That’s Not Canada…

Trip planning in March is always a challenge and I was shocked that we somehow squeezed in a visit to Lake Placid in between four blockbuster storms last year. This go-around, I made plans for a few more OHL games with trips to Kitchener and Saginaw, while picking up my brother along the way. From Jersey, that would be four separate days on the road and each of them faced the risk and likelihood of snow. Breaking down each event, I specifically didn’t want to chance dealing with lake effect snow in Michigan/Ontario that could easily accumulate given very cold temps forthcoming, plus I likely needed to be into work Monday for a storm as we’re entering an extra busy work stretch. So the brakes were halted on that trip and a long night of researching resulted as I still wanted to go somewhere…

Springfield and Hartford ended up being the final result as a nice set-up of schedules will allow for a couple of new stadiums to be seen. First, I’ll wait out the local morning snow before making the three-hour trip to the Pioneer Valley. I’ve been to the Basketball Hall of Fame a few times, but never visited anywhere else in Springfield, so I’m hoping to have the afternoon to explore a little within the Metro Center (downtown) section of the city. At night, we’ll check out our 11th AHL venue at the MassMutual Center with a game between the Thunderbirds and nearby Hartford Wolfpack. Then, to fulfill my odd beginning desire to see college hockey games, American International College (AIC) fills that need as they have a 1 PM game in the same building. Amazingly, that’s the third Atlantic Hockey game I’ll see this year. Over the state border, but short in distance is Hartford and their University plays out of Chase Arena in the America East Conference. It’s a 5 PM game for them against Albany, which works perfectly for this schedule. I’m still debating the plan after the game, whether I want to drive 3 hours home in a bit of wintry weather or just stay another night in the nearby hotel and have a nice meal post-game. Hedging towards the latter. I did even consider another game on Sunday as UConn plays an hour away in Storrs at Noon. In the end, I decided against it because I don’t want to get caught in another approaching winter storm that might begin as I start heading home. Plus, UConn is building an on-campus hockey arena in a few years and I’ll check out both those venues at the same time.

Back to BC (and Bentley too)

We’re on a rare nice string of monthly stadium visits and it continues this weekend with a basketball-hockey doubleheader. Fresh off a fall trip to Chestnut Hill, I am heading back to complete the facility reviews at Boston College by seeing a game at Conte Forum. The arena is attached to the football stadium and I’ve already had a look inside, so there won’t be much surprise when going through the gates. The biggest question was whether I wanted to see basketball or hockey. I’m starting to get the itch to see all college hockey venues, but in the end, the schedule fit basketball best. The Eagles take on Notre Dame at 2 PM and that’s the game we’ll see as this is a quick trip with very limited time outside the sporting events. I would figure to be leaving Conte Forum between 4:00 and 4:30 PM, which is just enough time for an evening game somewhere in the area. My original pick was to go see a New Hampshire hockey game in Durham, but I didn’t want to sweat being delayed as I like to get to an arena well before game-time to do a full tour. Unfortunately, that’s the only facility on The List available. I went back and forth for awhile and in the end I want some time at the arena and also want to combine it with a trip to UNH’s football stadium, so I’m gonna save it. At the same time, I’ve really enjoyed my recent college hockey games and I remembered that nearby Bentley University just built a new arena that opened last year. They are also in a Boston Suburb (Waltham) and even though the arena is very small (< 2,000 capacity), I’m going to still go check out. That game is against Air Force at 7 PM and I’ll stay overnight in Watch City before heading back Sunday Morning.

No Better Time to Visit Phoenix than January!

On Friday, I’ll be heading to the American Meteorological Society’s Annual Meeting, specifically, the Student Conference on January 5-6, where our company will be exhibiting. This year, AMS is hosting the event in Phoenix, a welcomed destination for the many stuck in the winter blues. The portion that we are attending takes place each evening, so that limits any potential sports activities to the early afternoon’s. The Valley has several winter options that I went through: Arizona State basketball, but they weren’t home. Grand Canyon (WAC) basketball who is at home, but at an un-makeable Saturday 8 PM start. The Phoenix Suns, was potentially doable as they played Friday Night, however our flight arrives just a half-hour after tip. We considered an earlier flight, but didn’t want to leave our in-office crew in a bad spot in case we were dealing with wintry weather. Sidenote, there is quite the battle going on in Phoenix about renovations to Talking Stick Resort Arena that owners want.

That brings us to the last option, who also have their own arena debates: the Arizona Coyotes. A matinee was the only hope and as luck would have it, one of their four afternoon games all year falls on Sunday, January 6th! They play the Rangers at 2 PM and we are heading to Gila River Arena in Glendale for it. While the league may bemoan their arena situation, the building looks great and it’s in a fun spot thanks to the Westgate Entertainment District right across the street. That gives us a great sports day before the conference as we’ll find a sports bar in there to watch part of the early NFL Wild-Card game before heading to the arena. This will be my ninth NHL arena and first in the Western Conference as I look forward to seeing one of the better buildings in the West.

Visiting Old Stomping Grounds

I’m heading back home on Friday, but just for 18 hours as I make a stop at the lone program in Rochester, NY at the Division I status. The Rochester Institute of Technology made the move in 2005, just after I graduated from Oswego and saw the Tigers make a visit to the old Romney Field House. Despite my jealousy in wanting the Lakers to also go from DIII to DI, I’m happy to see RIT at this level and they’ve done quite well, having made quite a bit of noise in their few NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2014, the team left the cozy confines of Ritter Arena to the beautiful, 4,000-seat Gene Polisseni Center. RIT plays in front of their students known as the “Corner Crew” and they’ve earned a solid reputation. The Tigers take on Sacred Heart at 7:05 PM and I’m especially looking forward to this one as my Dad and two brothers will be joining me. I’ll then drive 15 minutes up to my parents house in the suburb of Greece to spend the night.

The second day is another re-visit, as my goal of going back to places where I didn’t have a digital camera nears completion. The two hour drive will go to Olean, NY (ie. the middle of nowhere) as that is home to Saint Bonaventure University. It was all the way back in 2002 when I first went to the Reilly Center, when I had to get my film developed after taking pictures. I remember this visit so well as it was just my 6th overall and the first that really explored a new place that I wasn’t familiar with. It was holiday break from school and I went with a friend, remembering that we caught the beginnings of a storm as snow just began to cover some of the roads. It’s amazing the things you remember as I could still see us pulling in to campus and attendants directing us where to park. The fine details of those first 10 or so stadium visits will always be etched in my memory as I waited years to finally begin this venture. At that time, I was obsessed with college basketball and followed the Bonnies’ J.R. Bremer closely. The game featured former Saint Bonaventure coach Jim Baron returning with his Rhode Island Rams and Bremer dropping 29 in the first half. Not much has changed with this gym and this year, the Bonnies are struggling and it will be an uphill battle as they take on Buffalo. It’s a 4 PM game and I’ll head back to Jersey right after it wraps up. 

A Football-Hockey Doubleheader Saturday

Football games in November are tricky as it is a roll of the dice for weather. The stadium experience can be awful if the weather is horrid and that thankfully does not look to be the case this coming Saturday (November 10th). I’m fine with cold and dry, plus the sunshine will help as I make my way down to the northwest suburbs of Philadelphia. That is the section known as the Main Line and it is where we find Villanova. Basketball gets all the attention and while I’m hoping to get to a game sometime soon at their redone arena that debuts tomorrow (Finneran Pavilion), I’m going to be at the football stadium on Saturday. The Wildcats frequently have had pretty good FCS teams, but this year has been strange. After a win against Temple, the team has faltered in conference play and they even were shutout in back-to-back weeks. They got a win last week and we’ll see if they finish up strong on Senior Day against William & Mary.

With the Villanova game taking place at 1:00 PM, I kept my eye on schedules to see if I can find something at night. I’ve been to nearly all the stadiums in this section of PA, thus making a re-visit was the best option and there is none better than the Hershey Bears. Their home, the Giant Center, is the top Minor League Arena that I have visited in my Rankings list. That visit came all the way back in 2006 and since I’ve done a lot of refining in reviews since those first 40 or 50 visits, I’m eagerly looking forward to getting back and seeing how the Bears experience stands up. It is a beautiful arena that is built well for hockey and Hershey is always one of the AHL’s top draws, so I’m expecting it to be a great event. That game is at 7 PM and the ride in between the two locations is less than two hours, so I should be good on time. I’ll have a recap of the day next week, along with detailed reviews not long after.

A Football Weekend in Boston (kinda)

Friday football games may not be traditional, but they offer up the perfect opportunity for a stadium trip as they become part of a double (or triple) header. The schedule has set-up nicely for a Boston-area college football trip coming up this weekend. I say “kinda” in the title because neither campus is technically in the city of Boston. My brother will join me for an annual Fall tradition as we leave Friday Morning to reach Eastern Mass by midday. Our afternoon will be spent in Cambridge, an impressive city in its own right. We’ll see some of the sights and try to squeeze in a campus tour of Harvard University. Dinner will be somewhere in the vicinity of Harvard Square before we cross the Charles River for the 7 PM Crimson game against Rhode Island. The school may be in Cambridge, but Harvard Stadium is technically in Boston as the other side of the River is that city’s neighborhood of Allston. This will be my 7th Ivy League stadium and I’m hoping to complete the Ancient Eight next year (Brown-Patriots trip?).

On Saturday, Boston College is the setting for Stadium #203 and the Eagles will take on Temple in Alumni Stadium. I had to wait awhile for the game-time announcement and the Noon start made me reconsider options. We were planning on spending time in Boston on Saturday, but by the time we navigate the T and where our car needs to be parked for the game and after the game, it’s too much of a pain and not worth the limited available time. So, we’ll just head home after BC-Temple finishes. No worries, as there are plenty of facilities within Boston that are going to give some chances to see all the city has to offer down the road. We plan on arriving on “The Heights” well before game-time to walk around BC’s campus and see the unique Gothic architecture that it is known for. Back next week with a wrap-up on how it went!

Nearing #200

We are just one stadium away from hitting #200 on the all-time Visit list! Since it’s a milestone, we want to make it a good one and I think this one will be as we visit a relatively new soccer-specific stadium for an MLS team. It belongs to the Houston Dynamo as we look forward to seeing BBVA Compass Stadium in the EaDo section of the city. The game is Saturday Night and Sporting KC is the opponent. Summer in Houston means that I’m thankful for the 8 PM start as I’m hoping the heat is tempered a bit (just a bit?) with the loss of sunshine. So why only one stadium visit if I’m heading all the way down to Texas? This trip is part of a vacation where we are meeting up with family to take a cruise and the ship leaves from Galveston. That journey via Royal Caribbean will take us to Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica. We’ll then head back home the day our cruise returns, though I strongly considered the afternoon Astros game, but time was too tight, especially with a little one in tow. We did want to spend some time in Houston (which is an hour from Galveston), so we decided to arrive a few days early for enough time to check out Space City. Our touring will take place in the Museum District before we grab dinner near our hotel downtown and then my Dad will be joining me for the Dynamo game. I’ll be back with a website wrap-up a few weeks later.

I enjoy reaching these milestones and this one should be a little more clear-cut than the last (#100). In the early stages of this project, I was still tinkering with my obsessively detail-oriented ways of how to chronicle these visits (very much to a fault). In the beginning, I had some stadiums on here where I didn’t see a game (just saw the building) and I also had stadiums visited where the capacity was under my set standards (thanks to false advertising). The Ryan Center’s distinction of being #100 got taken away as the Visits list was cleaned up a few years later and the official #100 becameĀ Notre Dame Stadium. Both were fine picks in their own right. Anyway, that was probably all pointless gibberish and serves as a small glimpse of the things I spend way too much time on in this project. In the end, BBVA Compass Stadium is the plan for #200 and while this milestone may not be on the Bucket List, it should be a very good stadium trip nonetheless!