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Bouncing around Philly for Temple and Penn

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 16, 2015

McGonigle Hall Interior.
A lot had to be timed right for this final Philadelphia stadium venture and thankfully, it all came together perfectly. First, the weather had to be good for work purposes and it was as the region basked under beautiful sunshine with temps in the 50s. Once that was settled out, it all came down to the speed of the games and reliance on mass transit schedules (gasp!). That worked out too. A month after boarding a PATCO train in Woodcrest, NJ with Eagles fans, I did the same thing again. Though I loathe SEPTA, using the trains and subways would save me about $20 in multiple parking and the hassle of driving in the city. After arriving in Center City, I split off from those in green jerseys and went to the other side of the Broad Street Line, heading northbound to the Cecil B. Moore Station, which exits right at Temple University. There is a student center nearby with food options open to the public and while planning the trip, I saw this included Tony Luke’s. Despite the 11:30 AM hour, I had cheesesteak on my mind (When In Philly), but they were closed and apparently only open for “Special Events” (boo to that). A quick Google Maps search for food led me across the street to Pita Chip, which turned out to be awesome. This place is essentially a Mediterranean Chipotle and I had a really good customized wrap with beef shawarma.

The first game was a Temple Volleyball contest at McGonigle Hall. This is the old basketball home for the Owls before they moved next door to the Liacouras Center (visited in 2013). I still had some time to kill before the 1 PM start, so I ventured a little deeper into Temple and saw their famous Bell Tower. When it was game time, I encountered a high-tech, fancy building as Pearson Hall (which contains McGonigle) has been remade into an impressive facility with an outdoor glass facade. The small gym seats a shade less than 4,000 and the seating is quite simple…mainly bleachers and all on the sideline, rising from the floor to the ceiling. What I liked about the arena is the amount of maroon (or Wild Cherry as Temple calls it). There is so much color and character with logos everywhere and a cool set of Owl Eyes looking down onto the court. Temple is having a great volleyball season, but their move to The American from the Atlantic 10 means no conference tournament and unfortunately, the Lady Owls likely will miss the NCAA Tournament as SMU wins the league. This match was against South Florida and Temple took all three sets, winning 25-14, 25-20 and then rallying in the third, 25-23. As much as I was enjoying the match, I was rooting hard for that third set comeback as that meant a 2:30 PM finish, allowing for good time to make a return visit to The Palestra for the Penn-CCSU bball game.
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Palestra Interior.
I took the subway to City Hall and from there, connected to the Market-Frankford Line (MFL) to reach Penn’s campus, which is two stops away on 34th Street. Not gonna lie, it was certainly shady waiting in that area underground for the subway, despite it being a Sunday afternoon. Twice I was panhandled and then an idiot next to me lit up a cigarette in that enclosed area. I exited for fresh air into University City and it took a bit for me to get my bearings as the area has the unique distinction of two separate colleges bumping up to each other (Drexel and Penn). The lack of signage to the Palestra meant another peek at Google Maps and I successfully navigated over to the unassuming brick building that from the outside, you would never know the basketball history contained inside those walls. I wrote about this place in 2011 and it gave me goosebumps again, walking those hallowed halls and then stepping foot inside the gym. What struck me this time is the reverberation of noise. It is remarkable how loud The Palestra, even with few fans. When the band was playing, it produced such a loud echo that it was hard to hear myself talk. I’m so thankful I went to that Big 5 game to experience what a game is like full throat. Maybe a thousand fans turned out for this, Penn’s second game of the young season. November is typically a tough draw and it didn’t help the Eagles were playing as well. Central Connecticut kept the game close through the first half, but in the second, the Quakers pulled away and I was particularly impressed with Sam Jones, a 6’7″ sophomore with a Mike Dunleavey type game. Penn went on to win 77-61 to open their season with a pair of wins against NEC opponents. 

The game ended at 5:50 PM and while planning this journey out, I saw it would take as much time to walk to the PATCO station then to use the subway and walk back to 34th Street. So I walked to Walnut Street and turned right, heading into the city and it turned out to be a terrific stroll (and not in the least nervy despite it being night-time). On a pleasant, mild evening, I went over the Schuylkill River, past Locust Point, stopped by Rittenhouse Square and then thru a bustling section where people were enjoying a Sunday Dinner before reaching 15th/Locust for the PATCO station. Timing was perfect as I got there at 6:24 PM and the train left at 6:26. Not long after, I got back to Woodcrest and hopped in the car home. I mentioned last post how this completed all of the stadiums on The List in the city of Philadelphia….Home teams went 6-3 for those games. I’ll have a McGonigle Hall review up on the right later this week and a pair of Stadium Journey reviews forthcoming as well. 

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