Last week, I said I didn’t mind the cold as long as it was dry. I lied. My 155lb body struggles mightily to retain heat and the 40 degree, 30 MPH conditions on the Main Line just outside of Philadelphia made it a bear to get through the football game at Villanova. Despite the few fans in attendance, I struggled to find a spot in the stadium that was protected by the wind until the second half, where I decided to stand in a corner to get some wall protection. In between, were trips to the tiny bathroom under the main stand, where others joined to crowd around a space heater. It’s too bad that Villanova’s Stadium disappointed as well. There is a set of bleacher stands on each sideline, but they are pushed back because of a track and they are low to the ground, meaning that sightlines throughout are poor. Even worse was the lack of a concourse as two tiny openings under the bleachers led to a bathroom. People maneuvering around the stadium need to use the track or a walkway in front of the seats. Just a poor facility all around. Most of the fans abandoned the game in the second half and they missed a late Villanova comeback. The Wildcats were down 24-7 to William & Mary in the 4th Quarter and they eventually cut the lead to seven. Villanova had a pair of attempts at the end, but they fumbled and had a loss of downs to lose 24-17. Before the game, I did take a bit of time to walk around campus and it is a really pleasant one. Most impressive is the Saint Thomas of Villanova Church. I’m looking forward to getting back here for a look at their renovated basketball arena.
The next two hours were spent warming in the car on the way to Hershey, PA, where I would have my second look at an AHL facility that is at the tops of the arena rankings. Giant Center is a great building that is really clean and features plenty of historical displays that rightfully honor minor league hockey’s most storied franchise. The inside has an excellent design for hockey. The arena has some character (like the chocolate coloring all around), while checking off all the requisite boxes. I did note a few things that I didn’t pick up last time: the concourses are very crowded and some of that has to do with unnecessary merchandise stands that stick out into the walkways. Also, the upper deck here is really high as the middle suites and wall seem taller than normal, thus pushing them upwards. When I do the re-review in the next week, we’ll see if Hershey holds it place at the top and I have a hunch they will as the place still shines. Fans remain great here and though the arena was 60-70% full, it was a loud building. They make the atmosphere stand out with their “B-E-A-R-S Wooooo” cheer after goals and their old school jeering of referees and heels from the visiting team. Even after the game, calls of “Woooo” resonated throughout the parking lot as fans went home happy with Hershey beating Springfield 3-2. Getting out featured a lot of congestion as a high school football game at nearby Hersheypark Stadium finished around the same time. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing on the ride back home.