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The Year In Visits – 2016

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 23, 2016

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Locations of each stadium visited in 2016

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It’s the most, wonderful time, of the year…I enjoy recapping the year in stadium visits as it gives me a chance to reminisce before they become a little more distant in the memory bank. My goal each year is 12 new stadiums and that was met in 2016 with a varied assortment of facility types and locations. It’s been fun and memorable, so let’s take a look at the past year in stadium visits:

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Favorite New Stadium:  Robins Center……This was a lot harder than I thought, but the home of the Richmond Spiders narrowly gets the nod. Taking into account all-around experience, this was the best and it also has to be near the top of my all-time list in terms of arena design. A renovation turned this into a beautiful, classy place that is perfect for college basketball. Richmond is spoiled in that they have two great programs within miles of each other (the other being VCU).
………Honorable Mention: Siegel Center, Michigan Stadium

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Worst New Stadium:  Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium……My apologies to The College at Brockport as this one is a little unfair since Shriver Stadium is a D3 Football stadium, which means there should not be much expected. Still, there are better places to watch a game, even within the conference. This was as vanilla as it gets and I walked around aimlessly at times to just fight off the cold and occasional boredom.
………Honorable Mention:
Rynearson Stadium

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Favorite New City:  Ann Arbor, MI……A2 lived up to the hype as this is an awesome place to both live and visit. Downtown is full of great little shops and restaurants, while the sidewalks are always bustling with people. When researching places to eat before visiting, I bet that somebody could have an enjoyable meal at a different restaurant every night for half a year. The University of Michigan is close to the center of town and we walked a good portion of it with several sights to see along the way. 

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Most Memorable Moment:  VCU Peppas……Mesmerizing. They are amazing and elevate the game experience to a whole new level. I spent so much of the VCU game just enjoying their jams and while they have a reputation as one of the best in college basketball, it is hard to imagine a better band. After I returned home from this trip, I was on YouTube for an hour watching them at work.
………Honorable Mention: BLM Movement at Eastern Michigan, Hearing Hail To The Victors

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Best Restaurant:  Shiloh Grill…..Located in the Mount Washington section of Pittsburgh, this was an eclectic restaurant that delivered with an enjoyable meal. I had Fish Tacos that were exquisite, while my brother had an amazing Turkey Burger. People close to us probably thought we were crazy as we couldn’t stop re-enacting the Seinfeld scene from “The Outing” when Jerry and George are at the coffee shop (“No, No, I will not keep my voice down!”).  
………Honorable Mention: District Kitchen in Pittsfield, MA;  The Continental in Richmond, VA

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Best In-Stadium Food:   Primanti Bros.……This could go above too as we did visit the original in the Strip District while we were in Pittsburgh, but you can also get this at the Consol Ener…er, PPG Paints Arena. A local staple in Pittsburgh, this sandwich is a messy combination of everything, so it’s probably best to eat it at a counter in the concourse instead of a seat. The Pitts-burger and the Capicola & Cheese are two sandwiches offered, both good choices.
………Honorable Mention: The several Food Trucks at the Connecticut Tennis Center

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Best Game  Eastern Michigan vs Wyoming……Incredible to look back at this game as going in, these looked like two of college football’s bottom dwellers. Now, Eastern Michigan just reached their first bowl game since 1987 and the Cowboys completed a six win turnaround from the year before. This was a wacky game that featured mind-boggling turnovers, lead changes and off-field distractions. In the end, it was the Eagles who drove the length of the field for the winning score with a minute left to play.
………Honorable Mention: VCU vs George Washington;  Brockport vs Cortland; Pittsfield vs North Shore
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Championship Teams:  Pittsburgh Penguins……Walking out of the arena in downtown Pittsburgh, it would have taken a lot of persuading for me to believe that the Pittsburgh Penguins would win the Stanley Cup later in the Spring. We watched them go through the motions in a listless loss to Calgary that had the fans walking out in the middle of the third period. But, since that March loss, they played much better and it continued into the playoffs on the way to a second Cup.
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Best Drive:  US-20 between Pittsfield and Albany…..By default, this was the winner. Nothing special here, but there are trees and hills on a two-lane road making for a nice ride during the day. 

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Worst Drive:  I-87 in NY on a Summer Sunday……I know New Yorkers like to go “upstate” on weekends, but didn’t realize how congested they make the NY State Thruway in the Hudson Valley. The traffic and rain combined to delay me 1.5 hours and I later found out this is the norm in the summer months as everyone heads back to The City and surrounding areas.

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Weather:  6-6……That is 6 wins and 6 losses. The Pittsburgh and Richmond trips featured good late winter weather, while the Michigan trip was very pleasant. Everything else stunk as I fought an early season snowstorm (Ithaca), cold October winds (Brockport), a heat-index well into the 90s (CT Open) and rain (several places). Thankfully, the rain was light enough to get through the baseball games in Ramapo and Pittsfield, but I was not that lucky in Troy, where my luck ended as I had my first rainout.

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Best Side Trip:  Virginia State Capitol……My second visit to Richmond allowed me to visit another state capitol building and this one was the best I’ve seen yet. The original building dates back to Jefferson’s design in the late 1700s and as you would expect from this commonwealth, there is an abundance of statues and history here. Plus the grounds are well-maintained and there is a nice view from the hill.
………Honorable Mention: Ithaca Falls in Ithaca, Pinball Pete’s in Ann Arbor

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Best Return Trip:  Michigan Stadium……Simple, yet stylish. You have the “M” at midfield and the “Michigan” in the endzones which are both nice and traditional. My favorite touch is the different direction the fake grass every five yards. The slight differentiation in color is a good look.
………Honorable Mention: Siegel Center

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