It takes a lot to pry me away from the NCAA Basketball tournament, as the sport I love and follow so much culminates in Mid-March. However, a new stadium will be able to take me away. So after being couped up for three days and enjoying one of the best and most competitive tournaments seen in a long time, it was off to Philadelphia. The timing was great as I really lucked out with Syracuse getting the 12:10 PM second round game. After watching them win in convincing fashion we left and spent some time outside in the perfect 75 degree weather. I really enjoy Philly’s Old City and Center City areas as we parked in the easily accessible Independence Visitor’s Center Garage and then walked into Center City, passing Chinatown. After checking out the impressive Reading Terminal Market, we brought our dinner we bought there into a square across City Hall. I love the architecture on that building, especially the huge statue of William Penn at the top. We also saw Love Park (where the LOVE sign is), before heading back.
It was off to South Philadelphia’s Sports Complex for the Wachovia Center (for a full review, you can click here). The last time here, we took the subway in to the Phillies game. This time we drove and as expected it is very easy to get in as it is just off I-95 with plentiful and easy parking. As easy as it was to get in, getting out sucks if your not from the area. The facility should have some detail on which lanes go where, because I got into the wrong lanes for I-95 (Southbound) and had to pull a jerky move to get over. Then, without even telling you, one of the lanes to get to I-95 N, brings you back into the Complex, which I was stuck in and had to wait forever to have someone let me get over. So beware of this if you head down to a game. As for the buildiing, it is rather bland with an exterior design that did not really win me over. The inside seating bowl, is just a basic two level set-up with suites/clubs/restaurants in between and at the top. The design does look to promote noise which is good. A couple of pluses include their numerous and good-looking banners and the fact that the guys running the beautiful video scoreboard know how to use it: just for game video, replays and occasional fan shots (side note: when they put the Kiss Cam on to Atlanta players, they actually acknowledged it and one of the guys gave a fake smooch to the helmet to a rousing ovation from Flyer Fans…first time I’ve seen that!). One boo goes to the horrible “Welcome to Comcast Country” sign at the top of the sides. What exactly is Comcast Country, your customers?
The concourse here was excellent as there is so much to look at and do. Between bars to hang out in and displays like the “Flyers Experience” and the hats from all Flyers home hat tricks, they did a terrific job. Once again, Philly dominates in the food section. There is a so much variety here and everything looks great! Just some of the things I saw include hoagies, cheesesteaks, water ice, different types of barbeque, smoked sausage and tastycakes. Probably the most popular item were crab fries, which are a staple at the famous South Philadelphia sports bar: Chickie and Pete’s.
The atmosphere at a Flyers game is terrific as every single fan’s attention is on the game. There aren’t many distractions (no mascot, no t-shirt toss) and the focus is hockey, which is a great change of pace. I almost felt out of place not wearing orange or black as it seemed nearly every fan had some sort of Flyers gear on. The place is loud, especially as the Flyers cut the lead to one and I can see how this building could rock come playoff time. Fans are extremely knowledgeable and of course have the reputation of being “bad”. Yes the boobirds were out at times and there were some obscenity-filled comments, but I never saw any obnoxious jerks there (now the opponent was the nobody cares about you Atlanta Thrashers). Nearly all of the ire was to Flyers Goalie Brian Boucher, who to be frank, sucked. He let in two soft goals and he saved the worse one for last when Philadelphia cut the lead to 2-1 and was putting on all sorts of pressure. Boucher let in a soft wrister with three minutes left and almost immediately about half of the angry and frustrated fans got up in unison and left. Atlanta’s victory now has me on a two game home new stadium losing streak. And what used to be a stellar 13-2 record for the hockey home guys, has now dropped to 13-4 since the last two. That was my 80th stadium and it was a great night at the venue. Next up is Texas as we have a couple of games planned just a few short weeks away: the University of Texas’s Disch Falk Field and the AT&T Center, home of the San Antonio Spurs.