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The Factory, The Big House and The Former Ralph

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 26, 2016

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The trip to Michigan began early on a Friday Morning and I mean early as we were out before the sun was. We took a route that included Canada and it worked well with very minimal border delays in Lewiston and Sarnia. The early start was so we could spend the afternoon in Ann Arbor, in addition to grabbing lunch with Stadium Journey founder Paul Swaney. It was great to catch up and after we parted, a long walk around downtown and campus quickly burned off the duck sandwich I had. Both were awesome as A2 has a terrific downtown full of local restaurants and establishments, while the University of Michigan has a campus featuring several sights to check out. The Law School Quad, the Cube and the Library were among our pit stops, as was Pinball Pete’s, where I smoked my brother in multiple gaming challenges.
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From there, we made the 20 minute drive down Washtenaw Ave to Ypsilanti and Eastern Michigan University. First, we had to stop for a close-up look at the Water Tower, which looks like, well, you decide for yourself. Some locals describe Ypsi as the Brooklyn to Ann Arbor’s Manhattan and while I’m not sure that analogy works, I get it. We took a quick drive downtown and then went to the small couple block section of Depot Town, a popular area for an evening dinner. That’s all I would recommend because after a drink at the Sidetrack Bar & Grill, we walked down to the park (still in the daylight) along the Huron River, only to sift through sketchy characters and a plume of weed. The EMU game against Wyoming began at 7:30 PM and we were there early enough for a stadium tour and pictures. It’s a basic facility that is very typical of the MAC and the Eagles try to make themselves stand out from their big brother 20 minutes away by having a gray field and playing up The Factory theme. I could certainly do without that field color, but the rest of it was good and I applaud EMU efforts to draw fans. It wasn’t a big crowd for this Friday Night game, but they were noisy and showed great resiliency in their cheering as the team toyed with their emotions. The Eagles came back from a 17-3 deficit and eventually took a 20-17 lead when their QB threw the most egregious interception I have every seen, right to a Cowboy who walked in for a TD, giving Wyoming the lead back with 12 minutes to play. Given Eastern Michigan’s 7-41 record the last four seasons, you can’t fault many in thinking it was over. Not-so-fast-my-friends. Backup Brogan Roback stepped in and led the home side to a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left. The Eagles went on to enjoy their first home win against an FBS school in nearly two years. The fans, who were eager to salute their team, didn’t get to do so as the players quickly exited to the locker room when a large group of protesters moved on to the field after the final whistle. It was certainly an overlying story during the game and it became the main talking point immediately after. Problems on campus led to the peaceful protest and while I won’t elaborate or get into social issues/politics here, but you can read more elsewhere and for those that saw the game on the CBS Sports Network, I heard that the crew did a terrific job covering the why’s of what was going on.
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Saturday was Michigan football day and with the game starting at 3:30 PM, plus College Football games taking forever, this would be a day long event. No complaints here as it was awesome to be in Ann Arbor and Michigan Stadium on game day. From our hotel, we got into town around 11 AM and the $20 Hill Street garage was a solid parking choice that served us well (though it was a close call as maybe 40 spots were left when we arrived). It was nearly a mile walk to the stadium, but that was fine as we got to sample the pre-game festivities and parties going on during a beautiful morning. After pictures of both the stadium and Michigan’s other athletic facilities, we went to the Football Museum in Schembechler Hall. Recently re-done, this is a must for anyone visiting as it is doable in an hour and quite enjoyable. Michigan Stadium has a nice looking brick exterior from the renovations that redid the concourse and side towers, then inside is a stadium better than a bowl as it fits the shape of a football field very well. Large and simplistic, the stadium quickly fills up with over 110,000 wearing the Maize and Blue, making for a wonderful sight that makes college football the most eye-catching of sports. Despite the late September sun beating down, I had goosebumps with their own goosebumps when the marching band came out, then the famous M Club sign and finally the football team. I may have grown up as a Syracuse fan, but Michigan was on TV a lot when I was a kid and that catchy Victors fight song was always in my head on football Saturday’s. Hearing that in person along with the “Let’s Go Blue” song was amazing. As for the game, Michigan laid the smackdown on Penn State as they quickly jumped out to a 21-0 lead and the total yardage was laughable at the end of the first quarter. The game quickly turned into an FCS-like blowout and Michigan won 49-10. After the game, we walked over to Cliff Keen Arena to watch the Wolverines volleyball team take on Iowa. This let traffic disperse while we enjoyed a sport that I’ve really taken to. This small venue (1,800 seats) doesn’t make The List, but it still was worth the pit stop as Michigan won 3-1. We moved our car then downtown for a late meal and with most of the restaurants packed, we choose a sandwich at the Maize & Blue Delicatessen. Solid decision.
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Sunday was another early start as we drove from Ann Arbor to Orchard Park, via Canada once again. After I got past my mistake of switching lanes at the border crossing near Detroit and getting scolded (despite all of two lanes open and a 5-minute wait before trying to make the switch to an open lane, whoops), we made the trip with no issues and good timing. Thank you by the way to the douchy Penn State fan in front of us at the Michigan game that provided our made up entertainment for the trip back. We got to Orchard Park right at Noon and my brother’s clutch work tickets in the Jim Kelly Club meant primo parking and decent tickets. I circled the stadium for post-renovation pictures and settled into the seat at 12:57 PM. Last week, as a typical Bills fan would, I griped about having to sit through another crappy performance, but quite the contrary as players love Rex Ryan and played play hard when his job is on the line. Buffalo dominated Arizona and the game was a blast. The stadium was absolutely rocking and very loud. I hope so much that this stadium survives as it is such an old-school place with an atmosphere at the top of the NFL. With random bursts of Shout, we walked out of the stadium to conclude a terrific trip.

Fun facts…home teams went 4-0! That is the first time since February 2012 where the home teams went undefeated on a stadium trip. The Bills win also meant that they are 5-0 in games I have attended in person. We did a lot of walking on this trip: 23.2 miles in three days. Thanks to my brother Eric for joining and providing high-quality, mostly immature humor throughout. It will take me awhile to get detailed reviews of each stadium up, but you can expect over the next couple weeks for these to be completed and they will be on the right column and this post once their done.

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Meeeechigan (and Buffalo)

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 20, 2016

 

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This is the one that I’ve been looking forward to all year as we are headed to a new state: Michigan! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a new FBS stadium (2012 to be exact) and I was determined this season to get one. Originally, the plan was to visit the Queen City for a Cincinnati Bearcats, Reds and Miami of Ohio trip. That didn’t go so well for the home teams (0-3) and I had several other reasons a few months ago that made me want to look elsewhere. I stumbled upon a great college football doubleheader instead, with Eastern Michigan playing Wyoming this Friday Night and the Wolverines taking on Penn State Saturday Afternoon. I’ll be leaving Jersey on Thursday with a family overnight stop in Rochester, NY. My brother is accompanying me on this trip as we’ve started setting up a solid twice-a-year roady: Fall Football and Late Winter Hockey.

We’ll start the journey early Friday morning, cutting through Canada in the process. Hopefully the border crossings are quick as we’ll meet up with Paul Swaney for lunch in Ann Arbor. Paul is the owner of Stadium Journey and we met up once before when he was living in Chicago. He’s a great guy, fellow stadium/sports lover and he has done wonders building a website for those looking to partake in sports travel and I’m looking forward to seeing him again. We’ll then check out of some downtown A2 and campus before heading to Ypsilanti, about 20 minutes to the east. Our stay in Ypsi is short, but enough to see their primary sights like Depot Town and a famous structure perfect for a college town. Rynearson Stadium is the site for the 7:30 start for Eastern Michigan’s game against Wyoming. On Saturday, it’s back to Ann Arbor, where we’ll attempt to take in the full game-day experience around Michigan Stadium before heading to the 107,601-seat bowl for their game against Penn State. Sunday, is drive back day and originally, we were going to be heading to Orchard Park for the Bills-Cardinals game, but circumstances have changed those plans. I haven’t been back to the Ralph (err…New Era) since 2013 and it’s probably for the best given the potential debacle. Yes, I want to see the stadium post renovations, but No, I don’t want to be out $100, depressed and angry at a team that seems to do that to me every Sunday.  

(EDIT…My brother got free tickets and parking! In the club section no less. So we are back on to see New Era Field and while I still likely will walk out of there sad because of a dysfunctional 0-3 team, at least I’ll see the stadium renovations with no cost involved)

The weather looks nice and pleasant for this trip and I’m pumped to add these two new Michigan Stadiums to the list of visits!

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2016 NFL Stadiums Update

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 8, 2016

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Image from Vikings.com

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The National Football League is not only the most powerful league in the country, but also the most powerful voice in the stadium world. As we begin a new season, there is a fair amount of change on the facility front and it starts in the NFC. Up in Minneapolis, we have the grand opening of U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Vikings finally have a home after a few years on a college campus. Though I had an affection for the Metrodome as my favorite domed stadium because of the noise (and I love their horn), U.S. Bank Stadium reviews have been excellent. And, I’m happy to hear that it is quite loud, which is rare for new places as they tend to lose their noise and atmosphere (see Indianapolis). The other big story is the move of the Rams from St Louis to Los Angeles. Edward Jones Dome, now called The Dome at America’s Center, wasn’t the greatest, but of course it was suitable for football. It just wasn’t suitable to make the bajillions of dollars that the NFL and Team Owners want. St. Louis’ Dome isn’t even paid off (built in 1995) and it will sit empty, without a sports tenant. This should be a lesson to local/state governments willing to throw millions into new facilities for the lure of a team and to be smart with financing and lease agreements. But we know it won’t. As for the Rams, they will play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until their palace is complete in 2019.

Elsewhere, Miami wraps up a major renovation to what is now called Hard Rock Stadium. It is a pretty impressive transformation and the canopy roof is a huge plus for fans attending games in the heat. This stadium is sooo Miami. Check out the Living Room Suites. Elsewhere, in a place completely opposite of Miami, Buffalo will see a stadium name change as New Era Field replaces the team owner’s name on the front of the building. Many people forget that Buffalo was one of the first places with a corporate sponsorship when Rich Stadium opened in 1973 (Rich is the name of a food products company). Denver has had some naming issues as The Sports Authority is no more, having gone bankrupt. However, Denver for now will still have that name on their stadium in what has become quite complicated. C’mon guys, just go back to the name “Mile High Stadium”. Finally, Overstock is no longer associated with the Raiders’ stadium and the endangered place is called the Oakland Alameda Coliseum. I can just hear Chris Berman now.

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A Long, Strange Trip

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 28, 2016

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Image from themoviemind.com

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Something a little different on this visit wrap-up…
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3:25 AM:  Alarm goes off. Hit snooze Button.

3:35 AM:  Alarm goes off. Hit snooze Button.

3:39 AM:  Alarm goes off. This time it is the ‘real’ one.

4:00 AM:  Begin a half-day at work. The forecast is pretty straight-forward, which is welcomed on this day so I can breeze thru it and get other operational stuff done.

8:00 AM:  Make a quick pit-stop at home to drop a few things and say hello/goodbye to the wife and daughter. Also check traffic to see what frustrations I’m in for.

8:45 AM:  Depart for New Haven, CT to the Connecticut Tennis Center and the WTA Semifinals between Elina Svitolina and Johanna Larsson.

10:40 AM:  After cruising along pretty well and enjoying the toll-booth less Tappan Zee Bridge, the fun stops just 15 minutes from New Haven, where things comes to a screeching halt on the Merritt Parkway. Construction leads to a 30 minute delay as it takes me half that time for me to start yelling at nobody and looking deranged. Minutes checking out the facility fade fast.

11:30 AM:  Finally arrive at the Tennis Center. Still an hour and a half before the match starts, but I need all of that time to check out the facility, take pictures (remember no moving around during play) and eat.

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11:31 AM:  Instantly begin sweating. Temp: 82, Dewpoint: 73

12:50 PM:  Complete walking tour of the grounds, which are nicely maintained and have some great spots like the picnic tables under shade and next to the awesome food trucks. Settle inside the stadium with a New Haven-style pizza slice

1:00 PM:  Out walks Svitolina and Larsson to a crowd of about 500…here we go

1:12 PM:  Thank you clouds!

1:30 PM:  Please come back clouds!

1:53 PM: Svitolina takes the hard-fought first set 6-4. Larsson hangs in there to save some set points and this was a grueling set given the heat as both ladies pounded the ball. The row I sit in was the only one in the whole stadium with a sliver of shade, but it’s not enough. With the heat index now over 90, I move to stand under an overhang and watch the second set.

2:23 PM:  The 10th seed Ukrainian is too much and wins 6-4, 6-2. She’ll be in the final on Saturday and I hung around a little bit to listen to the on-court interview and watch her on the nearby ESPN set afterwards.

2:55 PM:  Stop in East Haven at The Shore Line Trolley Museum with about an hour to kill before heading to the next stadium.

3:20 PM:  While taking the historic trolley, the engineer says “The pole went down again”. As we wait for the next trolley ahead to proceed and the engineer adjusts this “pole”, the scene on the silent trolley in the middle of the salt marsh is peaceful and eerie at the same time.

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3:55 PM:  Head east to Norwich and the second stadium on the day. The cancellation of the Tri-City ValleyCats game I planned on attending last month, made me consider and add this Connecticut Tigers game and a visit to Dodd Stadium. Knowing it’s rush hour, I check Google and see the dreaded red color along 95.

4:30 PM:  After trying to avoid traffic (unsuccessfully) by using Route 1, I get back onto 95. It was an enjoyable alternative going thru coastal towns like Branford and Guilford. 

5:15 PM:  Dinner at Lazizah Bakery in the Yantic section of Norwich. Trip Advisor is my go to for the best food places and this was one of the very few times that the high-rated reviews didn’t match my experience. While reluctant to say much negative at a local establishment, I was unimpressed. Finished up my luke-warm Gyro and hoped that I just caught them on a bad day near closing. The gyro at least filled me up for the evening to come (and there were some good ingredients in there).

6:00 PM:  Arrival at Dodd Stadium, after going up the long, winding road that encompasses a pretty massive business park. Great job to the CT Tigers parking crew that direct drivers into your parking spot and then collects the $3 fee. Seamless and more teams should do this.

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7:07 PM:  First Pitch at a classic 1990s ballpark that I’ve seen the design of a million times before. Nothing special, but nothing bad. Certainly a big park for a single-A team, but that’s because it was built for AA. I settle in behind home plate for the first pitch between Connecticut and Vermont. On this night, they pay homage to that prior AA team, the Norwich Navigators! I like that name much better, they should go back to it. 

8:15 PM:  The Tigers Navigators finally capitalize on erratic Lake Monster pitching with a 4 runs in the fourth inning. All of them came with two outs. It may be a small crowd (1500?), but they have good enthusiasm for each run (and I like the song accompaniment).

9:44 PM:  Game Over. The home team wins 6-3. Plotting my 3 hour journey back home, I see construction near Bridgeport. Errr. Debating a detour around it, but decide to just hope that the 15 minute delay fades as night traffic should diminish as I approach.

10:45 PM:  No delays thru Bridgeport, Yea! Cue up Men In Blazers podcast, which always makes the car ride enjoyable. Then it’s a fight against fatigue for that last hour.

12:45 AM:  Arrival into Hackettstown and starving. Wendy’s is the closest option, but no homestyle chicken sandwich. Drive the extra five minutes to Taco Bell, which I’ll probably regret. Employees are much nicer here than Wendy’s

1:08 AM:  Home. Destroy Delicious Taco Bell, which inevitably destroys me and delays shower and bed time.

2:03 AM:  Almost 24 hours after the day began…Good Night!

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Stadium reviews for both the Connecticut Tennis Center and Dodd Stadium will be up in the next week or two. Check back here for the link once ready, or they’ll be on the right hand side of the page. Take care!

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Tennis Anyone?

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 24, 2016

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It’s all about Connecticut on Friday as we have a (hopefully) two stadium visit along the coast of the Nutmeg State. Last year was my first live tennis experience at the Citi Open in DC and I’m looking forward to adding another one by heading to the WTA event held in New Haven. The Stadium Court is the third largest in the country with a capacity of 15,000 and the semifinals will be played there at 1 PM and 7 PM. Initially, I was planning on seeing the evening session, but a baseball rainout last month made me reconsider plans to add another stadium to the mix. Just an hour east is Norwich and that is where the Connecticut Tigers of the NYPL play. They have a 7 PM home game, so I will attend the less desirable (because of heat and player matchup) afternoon tennis session, then check out Dodd Stadium in the evening. It’s a 3 hour drive back home afterwards, which will make this quite a long day. There is the small threat of a shower or storm during that whole period, which would really screw things up if it rains during either of those events and I’ll keep my plans loose in case I need to change on the fly.

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2016-2017 Year in Premier League Stadiums

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 14, 2016

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It’s easy to miss with the Olympics dominating the sporting world the last week that the English Premier League kicked off yesterday. One of the most popular sports leagues in the world features a wonderful array of stadiums…from old (Goodison Park) to new (Emirates Stadium) to small grounds like Bournemouth’s 11,000-seat Dean Court to giants like Old Trafford at Manchester United. I’ve listed the Ontario Hockey League and College Basketball as the best leagues to take a trip through, but overseas, the EPL would be amazing to check out all 20 grounds. The only downside is that you are confined to your stand (section) and don’t have the ability to move around and check out the stadium from a different perspective.

This season, there are a couple of changes to be aware of and the most notable is at West Ham United. Tight and cozy Upton Park has closed as the Hammers move into the former Olympic Stadium in London. Fans may miss the charm of the Boleyn Ground, but the easier transportation, extra room and other amenities should make for a lot of happy folks heading to a game. The Olympic Stadium becomes the third largest ground in the EPL and it was a lot of years (and money) in the making. Oh, and the bubbles will be making the trip. Over in Liverpool, a renovation to Anfield has added several thousand seats, including a third tier to the main stand. This looks to enhance the noise and atmosphere at what I think is the loudest ground in the league (though Selhurst can get insanely loud for Crystal Palace and Leicester’s KP was crazy last year).

Promotion/Relegation sees us say hello to three returning teams, two of which only had a one year stint in the Championship. Hull City is back and while their orange brings some nice color diversity to the league, their blah fan support and discontent towards ownership means they will give Sunderland a run for playing in the “least full stadium”. Burnley replaces Villa in making sure there are two teams wearing the Claret and Blue, but that also means the return of Turf Moor and David Fishwick! This small club with remarkable success has plenty of local/regional sponsors and David Fishwick’s Minibus company is one of them. His name became so visible to fans, that the Men In Blazers interviewed him and it was a terrific listen as he is a genuinely great guy (take a listen). Middlesborough is the third team promoted and they will seem ‘new’ to many American recent fans as their last appearance in the EPL was eight years ago. Riverside Stadium is their home, built in 1995. To make room for these three, we’ve lost some wonderful stadiums as they have departed to the Championship, where most of America suffers to see them in Standard Definition on Bein Sports. For now, we temporarily (maybe?) will miss seeing St. James’ Park (Newcastle), Villa Park (Aston Villa) and Carrow Road (Norwich) in our living rooms.

Lastly, if you want to visit White Hart Lane in North London for a Tottenham match, you may need to get there this year. Spurs are definitely building a new stadium and it is looking increasingly likely that this will be the last for White Hart Lane as it closes next year to allow for construction. I’ve always admired it and wanted to visit…sad to see it go.

 

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Pittsfield and Troy…Fighting the Rain

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 1, 2016

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Anyone driving around the Northeast this summer can’t help but notice the browned-out neighborhood lawns as this region has struggled to see any prolonged rains for months. I welcome rain for these folks, but just not this past weekend as a I had a baseball trip planned for Pittsfield and Troy. Saturday worked in my favor as I left downpours in Jersey to a light spritz while working my way up the Hudson Valley. By the time I reached Pittsfield around 5:00 PM, it was dry. I started downtown, where the city had some historical points and an older architecture worth driving thru, though there was a sense that the place has seen better times as it was not exactly hopping on a Saturday Night. Dinner was at the District Kitchen for a fine burger at the small bar.

Wahconah Park was built in 1919 and is one of the last remaining ballparks with a wooden grandstand. This is a stadium that oozes likability from purists. It was an auspicious start though as the parking situation in the dirt parking lot is cramped and poor, then I had to wait 15 minutes in a slow-moving line to get my ticket. The generic siding on the exterior, then gave way to the excellent experience I was expecting as I walked up the wonderful ramp behind home plate and into a charming ballpark that has stood the test of time. The wooden grandstand is what you would anticipate from that era as it is covered and held by support beams. Complementing the ballpark is a game experience reduced in theatrics. Just one between-inning contest and lots of organ music greeted a pleasant game that steps back in time. The contest was a FCBL one between the Suns and North Shore Navigators, who had uniforms like a junior high team. North Shore belted three solo home runs to bring a 3-0 lead into the 9th, but Pittsfield staged a rally in their last at-bat. Shaky closing pitching and defense gave up 2 runs with 2 outs and Pittsfield had the tying run at 3rd and the winning run at 2nd. However, Quinn DiPasquale struck out Al Zachary as North Shore hung on to win. That finish was played in a light rain and I would make a wet drive to the hotel. Not something I wanted to do on winding, two-lane Route 20 as insane hotel prices in the Pittsfield area led me to save a hundred bucks or so by driving 40 min to a place in East Greenbush, NY. I knew that the Berkshires were a popular summer spot for New Englanders, but is it that much where a Hampton Inn costs $330 on a weekend. Outrageous!

Sunday Morning, I woke up to a continuing rain and I decided to change my original plans of seeing the Hancock Shaker Village as much of the place is outdoors and the weather did not making that appealing (nor was a 1:10 round trip drive). So as I did some forecasting and contemplated the chances of the Tri-City ValleyCats to get their 5 PM game in, I altered my daytime plans by staying in the Capital District. First, after checkout, was lunch at Panera, mainly to use there Wifi and get some early review work in. With any noteworthy things to check out in Troy closed Sundays, I decided to head 10 minutes west to downtown Albany and check out the free NY State Museum for the afternoon while monitoring the ValleyCats Twitter account for game status as rain continued. This is the largest state museum in the country and I’m glad I made the detour as it was worthwhile. Lots of large displays complimented the informative pieces and there was a terrific section on the history of New York City that I found fascinating (especially the pieces on skyscrapers and Harlem). The poignant 9/11 gallery was tough to get through, but well done. The only criticism I have as a person born and raised in New York is the lack of attention to the many other areas of the Empire State. NYC of course had their section and so did the Adirondacks, but very little attention was given to regions in the western half. Nothing new in terms of being overlooked, but a synopsis of all the state’s regions would have been nice. Hopefully that gets taken care of during their massive, future renovation.

I got so caught up in this museum that I forgot to check the game status until 3 PM and unfortunately, the game was cancelled. My long-lasting luck of never having a rained-out baseball game that I made journey for came to end. Despite my disappointment, I had to focus on that positive and long lasting good fortune. Before the next downpour, I took a walk in the massive Empire State Plaza, a monolithic, 1984-like plaza that displaced thousands of people when built nearly 50 years ago. Mixed emotions resulted from this area that is somehow at the same time beautiful and ugly, intimidating and inviting. The ride home crawled south along I-87 and on the way, I thought about making my next trip (the CT Open in New Haven), a doubleheader by also visiting Dodd Stadium in Norwalk. Until then, the review of Wahconah Park will be up later this week, along with an updated review at Stadium Journey.
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To the Berkshires and Capital District

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 25, 2016

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After a wonderful family vacation on a Caribbean Cruise, I am happy to be back in the saddle and shortly after getting back to The States, we’re ready to hit the road for some stadiums. It’s been awhile since our last visit, especially given that I was at the Rockland Boulders wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Thankfully, the relentless heat looks to break nicely for a pair of games this weekend. This trip is brief, but productive as I’ll leave NJ Saturday afternoon for the Berkshires. There lies Pittsfield and I’ll take in a Collegiate Wood-Bat League game at Wahconah Park, where I’m eagerly looking forward to going back in time to a truly historic stadium. After the game, I’ll stay in NY and avoid the outrageous hotel prices. The next game is in Troy, where the ValleyCats play against Lowell in a 5 PM affair. Not sure where I will spend my time before the game as I’ll either find something in Eastern NY or head back to Pittsfield (about 45 minutes from Troy) for the midday. Two ballparks if the weather cooperates and the latter stadium will get me to 6 NY-Penn League ballparks out of their 14. Back next week with a wrap-up!
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Olympic Sports

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 10, 2016

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Indoor Volleyball is a great sport to get behind during the Games

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Since I was a kid, I gravitated towards the lesser popular things in sports. The minor leagues, mid-major basketball teams, etc. I guess it is that underdog appeal, just taken to the next level in following those teams and stories from the beginning, not just near the Cinderella end. So it should come as no surprise that when the Olympic Games arrive, I enjoy Archery just as much as Swimming. In fact, I remember being younger and imagining a TV channel where each channel was dedicated to a sport. That wish has materialized during the last few games as each sport is broadcast live online (through NBC Sports), giving us the joy to pick which sport and event to watch. Needless to say, my production drops off during those two weeks.

This Summer Olympics feels different because of the awful going-ons in Brazil. There are certainly issues (see this NY Times article) and one should not ignore the many problems for Brazilians directly caused by hosting the games. But despite my guilt, I (just like the rest of the world) will tune in and follow/watch these games. Stadium Journey has a nice preview of the stadiums and venues, so I wanted to highlight the sports you should check out. Here in the United States, we have a remarkable variation of sports with many options for both participation and attending. Thus, it is hard for a “foreign” sport to squeeze in and find attention. The Olympics provide a great opportunity to learn, follow and enjoy something you may not be used to with competition at it’s best. Even though the popular Olympic sports only shine once every years, I invite you for a couple nights to skip the heavy dosage of prime-time swimming, storytelling, track, commercials and beach volleyball and check these out…
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1)  Handball

A combination of basketball, soccer and hockey…what’s not to like! I know that anyone that is a general sports fan would love this. Europe is the continent that plays the most and it certainly is a mix of our favorite sports. Enjoy some highlights.

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2)  Volleyball

While the beach is fun, I prefer the 6-on-6 indoor game. High Schools and Colleges have decent participation and I played in an intramural league in college that was a blast. The last few years, I’ve visited a couple NCAA venues and really enjoyed watching the contest. The strategy involved is intriguing and the matches are quick and fun to watch. Have you ever noticed how happy the women’s volleyball players are? I think this is the only sport with so many smiling athletes. 

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3)  Table Tennis

OK, there is a bias here because I had some heated ping-pong battles in high school. It can be hard to follow with the speed of the ball, but the rallies are intense. I love when someone throws a drop shot in there. Like tennis, there is both singles and doubles.

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4)  Badminton

Similar to table tennis, the birdie goes at light speed (like 200mph fast) and unlike a bright, yellow tennis ball, the white shuttlecock is hard to pick out. Nonetheless, it’s great to watch and it would be even better if NBC brought back Bill Clement to commentate.

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5)  Trampoline

Anytime this comes on, I feel like everyone collectively says “Oooohh Cooool”. Visually appealing, trampoline offers remarkable routines and skill. The intricacies and scoring of the sport make it hard to completely get in to, but there is certainly a hook that will have observers glued on it for awhile.

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The New Stadium Journey

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 2, 2016

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Many of you know that I also write for Stadium Journey, an expansive venture that provides readers with informative reviews of stadiums around the world. As you would think, it is right up my alley and the network that founder Paul Swaney has built is quite remarkable. With SJ being the primary source of information for those looking to head to a new sports facility for the first time, the growth has necessitated development in the website. I’m blown away how time is flying as I’ve done reviewing there since 2010 and as Stadium Journey gets closer to their 10th anniversary, it is with great excitement to see the website revamped and launched yesterday. With Scout’s vast resources, bigger and better things are on the horizon and the new site really helps navigating the hundreds (thousands?) of stadiums reviewed. My favorite aspect of the website is the Forums. As an avid sports traveler, our niche has lacked a centralized place for like people to communicate and share thoughts and ideas. This is exactly what stadium aficionados like myself need. In addition, there are many times, where I’ve had to surf and sift my way through the internet to try and find true feedback from locals about their team home. They not only provide valuable information on key review aspects, but also can help as I plan a trip in regards to restaurants, parking, parts of a city to visit/avoid, getting tickets, etc. I’m hoping both stadium lovers and general sports fans converge on these boards to get conversations going on the stadium experience. I’m truly excited for the new SJ website launch and you’ll see me active on the forums as sports traveler nuts now have an online social home!

 

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