The Year In Visits – 2022

As was the case with just about everything, 2022 was the first time in three years that things were almost normal in the stadium world. We finally had a full helping of sports travel and it felt great! 14 new facilities were visited (including a college hockey venue not on the List) and four venues re-visited. The grand total of official visits stands at 241. It was a memorable year with good variety and memorable trips…let’s recap how it went:

.

FAVORITE NEW STADIUM: Exploria Stadium…..I had a bunch that I liked aspects of, but each had a big miss in some form and that is reflected in the rankings as none of the 2022 venues exceeded the 70 point mark. The home of MLS’ Orlando City comes darn close and I at least fell in love with the structure and all its purple glory. What an exquisite place to watch a game. The atmosphere is pretty good too, it’s just too bad not many show up.

.

WORST NEW STADIUM: East Field…..I realize we’re talking about a Summer-Collegiate Ballpark, but this place made high school fields look good. When the stands are dangerous, you should realize there is a problem. The issues ranged from giant gaps in between rows that a toddler could fall through, to uneven wooden benches and bathrooms that didn’t even have soap or paper towels. What an absolute disaster.

.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: There Go The Foam Apples!…..At a late March game in DC, the Washington Capitals were celebrating Nicklas Backstrom, who recently got his 1,000th point. Along with a pre-game ceremony, the team gave away foam apples with N1KY on them. Sure enough, Backstrom got a goal in the game and it led to fans throwing of the apples on to the ice from every direction. It was spontaneous and a fun, unexpected moment.

.

FAVORITE CITY: Washington, DC.….Museums and Monuments. Call me a nerd, but those are a couple of my favorite things when travelling and DC has a ton of them. I wish I lived closer to enjoy all that the city has to offer. On this trip, we also got to take in the Cherry Blossom Festival and man the sights of that around the Tidal Basin are breathtaking.

.

BEST RESTAURANT: Ole Time Barbecue.….This joint in Cary, NC satisfied my Pulled Pork craving. In a simple setting on the side of a road, I was able to enjoy pork, Eastern Carolina style which is vinegar-based (no tomato sauce). Plus, the staff was great and my waitress couldn’t have been more hospitable to every one seated. I was satisfied on my way to WakeMed Soccer Park just down the road.

.

BEST IN-STADIUM FOOD: Pepperoni Roll.….I wouldn’t necessarily call this the best, but it was the one that exceeded my expectations. The Pepperoni Roll is popular in the state of West Virginia as coalminers would often bring it for their lunches. At the Mountaineers Football game, I was glad to see them at the stadium. A look at it and you would think it would be dry and blah, but it actually had better flavor than I would have thought.

.

BEST GAME: Carolina Mudcats vs Down East Wood Ducks (8 – 6).….An eight-hour drive for this Carolina stadium trip was rewarded with a game that featured a miraculous comeback. I was already happy with the pleasant stadium and nice night when things got wacky in the 9th Inning. Down to their final out with no one on base and behind by four runs, the home fans were looking forward to the post-game fireworks display. Then, a double, another double, a walk and a single cut the lead in half. The game then seemed over as an easy comebacker went to the mound. Incredibly, the pitcher botched the simple toss to first! The bases became loaded and the very next pitch, featured a Hendry Mendez grand slam around the foul pole!

.

CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS: East Carolina Baseball, Orlando City Soccer Club, Holy Cross Football….That’s the most title winning teams I’ve seen in a calendar year and I became quite interested in each one after my visit. The Pirates were the most intriguing follow for me, mainly for monetary purposes. The team won the American Athletic Conference title and they were on a 13-game winning streak when I saw them in late May. Right after, I put a $10 wager on them at +10000 to win the College World Series and was really getting excited about my chances until they blew a 7-2 lead in Game 2 of the Super Regional. Orlando City won their first trophy by taking home the U.S Open Cup, a tournament I adore. Holy Cross won their fourth straight Patriot League title and I roamed around the field afterwards as the squad soaked in their happiness with family and friends as there was a great community proudness to their achievement.

.

MOST UNDERATED FANS: Washington Capitals….Come playoff time, I always felt that Capital One Arena never got enough props for atmosphere. No, it’s not at an elite level like Nashville and Montreal, but it’s better than Boston and Pittsburgh. Fans have been fortunate having Ovechkin and a constantly contending team for 15 years, but that shouldn’t take away how the building sounds. I experienced a March Saturday Night game and it was awesome. They loved their 90s pop-punk rock and the crowd made decent noise for game moments. I also did not know about “Unleash The Fury” and that was a blast.

.

COLOR AND CHARACTER: Eagle Bank Arena….I love being a part of a team’s culture for one day and when I enter their facility, I want to see it. George Mason owns their Green and Gold look and having an arena with floor to ceiling seats alternating that color enhances the character. It put a smile on my face when walking through the concourse tunnel entrance.

.

THE WEATHER: 5 wins, 7 losses and 2 ties…..Not a good year for me as I had two games cancelled and they are in far away places with chances of a return being small. The Macon (GA) Bacon had a postponement as 1-2 inches of rain made things unplayable despite the storms being done by gametime. Same thing happened in Wilson, NC. My other weather losses included a 2.5 hour lightning delay in Orlando, a 1 hour lightning delay at NCFC, 93 degree weather with sunshine and no shade for East Carolina and a second half steady rain during West Virginia Football. Heading to the Caps game wasn’t fun either as gusty winds and a brief sleet shower made for an uncomfortable touring of DC. On the plus side, I changed football plans to take advantage of a 70-degree November day in Worcester instead of a 29-degree windy night in Altoona.

.

BEST SIDE TRIP: Activities in Bristol, CT….You would think having been to Orlando and DisneyWorld this summer, that would’ve been the answer. However, ask any parent who has taken their kids to DisneyWorld and they will not say it is the Happiest Place on Earth. It’s hot, it’s exhausting, it’s stressful, it’s expensive. I’m very glad the kids loved it, but for me, I most enjoyed a Father’s Day in Bristol, CT. We were there to see Muzzy Field and while of course the place is not an entertainment destination, everyone had fun at the Carousel Museum and then a video game center. That’s more my style. Too bad the family wasn’t as excited about a new High Score on pop-a-shot basketball like I was .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s