The Year In Visits – 2017

Locations of the Stadiums I visited in 2017

2017 recovered nicely after a horrible start as a planned trip to Wisconsin was cancelled due to an injury. That rescheduled flight turned into a late-season trip to Michigan that went very smoothly. Throw in a vacation to the Deep South, a journey into Canada and some football in Maryland and you have quite a year. I was able to visit 14 new stadiums in 2017, bringing the tally to 190 overall. It’s been fun and memorable, so let’s take a look at the past year in stadium visits:


Favorite New Stadium:  Yost Ice Arena……Yost got a high ranking of 77 and while fourteen other stadiums have been ranked higher, this gem will always hold a special place in my heart. The students are phenomenal and their “Children of Yost” section made the hockey game a must-see event. They are clever and creative with a zest for a new cheer, plus the pep band compliments them beautifully. Oh yeah and the old barn of an arena is a beauty too, especially on the outside.
………Honorable Mention: Crisler Center, Molson Stadium, Riverwalk Stadium

Worst New Stadium:  Pete Taylor Park……Southern Miss has a mighty fine baseball program, but The Pete just does not live up to the product on the field. The ballpark feels pieced together and disjointed with day games being particularily uncomfortable. I did like The Grove as it is a cool idea for their tailgaters.
………Honorable Mention:
Paterson Field

Favorite New City:  Montgomery, AL……For nearly 150 years, Montgomery had a forgettable history. In the last 20, they have really turned it around and this place is a great city to live and visit. Central Alabama will not come up for many thinking of vacation, but three days here is three days well spent. Plenty of historical sites, museums and downtown attractions made Montgomery my favorite city of the year.
………Honorable Mention: Biloxi, MS

Most Memorable Moment:  Dylan Burdeaux Last Home At-Bat……A college-town community saying goodbye to a hard-working senior in his final regular season at-bat. This one got to me because of the genuine emotion showed both on the field and in the stands.
………Honorable Mention: No Socks Kid at Michigan

Best Restaurant:  Zingerman’s Deli…..Going back to Ann Arbor for a second time meant that I had the opportunity to try Zingerman’s, which I missed the first go-round. It doesn’t matter if you are a little overwhelmed by the menu at first because any food decision you make here will be a good one. This place was so good, it made me ask to see if they ship deliveries (sadly, they don’t).  
………Honorable Mention: Cafe Gia in Baltimore, MD;  Robin Square in Montreal, QU;  Stockyard Grill in Montgomery, AL;

Best In-Stadium Food:   Pit Beef Sandwich……The last time I had a city food stable in a stadium, it disappointed (smoked meat at the Bell Centre in Montreal). This was better. You’re still better off going to a local dive for the best Pit Beef, but I was pretty happy with the one I got at M&T and it kept me full through the game.
………Honorable Mention: Murky Waters BBQ at MGM Park 

Best Game  Michigan vs Minnesota……This was a terrific hockey game and it was Minnesota who jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Michigan fought back and by intermission, it was 3-2. Goals then flew in to start the third as Michigan tied it on a beautiful no-look pass by Tony Calderone, only to see the Gophers get back in front 33 seconds later. Another Wolverine goal tied it up until we went to OT, where a scramble in front led to a power play score for Michigan as Alex Roos got the game winner for the home side.
………Honorable Mention: Montreal vs Saskatchewan

Championship Teams:  Russellville High School……What I love about championship games at the High School level is that many of them are played in tenant-less stadiums or older facilities. Alabama’s High School Baseball Championship is split between two ballparks in Montgomery and that gave me a chance to add Paterson Field to my belt. Russellville took Game 1, which we attended, by a long margin and then after a defeat in Game 2, took the decider against Faith Academy. The Golden Tigers won their third straight AL title and they brought hundreds of friends and family to the championship series.

Best Drive:  US-90 between Gulfport and Ocean Springs…..This drive brings both beauty and bad memories as the latter comes from thinking back to what Katrina did along and beyond this stretch of highway in coastal Mississippi. Yet, the beauty comes in the breathtaking scenery with the water and white sand on one side and a mix of fine sights on the other. Ocean Springs ended up being my favorite little town on the trip. 

Worst Drive:  I-81 in NY between Syracuse and Cortland……This section of 81 is prone to snow given their elevation and geography. I knew I was pushing the envelope by taking a trip to Utica and Syracuse on a bitterly cold March weekend. Lake effect / Orographic snow turned out to be scary enough to strongly consider getting off the highway and crashing at a friend’s house in Tully. But just deviating from the tracks on the road was scary in and of itself, so I pressed on and breathed a deep sigh of relief once the snow let up near Marathon.

Weather:  7-5-2……The 7 wins (no-issues weather): Flint, Baltimore, Montreal, Auburn, Montgomery (x2), Biloxi. For the 5 losses, we had a bitterly cold and windy day in Utica that made me reconsider taking exterior arena pictures. Southern Mississippi had me sweating under the sun on a hot afternoon. Towson football featured an unseasonably chilly wind that my summer-weathered body was not used to yet. Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor took that to another level on a 10-minute walk to the arena. Finally, I call the 2 “Ties” as situations that weren’t ideal, but didn’t have any bearing on the experience. Those were: rain heading to the arena in Ypsilanti and bitter cold on a much shorter walk to the Crisler Center.

Best Side Trip:  Sloan Museum……I elaborated last month on how much I enjoyed my trip to Flint, Michigan and how unfair the city’s reputation is. While the Farmers Market in downtown is terrific, the Sloan Museum really takes the cake in terms of places to visit. Arguably one of the best museums about a city’s history that I have been to.
………Honorable Mention: Alabama State Museum in Montgomery, Biloxi Tour Train in Biloxi, Historic Ships in Baltimore


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