Stadium and Arena Visits

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

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A Spur Of The Moment Game

Posted by Sean Rowland on February 6, 2018


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Monday was an unusual day for me: a deviation from the routine. A long work weekend meant that I took a little bit of a break on Monday and I realized a nice de-stresser would be a sporting event. My love for college basketball has waned over the last several years for a multitude of reasons, but I still have that urge now and again. With stadium reviewing not the focus, I perused the light schedule for something. There were two options: Indiana at Rutgers or Bucknell at Lehigh. Easy decision here: Bucknell-Lehigh. The Bison came in with first place in the Patriot League and I prefer following the geographically-sensible conferences. This was a terrific game of basketball and it made me fall in love all over again. Clean, hard-working play and no showboating shenanigans by either side as they played their tails off in an entertaining affair. Lehigh shot nearly 50% from behind the arc and the game went to OT after Bucknell missed a shot near the buzzer. In the extra frame, the Mountain Hawks continued their shot-making and Jordan Cohen was money from the line. The Bison still had a chance to send the game to Double OT, but they missed as well and Lehigh celebrated their victory. Games like these, where there is not 15 replay reviews or the mention of “Trey Young” 55 times makes me want to get back into following the sport hardcore again. As for Stabler Arena, this was my third visit to the arena and it is one of the biggest in the Patriot League. Not much change in there as it is a well-lit and comfortable building to watch a game. The crowd was around 1,000 with many decked out in Eagles gear. They were the best that I’ve heard them in my three visits as they really picked it up in the final four minutes. The students too, who sat most of the time behind the basket, stood up and got into it towards the end. Best thing of the night: The awesome halftime show put on by the Bucks County Bungee Jumpers. They were phenomenal and deservedly drew the loudest applause of the night from the crowd. Check them out!

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Feeling the Heat in Harrisburg

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 28, 2018


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Before checking out the Heat and New Holland Arena, I spent a little time in downtown Harrisburg. Now back in 2013 when visiting for a Senators game, I remember learning that this is a sketchy town. However, I really didn’t see any of that during my enjoyable walking tour that included the Walnut Street Bridge, Front Street and the State Capitol. This time around was a little different as the drive in from I-81 took me through some questionable areas and I was not exactly comfortable on my three block walk from the car parked on the street to the PA State Museum. Call me a softy suburbanite, but that’s just how I felt. Anyway, the state museum was good and the statue of Willam Penn is really something to behold. I thought the Transportation & Industry section was the most visually appealing and the most interesting permanent section. What really caught my interest was a temporary exhibit on the work of T. M. Fowler, who created 248 Birds Eye View maps of PA cities in the late 1800s and 1900s. I love those! After the museum, I stayed nearby for dinner at the Sturges Speakeasy. It looked like they had a party going on, but I still was able to take a seat on the side for dinner. As I felt increasingly ignored by the staff, time was getting to be a concern and I made the decision to hightail it out of there without ordering and try somewhere else. Clutch decision. I drove to the Appalachian Brewing Company (5 minutes from the arena) and was served quickly at the bar with a great dinner and a beer that was brewed on-site.

The game was at the New Holland Arena, one of many buildings that make up the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. Before the corporate sponsor, it was just referred to as “Large Arena”. This is a truly impressive facility in both size and history, as it has hosted the largest agricultural gathering in the United States for over 100 years. During Farm Show week, the Large Arena hosts everything from rodeos to pony-pulling contests to tractor square dancing (yup, that’s right! check it out!). It also hosts indoor soccer as the MASL’s Harrisburg Heat play there, a team with a relatively lengthy history dating back to 1991. New Holland Arena from the outside is architecturally intriguing as the 1930s design features farm-related engravings at the top of the building. Inside, there is a distinctive farm smell that reminds game attendees that this is a unique arena for sports. The seating bowl reminded me a lot of Hersheypark Arena, located not too far away. Built in an era when everything was designed for a person sitting in a chair to watch below, there is a very steep grade to the oval structure. It lends to great sightlines. The arena is so outdated that there is an undeniable charm to it because of the nostalgia factor. Along with the aforementioned, you have tight chairs that date back decades and a scoreboard as basic as they come. This does not diminish the Heat experience as it is still a fun one that can be had in any other modern-day arena. For those missing an old-school sports arena, check this place out. Now that’s not to say there is no 21st century influence as a Heat game features goal celebrations complete with smoke machine and strobe light, plus the near-continuous playing of music interspersed with the PA imploring “Harrisburg make some noiiissseeee!” that gradually becomes ear-grating. While the music/PA may have annoyed me, this is undoubtedly a family event with kids everywhere (particularly youth soccer teams), so the game-day atmosphere caters very well to them. This was my first indoor soccer game (match?) and it was quite enjoyable as I dissected the flow and strategy. It is a really intriguing mix of soccer and hockey that has been around since the 80s. Harrisburg was playing the Florida Tropics and they had leads of 3-1 and 5-2. Harrisburg trimmed the advantage to 5-4 and tried to tie it up for much of the 4th Quarter. The Heat even had a 6 on 4 (Power Play plus pulling the goalkeeper), but failed to convert as the Tropics celebrated their win as the buzzer sounded. Stadium #191 was a very different experience from all the other visits and it was one certainly worth doing that featured a new type of arena and sport, both of which were refreshingly enjoyable.
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A Few Firsts Next Weekend

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 20, 2018

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The last few years, I’ve really upped the amount of stadium trips that include multiple games and the use of a hotel. That’s because we’re down to only 11 local available stadiums remaining as I consider anything within a 2.5 hour drive doable without an overnight stay. I’m going to make one of those visits next Saturday as I check out the Harrisburg Heat. That leaves me with five relatively close-by winter venues: Villanova Basketball, NJIT Basketball, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Long Island Nets and a High School Tournament in Pottsville’s Martz Hall. My plan going forward is to leave those arenas as backup plans in future years, just in case a bigger trip gets cancelled due to the multiple things that could come up during the winter (bad weather, work, sick, etc). Back to Harrisburg, this should be an interesting one as it is my first ever indoor soccer game. The league goes back ten years, but professional indoor soccer has a deeper history than that as teams like the Milwaukee Wave and Baltimore Blast date back to the 80s and 90s. The Heat play in a type of building that will also be a first for me: the Large Arena at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. The Farm Show just wrapped up last week and it is one of the largest agricultural gatherings in the US. Within the large complex, one of the buildings is a 7,500-seat venue that during the event hosts everything from rodeos to pony-pulling contests to tractor square dancing (yup, that’s right! check it out!). After a few years at the smaller Equine Arena in the complex, the Heat moved their home games to the bigger venue three years ago and I will be there next Saturday Night for a 7 PM game against Florida. Depending on when my wife gets out of work earlier in the day, I’m hoping to spend some time at the PA State Museum downtown before heading to the game. This will be second time in Pennsylvania’s Capital City as I got to check out some of the sights during a 2013 visit to FNB Field. Check back with wrap-up of the Heat game later next weekend.
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The Year In Visits – 2017

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 27, 2017

Locations of the Stadiums I visited in 2017

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2017 recovered nicely after a horrible start as a planned trip to Wisconsin was cancelled due to an injury. That rescheduled flight turned into a late-season trip to Michigan that went very smoothly. Throw in a vacation to the Deep South, a journey into Canada and some football in Maryland and you have quite a year. I was able to visit 14 new stadiums in 2017, bringing the tally to 190 overall. It’s been fun and memorable, so let’s take a look at the past year in stadium visits:

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Favorite New Stadium:  Yost Ice Arena……Yost got a high ranking of 77 and while fourteen other stadiums have been ranked higher, this gem will always hold a special place in my heart. The students are phenomenal and their “Children of Yost” section made the hockey game a must-see event. They are clever and creative with a zest for a new cheer, plus the pep band compliments them beautifully. Oh yeah and the old barn of an arena is a beauty too, especially on the outside.
………Honorable Mention: Crisler Center, Molson Stadium, Riverwalk Stadium

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Worst New Stadium:  Pete Taylor Park……Southern Miss has a mighty fine baseball program, but The Pete just does not live up to the product on the field. The ballpark feels pieced together and disjointed with day games being particularily uncomfortable. I did like The Grove as it is a cool idea for their tailgaters.
………Honorable Mention:
Paterson Field

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Favorite New City:  Montgomery, AL……For nearly 150 years, Montgomery had a forgettable history. In the last 20, they have really turned it around and this place is a great city to live and visit. Central Alabama will not come up for many thinking of vacation, but three days here is three days well spent. Plenty of historical sites, museums and downtown attractions made Montgomery my favorite city of the year.
………Honorable Mention: Biloxi, MS

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Most Memorable Moment:  Dylan Burdeaux Last Home At-Bat……A college-town community saying goodbye to a hard-working senior in his final regular season at-bat. This one got to me because of the genuine emotion showed both on the field and in the stands.
………Honorable Mention: No Socks Kid at Michigan

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Best Restaurant:  Zingerman’s Deli…..Going back to Ann Arbor for a second time meant that I had the opportunity to try Zingerman’s, which I missed the first go-round. It doesn’t matter if you are a little overwhelmed by the menu at first because any food decision you make here will be a good one. This place was so good, it made me ask to see if they ship deliveries (sadly, they don’t).  
………Honorable Mention: Cafe Gia in Baltimore, MD;  Robin Square in Montreal, QU;  Stockyard Grill in Montgomery, AL;

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Best In-Stadium Food:   Pit Beef Sandwich……The last time I had a city food stable in a stadium, it disappointed (smoked meat at the Bell Centre in Montreal). This was better. You’re still better off going to a local dive for the best Pit Beef, but I was pretty happy with the one I got at M&T and it kept me full through the game.
………Honorable Mention: Murky Waters BBQ at MGM Park 

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Best Game  Michigan vs Minnesota……This was a terrific hockey game and it was Minnesota who jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Michigan fought back and by intermission, it was 3-2. Goals then flew in to start the third as Michigan tied it on a beautiful no-look pass by Tony Calderone, only to see the Gophers get back in front 33 seconds later. Another Wolverine goal tied it up until we went to OT, where a scramble in front led to a power play score for Michigan as Alex Roos got the game winner for the home side.
………Honorable Mention: Montreal vs Saskatchewan
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Championship Teams:  Russellville High School……What I love about championship games at the High School level is that many of them are played in tenant-less stadiums or older facilities. Alabama’s High School Baseball Championship is split between two ballparks in Montgomery and that gave me a chance to add Paterson Field to my belt. Russellville took Game 1, which we attended, by a long margin and then after a defeat in Game 2, took the decider against Faith Academy. The Golden Tigers won their third straight AL title and they brought hundreds of friends and family to the championship series.
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Best Drive:  US-90 between Gulfport and Ocean Springs…..This drive brings both beauty and bad memories as the latter comes from thinking back to what Katrina did along and beyond this stretch of highway in coastal Mississippi. Yet, the beauty comes in the breathtaking scenery with the water and white sand on one side and a mix of fine sights on the other. Ocean Springs ended up being my favorite little town on the trip. 

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Worst Drive:  I-81 in NY between Syracuse and Cortland……This section of 81 is prone to snow given their elevation and geography. I knew I was pushing the envelope by taking a trip to Utica and Syracuse on a bitterly cold March weekend. Lake effect / Orographic snow turned out to be scary enough to strongly consider getting off the highway and crashing at a friend’s house in Tully. But just deviating from the tracks on the road was scary in and of itself, so I pressed on and breathed a deep sigh of relief once the snow let up near Marathon.

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Weather:  7-5-2……The 7 wins (no-issues weather): Flint, Baltimore, Montreal, Auburn, Montgomery (x2), Biloxi. For the 5 losses, we had a bitterly cold and windy day in Utica that made me reconsider taking exterior arena pictures. Southern Mississippi had me sweating under the sun on a hot afternoon. Towson football featured an unseasonably chilly wind that my summer-weathered body was not used to yet. Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor took that to another level on a 10-minute walk to the arena. Finally, I call the 2 “Ties” as situations that weren’t ideal, but didn’t have any bearing on the experience. Those were: rain heading to the arena in Ypsilanti and bitter cold on a much shorter walk to the Crisler Center.

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Best Side Trip:  Sloan Museum……I elaborated last month on how much I enjoyed my trip to Flint, Michigan and how unfair the city’s reputation is. While the Farmers Market in downtown is terrific, the Sloan Museum really takes the cake in terms of places to visit. Arguably one of the best museums about a city’s history that I have been to.
………Honorable Mention: Alabama State Museum in Montgomery, Biloxi Tour Train in Biloxi, Historic Ships in Baltimore

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Musings

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 13, 2017

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Time for another round of Musings channeling my inner Frank Costanza…”I’ve got a lot of problems with you people and now you’re gonna hear about it!”
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– If I see one more close up of Matt Patricia (New England Patriots Defensive Coordinator), I’m going to throw my remote at the TV! Why do producers love him so much? Is it the beard? or the red sweatshirt? or that he is portly? I would love someone to keep count of air time for an OC or DC and see how far out he would be in the lead. Only Rob Ryan got more unjustified TV shots.
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– College Basketball. You’ve done a lot to irk me in the last few years, with replay reviews being at the top of my list. I’ve got three more things to add. 1) The fake camaraderie of going to help a teammate up is pathetic. Every time someone goes down, you see three teammates sprint over to help them up. Is this being taught in practice? It’s quite over the top. 2) Speaking of over the top: Guards who get touched and blatantly throw their body around like it was the biggest hack ever. I thought refs were supposed to call fouls on them for overacting. 3) Speaking of refs: Why do you have to insist that benches sit down? What is the harm in bench players standing when the game gets tight or celebrating while the play is going on as long as they are off the court.
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– Listen for this because it happens a lot: Commentators at the end of the game saying: “Let’s take one more look” at a replay, when it is the very first look.
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– At the end of last-second victory, why does the camera have to go right to the coach? What is the obsession with coaches? Players play, they won the game, I want to see them celebrate on the field/court. I love emotion and it drives me insane (especially in college basketball) when there is a buzzer beater and you get 2 seconds of players piling on, followed immediately by 10 seconds of a coach going to shake the other coaches hand

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– The newest trend in soccer the last few years: For the player who commits a foul to scream at the player that was fouled to try and show that they were faking (of course there are times this is the case). It now happens all the time and it does nothing to persuade opinion now. Just makes them look like a fool

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– Taylor Twellman: Just Shut Up

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– In minor-league sports, we’ve seen a trend in recent years where baseball has gone local. Teams across the country have ditched generic or affiliation names for something more local. Last season, the Binghamton Mets became the Rumble Ponies and a few days ago, the Single-A Tampa Yankees are changing to the Tarpons. Zany yes, but it’s for the better. Why can’t hockey do this? Instead, we’ve seen an opposite trend. This past offseason in the AHL, we’ve seen three teams all become closer to their affiliate in location/colors/nickname: Belleville Senators, Binghamton Devils and Laval Rocket (though that was already the case with the first two). That’s why it was with such a relief to recently see the Maine Mariners unveil their great name and logo. Let’s hope what is happening in minor-league baseball starts to infiltrate minor-league hockey.  


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2017-2018 Basketball Arena Update

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 29, 2017

Conceptional image of Wofford’s new basketball home: Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium (image from athletics.wofford.edu)

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Let’s start this edition with the college game, where we have three new arenas. The first two are small, on-campus facilities that look really nice. In Spartanburg, Wofford College debuted the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium with a game against South Carolina a few weeks ago. Pictures both inside and out are beautiful and I love how they changed it up with the name and went with “Indoor Stadium”. Too bad, it has a 3,400 seat capacity as that falls just short of making it onto The List. One that did make it by having 500 more seats is the Wellness and Events Center over at NJIT. This arena is less than an hour from my home, so I’m looking forward to making it to Newark in the coming years to visit. The Highlanders continue to toil in their out of place conference (Atlantic Sun) and each time I hear their four-letter acronym, I get mad that they are not a logical 10th member of the America East or 12th member of the MAAC. Finally, we have DePaul, who moved into Wintrust Arena. This new building gives Chicago yet another arena with 10,000+ (I believe that is four in the metro area) and it is located in McCormick Place, not far from the downtown core. It is also closer to DePaul’s campus and a much better location then their previous home in Rosemont. Speaking of Allstate Arena, Northwestern will actually take up residence there for this season as Welsh-Ryan Arena is redone in a renovation that is badly needed. They are not alone as Cincinnati and Portland State move to temporary digs while their buildings get redone. Also, Robert Morris is opening a new arena in 2019 and it is going in the same place where the Sewall stands stood. It’s now torn down and RMU will share PPG Paints Arena and the AJ Palumbo Center.

In the Professional ranks, the biggest story in the offseason is the odd, hasty move that the Pistons made in leaving the Palace in Auburn Hills to the Red Wings new arena. I certainly understand the suburb to city move along with the luxuries of being in a new building, but the whole thing seemed so odd in that Little Caesars Arena was supposed to be just a hockey/Wings building. They may be racking in the dough, but they have some horribly embarrasing games with tons of empty seats. Other noteworthy arena news in the league include renovations that cost more than the original construction cost of the building. Minnesota, Utah and Atlanta have either completed or are ongoing with what they call “necessary” changes.

Down a level, we have the first professional league in the US and Canada to have a sponsor name as the NBA Development League (D-League) has become the G-League with the G standing for Gatorade. Not to be outdone is a team being commercialized as the Agua Caliente Clippers, representing the Native American tribe using the name to promote their Casino Resorts. Wow, we have sunk to a new low. That team will play in Ontario, CA and while baseball trends to become more “local” in their minor leagues, I can’t imagine Ontario will feel any love with their team. A couple of other new franchises include the Lakeland Magic, who will use the RP Funding Center, a big complex that contains Jenkins Arena. The Memphis Hustle are going to play in nearby Southhaven, MS and the pre-existing Landers Center. Finally, Oshkosh is building a brand new building (Menominee Nation Arena) and that is very close to opening as it becomes home to the Wisconsin Herd. The LA team was re-branded to the South Bay Lakers and they will now play in the UCLA Health Training Center. That feels like an odd step back for the league as the training center holds less than 1,000. Finally, the renovated Nassau Coliseum is back on The List as they are now home to the Long Island Nets. Curious to see if they will eventually host hockey again, whether it is the ECHL, AHL or….wait for it….please, please, please….NHL? 

 

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Michigan Wrap-Up, plus Flint is Fun!

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 14, 2017



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My “winter-sport” trip began appropriately as it was freezing, both in New Jersey and when I arrived in Michigan, where I wouldn’t see the temperature break 40 F the whole trip, despite the calendar saying November. The flight was on time and after about 10 minutes of initial bumpiness, smooth. Lack of earlier sleep made me opt for a brief hotel nap instead of a quick visit to the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments in Ann Arbor. I staggered back to my feet for dinner and Zingerman’s Delicatessen was just what I needed, a hearty delicious meal. Zingerman’s has a crazy consortium of buildings and once I navigated it to the menu and ordering section, the big board blew me away. So many yummy choices! As badly as I wanted to try their renowned corned beef, I opted for #85, JVW’s Detroit St BBQ. It was then onto Yost Ice Arena for a bucket-list visit.

Yost is a historic old building evidenced on the outside by the brick facade and field house appearance. Inside, the renovations are obvious as the concourse displays and center scoreboard are most notable in regards to updates. The seating is awkward in that overhanging club sections make for a closed and almost obstructed appearance for the back four rows on each side. The design is such that each side has flat seating, so the corners are not a desireable place to sit. The inside does not do the exterior appearance justice and that’s because this is not an original hockey rink as it was retrofitted to become one in the 70s. What makes Yost special is the atmosphere thanks to the students and band. They were both phenomenal and made for a really fun place to watch a game. There are only a handful of stadiums that I have been to where I left craving more and thinking about the game for days after. This was one of them. Their “Sieve” chant is terrific and so is their originality, evident by the 10-year-old kid who joined them after the students went bonkers as he obeyed their request by taking his socks off on the zamboni ride. And that band! My opinion they have the best three-song combo in the country (Hail to the Victors, Lets Go Blue and Can’t Turn You Loose). The game was phenomenal as well after things looked bleak when Minnesota grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second period. The Wolverines came back and the game went to OT before Michigan’s Alex Roos put home the winner. Great experience that lived up to my lofty expectations.
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Saturday, I made the hour trip up US-23 to Flint. This is certainly a city that has it’s share of struggles, but media portrayal makes it seem like this is the worst place in the world and no one should step foot there. Absolutely not the case. As a visitor, I found enough to entertain me for the day. People were warm and in my driving and walking, I never felt concerned or threatened. I started in the Flint Cultural Center, a complex developed several decades ago to enhance quality of life for locals. I spent a couple hours in the Sloan Museum, which had a history of the city and several intriguing exhibits. There is also a huge kids section and it was quite popular, with the Clifford section being busiest. I love museums and have been fortunate to see some real good ones of late as Sloan ranks up there with the Alabama State Museum I saw earlier in the year. For lunch, I went downtown and explored the Flint Farmers Market, a year-round local shopping/eating destination. This place had everything and after a nice lunch at Steady Eddy’s, I wandered for awhile and bought a few things to bring back home. After a quick walk down historic Saginaw Street, it was off to Dort Federal Event Center for an OHL game with the Flint Firebirds. This building certainly shows signs of its 1969 birth, but a refurbishment has improved it into a quality OHL arena. Seating is simple and decent, while I really liked the concourse, which was baseball style as fans could walk around and still see the ice. It just needs more in the way of color and displays. The Firebirds had this game at 3 PM as it was part of a Veterans Day celebration that was very well done. The team did a lot of great honoring and there was even an Oath of Enlistment between periods. Unfortunately, the Firebirds fell to the Soo Greyhounds 8-2 as poor goaltending, penalties and some quality shot-making did Flint in.
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For the next game, I was eagerly watching the clock and my phone as traffic was building due to construction on 23-South. A huge thank you to Google Maps and technology as during my drive back to Ann Arbor, they deftly maneuvered me around 20 minutes of traffic and got me to the Crisler Center an hour before gametime. I needed every minute of that time as the arena is remarkably modern after a 2012 renovation. Concourse displays had so much for me to take in and I was really impressed at the crisp, clean nature of the building. I’ve always viewed Crisler as a dark and blah arena on the inside from my college basketball following and that is partially the case. However, arena seating is comfortable and their lack of a suite deck (replaced by “Champions Boxes” on a would-be middle walkway), makes for solid sightlines. Typical of most Power 5 programs, this non-conference game only filled half the building as the Wolverines played North Florida in a close one. Not until 10 minutes left, did Michigan pull away and the Ospreys look to have the capability to challenge for the A-Fun title this year. The students, while not as energetic or vocal as their Yost brethren, did fill their sections.
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On Sunday, I spent the morning doing work-related stuff before heading to Ypsilanti. With rain falling and the thermometer nervously flirting with 32, I was thankful not to find any ice and that the temperature gradually climbed through the day. The Convocation Center was the destination as Eastern Michigan basketball took on Michigan, Dearborn that is. A non-D1 school is not out of the ordinary for the Eagles as they play around four per season. Their arena is a nice building, one of the best in the MAC. The spacious lobby a nice welcome and the interior is designed well for basketball. They have a beautiful scoreboard too. Unfortunately, not many see it as I counted about 350 in attendance and that’s not far from the norm as the team usually is last in league attendance. The Eagles predictably won, but it was an entertaining affair that had good pace. Final score: 97-73 over the Wolverines. I know their part of the UM system, but why can’t Dearborn use their own nickname and logo?

After the game it was off to DTW for a flight back home. A very successful and fun trip and thank you to those involved. 4 stadiums in 3 days: Yes! I will have the reviews on each one in the coming weeks.
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An Upcoming Weekend Stadium Trip

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 6, 2017

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Last year, I had a trip planned to Wisconsin for Badgers Basketball and a couple hockey games. Those plans were derailed by an accident that required surgery, which meant I at least got an exchange on my plane ticket. With that ticket only good for a year, I’ve been searching for the right set-up and it was found in Michigan this weekend. The combination of game times, flights and region familiarity made this the trip I decided on. I’ll fly out to Detroit and arrive Friday Afternoon, which (hopefully barring delays) will give me time for the evening Michigan Hockey game at Yost Ice Arena in nearby Ann Arbor. When I cram as many stadiums as possible into a trip, I usually look for a place that I’ve already been to, so I don’t feel jipped in missing that city’s attractions. In this case, I was in Ann Arbor a year ago and did some sightseeing while in town, so the limited time here is ok. On Saturday, I’ll drive an hour north to Flint, where I will indeed be spending some leisure time and I look forward to proving that the city is not as bad as the media portrays it to be. A museum, the Farmers Market and a walk downtown proceeds an afternoon matinee with the OHL’s Firebirds as they take on Sault Ste. Marie. Right after the game, it’s back to A2 for the start of the college basketball season! It pained me not to visit my favorite type of stadium last year and I very much am looking forward to seeing the Wolverines season opener at the Crisler Center. The final game of the weekend will be in the town next door as the beautiful Convocation Center in Ypsilanti will host the Eastern Michigan basketball game during the afternoon. Crossing my fingers for smooth sailing as this trip includes a bucket list facility (Yost), my 5th OHL arena (25% of the league) and a couple games featuring my favorite sport. Back next week with a wrap-up and the reviews of each facility!
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2017-2018 Hockey Arenas

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 23, 2017

 

For the first time since 1999, the city of Elmira will not have professional hockey this coming season

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While T-Mobile Arena has been open for over 6 months, it made it’s professional tenant debut a few weeks ago as the Vegas Golden Knights dropped the puck after a stirring pre-game ceremony. It is obvious that this arena will feature plenty of road team fans for every game given it’s location in a destination city. The question is will the Knights and their fans be able to make it a rink that is decidedly in favor of the home team? I hope the front office gets creative with keeping tickets in the hands of the gray and gold come playoff time. We also had another arena opening in Detroit as the Red Wings moved into Little Caesars Arena. It looked like a
typical Red Wings crowd on opening night, an ominous sign going forward. Beautiful building, but I am going to miss that decrepit, yet nostalgic scoreboard at The Joe that amazingly survived in this time of technology. Finally, news from Ottawa where the team reduced the seating capacity at the Canadian Tire Center in an effort to increase demand for tickets after the team got some flak for not selling out during the playoffs. Maybe the NHL is reaching its limit for exorbitant ticket prices?

Down in the minors, there was some shifting as Binghamton moved to Belleville, ON, bringing the Senators a closer affiliate. In the process, the city of Belleville spruced up Yardmen Arena for the AHL. Nice to see a team back in that area after they recently lost their OHL franchise. As for Binghamton, hockey thankfully will still be played in their fun, old-school 70s arena as they get the Devils franchise from Albany. That does mean the Capital District is without a team for the first time since the early 1990s. The franchise struggled to draw for years and the game I attended there way back in 2002 was a dull experience. Times Union Center remains on The List however, thanks to Siena Men’s Basketball, who continue to play home games downtown. One other big change is the new arena completed in Laval, Quebec. The suburb of Montreal will host the baby Habs in the 9,449-seat Bell Place and the team name is the Laval Rocket. They replace the St. John’s IceCaps and I hate to see Mile One Centre lose hockey. Those great people unfortunately suffer in the hockey world due to their remote location. A National Basketball League – Canada team will at least become the main tenant in that building.

In the ECHL: We have to say goodbye to the Alaska Aces and Elmira Pioneers. While Sullivan Arena is still going to be filled by the University of Alaska-Anchorage hockey team, the same can not be said for First Arena in Elmira. That is a rink I have been to a couple times and one that I really enjoyed. There is good news in a returning arena that I have visited as the city of Worcester is back, along with the DCU Center, just a few years after losing the AHL. Amazingly, the new Railers sold the place out for their season opener and it would be awesome to see that good support continue (like Albany, the AHL didn’t do that great in Worcester). Moving up from the now-defunct CHL is the Kansas City Mavericks. It’s not the Sprint Center, but rather Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in nearby Independence that is the home arena, which is a much better fit. Finally, Jacksonville takes over the former Evansville Icemen franchise, who were supposed to relocate to Owensboro, KY before that deal fell through. The Icemen will play in Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

The SPHL continues to chug along, which is good as we need a “Single-A” hockey league. Sadly, the Columbus Cottonmouths suspended operations and the team will not be back after playing uninterrupted for 21 seasons. We will see the Birmingham area get a franchise, though they won’t be playing downtown, instead they are at the Pelham Civic Center, a tiny little place that seats under 3,000 and doesn’t qualify for The List

Both NCAA Hockey and the three Major Junior leagues in Canada feature no changes this season. There a couple of tweaks in the junior-level United States Hockey League as we saw Bloomington go through a rebrand (now known as Central Illinois Flying Aces). Their arena name changed too as it is called Grossinger Motors Arena. Up in Madison, big changes as the Mad Caps leave Veterans Memorial Coliseum. They were supposed to go to Hartmeyer Arena, but then that arrangement did not work out and they ended up at a 1,300-seat recreation rink. Not good and let’s hope that franchise is not in trouble. I actually had plans to attend a Capitols game at the Coliseum last year and am glad that did not happen as it would’ve been a waste of visit with the team departing shortly thereafter. It should be noted that building does still live on as it is the annual host to Wisconsin’s High School Hockey State Championship. 

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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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