Wrapping up 2011

The Palestra in Philadelphia, PA: My favorite venue of 2011

It was a great year here at Stadium and Arena Visits with several new facilities and some really great experiences at that. Its cliche to make a year-end list and it’s now become cliche to say that doing a year-end list is cliche. So enough of that word already! No introduction is needed, here is my 2011 wrap-up:


Favorite Stadium: The Palestra……Lots of choices here, but this old building just resonates with me. College Basketball is my favorite sport and visiting an arena that brings the sport back in time (in a good way) was a remarkable experience.
………Honorable Mention: Wrigley Field, Notre Dame Stadium, Red Bull Arena

Highest-Rated New Stadium: Thomas M. Ryan Center (81)……There is a lot right with this place. Though its a little bit of a jog east away from I-95, it’s easy to get to and parking isn’t issue. Beautiful exterior with nice concourses and a unique interior that gives the seating bowl a tall feel to it. The arena may be bigger than URI really needs, but I liked the place a lot. A little better atmosphere would be great, but I don’t see that happening as the Rams are 2-12 this year. Ouch

Favorite New City: Chicago……Awesome! Like so many others, I fell in love with Chicago. Breathtaking skyline, great spot right next to the lake, clean with an excellent transit system, terrific food and there’s a ton to do, especially in the Loop area.
………Honorable Mention: Joliet, Norfolk, South Bend

Weather: 6 out of 10…….Well, the most important thing was no game cancellations, which is my biggest worry when planning a ballpark visit. However, I experienced not one, but two lightning delayed games. The first in Notre Dame wasn’t bad because the extra two hours gave me more time to wonder around all the concourses. The other at InfoCision Stadium in Akron was annoying as thunder never was heard and it was a boring hour standing around. Otherwise, the weather wasn’t too bad. Driving through a steady, heavy rain to and from Hamden, CT was not fun. Nor was sitting in a cold, drizzle late in the game at Joliet. However, that was balanced out by some real nice evenings for games in Harrison, NJ and Fishkill, NY

Best Restaurant: Market Street Inn – Salisbury, MD……It’s sporadic whether I eat at the facility, eat at home, or dine out in the town I visit. We spent the night in Salisbury and ate here before a Shorebirds game in Arthur W. Perdue Stadium. Highly recommend this place in downtown Salisbury, along the river. Both the wife and I had a great meal and dining outside by the water was a bonus. The Pork Medallions were perfect.
………Honorable Mention: Goose Island in Chicago, Capital Grille in Providence

Best Game: Rhode Island vs Charlotte…….Without a doubt, the game of the year for me. 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
………Honorable Mention: Quinnipiac vs Robert Morris, Chicago Cubs vs Cincinnati

Best Atmosphere: Notre Dame Stadium……There were some good ones, but it was hard to match Notre Dame. It’s not a crazy place, but it is loud and there was such a mystique here that it seems hard to match. Hearing the “Notre Dame Victory March” was awesome, but I actually liked the snippets of Celtic Chant played during the game better.
………Honorable Mention: Red Bull Arena, TD Bank Sports Center

New Leagues: MLS Soccer and Women’s Volleyball…..Ten years into visiting new stadiums and I saw a few new leagues this year. I’ve only seen one other soccer-specific stadium (Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester) before attending my first MLS game in Harrison, NJ. Each year, I’ve grown more and more interest in soccer, from the international game, to the EPL and now MLS, which I followed closely this year. Attending live MLS made me crave more games and the Supporter Groups are something we don’t normally see here on a professional level. The other new sport I saw was women’s college volleyball. There are probably a couple dozen teams that play in facilities big enough for The List, and are stand-alone (not shared by basketball). This year I saw four-time defending champion Penn State at Rec Hall and just like when I’ve watched it in the Olympics, the game draws you in. It’s fast-paced, doesn’t last too long and has a lot of action.

Can I get a Home win?: 5-12…..That is the record for the home team in games I attended at new stadiums this year. Ouch! And it’s not like I attended a ton of games where the home team was a huge underdog (maybe one or two). There were some ugly ones like Temple’s 41-3 blowout of Akron and Aberdeen’s late inning beatdown of Hudson Valley 10-3. There were blown games like Notre Dame giving the game to South Florida in every conceivable way and there were close ones the Chicago Cubs and Norfolk Tides both losing in extra innings. I always love watching the home team get a win, lets hope for a better 2012.

Championships: Joliet Slammers…..There was one team that I saw this year, who ended up winning a championship. The re-branded Slammers took home the Frontier League title a few weeks after our visit with a 6-5 victory over River City at home. I’m really happy for the team, city and organization as I enjoyed a lot of aspects of my visit there. Nice downtown area and a terrific ballpark that is beautifully designed to fit right in architecturally with the city. Would’ve liked to seen more fans enjoy the playoffs, but that’s life in minor league baseball. Also, kudos to their organization for making a pair of inspiring intro videos (here and here).

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