Stadium and Arena Visits

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

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Baltimore Ravens and Towson Tigers

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 2, 2017

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Seasonal tolerance is a funny thing. After a week of near 90 degree late-season heat, temps in the 50s and low 60s certainly made a football trip more bearable, but man, did I need to layer up as we began on Saturday. My brother and I arrived in Baltimore late in the morning and Parking Panda was clutch in scoring a good garage at a decent price. Those that haven’t been, make it a future destination as I just love the Inner Harbor. Even if it’s not to see an attraction, grab a seat and watch a street performer on the weekend. We did do some paid stuff in the form of the Historic Ships and the Observation Deck. Both awesome. For the ships, if you are short on time, go with the Constellation and the Torsk (the submarine). For lunch, we took a walk to Little Italy and had a filling meal at Cafe Gia with a pastry at Vaccaro’s.

The first stadium visit was about 20 minutes north in Towson, where the FCS Tigers took on Villanova. We arrived to a pretty crappy parking situation as the stadium lots were full 45 minutes before game time, that led us to a garage a good distance from Johnny Unitas Stadium. And this was just with the place at a quarter of the capacity! Inside, the stadium is built in a hill, offering a neat perspective. They made a lot of renovations not too long ago and that has made the concourse, food options and displays pretty decent. For detail, check out the review coming later in the week. Seating is just ehh as it is mostly sideline bleachers that are distanced because of a track. The Tigers struggled in what was a real sloppy game that featured 7 total turnovers. Villanova capitalized on a couple in their end during the second half and those scores led to a 24-9 victory. One of the highlights at Unitas Stadium is the Towson Marching Band, who put on a great show and entertained with plenty of numbers during the game.

Sunday we woke up to brilliant sunshine, which remained with us all day. M&T Bank Stadium is near downtown and since we weren’t tailgating, it was super clutch to get a $10 lot in the city and walk a mile to the game. It also allowed for a cost effective, easy exit. We got there quite early to do the Ravens Walk, which is a great pathway to the stadium along Eutaw Street that features entertainment, freebies and food. While Eric immersed himself in the swag, I walked the stadium with an exterior look including the two statues (Johnny Unitas and Ray Lewis). Inside, nothing really set the stadium apart, except for the purple seats. The design is fine, but I don’t like the upper-deck because of the non-continuous flow thanks to the awkward corners, plus they are high and far due to the double-decked suites below. What I did really love was Baltimore’s Marching Ravens. One of only two NFL teams with a band, I did my homework a few nights earlier and watched the wonderful 30 for 30 on their history dating back to the Colts era. Terrific story and the band did not disappoint in their performances. Those that did disappoint were the Ravens, who were abysmal in this one as they went down to the Steelers, 26-9. It wasn’t a good day for the fans either and while I still genuinely think that Baltimore has a great fan base, they did not look good. There were a surprising number of empty seats for a rivalry game on a perfect day and my eyeball count put the stands at 85% capacity. Then, we had the pregame debacle. To set the stage, the PA said something to the effect of the team would like a moment for prayer to reflect on equality. The fans cheered. Then the Ravens took a knee. The crowd booed. Loudly. The Ravens then stood back up and all stood before the anthem played. I am not here to get all political and I understand the sensitivity of the issue, but I sincerely hope that those booing fans just weren’t paying attention to the announcement and THOUGHT they were kneeling through the anthem. If that was not their thought, then yikes. Listening to conversations within my section, I heard no remorse for the booing, misdirected or not.

So for the second year in a row, social issues overshadowed a football game I attended. These intersections between Sports and Real World are certainly understandable and as I completely understand why it happens and hope that whatever issues occur lead to awareness and progress towards change to the good, I continue to follow sports and make sports trips as a distraction to real life. Life is hard and especially after not getting the horrors of what happened in Las Vegas last night out of my head, we all need an outlet to block out the stresses of life. Sports and travel do that for me and after 16 years of hitting the road to see a game, it will continue to be an outlet as long as I can do so.

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Football in the Charm City

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 25, 2017

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We’re back! It’s been awhile, but we are hitting the road this weekend after what has been a personally busy summer. My brother will be joining me on this trip as we will be heading southward to a pair of games in Maryland. I’m very thankful this heat wave will be ending as both days will feature afternoon activity in the outdoors. On Saturday, we’ll spend time at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore before heading to the suburb of Towson for an evening contest between the Tigers and Villanova at Johnny Unitas Stadium. On Sunday, we’re back into Baltimore, where we are pumped for a divisional battle between the Ravens and Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. That game is a 1 PM start and we’ll head back home afterwards. The Charm City is a great place to spend the weekend and it will be fun to check it out again along with sampling more of their sports scene. These will be my only football games of the year, so I’m hoping for close games and good stadium experiences. Back next week for a wrap-up!
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2017 Football Stadium Updates

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 3, 2017

Colorado State’s new on-campus stadium (photo from Andy Cross at The Denver Post)

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This was a busy offseason for the NFL as we will see two teams debut at a new facility this season. The first is a move into an existing stadium as the Chargers head to the Stubhub Center, a soccer-specific stadium in Carson, CA that is home to the LA Galaxy. There are a number of things that make this unusual, the most glaring being the size. Stubhub is a terrific soccer complex, but it only holds 27,000, which is way below NFL standards. A move to smaller college stadiums is not unusual when a new stadium or renovation is done (see Minnesota, Chicago and Tennessee), it’s just that we haven’t seen the capacity that small before. This is also going to be their temporary home for at least three seasons. Finally, what kind of fan base will we see, especially considering that LA gets their second team in as many seasons and that the market solidly grew on the college side with resurgent USC and to a lesser extent, UCLA. On the other end of the country, we have a stadium opening that is less messy as the Falcons move into Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This replaces the 25-year old (that’s right) Georgia Dome and the new $1.6 billion stadium has made quite an impression thus far. The video screens add a Jerry Jones level of showy uniqueness and though this stadium adds to those where home-field advantage and noise are all but gone, it certainly is an intriguing stadium for fans and aficionados alike.

In College Football, there are two new stadium openings. First, in Fort Collins, we have CSU Stadium, oh wait I’m sorry, “On-Campus Stadium”. I know that they haven’t found a naming rights deal, but you think they could at least come up with a temporary name instead of their literature that just labels it “On-Campus Stadium”. Anyway, this stadium is indeed within CSU as opposed to far-flung Hughes Stadium and the Rams made their highly anticipated debut on August 26th.  The other new one is from FCS. We saw East Tennessee State return to football last year, now, they have a stadium to go along with it as William B. Greene Jr. Stadium is completed. It holds 7,694 and that means it falls just shy of making it onto The List. Another program that has made a comeback is UAB and while their hiatus was brief, many in Birmingham are celebrating their return to Legion Field. Other notes include the expansion of Brooks Stadium as Coastal Carolina makes the transition to the FBS level and the interesting venue switch by Georgia State as they take over former Turner Field. What a versatile place that has turned out to be as it hosted the Olympics, baseball and now football. The layout still looks baseball-y, but improvements over the coming years will turn it into more of a Panthers home.

 

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Games during the Eclipse

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 19, 2017

Solar Eclipse (photo from NASA) and Volcanoes Stadium

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At the risk of the internet exploding in the United States with Solar Eclipse stuff, there is a stadium aspect to this as many teams in cities along the path of full totality are planning some pretty cool events that coincide with a game. I’m sure most have their plans already set, but for those flexible, consider a trip to one of these ballparks while watching a pretty incredible spectacle:

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Salem, Oregon  –  Volcanoes Stadium  –  Game Time: 9:35 AM  –  Totality: 10:17 AM

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I’ve been to this ballpark and while it is not a great one, they do have a nice event plan for the morning. Also, the capital of Oregon is a cool place to visit. 
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Lincoln, Nebraska  –  Haymarket Park  –  Game Time: 12:00 PM  –  Totality: 1:02 PM
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Free glasses to the first 3,500! Perfect for the procrastinators
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Nashville, Tennessee  –  First Tennessee Park  –  Game Time: 4:00 PM  –  Totality: 1:27 PM
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This is the one I recommend the most. Awesome city, new ballpark and events that include a concert and kids activities during the viewing party
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Greenville, South Carolina  –  Fluor Field  –  Game Time: 1:05 PM  –  Totality: 2:38 PM
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The Palmetto State will see a huge influx of visitors from the East Coast and luck is on their side in the sports world with three different options. Underrated Upstate is a fine place to attend and people will be surprised at how nice Greenville’s downtown is.
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Columbia, South Carolina  –  Spirit Communications Park  –  Game Time: 1:05 PM  –  Totality: 2:41 PM
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Similar to Nashville, ballpark travelers can add this relatively new one to the list while visiting the capital
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Charleston, South Carolina  –  Riley Park  –  Game Time: 4:05 PM  –  Totality: 2:46 PM
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The only one in South Carolina that won’t have the eclipse during the game, but Lowcountry is arguably the best destination for tourists.

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Opening Football Weekend Road Trip Ideas

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 30, 2017

Beaver Stadium is just one of the stadium options on an Opening Weekend with plenty of road trip possibilities

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It’s getting close to that time again! This country is made up of football crazies and that is especially true of the college game, where many fanbases follow a spring scrimmage like it was a real game. We’re less than a month away from the start of the FBS season and it all begins in Fort Collins, CO as the Colorado State Rams open a brand new stadium against Oregon State. The best time of year to travel and catch multiple games is Week 1 because there are many Thursday and Friday contests that set-up a nice three day trip. Here are a few that I put together worth going for:

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1) West Coast Swing
Thu, Aug 31 at 8:30 PM……New Mexico State at Arizona State
Sat, Sept 2 at 2:15 PM……Western Michigan at USC
Sun, Sept 3 at 4:30 PM……Texas A&M at UCLA
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Start off in the Desert where hopefully the temperature has dropped below 100 degrees by the time the ball is kicked at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Friday is a travel day, but with the drive only 5 hours to LA there are plenty of options to spend the rest of the time (Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs, Disneyland). Then enjoy a pretty solid doubleheader weekend as USC plays Saturday and the Bruins host a big one against Texas A&M on Sunday.
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2) All Michigan
Thu, Aug 31 at 7:00 PM……Rhode Island at Central Michigan
Fri, Sept 1 at 6:30 PM……Charlotte at Eastern Michigan
Sat, Sept 2 at 12:00 PM……Bowling Green at Michigan State
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The shortest trip is this one as total driving time between games is just three hours. Lots of MACation here as each contest features a member of that conference. For multi-sport lovers, I recommend sticking around in Lansing on Saturday as the Lugnuts play a baseball game in the evening.
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3) Underrated Stadium Experiences
Thu, Aug 31 at 7:30 PM……Holy Cross at Connecticut
Fri, Sept 1 at 8:00 PM……Washington at Rutgers
Sat, Sept 2 at 12:00 PM……Akron at Penn State
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Having been to all three stadiums, this trip is much better than it looks on paper. Rentschler Field is a great facility that scores well in most categories. Rutgers has a remarkably dedicated fan base considering how many horrible years they have had on average in the last 30. They should at least have the place rocking in the beginning of that Friday Night game. Finally, Happy Valley is all that it is cracked to be.
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Bucket List – Ballparks

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 9, 2017

While in the area for a Mets or Yankees, make sure to stop by Brooklyn for a game

 

Back in the winter, I did a series of posts on Bucket List Stadiums for Football, Basketball and Hockey. The time wasn’t right for Baseball, but now that we are in the middle of summer, it certainly is. Ballparks are the genre that attracts the most amount of stadium road trippers as that group exceeds all the other sports combined. Warm weather and nostalgia are likely reasons why, but the main one is that baseball has a different type of fan. There are several people I know that love baseball dearly and pay little attention to all other sports. For me, while I certainly enjoy a ballpark visit, the length and dullness of the games put the watching of the sport live much lower than the other ones. There are still some beauties out there though that I love to see…

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Alex Box Stadium – LSU Tigers:  If you watched the College World Series this year, you’ll know why. Home of some of the best fans in college baseball, though the fans from two lines down may argue this.
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AT&T Stadium – San Francisco Giants:  Picturesque ballpark with right-field on the waterfront. Great support too as crowds haven’t waned even when the Giants do poorly (which can’t be said for many other MLB teams).
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Baum Stadium – Arkansas Razorbacks:  Similarly crazy passionate fan base to LSU. Those that get bored at times with baseball (like me), certainly won’t be so at a Hogs game. Lots of fun.
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BB&T Ballpark – Charlotte Knights:  Wonderful new ballpark in downtown Charlotte that has a major-league feel in miniature form.
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Blue Wahoos Stadium – Pensacola Blue Wahoos:  The design is basic, but it is the view and location that makes this bucket list worthy. Great spot right on the Bay and near the center of the city.
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Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles:  The ballpark that changed sports stadiums forever. It still stands the test of time 25 years later.
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Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles Dodgers:  Janet Marie Smith is in the process of working her magic here.
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Doug Kingsmore Stadium – Clemson Tigers:  Aesthetically beautiful with a great design on a pleasant campus in Upstate South Carolina. Clemson is hot right now on the sports scene and expect to see a lot of orange.
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Dudy Noble Field – Mississippi State Bulldogs:  The biggest on-campus stadium in college baseball is known for their Left Field Lounge, a tailgating and in-game experience like no other in the sport.
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Fenway Park – Boston Red Sox:  An icon that has wonderfully moved into the 21st century.
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Frontier Field – Rochester Red Wings:  Best food in the minors! I got spoiled coming here often growing up in Rochester. Food certainly has stepped up in the last dozen years, but nothing comes close to the variety and quality at Frontier.
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Grayson Stadium – Savannah Bananas:  Thank you Summer-Collegiate Leagues for saving this ballpark. An absolute classic built in 1926. I love the ceiling fans underneath the overhang!
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Huntington Park – Columbus Clippers:  Great ballpark in a great city and a great neighborhood (the Arena District).
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McCoy Stadium – Pawtucket Red Sox:  Enjoy it while you can as Red Sox owners plot their move. Not many like these are left at the affiliated minor-league level.
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MCU Park – Brooklyn Cyclones:  Coney Island and the Atlantic Ocean are within a view of this ballpark, which you will be hard pressed to find one that fits in better with a neighborhood
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Modern Woodmen Park – Quad Cities River Bandits:  Right along the Mississippi River. Seriously, right on it, as in they have flooded multiple times. Not a fan of how the place has become a circus with the addition of a Ferris Wheel, but the setting is picturesque.
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Parkview Field – Fort Wayne Tin Caps:  Often a winner in Stadium Journey‘s “Best Ballpark”, this is a success story in terms of downtown development because of a ballpark.
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PNC Park – Pittsburgh Pirates:  Everything about this ballpark is done right. And for a fan of city skylines, this one is right up my alley.
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Riverwalk Stadium – Montgomery Biscuits:  Many ballparks go with the train theme, but none do it better than Montgomery. The stadium makes use of a pre-existing train shed for the exterior.
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Regions Field – Birmingham Barons:  Excellent use of a city’s history with the incorporation of steel in the design elements.
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Smith’s Ballpark – Salt Lake Bees:  Just look at that View!!!
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Target Field – Minnesota Twins:  All the new ballparks built within the last 10 years are great, but this one stands out above the rest.
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TD Ameritrade Park – College World Series:  Only because of the event it hosts. This is an otherwise soul-less ballpark that replaced a stadium still dearly missed (Rosenblatt). Thanks, NCAA
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UPMC Park – Erie Seawolves:  A neat park where tight confines dictated the design, leading to a completely different third base side from the first base one. Well worth going to the latter side and sitting in the upper deck.
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Wahconah Park – Pittsfield Suns:  One of the very few remaining with a wooden grandstand.
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Wrigley Field – Chicago Cubs:  The video boards and advertising somewhat take away from what was a unique professional sports experience in North America. Still an incredible ballpark and experience.
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The Alouettes and their Spectacular Home

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 24, 2017


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My third visit to the beautiful city of Montreal was the first one that came with pleasant weather, quite welcomed for such a walking city. We were in town for the SIMA Symposium, where we exhibited at the Trade Show and participated in a few other events. Each evening we were able to enjoy Old Montreal and Crescent Street, while Thursday afforded us a bit more free time late in the day. After checking out the historic campus at McGill University and the nearby McCord Museum, I got ready to hop on a shuttle bus to Percival Molson Memorial Stadium as the CFL scheduling powers were on my side with the Alouettes playing their home opener at night. The bus had some issues both to (it was late) and fro (it didn’t make two scheduled stops), but otherwise this was a fantastic experience at a historic stadium that aesthetically became one of my favorites.

Molson Stadium sits on the eastern slope of Mount Royal, thus setting up a spectacular setting. From one sideline, fans have a backdrop that includes downtown Montreal and the “Plateau” neighborhood. From the other side, the mountain looms over the stadium, along with the historic campus buildings. A steep set of sideline seats provides terrific sightlines and the end zones have their own unique seating, especially on the south end where it is occupied by the Neurological Hospital. In front is a row of beer tents that make for a good spot to socialize and watch the game. Renovations added historical displays to the western end of the building and there is indeed plenty of history here…over 100 years worth! Frequent readers of this site know how much I love old stadiums and the incorporation of old and new in combination with the beautiful setting make Molson Stadium a must visit.

The crowd was lively and it was festive atmosphere throughout as there was a lot of singing and dancing with the music on the PA. The wave made an appearance as well. I am new to the CFL and for those not familiar, the primary differences from the American game are: Three Downs (instead of 4), goal posts at the front of a larger endzone, 1 point if a kicked ball is not returned from the endzone and orange penalty flags. I had a hard time getting used to the 3 downs and it really slowed the game down. It took awhile for a score as it was not until late in the 2nd when Montreal got on the board thanks to a 65 yard pass from Darian Durant, the former QB of their opponent Saskatchewan. The game got good at the end and the Al’s took the lead with an 18-yard field goal with just under 3 minutes remaining. The Riders drove back down and did what drives me nuts in all levels of football…settle for a mid-long range field goal. They easily could have ran 2-3 more plays, but instead, let the clock run down to attempt a 45 yard field goal. I was glad to see them punished as it missed and Montreal was victorious, ending a great stadium visit. Look for a detailed stadium review next week.

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Rebonjour!

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 13, 2017

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Hello again Montreal! I’ll be back in one of my favorite cities for a good chunk of time next week as our company will be exhibiting at the SIMA Symposium. It’s a show that I periodically join co-workers for and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the show, they are heading north of the border to Montreal. Lucky for me, the home opener for the Alouettes is on the Thursday we are in town and I will be able to make it with the game starting at 7:30 PM. This will be the first CFL game I attend and I’ll have to brush up on the rules as they do differ between the two countries. Percival Molson Stadium seems like a great introduction to the league as the setting on the hills of McGill University combined with the stadium history makes for an exciting venture. Plus, I’ll be able to use mass transit to get there as the stop for the free bus shuttle to the stadium is within walking distance to our hotel. Back next weekend with a wrap-up!

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Alabama and Mississippi Trip

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 22, 2017

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Friday
Travel day #1 and it went ok as the first half was rain-free. We stopped halfway to check out the Shenandoah Caverns which included an hour in their underground cave. It’s pricey, but a good stop full of interesting visuals including the awesome Rainbow Lake (pictured above). Our 2-year old, Shayla, was excellent today in the car and enjoyed the Main Street of Yesteryear display. Part 2 of the drive was a struggle as a constant rain slowed things on 81 and the last hour got heavy enough where it was nerve wracking. Wearily, we arrived in Abingdon, VA and before checking in, ate at Luke’s Diner. Sorry, no Lorelai or Rory to be found.
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Saturday
Thankfully, we had much better weather on Day 2 as it was dry with clouds giving way to sunshine as we made our way through Tennessee and into Alabama. Our midway stop was in Gadsden, AL where lunch at a regional fast food joint (Jack’s) was followed by a few hours at Noccolula Falls Park. Glad the drought down here has improved and it also allowed for the water to flow into the beautiful Falls in the northern part of the park. Our final long drive dragged on the rather dull stretch of I-59 that goes into Mississippi. But I’ll take dull scenery anyday over tough driving. We reached Hattiesburg in the evening and starving, I was very much looking forward to good Barbecue at Leatha’s. After the
good reviews I read, I was sure this would deliver. Wrong! I left so disappointed and discouraged, it kinda ruined the night. A waitress/server, didn’t come by until 10 minutes in, then they told us no chicken, just pork left. Bad news for my wife (Cheryl), who doesn’t eat pork. She was gracious enough to stay and just eat the sides knowing how bad I wanted Southern BBQ. So we waited and waited, until 45 minutes later finally getting food. I understand the slowness, but the disappointing part is not once having their staff let us know how long it would be, or even check on us during the meal. Even worse, they talked to EVERY other table but ours and was friendly with them. They didn’t even say goodbye to us. It’s not like we’re not friendly, was it because our accents gave away we’re Northerners? Errrr and the food was just ok, pulled pork was fatty and I’ve certainly had tastier. Better days ahead.
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Sunday
Hopes of sleeping in were dashed by a 6 AM Shayla wake-up, but that was ok because we went to the elegant campus entrance and rose garden at Southern Miss before it got too hot. This would be the only day where the family would separate as the ladies went to the zoo and I saw college baseball under the afternoon sun (well, I did grab a seat where there was limited shade). The Golden Eagles took on UAB and their 8-0 shutout win gave USM the conference regular-season title. It wasn’t a big crowd at Pete Taylor Park, but they were appreciative and supportive of their players on Senior Day. My favorite ballpark feature was The Grove, where trucks lined up down the right-field line and outfield to tailgate and watch the game. Very cool. After the game, we drove through the Pine Belt to the Gulf Coast, where dinner was much better this time as we ate at Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant in Ocean Springs. This is a beautiful town and we spent the rest of the evening strolling the boardwalk.
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Monday
We moved on to Biloxi, where it was a beach morning before climbing the Lighthouse and seeing the Visitors Center. We also took the Biloxi Tour Train, led by the wonderful Carla. This was a great tour of the city as it is a fascinating place with a history and present worth exploring. Carla also talked (and showed) Katrina and my heart broke at the sights and stories. Media focuses(d) on New Orleans, but these coastal communities were destroyed as well. After heading back for a Shayla nap we went to Ballpark #2 on the trip: relatively new MGM Park. The Shuckers arrived just a few years ago from Huntsville and their home is near the center of the city as the massive Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino towers over right field. An impressive sight, but one that does block a beach and water view. The ballpark does not have a front entrance, thus leading to a continuous concourse wall and an area more exposed than usual as the suites are set further back. Unfortunately, the Braves blew out Biloxi, ending my 7-game winning streak. This was Shayla’s first sporting event and she spent 75% of the time fascinated by “Big Bird”, aka Schooner, the team’s mascot.
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Tuesday
This day was more for the girls as we all started by visiting the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in nearby Gulfport, where Shayla had a blast in the two-story kids play area. I would love to have something like this back at home for her. We ate lunch at the peaceful Blow Fly Inn before continuing in Gulfport at the Marine Mammal Institute. Cheryl is a Veterinary Technician and the tour we took was a great behind-the-scenes look at their research and rescue. For dinner, we went to the Beau Rivage and sampled the pretty good buffet. The day was capped off with a perfect finale walking along the sand in Ocean Springs.
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Wednesday
We said goodbye to Mississippi and hello again to Alabama as we drove three hours to the capital in Montgomery. It was a food day that I very much enjoyed as our first stop was lunch at the Stockyard Grill, located where cattle are sold. I’ve never seen a place like it as people from all walks of life were eating: Police Officers, Ranchers, Businessmen, Retired Couples. It was a true blend of people enjoying darn good food and my Ribeye Steak was a perfect lunch. Dinner was at Martin’s, a Montgomery institution. Had to have the Fried Chicken and it was as good as expected. Two trends that I have noticed down here: You get the bill right after ordering, so does that mean dessert is supposed to be ordered with the meal? Second, they ask if you want your drink to go. I like that. In between food, we spent time at the Alabama State Museum. This was done very well and I could have stayed for hours. It has been a rough 300 years for this state, but the last few decades, life has improved quite a bit and I applaud this museum for their terrific displays and storytelling, despite challenging and sad subject matters. In the evening, we went to Paterson Field, a good example of an older stadium that has survived to serve an alternate purpose. They co-host the High School State Baseball Championships and we saw Game 1 of the 5A Final between Faith Academy and Russellville, who was looking for their third straight title. They looked well on their way with a 9-1 win. I was hoping for more character from the ballpark, which was built in 1949 and while the structure was all well and good, the lack of overhang and metal bleachers made for a generic place.
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Thursday
9.2 miles. That was how much walking I did, but the journey led to me falling in love with Montgomery. It’s a city that has had so much pain and trouble, but now it features a diverse population with plenty to do, good food, little traffic and increasingly trendy areas. First, we went to Old Alabama Town to spend the morning, which took us back to 1800s Alabama. We then took a step back in time with lunch at Farmers Market Cafe. More Wood Paneling! This Fried Chicken was better than yesterday’s at Martin’s. While, Cheryl and Shayla went back to nap at the hotel, I explored all around downtown. This included stops at Riverfront Park, The Alley, the Visitor’s Center in Union Station and the Rosa Parks Museum. We ate dinner at Dreamland BBQ and then went to Riverfront Stadium, which was awesome! I’ve seen plenty of ballparks do the train theme, but none have been more appropriate or effective than how Montgomery did it. The actual exterior is an old train station and inside, more old station decor sets the ballpark apart. It is a unique set-up as well. To make the game even better, we had a storm in the background, so I went to centerfield to watch the game with the city skyline and lightning in the background. Despite my astonishment that the game went on despite the electrical threat, it was a perfect evening. Except that the Biscuits got burnt (ooohhhhhh) as they lost to the Jackson Generals 12-6.
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Friday
Last day in Montgomery and we ventured out of downtown to the Zoo, which was crawling with school groups. Shayla enjoyed the animals, but the heat really bogged us down. I’ll take the heat in place of rain as it allowed us to achieve all of our plans. We had a little extra time before heading to Auburn, so we did the Capital Building tour and drove down Dexter Ave. When we got to Auburn, I had to make sure we stopped at Toomer’s Drugs to get a refreshing cup of lemonade, which was everything it was hyped up to be. As for “The Loveliest Little Village on The Plains”…meh. I mean it was quaint and nice and all, but maybe the “SEC is Greatest” mindset has me soured a tad. This is combined with little things that were annoying, like the lack of parking at our hotel and the ticket lady telling us that ALL fans needed a ticket and our 2-year-old couldn’t get in without one (despite her sitting on our lap). I will say campus was beautiful, as was Plainsman Park. Lots of team honors and great seating touches make this one of the best college ballparks in the sport, though I could do without the kitschy design features likes the Green Monster. The Tigers beat up on Ole Miss as they won 9-1, concluding a trip of complete blowouts (which doesn’t help a sport that can be dull to begin with).

Our long drive back home would be split into two days and there wasn’t much noteworthy with our stopovers. We had a great family trip to our country’s Deep South and it is an area I hope to return to for future sports journeys. Thank you to the weather, which was great since the rain stayed away. The stadiums I saw were pretty good and they should rate well when I get to completing their thorough review over the next month.

 

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The Big Southern Trip

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 2, 2017

We’re just a week away from the biggest trip of the year as the family hits the road for vacation and along the way we make some stadium stops. This was a thoroughly mapped-out trip and that should come as no surprise for those that know me. My wife (and I to some extent) want to visit each of the 50 states and with a two-year old daughter, we want to be strategic in what states to hit and when. This year, we settled on Mississippi and Alabama with the spring-time being a better time to make the trip, as opposed to the searing heat and humidity in the summer. Stadium-wise, that means ballparks are the venue, but May gives the chance to see not just professional baseball, but college as well and that is great given the popularity of the sport in the South. We are starting the drive on May 12, making stops along the way before settling in Hattiesburg, MS the evening of May 13. The following day, after a visit to the zoo, we’ll be at Pete Taylor Park to see nationally-ranked Southern Miss take on UAB. We’ll then make the short drive to Biloxi, MS after the game and spend the next 3 days touring the city and the Gulf Coast. One of those nights will feature the Biloxi Shuckers and a game at MGM Park. On Wednesday, we venture into Alabama, where a few days are devoted to the state capitol in Montgomery. There is a good amount to see and do there, which will fill the daytime and then at night, we’ll see the Biscuits play in their downtown stadium. In addition, I’ll also be checking out the city’s older ballpark, Paterson Field, which hosts the first game of the Alabama High School Baseball Championship series for each classification. The last day in Alabama before starting the journey home will be in the Loveliest Village On The Plains. If you know the SEC, you know that’s Auburn and we’ll stroll the college-town sipping lemonade from Toomer’s Drugs along the way before finishing at Plainsman Park for a Tigers baseball game. We’re really hoping the weather cooperates and everything goes smoothly as we look forward to visiting the Deep South (and enjoying some delicious, traditional food). I’ll probably try a day-by-day running blog during the trip, so check back!

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