie’s arena up soon, along with updating the one for Ralph Wilson Stadium. Not sure of future winter plans, but will be making those soon.
.

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

New England Road Trip

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 22, 2013

The first stadium on the docket was in Hartford and with the game not starting until 7:00, we had plenty of time in the State Capitol. After getting through 45 minutes of annoying traffic in New York (made better by listening to Men in Blazers), our drive through Connecticut ended up being the most scenic as I-84 featured blazing hills in full peak with changing leaves. Really a beautiful drive. The first stop in Hartford was the Mark Twain House & Museum. While the house tour was pretty good, it was the museum that really intrigued me as it did a good job of showing Twain as an astonishing and fascinating man. After driving through and seeing some of those insurance companies that define the city, we got to downtown and parked at the garage across from the XL Center and found a couple streets (Allyn and cobble-stoned Pratt) that had a nice set of bars and restaurants. We walked the Old State House and toured the former home of Connecticut’s government before heading downstairs to a cool Hartford history section. Dinner was at Vaughn’s Public House before taking the short walk to the arena for a Wolfpack game.

.
XL Center Interior

.

Being inside the old Civic Center, I can’t help but think about the Whalers and there are so many in the state that miss that team. But for now it is the Wolfpack that play here, a team nickname that is back after the odd switching to the Connecticut Whale moniker for a few years. I really like this arena as the inside has terrific sightlines thanks to steeply deigned seating. The design is abnormal on the ends, along with the location of the suites and this is an interior I enjoyed. Unfortunately, the game was sparsely attended and it was dead inside for most of the game. With the home side down 3-1 to Manchester, things looked bleak. However, with five minutes left in the game, two quick goals (of the nifty variety) tied the game up and the crowd became lively. It went to OT, where the Monarchs missed a penalty shot, then Hartford won it in a shootout. Though the building is nearly 40 years old (and it shows), I liked it here. Just one suggestion, bring back Brass Bonanza!!! Of course, a full, detailed review of the XL Center is coming soon.

Saturday was a beautiful October morning and we made the 2.5 hour drive up I-91 to Hanover, NH. The town is quintessential, New England complete with surrounding hills and changed leaves. Dartmouth University and Hanover mesh wonderfully. We parked in town and walked sections of campus including The Green and Baker Library before heading down charming Main Street, where everybody was out and about walking or biking. Early lunch was at Molly’s before driving to a lot that provided a free shuttle to the football game. One problem, the shuttle didn’t show up! We got there at 12:30 and by 12:55 it still wasn’t there. Thankfully, it was a short walk and we went 15 minutes by foot to Memorial Field (the shuttle did eventually make it and made the rounds after the game, not sure what happened).

.

Memorial Field Interior
.

The walk was nice on a pleasant day and getting to the historic stadium, it was awesome to see the brick and stone structure covered in Ivy with leaves on the ground. Very picturesque. The concourse showed it’s age, though in a pleasant way (except the bathrooms) and inside was a nice football stadium made better by its surroundings. Athletic buildings provide the backdrop from the main West stands, while beyond that are the aforementioned hills in fall colors. While the stadium is no more than four sides of bleacher seating, the look and comfort is better than expected. The 2-2 Big Green took on Bucknell and brought a 7-0 lead into halftime. In the 2nd half, the offense just fell apart and the D couldn’t quite hang on as a turning point was when Dartmouth accepted a holding penalty on a failed 3rd and Goal. Bucknell jumped ahead 10-7 on the next play. The Bison had a 17-7 lead and though Dartmouth got a TD with the help of a blocked punt very late, they would fall by 3.

After the game, we drove along US-4 through some amazing scenery and beautiful towns before settling in Rutland for the night. It’s incredible how passionate all of New England is for the Boston Red Sox as the whole town was inside on a Saturday Night. We realized it was Game 6 and then saw the local Paramount Theatre was half full as people came to watch the game on a big screen…which was very cool.

.
Burlington, VT Sunset over Lake Champlain

.

Sunday and Monday were spent all around the Green Mountain State to sightsee. After a stop in Pittsford for the New England Maple Museum and that wonderful Pure Vermont Maple Syrup, we made a scenic drive on Rt 73 and Rt 100 to work our way up to Waterbury. I was off a week or two for peek leaf peeping as many of the leaves were gone or falling, but the views were still great with the added bonus of a waterfall and covered bridge (where apparently there are local rules since I got bullied to back out in reverse). Waterbury brought us to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory and the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, then it was off to Burlington. I love that place and Church Street has to be one of the best streets in America. We watched the sunset over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks as you could feel the winter chill coming. Monday, after visiting the Vermont Teddy Bear Company (at the wife’s urging), we stopped on our way back in Bennington for lunch and the historic memorial structure in town. Vermont has become my favorite state as it is just remarkably beautiful wherever you go. I’ll try to milk both visits back to Burlington for stadium trips in the coming years. Anyway, great trip and both Stadium Reviews for Hartford hockey and Dartmouth football will be up in a week or two, along with a pair of Stadium Journey summaries.
.

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

Busy Weekend in Baltimore

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 16, 2013

Baltimore Skyline

I finally made my way to the Charm City this past weekend and everything went smoothly for a pair of ballgames to go along with some sightseeing. The weather cooperated as there were no storms and although it was very warm and muggy, I thankfully missed the oppressive heat, which the East Coast is stuck in all this week. That would have made for some extra sweaty walking. Anyway, we got into downtown Baltimore around mid-morning Saturday and found a strategic parking lot that would work for both Camden Yards and the other sightseeing we would do through the day. The $25 hit was rough, but I made up for it the next day by finding a $12 all day garage. We started at the famed Camden Station, which now houses a Sports Legends Museum and a separate Pop Culture Museum (Geppi’s) on the second floor. Geppi’s basically took you through the history of entertainment in this country and had a staggering collection of comic books. The Sports Legends Museum was amazing and I easily could have spent 3-4 hours in there. Along with a complete history of the Baltimore Orioles full of memorabilia and nice displays, the museum also has another floor on Maryland sports, including a piece on the state’s stadiums and arenas. To end, there is a section on the Baltimore Colts and then the Ravens. I think I’ll be back here to visit again before a Ravens stadium trip.

For lunch, we ate nearby at Frank and Nic’s West End Grille, where the weekend-long wishing I didn’t have a food allergy to shellfish began. The wife had an excellent crab cake sandwich, while I went for a loaded salad that was still really good. The servers were very nice and Os fans started to fill the place up by the time we left. We still had time to check out the Babe Ruth House and Museum, which is inside the actual house he grew up in. It is a small museum that had interesting stuff on the Greatest Player of All-Time.
|

Camden Yards

Then it was finally off to Camden Yards (cue the angel music). Two hours before the 4:05 PM start was just enough time to check out the ballpark and I started by walking around the entire stadium. That led me to famed Eutaw Street. It was jam packed as everyone was hanging out, drinking and eating. I definitely loved the area between the outfield and warehouse, but with so many people, I decided to come back later to enjoy. It’s amazing how many times I’ve seen a ballpark like this one replicated, but to see the original that started it all is truly special. All aspects of the park are great and most of the sightlines are excellent too (I say “most” because the seats at the back of the 100 level are not that good with such a steep overhang above). It was nice to see the place filled as often attendance has been lacking, despite the ardent following the Os have. The crowd was very into the game and Chris Davis hit his league-leading 36th home run, but the Birds fell to Toronto 7-3. I’ll write much, much more on the ballpark experience in the official review coming later this week and in an updated Stadium Journey review.

After the game, we still had some daylight left, so we walked over to Federal Hill for a beautiful sunset overlook on to Baltimore and the Downtown/Inner Harbor. Our hotel was near the airport about 15 minutes away (much cheaper) and after running into an absolute downpour, we picked up some food near the hotel and called it a night. Very surprising not to see a chain restaurant in an area of hotels, but instead Maiwand Kabob was there, an Afghani place. I took out and had a really good kabob. The hotel, however, was not good with a completely full parking lot, a leak in our room and a couple of spiders. This was a Hampton Inn, a place I always stay at on the road, but this was the first one I’ve encountered (out of about 10) that was inadequate. There still my go-to hotel, but just not anymore near BWI.

The next day we stayed in Baltimore to check out the Inner Harbor. I wanted to venture into more of Baltimore and some of their other nice neighborhoods (like Fells Point and Mount Vernon), but the main attraction of the city near the Harbor really is worth a visit. Such a great area with much to do and enjoy. The National Aquarium is a must (despite the $40 ticket), which we got to right away early in the morning. Lunch was at a brewpub on the east side of the Harbor and then my favorite thing to do in a city if available, is an observation tower. Baltimore had a great panoramic one on the 27th story of their World Trade Center. We just beat the Orioles traffic getting out of town at about 4 PM and then caught a little 95 traffic making the short trip up to Aberdeen for Stadium #138.
|

Ripken Stadium

The NYPL’s Ironbirds are the home team at Ripken Stadium and much of the park is modeled after Camden Yards. That’s a great thing and I understand it, but it ends up blending in nowadays to a ballpark typical in Anytown, USA. They do have an excellent food selection here with a whole crabshack to go with many other options. I loved finishing off the trip with a slice of watermelon on a warm summer evening. The Ironbirds experience got off to a bad start in my book by their front office not answering four emails I sent to them over the course of a month (a pet peeve of mine when someone doesn’t answer emails). But the rest of the game-day staff was great and accommodating, not in a fake way either, but truly genuine. The game dragged on for a lengthy 3:12 and it was filled with errors as the Ironbirds couldn’t overcome an early 6-0 deficit and ended up falling 8-6 to Williamsport. That makes NYPL home teams 0-5 in games I see them play. On a good note, I got to meet up with Gary Herman again. It was great being able to catch up with him as The Prince was doing what he does best, attending sporting events. It’s amazing how much he has seen and how many places he has visited through the years. His sports weekend was spent in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Aberdeen before heading back to NYC. Check him out at Royalty Tours USA.

Overall, a great trip and I kind of glossed over the ballpark experiences here, but will have their detailed reviews (on the right) in a week or two. Also, Stadium Journey updates to come as well. Stay cool!

Posted in Trips | 1 Comment »

Soaking in the Sun

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 28, 2013

Mohegan Sun Arena Interior

OK, that’s a cheesy title, sorry about that. It’s not exactly true either as the trip was under a cloudy sky that felt like it was going to snow instead of rain (and it was close). But once we got inside Mohegan Sun, things were pretty good on this arena visit. First, it took a while to get out to SE CT thanks to the usual I-95 traffic. Our first stop was the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. Of things we visited this weekend, the Pequot Museum was at the top as I was really blown away by how it thoroughly represented the Pequot Tribe. We spent a fast-moving three hours here and the displays were wonderful, especially the re-creation of a village. It’s a sad conclusion with how the Pequot were nearly eliminated, but their rebound in the 1900s is remarkable. Highly recommend visiting if you are in the area.

Seeing the Pequot-owned Foxwoods would come later, but on Saturday evening we went across the Thames River to Mohegan Sun Casino, the home facility for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun. The Sun are rare not only because they play in a casino, but also because they are one of the few WNBA franchise’s not partnered with an NBA team. With Mohegan Sun just outside the door, the entertainment options are endless before and after the game in the wonderfully decorated casino. Restaurants are plentiful and really good as we ate at Michael Jordan’s 23.sportcafe beforehand.

Mohegan Sun Arena Concourse

Probably the nicest decor for a concourse that I have seen yet as they stay consistent with the Mohegan motif in the casino

I anxiously got to the box office to make sure tickets were still available and even though the Sun in multiple places made it seem like they were limited, there were a decent amount still available (and the team wasn’t exactly prompt as I dealt with two weeks of going back and forth through email). Strange since a couple thousand seats were available based on attendance figures, yet just single seats were offered in the lower bowl. That was the only negative in an otherwise great experience. The concourse decor matched the beautiful Mohegan Tribe inspired design of the casino, while the arena interior was a true, intimate basketball facility. Seats are somewhat tight, but there is not a bad view as the octagon shape and lack of suites waste little space for the general fan. I know that Connecticut has great fans of women’s basketball with the Huskies, but the Sun fans were equally impressive. It was an excellent crowd as I estimated the announced attendance of 7,672 was accurate and they were very into the game. Fans did more than just clap as they made enough noise to make it loud in the arena several times. Great stuff as the Sun began their quest for their first WNBA championship by starting the season with an 81-69 win over the New York Liberty. Also, kudos to the organization for donating ticket sales to the Oklahoma tornadoes relief. Overall, an excellent arena and great experience with the team. I’ll have a review of Mohegan Sun Arena up soon, along with a write-up at Stadium Journey.

As for the other two days in Southeast Connecticut, they were spent in the casinos and in the scenic (and touristy) town of Mystic. Casinos didn’t go well for me monetarily as I lost on both the tables and slots. Mystic was fun and I really enjoyed the Seaport. I didn’t even know what this was going to be before checking it out and we literally spent all day there, with just a brief break downtown for lunch. That lunch break was terrific as well as we watched the Memorial Day Parade while dining at Azu. Overall good trip and the next new stadium on the itinerary is PPL Park for the Philadelphia Union.

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

Doubleheader in Connecticut

Posted by Sean Rowland on February 17, 2013

William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center

a
I made a last-minute decision on Friday to go check out a couple of games for the weekend. After perusing schedules in basketball and hockey-land, SW Connecticut looked to be the best option. No new official stadiums were visited, but a 3:30 PM Sacred Heart college basketball game followed by a 7:00 PM Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL contest lined up beautifully. I started my trek early as there was one pit stop that needed to be made. Instead of taking my usual route to CT via the Tappan Zee Bridge, I begrudgingly took I-80 over the GWB and onto I-95. The reason being was I needed some daytime exterior pictures of the Rothman Center in Hackensack (about 10 minutes off of 80). Despite my annoyance of even making Fairleigh Dickinson’s arena an official visit, I did want some useable outside pictures.

After that, it was game on. Tiny Sacred Heart University was the destination, right on the Fairfield/Bridgeport border in SW CT. This was not an official stadium visit as the Pitt Center only seats about 2,000, but I just wanted to see a college basketball game somewhere. I thought the small campus would be easy to navigate, but the after effects of last week’s blizzard combined with no parking near the gym made it a pain. It was a lengthy walk to the athletic side of campus, but I got there in enough time to settle in for the opening tip. This is a typical NEC gym with sideline seating and walls abruptly behind the basket. The side bleachers sloped gently and started a little ways from the court, so it wasn’t an ideal set-up. Robert Morris was the opponent (my second time seeing them) and they shared the conference lead, along with having the NEC’s best resume, which includes a win over Ohio, along with close losses to Xavier and Arkansas. The Colonials completely outclassed Sacred Heart (9-15, 7-6), even with leader Velton Jones out with injury. Fans were filing out as RMU had a 64-48 lead with 3:49 to play. Then a crazy thing happened. Shots started falling for the Pioneers and with RMU tensing up each possession, Shane Gibson caught fire behind the arc (to my dismay as the screeching PA announcer was too much to handle). The lead was 65-63 as SHU had the ball with under 30 seconds. The furious comeback fell short though as a missed shot followed by a pair of Robert Morris free throws cinched it. It was a cold walk back to the car for the fans, though most took it in stride.

Webster Bank Arena Interior

a
It was 5:30 PM, which left plenty of time to make the 7 mile drive down Main Street for Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena. I wanted to take Main Street so I could see the city and downtown Bridgeport. You will probably never hear anyone say that. Not much enjoyable to see through a drive mixed with businesses, drug stores, graffiti-ed buildings and shady characters. Regardless, the city is not as bad as the
Uncle Chick Band depicts it in 1980. And they built a beautiful arena in 2001 that still shines today. I made a visit here ten years ago, but that was to see a Fairfield basketball game. With each passing year, counting that as an official Stadium Visit always bothered me because this was a downtown arena built for a pro team, not a college team that does not even play in the same town. After 132 stadiums, this was the only one where the main tenant or an equal tenant was not seen, so I decided to erase the original visit from the record books and do an official visit with the Sound Tigers. 

My 11th AHL arena was a good one and I was quite impressed with the inside of the one-level facility. What struck me immediately was the bright object above center ice. Remember last week when I mentioned the growing trend in monster arena scoreboards. Would you believe that was what I walked into in Bridgeport!?! After no center scoreboard for their first 11 years, a gorgeous 30ft x 16ft video screen sits in the middle with crystal clear video. Paul Swaney was right in that it was not distracting and I welcomed the chance to see replays in amazing form. As for the rest of the inside, I can’t say enough good things. On the surface, it seems like there is too much luxury seating, but digging deeper, it turns out that much of this is open to the public which is awesome. There’s a surprisingly spacious bar tucked in the back of section 103, to go along with the Harborview Pub on the tiered deck behind one of the goals. This is the best part of the arena as the two levels provide an area to hang out, eat, drink and also watch the game. Seats overlooking the ice are available along a table and though pricey, it offers a great view. The place was empty enough for me to check out the game up here for a period and it was great. My negatives of the arena are comparatively minor (except the atmosphere)…the box office being outside where it’s cold half the year, not enough displays in the concourse, a blah atmosphere/small fan-base and high prices. Overall though, a very quality AHL facility that I enjoyed. Very special thanks to Brianne Tompkins on a last minute response. I’ll have a full, detailed review of the Sound Tigers and Webster Bank Arena up within the week, along with my updated review at Stadium Journey soon as well.

The game followed the same trend as Sacred Heart with the home side quickly going down 2-0 to the visiting Providence Bruins. Sound Tigers Kevin Poulin was struggling too as he wound up on the ice and out of position a lot. Yet Bridgeport managed to storm back with a sweet Nino Niederreiter blast and then a Sean Backman fluky goal from behind the net. After tying it at 3, Providence ended up taking the lead in the third. The final minutes were quite interesting as Bridgeport had a goal disallowed because the net was knocked off its moorings before in went. Should have been a penalty on the goalie who ‘accidentally’ knocked it off. Then as the Sound Tigers were getting set for a faceoff with 30 seconds left in the Bruins’ zone, they couldn’t figure out whether they wanted their goalie in or out for a sixth man. With the goalie in limbo and dancing near the blue line as confusion continued, the refs warned them once to get ready for play. Their patience ran out and the ref told the linesman to drop the puck, which he did with no Bridgeport players near the faceoff circle. Providence won it and fired the game-sealer into the open-net. Bridgeport went ballistic, but in this case I totally agree with the refs and they did the right thing. Good call by them to get the game moving and not get bullied by the Sound Tigers coaching staff…refs were right on this one. Bruins win 5-3 and now sit atop their division

Posted in Trips | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.