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Reviewing Stadiums 101-200

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 2, 2018

Me in Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium for Visit #200 on August 4, 2018

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Last month, I visited my 200th official stadium down in Houston, TX at BBVA Compass Stadium. After wrapping up the first 100 back in 2011, I’d like to do the same and take a trip down memory lane for a best of / worst of from #101 to #200.
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Favorite Stadium: Providence Park……Everything came together for a memorable experience: location, architecture and atmosphere. I marveled at the unique stadium structure that was Providence Park, the Fenway of the MLS. As a soccer fan, going to a place that cares as much about the sport and their team as they do in the Big 4 was special. Timbers Army is an experience every sports fan must do.
……….Honorable Mention: Camden Yards, Camp Randall Stadium, Talen Energy Stadium, Wrigley Field,
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Least Favorite Stadium: Volcanoes Stadium……This is such a horribly designed ballpark, especially considering it was built in the 1990s. Disjointed and worn with a backdrop of the interstate, Volcanoes Stadium takes the sour cake.
……….Dis-honorable Mention: Ballpark at Harbor Yard, Jack Kaiser Stadium, Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium
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Best Atmosphere: Siegel Center……I still vividly remember my walk from the arena to the car and saying “Wow” about a dozen times. This was an atmosphere I’ll never forget as the entire crowd was electric and that was emphasized on this dunk. What really made the experience standout were the fantastic Peppas, a pep band that tore the house down.
………..Honorable Mention: Providence Park, Michigan Stadium, Yost Ice Arena, Lincoln Financial Field, Rec Hall
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Underrated: Mohegan Sun Arena……Amazingly, an arena by the same name won this award for the First 100. That one was in Wilkes-Barre, PA, this one is in Uncasville, CT and is home to the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun. Everything about this experience was great, including the terrific design of the arena and concourse. Add in the fact that it is inside of a casino and you have your night pretty much set after the game.
………..Honorable Mention: Franklin Field, Memorial Field, Robins Center, Utica Memorial Auditorium, UW Field House
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Best New City: Montgomery, AL……This is not just selecting an outsider for outsider sake as I really loved the two days I spent in Alabama’s capital city. Montgomery had a pretty horrible 200 years, but the last 20 have been pretty good. Great historical sites, a fun downtown and a terrific state museum in the capitol building made for a great trip while in town to see the Biscuits baseball team.
……….Honorable Mention: Baltimore, Chicago, Madison, Washington DC
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Best New Small City/Town: Lake Placid, NY……This winter resort town is as good as you would think. Expensive, but worth it as you feel like you are in a different country in this icy paradise as the setting is breathtaking. The charming Main Street with the frozen lake behind it and the mountains in the backdrop set the stage for a perfect spot to have a hockey tournament. Add in the Olympic sites and the place gets all the better.
………Honorable Mention: Ann Arbor (MI), Frederick (MD), Hanover (NH), Kingston (ON), York (PA)
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Worst City/Town: Chester, PA……MLS teams have a knack for building soccer stadiums in the suburbs. Most suffer because of that and while Talen Energy Stadium benefits with a picturesque riverfront and background bridge, the rest of the area is a place to stay away from. Drive in for the game and then get out of there.
………Honorable Mention: California (PA), Kinston (NC)
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Worst Drive: Lynah Rink.…..Cornell is a pain to get to as its Finger Lakes location far from the Interstate means a lengthy ride on two lane country roads. I knew I was taking a risk on this November 19, 2016 trip, but given the time of season I was hoping that the amount of snow sticking on the roads would be minimal. This bizarre day started with a 73 degree football game at Schoellkopf Field. The cold front came through while walking around campus and by the time the hockey game started, it was 40 degrees. Snow began in the 2nd period and when I left the game, we already had an inch with a bit of it sticking on the roads. This made for a white knuckle drive back to Jersey with reduced visibility and treacherous conditions on those rolling hills between Cornell and Binghamton, then again in the Pocono’s. I stopped in at work to see how things were going with the snow and didn’t get to bed until about 2:30 AM.
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Best Restaurant:  Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI…..You know a place is awesome when you crave for something like this back home. Zingerman’s is that place as I wanted to try 90% of their menu. The subs are all unique and made with great ingredients, which is cliche in today’s world, but it stood out here. There is a certain college, quirky vibe and while it may be expensive, the subs are huge and the price is right for the quality.
………Honorable Mention:  Blue Moon Bar & Grill in Grand Junction, CO; Clyde’s in Washington, DC; Stockyard Grill in Montgomery, AL
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Weirdest Visit: Rynearson Stadium…..The game was overshadowed by protests as a few days earlier, a disgusting display was found as there was an incident with racist graffiti. Everything ended up being peaceful, but there was certainly tension as protesters congregated behind the end zone. They came onto the field before the final seconds ticked off and this led to a mixed reaction as EMU players and fans were not able to celebrate their first home in win against an FBS school in nearly two years. An unrelated side note that added to this weird stadium visit: the opposing team was Wyoming and their QB was Josh Allen. I never, ever would’ve thought this future Buffalo Bill would be a first round pick, or a player that I root on for (hopefully) many years.
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Completed Leagues: Eastern League……My trip to the Harrisburg Senators’ ballpark in 2013 meant that I had visited every team in the league. This was my first feat in achieving a league’s venue completion and it lasted all of two years. The New Britain Rock Cats moved to Hartford and I remain one ballpark away from getting to all 12 once again. It’ll probably be a few years until I make it up to Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
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Best Game: Clarkson vs Princeton……There were plenty of options, but the circumstances pushed this one to the top. It was the 2018 ECAC Hockey Championship in Lake Placid and underdog Princeton clung to a 1-0 lead through the third period. For the 90% of the building rooting for the Golden Knights, things were bleak. Clarkson had one last chance…and it went in! a miracle! 😉 Nico Sturm’s deflection with 6.4 seconds left sent Herb Brooks Arena into hysteria as Clarkson fans went bonkers, jumping up and down all around. My brother and I just stared at each other with mouth’s wide open, soaking in the craziness. What a moment. The building caught its breath during the 15-minute intermission as we awaited OT. It didn’t take long for the outcome to be decided as just 2:36 into the extra frame, Princeton’s Max Becker won it and the Tigers went crazy, celebrating their first ECAC title in ten years. They beat the #1, #2 and #3 seeds to do it with one of the conference’s most remarkable championship runs ever.

 

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The Stadiums of Newport, RI

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 8, 2018


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Last weekend, we spent some time in Newport, Rhode Island. The occasion was our 10-year wedding anniversary, so sports was not necessarily on the agenda. Despite that not being the main travel objective, there still were some takeaways on the stadium scene in Newport. First, a little about the town: It is a ritzy place on the rocky shores of coastal Rhode Island and the city’s location on both the Ocean and Narragansett Bay have a significant influence. Lots of history in this longtime summer oasis and it does indeed make for a great place to get away for the weekend. Just make sure you’re willing to shell out a lot of dough as everything is quite expensive. My favorite attraction was the 3.5 mile Cliff Walk. The winding trail of both smooth pavement and uneven rock is never short of scenery as the entire walk features a breathtaking and everchanging visual. Framed by the ocean on one side and historic mansions on the other, the varying terrain made this a really nice multi-hour activity, even in spite of a periodic mist. We did the entire trail and then hopped on the trolley to get back to our car. The other main attraction in Newport are the Mansions. Being THE place to have a summer getaway way back in the day, many of America’s elite had incredible houses (cottages) built here. The Preservation Society of Newport County runs 11 of these mansions and they are available for tour. Most of them are near the Cliff Walk and along Bellevue Ave and we had time for only two. We kept with the theme of 2018 being about the Vanderbilt’s as we followed up our Asheville visit to Biltmore by seeing their two homes in Newport: The Breakers and Marble House. Both were remarkable. Outside of that, we ate at some delicious downtown restaurants and strolled Thames St. We also hung out along the multiple Wharf’s while watching the boats go by. Those that don’t have a boat or connections with an invite onto one, can still take one of several public boat tours. We didn’t have time for that, but I’m sure narrated information combined with impressive aquatic sights would make for a great time.

On the sports-side of things, Newport is also home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame and being the big tennis fan I am, my wife was kind enough to agree to a visit. This is the 7th sports hall of fame that I have visited (more on that in a future post) and though it lacked the pizzazz of the others, it was still an enjoyable tour through Tennis’ history. The actual setting for the HOF is the best I’ve seen as it is intertwined with Newport’s historic grass courts that have long been here, dating back to the days of the Newport Casino. The grounds featured people playing, plus we got to see 3,000-seat Bill Talbert Center Court, site of an ATP 250 level event during Hall of Fame weekend. What a unique place to watch tennis as the covered grandstand in the picture above dates back many decades. The only “stadium seats” in the place are in the taller structure at the far end as each other side features hospitality sections or tents. The Hall of Fame Tennis Championships are again an event certainly tailored to those in the know and with high-end connections. This would be a cool event to attend, but I would probably wait to see if known names make the Finals or Semifinals before forking over a three-figure dollar amount to get a seat. 

The other stadium I saw was a quick 5-minute look at Cardines Field, Newport’s ballpark that is in downtown, just across from the Visitors Center. At 3,000 seats, this also doesn’t meet criteria for The List, but a visit is well worth it as the ballpark is a special one. Built in the late 1930’s, the mostly stone and wooden structure is quite unique in and of itself. With a youth game going on, I was able to step inside and wow-wie. Wooden stands are right over the field in a claustrophobic setting that I would be both nervous and excited to cram into with others to watch the game. It’s not just the seating bowl that is quirky, check out this website that lists all of the different aspects at Cardines Field (right portion of the page). There is an NECBL team that plays here as the Newport Gulls spend their summer in the ballpark. If you are a lover of sports or stadiums and are ever in the area, it is definitely worth wondering inside to spend 10 minutes in this beauty of a relic.  
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Games during the Eclipse

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 19, 2017

Solar Eclipse (photo from NASA) and Volcanoes Stadium

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At the risk of the internet exploding in the United States with Solar Eclipse stuff, there is a stadium aspect to this as many teams in cities along the path of full totality are planning some pretty cool events that coincide with a game. I’m sure most have their plans already set, but for those flexible, consider a trip to one of these ballparks while watching a pretty incredible spectacle:

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Salem, Oregon  –  Volcanoes Stadium  –  Game Time: 9:35 AM  –  Totality: 10:17 AM

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I’ve been to this ballpark and while it is not a great one, they do have a nice event plan for the morning. Also, the capital of Oregon is a cool place to visit. 
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Lincoln, Nebraska  –  Haymarket Park  –  Game Time: 12:00 PM  –  Totality: 1:02 PM
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Free glasses to the first 3,500! Perfect for the procrastinators
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Nashville, Tennessee  –  First Tennessee Park  –  Game Time: 4:00 PM  –  Totality: 1:27 PM
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This is the one I recommend the most. Awesome city, new ballpark and events that include a concert and kids activities during the viewing party
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Greenville, South Carolina  –  Fluor Field  –  Game Time: 1:05 PM  –  Totality: 2:38 PM
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The Palmetto State will see a huge influx of visitors from the East Coast and luck is on their side in the sports world with three different options. Underrated Upstate is a fine place to attend and people will be surprised at how nice Greenville’s downtown is.
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Columbia, South Carolina  –  Spirit Communications Park  –  Game Time: 1:05 PM  –  Totality: 2:41 PM
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Similar to Nashville, ballpark travelers can add this relatively new one to the list while visiting the capital
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Charleston, South Carolina  –  Riley Park  –  Game Time: 4:05 PM  –  Totality: 2:46 PM
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The only one in South Carolina that won’t have the eclipse during the game, but Lowcountry is arguably the best destination for tourists.

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The Most Memorable Games I’ve Been To

Posted by Sean Rowland on April 9, 2016


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Ahh the memories. While most of my stadium visits nowadays are confined to visiting places during the regular season to ensure a more true gauge of a facilities’ atmosphere, I have seen my fair share of special moments. Of course, even a game that is not expected to be ‘big’ can produce an amazing moment and that is the beauty of sports. As you would expect, my most memorable games are those involving my favorite team, but there are some other really good ones sprinkled in as well. Below are my Top 5, starting off with the video you see at the top…

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1)  Buffalo Sabres vs Pittsburgh Penguins  –  2001 NHL Eastern Semifinals  –  Game 5  –  HSBC Arena

How times have changed…My friend, Lee, and I bought tickets a few weeks prior for just $53…that’s right $53. The series was tied at 2 and this was an early Saturday Afternoon game, which meant that us 17-year old youngins didn’t have to worry about breaking the law by driving past 9 PM. The Pens went up 2-0 and then in the third period, the Sabres roared back and the place went nuts when the visitors took a penalty. That led to the tying goal and the most nervous I’ve ever been at a game. After an endless 15 minute break for overtime, it took 8 minutes and 34 minutes of playing time to get the result. We heard the ping of the crossbar’s underside post and a breathtaking roar as Stuuuu Barnes won the game. I will never forget those two sounds for the rest of my life.

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2)  Syracuse Crunch vs Rochester Amerks  –  2004 AHL Western Quarterfinals  –  Game 7  –  War Memorial Arena at OnCenter

This was the year of the NHL Lockout and as a result, the AHL was loaded and my hometown Amerks had a core group of future stars with Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Derek Roy. Being only 45 minutes away at college in Oswego, I drove down to Syracuse for Game 1, which the Crunch took. The series continued with strange scorelines and it eventually came down to a Game 7. My fellow Rochesterian and Sabre fan, Tony, joined me for the game and it was a memorable night. It all started with us being sold tickets from the box office to seats that didn’t exist. Given that it was a sellout, an usher found us seats to use and by the time we got there, we were already sweaty as the old building was stifling thanks to the warm weather. The place was extremely loud and there were plenty of Amerks fans. With tensions running high, the game went to OT and a Syracuse miss went around the boards, leading to a 2-on-1, which the Amerks converted and sent us into hysterics. 

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3)  Rhode Island Rams vs Charlotte 49ers  –  2011 NCAA Basketball  –  Ryan Center

Everything was going along like any other game. The Rams and 49ers were in a tight one and typical of about 75% of Division I college basketball games, the crowd was laid back in their following of the contest. I moved around a few times to different seats and as the game got down to the final seconds, I decided to video the ending as no one was around me (see link above). What I caught, was a Jamal Wilson put-back at the buzzer that reminded me of why I love sports so much. 

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4)  Quinnipiac Bobcats vs Robert Morris Colonials  –  2011 NEC Basketball Semifinals  –  TD Bank Sports Center

Fresh off of the amazing ending in Rhode Island just a month earlier, I was in for another basketball treat. As opposed to the Power 5, I’m a bigger fan of low-mid major basketball and the conference tournaments in these other 25 or so leagues are terrific spectacles. I drove to Hamden, CT in a continuous heavy rain to see the Semifinals of the NEC Tournament as Quinnipiac hosted Robert Morris. The students had the place rocking and the game was down to the final seconds. After a roar-inducing video played on the scoreboard, I figured this would be another home team celebration. However, Velton Jones had other ideas and his ridiculous runner that went in with four seconds left sent Robert Morris to the title game.

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5)  Lehigh Mountain Hawks vs Yale Bulldogs  –  2005 NCAA Football  –  Goodman Stadium

These teams let the ball fly and even though there were 103 passes thrown, the Division I-AA level means less breaks in play and better flow to the game. Lehigh came back from 21-6 down and even more impressive is they did it with their backup quarterback. With only four minutes left he led the Hawks to the tying TD and a beautiful 2-point conversion toss to the back of the end zone. In OT, Lehigh scored first and I had a great view of the action from the grassy hill behind the end zone. Yale had four chances to tie the game from inside the 10 and when their last attempt was stymied by a great defensive play, the Mountain Hawks rushed the end zone to celebrate.

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Ranking the Stadiums of Philadelphia

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 27, 2016

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A few months ago,  a trip to McGonigle Hall on the north side of Philadelphia completed a journey to all of the stadiums on The List within The City of Brotherly Love. Only Drexel’s basketball arena could be considered as missing, but it was not visited as the Daskalakis Athletic Center only seats about 2500. I’ve really enjoyed checking out games in Philly and I’ve found that their fans have been unfairly stereotyped. Every city has bad seeds and that includes Philadelphia, but the brush fans get painted with here is grossly unfair. As for the stadiums, there are many really good ones that range from modern to classic:

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1)  Citizens Bank Park  –  Philadelphia Phillies  –  Ranking: 79.5

Despite the overplayed “Retro” style, this is a stellar ballpark. Along with a well-designed seating bowl, I really enjoyed Ashburn Alley in the outfield, where fans gather nearly two hours before the game. The historical displays in this area are well done and CBP has food that could sustain fans for an entire homestand. The rating may be a little high because of the inflated Atmosphere ranking since I went in the middle of their World Series runs, but even with an adjustment, this would still be Philly’s best stadium.

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2)  Lincoln Financial Field  –  Philadelphia Eagles  –  Ranking: 75.5

Not far behind is this building just a short walk away in the same Sports Complex. It’s another design that is friendly to the fans and what really makes the home of the Eagles special is the consistent fan support and very loud atmosphere. In many NFL stadiums, it’s easy to spot empty seats, but that’s not the case here. Fly Eagles Fly.

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3)  The Palestra  –  Penn Quakers  –  Ranking: 75.0

Not many cities can boast three sports facilities that are Bucket List worthy, but Philadelphia can and for a college basketball nut like me, The Palestra is near the top. I can still remember that sensation I had five years ago, walking thru the narrow concourse opening inside to a crescendo of noise and a historic gym like no other. 

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4)  Wells Fargo Center  –  Philadelphia Flyers  –  Ranking: 71.5

If you like hockey and are not a Flyers fan, then I’m sure you hate them. As a Sabres fan, I was squirmy in my seat with an uncomfortable feeling at a Flyers game, but from a neutral perspective, the arena experience is decent. The focus is solely on the game and while the arena is kind of blah, it is nice to not see distractions in every corner.

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5)  Liacouras Center  –  Temple Owls  –  Ranking: 69.0

The original “Apollo at Temple” is a much better name, but regardless, the Liacouras Center is a very nice mid-sized arena. As it approaches 20 years in age, it looks much younger and many schools would desire a building this nice. Keeping in mind that Villanova is a suburban school, it is surprising that more Philadelphian’s don’t come out to the games. Temple’s campus is only a few miles north of Center City.

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6)  Franklin Field  –  Penn Quakers  –  Ranking: 66.0

The University of Pennsylvania is just full of history and right next door to The Palestra is the football stadium, At over 100 years old, Franklin Field not only hosts Quaker football, but it also is home to the popular Penn Relays. This place is so much better than any old bowl stadium as Franklin Field has character and unique spots. Check out this corner seat. As for the game, make sure to be in the stands at the third quarter for the traditional Toast Toss.

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7)  Hagen Arena  –  Saint Joseph’s Hawks  –  Ranking: 63.5

I visited Saint Joe’s after the old Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse transformed into Hagen Arena, an expanded and upgraded facility that is still quite cozy. It’s a little claustrophobic inside, but that’s part of the charm. Can you imagine watching the 2004 undefeated Hawks team here and what an enjoyable place it was. After the game, I highly recommend a cheesesteak across the street at Larry’s.

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8)  Tom Gola Arena  –  LaSalle Explorers  –  Ranking: 53.5

This is the only stadium of the bunch that I did enjoy all that much. LaSalle is a pain to get to on the north side of the city and the building is surprisingly cramped for something built in the late 1990s. At the least the game was terrific, as I saw a double OT thriller that the Explorers lost against Manhattan.

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9)  McGonigle Hall  –  Temple Owls  –  Ranking: 48.0

McGonigle used to host all of those John Chaney basketball teams back in the 80s and 90s. Despite the Liacouras Center being built next door, I love how they kept McGonigle alive by having the women’s basketball and volleyball teams play here. I saw volleyball on a Sunday Afternoon in front of a handful of fans and the Owls win meant that Philadelphia home teams went 6-3 in games I attended.

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The Year in Visits – 2015

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 28, 2015

2015 Stadium Visits

Locations of each stadium visited in 2015

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What would December 26-31 be without a recap of the departing year. Since this website is centered on reviews, It probably would make sense to summarize it all right? In total, we saw 11 new stadiums, ballparks and arenas. Going forward, I still plan on hitting double-digit venues each year, but this year’s number was the lowest in a year since 2007 for very good reason as we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Shayla, into the world. Let’s take a look at the past year in stadium visits:

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Favorite New Stadium:  Lincoln Financial Field……I’m not a huge fan of professional venues within the Big Four as they are overly corporate and stale. But I was quite pleased in the visit to a Philadelphia Eagles game as The Linc has a seating structure different than most stadiums. There are several things that give the place character and it helps that every seat is filled. Fans are passionate and crazy, but not as horrible as every media stereotype indicates. The only deterrence is the boring Sports Complex surroundings. Fly Eagles Fly!
………Honorable Mention: PNC Field

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Worst New Stadium:  Municipal Stadium……Give me a stadium built before 1939 and you usually have me at Hello. But, when arriving in the parking lot at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium, the sad state of this bland, cheap facility was too much for me to cherish. This is old-school minor league baseball and the atmosphere is as such too with the lack of promotions. Typically this is refreshing (like in Williamsport or Elmira), but it wasn’t great here.
………Honorable Mention:
Hersheypark Stadium

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Favorite New City:  Frederick, MD……I had no idea how awesome Frederick is. Many cities have undergone a revitalization in the last few decades, but the City of Clustered Spires really has done a great job. Carroll Creek Park is such a fun place during the warm season and when I was there, the mini-Riverwalk held a craft beer festival. The main street thru town is full of excellent restaurants and pubs, plus the whole city is oozing history (especially Civil War) with interesting markers all over. 
………Honorable Mention: Hagerstown

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Really?:  Cal U. Convocation Center……I love stadiums and the game atmosphere, but even I had to question why California University of Pennsylvania needed a $59 million, 5,000 seat arena. Yes, it is a beautiful place, but the Division II school has had nothing but headaches and problems since the controversial completion of the project, which was vehemently protested by many. The former coal mining town of just 6,400 has not exactly seen a boom in concerts and events either. Now, this arena is never more than half full for any event and CalU struggles with debt and yearly losses.

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Best Restaurant:  Clyde’s…..On a stadium trip to the DC area, my Dad joined me and we spent some time in historic Georgetown. I always thought that Georgetown was only that school in gray I hated growing up and did not know it also is a neighborhood. It is an awesome place to walk around and a great evening was topped off with a meal at Clyde’s on M Street. It’s a classic place decked out in oak and I had the sublime Tuscan Sausage Ravioli.  
………Honorable Mention: Steve’s Prince of Steaks in Philadelphia, PA;  Pita Chip in Philadelphia, PA

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Best In-Stadium Food:   The Schmitter……This sandwich is best known for being at Citizens Bank Park, but it also has a stand at Lincoln Financial Field. Arriving from McNally’s Tavern in the Philly neighborhood of Chestnut Hill is The Schmitter, a sandwich that is “The Ultimate Cheesesteak”. This is not your normal Philly classic as this cheesesteak is loaded with stuff like tomatoes, special sauce, onions and it is on a Kaiser roll. Bring your appetite.
………Honorable Mention: None

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Best Game  Buffalo vs Canisius……During a Thanksgiving trip to see the family, I made the short drive to Buffalo for a return visit to Alumni Arena. What followed was another classic basketball game involving UB, similar to what I saw a decade earlier. After a bizarre sequence led to a five-point possession for Canisius, they eventually got the lead until a bomb from Jarryn Skeete tied the game for the Bulls with seconds left. In OT, the Griffs had the lead for much of the extra session, but a defensive breakdown led to a dunk by UB with less than 5 seconds left for the lead and the win. Great game.
………Honorable Mention: Southern Maryland vs Bridgeport;  Duquense vs Rhode Island
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Championship Teams:  None……The closest we came this year to seeing a championship winning squad was the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Crustacean Nation saw their team reach the Atlantic League Championship Series, but they fell short to another dominant team with the nickname “Patriots”. Somerset won their 6th title three games to one.
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Best Drive:  US-15 in Maryland…..On my way to a baseball weekend in Northwest Maryland, I drove through Pennsylvania via I-78 and then I-81. I then cut southward along Route 15 and it really was a nice drive once I got into Maryland. Hills are all around and immediately after crossing the state line, one sees the quaint campus of Mount St. Mary’s University. Catoctin State Park is next in Thurmont and then Frederick is not too far away. 

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Worst Drive:  US-301 in Maryland……Driving in Philadelphia or DC is obvious, so let’s go with a surprisingly crap drive. That would be Route 301 in Southern Maryland between Waldorf and Upper Marlboro. Given that this is DC suburb territory, congestion should be expected. Adding to the frustration is that this four to six lane road has many stoplights. With big box stores all up and down the sides, it is an aggravating stretch for those on a long car trip. 

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Best Side Trip:  Steamtown……This National Historic Site is located in Scranton and it is great for those looking to channel their inner Sheldon Cooper. Locomotives are the theme here and the historical information and visuals are impressive. They have a roundhouse and a train tour that is perfect for adults and kids. Steamtown is also right downtown and I enjoyed an old-fashioned Texas Weiner afterwards at Coney Island.
………Honorable Mention: Washington Monument in Boonsboro;  National Mall in DC;  Georgetown in DC;  Dr. Samuel Mudd House in Waldorf

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Best Return Visit:  MCU Park……Speaking of Coney Island, I went back to Brooklyn last July to see if the home of the Cyclones is still the highest rated minor-league ballpark that I have been to. It still is. This park does it all right and it takes advantage of an unparalleled setting. All the more special is how the ballpark survived and the neighborhood recovered from Hurricane Sandy.
………Honorable Mention: The Palestra;  Madison Square Garden

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September Stadiums Update

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 22, 2015

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For the 2015 season, we have no new college football stadiums as the overlying theme this season is a growing reversal from the last few decades. Instead of increasing capacity, Universities are now removing seats in favor of adding club sections and higher-priced perks. It always boils down to making money and schools are seeing more bang for their buck by adding the specialty areas instead of just selling more seats. Of course, this is happening everywhere. The most significant stadium renovations debuted this season are at Kentucky, Mississippi, Duke and Cincinnati. The Bearcats, in fact, didn’t even play in Nippert Stadium as the overhaul meant a season shared with the Bengals at Paul Brown. But they are back on-campus this year. Other notes include the bizarre fiasco at UAB, where they
dropped football, then a few weeks later reinstated the sport and now will wait to come back for a few years while this all gets sorted out, maybe. At the FBS level, we have the opposite as East Tennessee State is revived after the program was cut in 2003. Their introductory period begins at a high school stadium (Kermit Tipton) in Johnson City before their new stadium is completed in 2017. Also, Kennesaw State begins their inaugural football season in the Big South. They will play out of Fifth Third Bank Stadium, a place originally built a few years ago solely for soccer.

In the NFL, Miami is in the middle of a two-year renovation to Sun Life Stadium. This is the second nine-figure remodel to the facility in the last eight years, which is mind-blowing (at least the owner funded this version). The most interesting aspect of the renovation will be the creation of living room “pods” in the prime lower bowl seats. The four-person box will be created with a home feel as it includes TVs. Sun Life Stadium will be a completely different facility, one that will personify professional sports in the 2000s. Also of note, the Titans’ home has seen a name change to Nissan Stadium.

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The Summer Baseball Leagues Update – 2015

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 22, 2015

Muzzy Field 2

Hello Muzzy Field! On your 100th birthday, we welcome you and the Bristol Blues to The List

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June updates to The List focus on the short-season leagues, including Summer-Collegiate baseball, where those looking for quaint purity can enjoy America’s pastime. Let’s start in New England and one of the more successful circuits, the Futures League. I wrote about the remarkable success and rebirth of The Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach last year, however things have sadly gone downhill over the past several months. The owners of the Raging Tide couldn’t keep going and they tried to sell the team to someone in the local community, but there were no takers. The team was sold and moved to Bristol, CT (more on that later) and all that great work at The Ballpark seemed short lived. However, a team would return to this summer community in the form of the new, independent East Coast Baseball League. That lasted all of one month as mis-management led to the ECBL’s quick demise. There were teams ready to go and rather than see hard work and ready players go to waste, a hastily put together North Country Baseball League was formed, involving four of the ECBL franchises, including OOB. With the person running the NCBL also in charge of “Cheeburger, Cheeburger“, it’s hard to see the NCBL stay alive. But all the best to them and I hope this is not the sad end to a true success story in Maine.

OK, where were we? Oh yeah, the Futures League. So the arrival of the Bristol Blues is awesome! That means that Muzzy Field will be hosting games and this 4,900 seat relic is turning 100 years old this summer. On a trip to New Britain in 2013, I stopped to take a look at Muzzy and am thrilled to see a professional team play here. In the Coastal Plain League, we have a couple teams not on The List, but worth mentioning. With Columbia’s Capital City Stadium now gone, nearby Lexington County has become home of the Bluefish and they opened a baseball stadium last month that looks very nice. Also starting play in 2015 are the Holly Springs Salamanders, who have moved into the 1500-seat North Main Athletic Complex. Despite the college field sounding name, it’s also a nice place. There is also a new ballpark in the Prospect League, where the Kokomo Jackrabbits will play. Despite numerous issues at the stadium site, it’s amazing this stadium opened up to baseball after so much controversy (which is still ongoing).

Finally, in affiliated ball we have one change. The New York-Penn League continues to cheat on its name and the Jamestown Jammers have moved to Morgantown, WV. With a classy logo, the West Virginia Black Bears will begin play at Monongalia County Ballpark. It’s neatly built into a hillside with 2,500 fixed seats and more on the berms. The ballpark is actually in Granville, just across the river from Morgantown, and yes, it is the new home for West Virginia University. This is a trend I am disliking as I prefer college baseball to be separated from cities hosting professional baseball. I understand all the reasons why this happens, but am not a fan. Russell Diethrick Park will still live as the Jammers have turned up in the Prospect League, replacing Lorain County. 

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May List Updates

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 12, 2015

Welcome back Skylands Park (err...Stadium)

Welcome back Skylands Park (err…Stadium)

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In the month of May, we turn our attention to baseball’s Independent Leagues. I am happily surprised to see the Can-Am League still trudging along and the circuit even welcomes back a pair of returning teams that I never thought we would see again. In rural Sussex County, NJ, a franchise is back in the league after folding five years ago. The Sussex County Miners will play in Skylands Stadium, which curiously adjusted their name from “Park” to “Stadium”. It’s an interesting place for a team as the county is barely considered part of the NYC suburban network. I wish all the best for the Miners (only a half-hour or so away from where I live), but they need to improve the ballpark and the experience as it is rated the lowest out of the 49 minor-league facilities that I have been to thus far. Also making an unexpected re-appearance is the Capital of Canada. Remember the Fat Cats? Well they are not back, but instead we have the “Champions”. Hmmm…OK. Anyway they will play in a refurbished Lynx Stadium (the old AAA park), which has been renamed (deep breath): Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park. That’s not a person, but rather an advertisement for some advisory firm. I think we’ll call this place RCGT Park.

Over in the American Association, perhaps the nicest stadium in all of independent baseball is almost complete. The St. Paul Saints will move into CHS Field this summer and the gorgeous $63 million dollar ballfield is downtown and full of local character. I highly recommend a Twins-Saints weekend in the Land of a Thousand Lakes. As for Midway Stadium, it will become extinct as the land on which it sits is turned into an industrial park. Also joining the league is the Joplin Blasters. They will play in Joe Becker Stadium, which has had a facelift. It took me awhile to find the real capacity and even though it is listed at 4,200, about 2,500 of those “Seats” are of the grass variety, so they will not be included in The List. This is another place to root success for as Joplin continues it’s rebuild from the devastating tornado four years ago.

In league news, United League Baseball finally folded after prolonged folly. This does unfortunately mean that Texas ballparks LaGrave Field (Fort Worth) and Harlingen Field (Harlingen) go without a tenant. On the other side of the coin, we welcome the Mount Rainier Premier Baseball League and the East Coast Baseball League. Both are quite small, however the latter league includes Old Orchard Beach, where The Ballpark makes the move from Summer Collegiate ball to Independent.

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April Stadium List Updates

Posted by Sean Rowland on April 14, 2015

Say goodbye to the lack of electronics in Wrigley Field's Outfield

Say goodbye to the lack of electronics in Wrigley Field’s Outfield

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After a lonnnggg winter in the Northeast, even those not fans of baseball become happy at the first crack of the bat as that means Spring and warmer weather. This year, there are no new Major League ballparks, but there are a few notable goings-on. The sacrilegious demolition of Wrigley Field continues as being a billionaire just isn’t enough for Tom Ricketts as he finds more revenue streams from the Cubs. That means ad boards! No longer will Wrigley be a complete step back in time as the place gets a makeover, including a video scoreboard. Of course, they’re making a mess out of the whole thing as the Bleachers are in shambles. Even the Cubs website is pathetic in their display of the whole thing. Restore means to “Bring Back”. Wrigley wasn’t exactly dead. Meanwhile, to someone who knows how to properly treat an old ballpark, Janet Marie Smith continues her work on Dodger Stadium and their gradual improvements seem to be for the good. Lastly, Cleveland copied the success seen at Coors Field last year by creating a social gathering bar-type section called The Corner. Expect more trends like this around the league as the sport tries to stay “hip” with the younger crowd and advertise the game as a hang-out. This new section at Progressive Field reduced capacity by about 6,000.

In the minor-leagues, Nashville opens First Tennessee Park, at the site of the old Sulpher Dell ballpark. Not many tears were shed at the moving out of the 36-year old, vanilla Greer Stadium. The only signature piece fans wanted to see make the move was the guitar-shaped scoreboard, which is very cool. It will be interesting to see if this ballpark spurs other development in this downtown section of Nashville. Also in the PCL, the Oklahoma City franchise has been renamed the Dodgers. Boooo to that, I hate when a minor-league team loses it’s identity and character. Hope it’s not a trend as the same thing happened to South Bend.

Down in the South, the Huntsville franchise moves to Biloxi, where the Shuckers will take the field as another clever Brandoise designed team. The Shuckers will have to start play their first few months on the road and still in Huntsville, as MGM Park will not be ready until (hopefully) early June. Not good planning by all involved as the city is on the hook for nearly a $1 million to expedite the process and $10,000 for every missed home game. Probably should have thought that through better. As for Joe Davis Stadium back in Huntsville, it unfortunately is slated to be demolished. In a piece of great news, the Brevard County Manatees once again will partake in the Jackie Robinson Celebration Game. This contest is held at Holman Stadium in Vero Beach (former Dodgertown) and with it becoming an annual event, we see that historic venue back on The List.

In soccer, the lower divisions have resumed play this month and while the NASL sees little change (just the Jacksonville Armada join, making their home in the Baseball Grounds), big moves have been made in the third tier USL. I wrote about this last month and how much I hate it as the USL is evolving into a sort of MLS Reserve League. After LA Galaxy II played last year, there are now 8 MLS franchises that own an USL team playing in the same city. Most of these have some sort of symbol for “2” after their name, while only Salt Lake went with a different name (Real Monarchs, you know for all of that Spanish Royalty in Utah). Four of them play in MLS stadiums while the other four use a smaller facility within the region, none of which make The List. These are UBC Thunderbird Stadium (Whitecaps), Merlo Field (Timbers), Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila (Sounders) and the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughn (Toronto FC). Why I hate this trend is the ugly mix we now have between a reserve league with teams that have way different goals than the other independently run teams. Just make a stinking Division 4 and call it MLS Reserves.

The USL did expand in other ways too as there are five new teams in cities that did not have professional soccer. Again, none of these independently make it on to The List and two of them are using baseball parks (Louisville and Tulsa). The Austin Aztex will set up shop in House Park, a downtown stadium that has been the center of High School Football for decades. It is in a cool spot for the trendy/hipster crowd that likely will take to soccer well. Colorado Springs will play in a refurbished Sand Creek Stadium, right across from Security Service Field. Lastly, St. Louis may correctly be thought of as a baseball town, but there is a deep history and passion for soccer (see the Women’s friendly last week). It’s good to see a team there and they will use Soccer Park in Fenton.
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