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2017 Soccer Stadium Updates

Posted by Sean Rowland on March 28, 2017

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Soccer continues to grow here in North America, but league structure and how it is growing leaves room for debate as to whether this is a good thing. With MLS continuing to hand out franchises like hotcakes, we have seen the debuts of Atlanta and Minnesota this year. Both feature the boring names of “United FC”, though at least Minnesota has the great nickname of “Loons”. In spite of MLS’ fake desire for all teams in a soccer-specific stadium (Hi NYCFC), Atlanta will move into the football facility for the Falcons, Mercedes Benz Stadium, once it is completed later this year. In the meantime, they’ll play at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. Up in Minnesota, TCF Bank Stadium once again stands in as a temporary solution as they will host the Loons until a soccer stadium is complete in Saint Paul. The league does see a new stadium open this year and it is a beauty. So far, Orlando City has done everything right and they have a gem of a stadium in downtown Orlando (and it was privately financed!). Check out the review of this fantastic facility from Soccer Stadium Digest.

The lower-level leagues continue to struggle to get organized as now we have two of them that are in “provisional” Division II status. The NASL is by far the one in worse shape as they saw Minnesota depart to MLS and Ottawa and Tampa Bay move to USL. The moving up a level by Minnesota means that we say goodbye to NSC Stadium, a longtime mainstay on The List. Two franchises folded: Rayo OKC and Fort Lauderdale. The latter actually moved from Lockhart Stadium to Central Broward Stadium (a cricket stadium!) in the middle of last season. That means longtime soccer home, Lockhart Stadium, is off The List as well. 2017 will be an 8-team league for the NASL, which means one new addition and that is the San Francisco Deltas, who will play in historic Kezar Stadium. Two other stadium notes: the Jacksonville Armada will play at Hodges Stadium on the campus of UNF as opposed to using the city’s ballpark, while the New York Cosmos do the opposite in moving from Hofstra to Brooklyn’s MCU Park

The USL becomes the de facto #2 in the pyramid and while many of the teams play in ballparks, high school fields, training facilities, etc., there are a couple of success stories. One is Rio Grande Valley FC who opens the bright orange H-E-B Park in Edinburg. This is what the league’s teams should strive for. The Arizona team rebranded to Phoenix Rising FC and they also erected a 6,000-seat “Pop-Up” stadium in South Scottsdale. New to the league is Reno 1868 FC (playing on the ballfield for the Reno Aces) and folding is FC Montreal, as the Impact will become affiliated with Ottawa. Also gone from the league are the Wilmington Hammerheads, a familiar name for a few decades, as they have dropped down to PDL. Other stadium changes include Red Bulls 2 moving from a completely empty Red Bull Arena to Montclair State University and the Charlotte Independence heading to a new, but tiny (2,300-seat) sports complex in the suburb of Matthews, NC.

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If I Was Commissioner of North American Soccer…

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 12, 2016

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Welcome to MLS Chattanooga! (photo from Marc Viquez at Stadium Journey)

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MLS Cup was a few days ago and around that time, Don Garber gives his State of the League address. For the last decade, expansion has always been the center of the press conference and this year was no different. With MLS handing out franchises like hotcakes and cities/states throwing millions to get them, there seems to be no end to the conversation and new teams coming on. What’s the endgame? Well good news. I, Sean Rowland am the new commish and in this fantasy world, stadiums are built and teams are in place, they just need a place to play. That’s my specialty as I am here to figure that out. Promotion/Relegation is a debated item and while I don’t believe that it fits our current system, a 30-team league in the world of soccer just does not work as well as it does for other sports. So, I’m proposing a pseudo Pro/Rel system. One within MLS and one within the “Minor Leagues”, which we’ll call USL. Let’s start with what I call MLS1 and MLS2. I’ve set up teams (both old and new) based on where I think they’d belong based on popularity/franchise strength. I’ll break down how it works after the list of teams. Oh yeah, I’m taking care of the ridiculous FC and SC attached after each city name. This is the U.S. (and Canada), where we have team nicknames. We don’t have to do everything Europe does because they are supposed “masters” of the sport. I came up with some new nicknames on a quick whim, while others I left blank for future thought. Let’s start with a breakdown of the new MLS:
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MLS 1
1.  Cincinnati Monarchs

2.  DC United
3.  Houston Dynamo
4.  Los Angeles Galaxy
5.  Kansas City Cauldron
6.  Montreal Impact
7.  New York Red Bulls
8.  Orlando Lions
9.  Philadelphia Union
10.  Portland Timbers
11.  Sacramento Republic
12.  Salt Lake City Brigade
13.  San Antonio Scorpions
14.  Seattle Sounders
15.  Toronto Reds
16.  Vancouver Whitecaps

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MLS 2
1.  Atlanta Silverbacks

2.  Carolina RailHawks
3.  Chattanooga (Nickname)
4.  Chicago Fire
5.  Colorado Rapids
6.  Columbus Crew
7.  Detroit Rogue
8.  Dallas Goats
9.  El Paso Chuckos
10.  Louisville (Nickname)
11.  Miami Fusion
12.  Minnesota Loons
13.  New England Revolution
14.  San Diego (nickname)
15.  San Jose Earthquakes
16.  St. Louis Rivermen

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How this will work is we will have a 30-game regular season, so each team plays the other one home and away. Given the harsh winter in the north, the international calendar and other cup competitions this leads to a nice season from early March to the end of September, with six open weekends to account for an international break. All CONCACAF Champions League games will be mid-week, as will the US Open Cup and Canadian Championship competitions. The US Open Cup will get a deserved weekend, showcase final. In this new MLS, there is no more Supporters Shield. It is either a champion via playoff or via regular season in my league and we are choosing playoff. 25% (not the current 60%) will make the postseason and it will be a 4-team playoff in October to determine the MLS (1) champion and it will be an aggregate home/home for the semifinal and then a final at the home of the higher seed. There is promotion and relegation between the two leagues and the bottom team in MLS 1 will get relegated. Down in MLS 2, it’s the same playoff format as the winner will get promoted into MLS 2. How do we get the teams set in MLS 1 and MLS 2? We’ll just have one combined season where each team plays each other once and the Top 16 are in the upper division and the Bottom 16 are the lower division. I’m sure the team choices up there are interesting and I’m all about including cities that don’t have many professional sports as you will find their full attention will be on soccer. The success story of Chattanooga FC made me include them and you need to have a few smaller places in there to make it fun. Note, that there is no reason LA and NY get only one team

Because we can’t have MLS owners go too far down the division rung since they paid a buttload of money to get in, we will have a separate “Minor-League” system. These teams can be affiliates of an MLS counterpart, but they will have their own First and Second Division to add some intrigue into their season. Screw the MLS Reserve Teams currently in USL, they can have their own league where they play in front of 50 people. The following is the United Soccer League (USL) First Division and Second Division, with the format including the same season type, pro/reg and playoff structure as what was laid out above.

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USL 1
1.  Birmingham (Nickname)

2.  Charleston Battery
3.  Connecticut (Nickname)
4.  Edmonton (Nickname)
5.  Jacksonville Armada
6.  Indy Eleven
7.  Las Vegas (Nickname)
8.  Nashville (Nickname)
9.  OKC Energy
10.  Pittsburgh Riverhounds
11.  Richmond Kickers
12.  Rio Grande Valley Toros
13.  Rochester Rhinos
14.  San Francisco Deltas
15.  Tampa Bay Mutiny
16.  Wilmington Hammerheads

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USL 2
1.  Albuquerque (Nickname)

2.  Bethlehem Steel
3.  Boise (Nickname)
4.  Colorado Springs Switchbacks
5.  Des Moines Menace
6.  Halifax (Nickname)
7.  Hershey Wildcats
8.  Long Island RoughRiders
9.  Ottawa Fury
10.  Phoenix Rising
11.  Reno 1868
12.  Saskatoon (Nickname)
13.  Tulsa Roughnecks
14.  Western Michigan Bucks
15.  Wilmington Hammerheads
16.  Winnepeg (Nickname)

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Will this ever happen? No. Is it fun to dream it? Yes.

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2016-2017 Year in Premier League Stadiums

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 14, 2016

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It’s easy to miss with the Olympics dominating the sporting world the last week that the English Premier League kicked off yesterday. One of the most popular sports leagues in the world features a wonderful array of stadiums…from old (Goodison Park) to new (Emirates Stadium) to small grounds like Bournemouth’s 11,000-seat Dean Court to giants like Old Trafford at Manchester United. I’ve listed the Ontario Hockey League and College Basketball as the best leagues to take a trip through, but overseas, the EPL would be amazing to check out all 20 grounds. The only downside is that you are confined to your stand (section) and don’t have the ability to move around and check out the stadium from a different perspective.

This season, there are a couple of changes to be aware of and the most notable is at West Ham United. Tight and cozy Upton Park has closed as the Hammers move into the former Olympic Stadium in London. Fans may miss the charm of the Boleyn Ground, but the easier transportation, extra room and other amenities should make for a lot of happy folks heading to a game. The Olympic Stadium becomes the third largest ground in the EPL and it was a lot of years (and money) in the making. Oh, and the bubbles will be making the trip. Over in Liverpool, a renovation to Anfield has added several thousand seats, including a third tier to the main stand. This looks to enhance the noise and atmosphere at what I think is the loudest ground in the league (though Selhurst can get insanely loud for Crystal Palace and Leicester’s KP was crazy last year).

Promotion/Relegation sees us say hello to three returning teams, two of which only had a one year stint in the Championship. Hull City is back and while their orange brings some nice color diversity to the league, their blah fan support and discontent towards ownership means they will give Sunderland a run for playing in the “least full stadium”. Burnley replaces Villa in making sure there are two teams wearing the Claret and Blue, but that also means the return of Turf Moor and David Fishwick! This small club with remarkable success has plenty of local/regional sponsors and David Fishwick’s Minibus company is one of them. His name became so visible to fans, that the Men In Blazers interviewed him and it was a terrific listen as he is a genuinely great guy (take a listen). Middlesborough is the third team promoted and they will seem ‘new’ to many American recent fans as their last appearance in the EPL was eight years ago. Riverside Stadium is their home, built in 1995. To make room for these three, we’ve lost some wonderful stadiums as they have departed to the Championship, where most of America suffers to see them in Standard Definition on Bein Sports. For now, we temporarily (maybe?) will miss seeing St. James’ Park (Newcastle), Villa Park (Aston Villa) and Carrow Road (Norwich) in our living rooms.

Lastly, if you want to visit White Hart Lane in North London for a Tottenham match, you may need to get there this year. Spurs are definitely building a new stadium and it is looking increasingly likely that this will be the last for White Hart Lane as it closes next year to allow for construction. I’ve always admired it and wanted to visit…sad to see it go.

 

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2016 Soccer Updates

Posted by Sean Rowland on March 29, 2016

bethlehem

The Bethlehem Steel begin play in the USL. Awesome name and logo, but the field, website and everything else…needs some work

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It is a rare year for the MLS in 2016 as it features stability. The same 20 teams and the same 20 stadiums. But don’t get used to it as the league continuously expands. On the stadium front, the only notable item is up in Toronto, where TFC embarks on a long, season-opening road trip again as their home, BMO Field, sees Phase 2 of their renovation completed. A new canopy will cover much of the seats and the field is set-up to host the Argonauts. Otherwise, there are two ugly name changes to speak of as PPL Park changes to Talen Energy Stadium and Sporting Park switches to Children’s Mercy Park. And as for Don Garber’s baby (NYCFC), they remain stuck in Yankee Stadium for the foreseeable future.

In the NASL, we find the 2016 season +1 on the franchise ledger. The Atlanta Silverbacks are gone as that city prepares for the MLS, while in San Antonio, their soccer is now in the USL as the new Spurs ownership group tries to cozy up with the MLS connection. In Miami, an ownership group is skipping right past David Beckham’s stadium trouble and they have brought Miami FC into the league as they will play in FIU Stadium. They will be the closest team to the Puerto Rico franchise that also begins in 2016. A La Liga team, Rayo Vallecano has invested in an NASL franchise as Rayo OKC will play at the 6,000-seat Miller Stadium, located at Yukon High School. All of these non-American soccer nicknames drive me nuts. What does Rayo, Real, United, Sporting, FC, etc. have to do with American soccer? It’s a trend that I wish would stop, but keeps on going full speed ahead. I like to see Portland Timbers, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Richmond Kickers. Anyways, side tangent over, it is interesting that Oklahoma City will now have two teams as there is also the Energy, who enter their third season in the USL. It just shows you convoluted the American Soccer Pyramid is.  

Another trend I hate is that of MLS teams owning these developmental squads in the USL. I ranted about this last year and how we are veering away from communities having a team and showing civic pride, but now it is about big brother more than ever. Swope Park Rangers will play in Kansas City, while Orlando City B (how original) will use a complex in Melbourne. There are at least two local teams joining: Rio Grande Valley FC and Bethlehem Steel. The Steel is a great nod to the historic club team back in the 1920s that dominated the first US Open Cup competitions. Their logo is great and so is the name, but everything else, not so much. The team doesn’t even have a website (you have to go the Union’s page) and they’ll play in Goodman Stadium, a horrible place for soccer with it’s far away seating sections. Down in the Rio Grande Valley, they are doing things right and are set to open RGVFC Stadium. Progress looks slow based on Twitter Pics, but hopefully the place is ready in a month as it looks like it will be good. Lastly, the Austin Aztex had stadium issues and are sitting out this season. 

I may sound like a grump here, but as great as the growth of soccer in this country is, there are many frustrations developing at the club level…..New MLS teams starting in big cities where they will get lost in the professional landscape (Atlanta, Minnesota), not to mention them likely playing in football stadiums….The NASL wrongly insisting it is a first division….The NASL having such a strange Spring and Fall season schedule with weird playoffs….The MLS taking over the USL as we lose our “minor league” identity and growth in other cities….Two lower-division teams in the same city?

Not wanting to end on a sour note, let’s finish with some amazing stuff that truly makes me smile as a soccer fan. There are remarkable things going on at the very bottom of the soccer pyramid in the amateur-level NPSL. Grassroots teams have been developed by fans and the story of both Detroit City FC and Chattanooga FC is awesome. I highly recommend checking out both links…almost brings a tear to my eye.

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MLS at 20

Posted by Sean Rowland on March 23, 2015

Yankee Stadium Exterior

Yankee Stadium…not exactly a soccer cathedral

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As the 20th season of MLS has begun, it is nothing but happy faces with media, league officials and fans touting the success of the league. Rightfully so as we have a come a long, long way from
this. With a new TV deal, cities vying by the dozens to join, big name players (and a few still in their primes), supporter clubs and soccer-specific stadiums, it is a rosy picture. And I’m glad as I am rooting hard for our domestic league to work. But there are some thorns on that rose as problems underlie the overall successful rise of the league. Since this is a stadium site, let’s talk about what is new this season…

In San Jose, the Earthquakes finally get their own facility as Avaya Stadium opens with a pristine design and sightlines. The huge open bar at the North End is a cool touch as well. Amazing to think how long the Quakes lasted at an antiquated college field before moving to these new digs. Orlando City joins MLS this season and they are on fire to start with 60,000+ for their opening game at the renovated Citrus Bowl. It’s not a one-time thing either as their second game got a strong figure too. The Lions move into a downtown stadium next season. Then we get to the thorny part of the league and their complete botch job of the other new franchise this season…New York City FC. Apparently, the league’s edict of having a nearly ready soccer facility only applies to smaller cities and where they are not getting huge financial opportunities. Plans for an NYCFC home have not gone well and their stuck in Yankee Stadium with nothing on the horizon. Secondly, Don Garber’s Bettman-like plan to insist that big markets have two teams is a joke. While the Red Bulls do well enough, they come nowhere near filling RBA for each game, yet the thought is that this area needs to have a “derby” and that the five boroughs will take to NYCFC because it is going to play in city limits (remember the Jets/Giants don’t exactly play in NYC). So instead of adding a city that is ready with a stadium and going to welcome it with open arms (eh-hem…Sacramento, San Antonio). We have a Man City farm club tearing up the diamond at Yankee Stadium. Along those same lines the huge mistake that was Chivas USA is gone, but instead of leaving a model franchise in LA Galaxy be and continue to grow their already solid fan base, the plan is to create another Los Angeles team in the place of Chivas.

This leads into another issue with MLS expanding into huge markets that have multiple sports teams (and of course money and TV eyeballs). While I know there are many passionate fans in these places, it often does not work as the sporting focus is on the other Big 4 sports. Take a look at Chicago, Dallas and Colorado (Denver), their MLS games do not draw well. Coming up the stream is expansion Atlanta and likely Minnesota, who are similar in terms of sports size. That’s not to say it can’t work (Philadelphia and Toronto have been successful), but the deck is stacked. Where the league’s biggest success stories have come, are in places where there is only one or two other professional teams: Portland, Kansas City, Seattle, Salt Lake and soon Orlando. That is why Sacramento and San Antonio would be perfect.

The discussion can go on and I’m sure the whole promotion/relegation argument will continue (it won’t work here), but the key to building perceived success are solid markets with filled stadiums. I say perceived as money is really the key to success. Where the league has come in 20 years is incredible and out of the 20 teams, 15 have their own SSS and 2 others make it work very well in a bigger football stadium (Seattle and Vancouver). If DC and New England can get their places built, NYC solve it’s mess, LA2 not arrive and the new expansion bids go to Sacramento, San Antonio and Indianapolis, then that would be amazing.

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I Believe That We Will Win

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 27, 2014

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Part II of the US Sendoff Series

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 2, 2014

US vs Turkey at Red Bull Arena

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After going thru the painfully slow and frustrating process of the ticket lottery for the US-Turkey friendly in preparation for the World Cup, it took a lot of StubHub watching for tickets, but the deed was done and we were live from
Red Bull Arena last Sunday Afternoon! For the US team, there have been more negatives than positives over the last few months, as along with the ticket fiasco there has been the shocking omission of Landon, the youth and “Green” movement and the popsicle jerseys which replaced my much-loved Waldo kits. However, the focus is starting to turn to the pitch. In their first friendly against Azerbaijan, the Americans didn’t look great, but won 2-0. A much tougher opponent in Turkey awaited at RBA and while the defense looked shaky, they closed down well in the box. The US ended up winning 2-1 with goals by Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey. There was lots to take away from the match that I will leave to the experts, but two things that caught my eye was Jozy looking physically strong, ready to break through again and Mix Diskerud being a perfect second-half sub in Brazil. The excitement is building and at the least, we have two victories in preparation.

As for the experience, traffic was non-existent coming in, while leaving, organizers generally do a good job directing traffic back to I-280 (save for one misplaced sign). Where the biggest travel pains occur is on mass-transit as the Harrison PATH station is way too small to handle the on-rush of fans. The many that use this to get back to New York City deal with quite a jam-packed line. Something to keep in mind for whereever (and whenever) the New York City FC go with their stadium. Red Bull Arena is widely regarded as the best soccer-specific stadium in the country and I concur. The sightlines in the 25,000-seat stadium are excellent and the very steep pitch to the upper-deck makes for some great seats. Having the roof cover most of the seating as well is a huge plus and though the weather was perfect, having the majority of the seats not bake in the sun is a bonus. US fans made this quite an event as the atmosphere was tremendous. There were frequent chants with the American Outlaws leading the way. Even without them, various cheers and chants broke out and it was quite the boisterous crowd all decked out in red, white and blue. It was amazing to be a part of and further proof of the growth the sport has seen in this country.

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The Disorganized USSF Ticket Lottery

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 8, 2014

Visitors of this site have likely figured out that I have fallen in love with the beautiful game. It has been a gradual 10-15 year courting, but the culmination was likely the 2010 World Cup, where the  USA made a run through the group stage that was unforgettable. Since then, I have immersed myself on all facets of the game at both the club and national level. The US Men’s National Team (USMNT) remains at the forefront of my interest and with the World Cup just a month away, the team will be playing three games at home to get ready for the event. San Francisco, Jacksonville and New Jersey are the sites of these first matches, with the first two being played at the NFL stadium in that city (the Bay Area game will be at Candlestick, not brand-new Levi’s Stadium). Meanwhile, the New Jersey game is going to be at Red Bull Arena, the soccer-specific stadium in Harrison.

Not only is the USSF trying to get the team ready for the grand stage in Brazil by warming up with three opponents (two of them decent), but they are also trying to drum up exposure and excitement. While the interest level of the USMNT is at an all-time high, the allure of a sold-out crowd and raucous atmosphere will help the cause, hence the game being played at RBA. This also creates a ticket issue and it was decided that a lottery would be best to distribute the remaining public tickets (some have been allocated to groups like the American Outlaws, along with official supporters). I questioned the validity of a lottery as you don’t see teams in popular professional sports needing a lottery for their public tickets that immediately are snagged come playoff time. My thought is the lottery is anything but ‘random’ and that they want to sift out locations, trying to bring in out-of-towners who are very passionate.

While I’m reluctant to blast the USSF on this lottery, I’m going to, because it is beyond disorganized. Living an hour from Harrison, I have been eyeing going to this USA-Turkey game and waited quite a long time on the announcement of ticket availability. After finally learning about the lottery, I unsuccessfully looked for other means and then was disappointed about a random public “pre-sale” before the lottery, that I could have just bought tickets from. Reluctantly, I sent in my lottery request, information and the ok to charge my credit card with the two “cheapest” seating levels (a beefy $48 and $60). We were supposed to be notified on Monday (May 5) whether we were successful. An email followed at the end of that day by US Soccer stating the process is “taking longer than anticipated” and the notification of the lottery will be postponed to Wednesday, May 7. It is now Thursday, May 8th at 5:30 PM and I still have no email on the status. Keep in mind this is nearly three weeks away from a game that some might be flying in for and will want to finalize airfare. The delay certainly points to some fishyness in this whole lottery process…after all, how hard can it be to pick names at random!

The process has me frustrated and a little down on the USSF, but will not dampen my enthusiasm and support for Jurgen and the boys. Here’s hoping I’ll be sitting in Red Bull Arena June 1 with the beauty of the Outlaws and their support, along with a crowd clad in Red, White and Blue ready for Brazil.
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Update…I called on Friday and they said an email would be sent in a few hours. Three days later, still no email on the lottery results. Numerous calls to the USSF ticket office went unreturned, while an email from the Red Bulls was returned staying that we will find out on Wednesday. Meanwhile, I went into My Account that was created and saw that I did not get tickets. What a fiasco of a process and I can’t believe there hasn’t been more made of it. Ugh. I did splurge and got $92 seats on StubHub, so I will be there June 1

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Love PPL Park…Dislike Media Credentials

Posted by Sean Rowland on June 30, 2013

PPL Park Interior|
When I started this whole venture some 11 years ago, I began with an interest on the stadium design. That quickly manifested into an interest with everything surrounding the stadium experience from a fan’s perspective. I have remained steadfast with that through the years as the site has grown, along with my work for Stadium Journey (incredibly going on my third year of writing there and enjoying it thoroughly). Even though the opportunity for a media credential has come up the last couple visits, I have turned it down in favor of a seat in the stands. However, on this trip to see the Philadelphia Union, it was difficult to turn this one down and I decided to give it a shot. The experience assured me that sitting with the fans is where I want to be.

Prior to arrival at PPL Park, I was notified that my name would be on the parking list for the media in Lot B. It was not. Thankfully, the attendants were very nice and when I explained who I was and contacted, they let me through. Unable to find the media gate after walking around the stadium, I finally spotted it, only to reach the table and learn my name was not on the credential list. After a quick minute, staffers tracked down my contact and let me in with a new pass. After finishing my walking and picture-taking of the concourse and interior bowl, it was time to head up to the press box (very strange for me to write that). I reached a three-level room feeling completely out of place as all the writers had their laptops and cell phones at their counter space. Awkward ol’ me took out my Mead 3×5 notepad, camera and program. I tried to absorb it all for a little bit, including sampling the media buffet as I got ready to watch the game from up top. One problem with the actual watching of the game: there was a giant metal post in my way! (see picture below). My seat was most impacted, but there were certainly others in the room that had to deal with this obstruction. I have no idea, maybe this is a common thing since this is a such a new stadium, but it was remarkable to me how the people writing about the game couldn’t completely see the field, while those in the seats had no issue. This partition, in addition to being secluded from the game atmosphere, led me to leave after ten minutes of game-time in search of a seat in the packed stadium. I settled by standing behind the seats on the party deck (which I got into since I was coming downstairs from the media level). From there, I was able to scope out corner seats that were open and moved there for the second half. Needless to say, my original mission and thoughts remain as adamant as ever. No press box, No suites, I want to be in the seating bowl with the fans.
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None of this diminishes my thoughts on PPL Park…what a beautiful soccer venue! Set on the banks of the Delaware River in Chester (about 10 miles SW of Philly), the Park’s defining feature is the view of the river and the towering Commodore Barry Bridge. Highly recommend sitting on the west side of the stadium (Sections 102-112) for not only shade, but to also take full advantage of the view. The stadium design is excellent too, with overhangs on the sidelines and a sleek one-level seating bowl that is pleasing to the eye. Philadelphia’s faithful supporters are the Sons of Ben, a group created even before the Union and they were instrumental in getting an MLS franchise. The group is named after Philadelphian Ben Franklin and they sit at the river end, singing and chanting songs like “Four Leaf Clover” “Philadelphia” and “C’mon the U”. The Union have drawn fans very well their first four seasons and the rest of the crowd is fully engaged and quite knowledgeable. Not to mention loud, as evidenced by this roar from a goal. This is a sports mad city and the Union have taken residence with the region’s other big franchises.

The game was thrilling, but not one that ended well for the home side as boos reigned down from people familiar with supplying them. The Union struck first as a long throw in from Sheanon Williams was headed home by Amobi Okugo in the 20th minute. FC Dallas had the equalizer a few minutes later and they went to the break 1-1. In the 68th minute, JeVaughn Watson for Dallas was sent off and Philly spent the late minutes trying to win. Finally, a cross was finished off by sub Aaron Wheeler and the Union looked poised to win with just minutes left. In the 90th minute, FC Dallas was pressing and Williams cleared the line to save the game. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw the replay and it looked to have been a goal. It wasn’t over however as in the dying moments, Dallas was awarded a free kick from midfield. Goalie Zac MacMath attempted a catch on the long ball, lost control and the scramble went Blas Perez’s way who tied the game remarkably in the 95th minute. The Union had one more chance at the end, but failed and the game ended in a 2-2 tie that felt like a loss. It also felt like a loss for me, as this was the first tie I’ve witnessed in 136 prior stadium visits

Look for an official PPL Park review on the right side of the page in the coming days and I’ll have an updated review over at Stadium Journey as well.

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Celtic Park is Loud!

Posted by Sean Rowland on March 14, 2013

I know we are in the middle of March Madness, but we are also getting into the heart of the Champions League as the knockout stages of the European club tournament continues. A couple weeks ago, I watched a little of the Celtic-Juventus match and could not get over how incredibly loud Celtic Park was. Many football grounds in Europe have a fantastic atmosphere, but this was by far the best I’ve seen yet. Definitely enhances my itch to make some stadium visits overseas. Check out a few samples below from the usually boisterous Celtic Park:
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