100 stadiums feels like a bit of a milestone to me…so what better way then to rip off a perpetually replicated “Best/Worst” list.
Favorite Stadium: Fenway Park……When you first walk into a stadium, you always get that first initial impression once you enter the playing field and nothing made me say “wow” like Fenway did. Just an incredible rush of history hits you here and the ballpark is so unique, yet they found a way to make it work in the 21st century. Then add on the awesome atmosphere and it stands out as my favorite.
……….Honorable Mention: PNC Park, Wachovia Arena, The Palestra
Least Favorite Stadium: Rothman Center……There is absolutely no way that this arena sits 4,000 like Fairleigh Dickenson says it does. It wouldn’t have been on my list if that was the case and this tiny gym was just awkward and high schoolish.
……….Dis-honorable Mention: Pepsi Arena, UB Stadium, Nassau Coliseum
Best City: San Antonio……We were here last year and got a chance to see a game at the AT&T Center. What a great city and I think what really made it stand out on top was the RiverWalk. We could have spent hours just lounging around here. Throw in the Alamo and beautiful spring weather, I’m ready to go back
……….Honorable Mention: Austin, Toronto, Boston, Las Vegas, Montreal
Worst City: Bridgeport……Connecticut’s second-largest city just came across as grimy, dirty and dull to me. I’ve now driven by it so many times on I-95 and the only place I would really spend time at (even if I wasn’t a sports fan) would be the sports complex. At least the city is by the water.
………Dis-honorable Mention: Worcester
Best Small City/Town: Hershey……Yeah, I know its kitschy and mostly for the kids, but we’ve been here twice (for the Giant Center and HersheyPark Arena) and both times had a terrific time. Lots of cool things to do while spending a weekend here. Call me a kid, but I could go on that cheesy train ride in Chocolate World all day.
………Honorable Mention: Cooperstown, Ithaca
Worst Small City/Town: East Rutherford……This town has been crapped on enough that I don’t even need to explain. The other place I would choose is Erie, but this was the very beginning of my road tripping and I had good times going with my brother to see the Otters and Seawolves.
Worst Drive: Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena……At the time of this visit, I was in college at Oswego State, which is right on the Southeast shore of Lake Ontario. It’s a pretty easy, straightforward drive that’s two hours down I-81. Getting there was no problem, though parking was a little odd, I didn’t have an issue. Heading back home was a different story. Before the time of GPS, it took some effort to get back to the highway. Once I was on I-81, a freak snow squall just after Cortland was blinding and pretty scary. This came on the section of 81 that is all open with farmland on both sides, so it felt like you were driving in a white hole. After my old Toyota Tercel came through in the clutch and made it out, everything was going fine until I got stuck behind a car full of punks who thought I flipped them off when I was tapping my finger on the steering wheel. At the light, the driver decided to get out of his car and start screaming at me. Ugh. The only consolation was a great game in Binghamton and that Oswego Sub Shop was still open to deliver my cheeseburger sub.
Best Restaurant: Trudy’s in Austin, TX…..Let me preface this by saying it is quite rare that I go out to eat before or after a game and most times if we do, it’s when we’re spending a day or more in that town/city. With that being said, we were in Austin for a few days and the Tex-Mex at Trudy’s was excellent. I forget exactly what I had, but I know it was awesome and had some green dipping sauce.
………Honorable Mention: Fore Street in Portland (ME), Cask n’ Flagon in Boston, Primanti Bros in Pittsburgh
Weirdest Visit: Richmond Coliseum…..What started out as any other normal stadium visit turned wacky as soon as we stepped into Richmond’s downtown arena. Being that it was indoor football we were seeing should have been a clue. First, the game was delayed 45 minutes because the Baltimore Mariners bus was late. That would have been fine, except they never told us! So we sat there and waited. Then after the anthem, there was a prayer (???). This was then followed by “Proud to be an American”, which the home team then walked out together holding arms (remember this is football). Once the game started, the unintentional comedy scale was broken as one of the cheerleaders lead all of the in-between games and contests. The highlight was when she couldn’t get a tug of war game to stop. Needless to say, this was one of the wife’s favorite stadium visits.
Most Stadium Name Changes: Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center……Let’s see, it started as the CoreStates Center, when it opened in 1996. I actually thought that name wasn’t bad for being corporate and all. Then the fun began as it became the First Union Center, followed by the Wachovia Center, when I visited it last March, and then one more name change as it is now the Wells Fargo Center. Ugh, I guess a sign of the times.
Best Game: Thomas M. Ryan Center – Rhode Island vs Charlotte……I don’t think this is the best game because it is freshest in my mind, but so far nothing has topped the ending. This was a college basketball contest a few weeks ago and after a lackluster first half, the second half featured a big comeback and an interesting final minute that led to an overtime. In the extra session, URI had one chance to win under 10 seconds and then had a second chance, but the long jumper went off the back rim. However, Jamal Wilson got the putback and just beat the buzzer to win the game. I loved it
Best Atmosphere: Beaver Stadium……College usually offers the best atmospheres and so far nothing has beat Penn State football. Even though we saw a game against an FCS opponent, the crowd and passion could not be beat. What a sight it was to see over 100,000 in one stadium, I couldn’t get over looking around and seeing that. Everyone was cool and laid back when we were walking around the tailgating scene, while inside was amazing. Pretty decent stadium too. Yelling “We Are…Penn State” was probably the highlight for me
………..Honorable Mention: Fenway Park, Madison Square Garden, Ralph Wilson Stadium, Tullio Arena, The Palestra
Underrated or Unnoticed: Mohegan Sun Arena……If I had to recommend one stadium to someone that does not get a lot of publicity or notice as a great place to see a game, I would have to pick the arena in Wilkes-Barre. When I made the visit, it was called Wachovia Arena and I was lucky enough to attend an AHL playoff game between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Bridgeport Tigers (now Sound Tigers). Everything about this place was great: the exterior, the seating design, concessions. The atmosphere and fan support was tremendous too and even though the novelty of the now 12 year old franchise has worn off, they still do very well. I can’t believe its been seven years since my one and only visit and I play on returning sometime soon.
………..Honorable Mention: Frontier Field, Tullio Arena