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Football in the Charm City

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 25, 2017

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We’re back! It’s been awhile, but we are hitting the road this weekend after what has been a personally busy summer. My brother will be joining me on this trip as we will be heading southward to a pair of games in Maryland. I’m very thankful this heat wave will be ending as both days will feature afternoon activity in the outdoors. On Saturday, we’ll spend time at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore before heading to the suburb of Towson for an evening contest between the Tigers and Villanova at Johnny Unitas Stadium. On Sunday, we’re back into Baltimore, where we are pumped for a divisional battle between the Ravens and Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. That game is a 1 PM start and we’ll head back home afterwards. The Charm City is a great place to spend the weekend and it will be fun to check it out again along with sampling more of their sports scene. These will be my only football games of the year, so I’m hoping for close games and good stadium experiences. Back next week for a wrap-up!
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Welcome to the Land of D3 Football

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 24, 2016

Shriver Stadium Interior.

In my Guide to finding stadiums and arenas to visit, there is a seating capacity requirement. This is in place to try and weed out facilities that are just comprised of sets of bleachers and not really a “Stadium”. It generally works, but it is inevitable to run into some bare-bones facilities, especially in the world of football. Enter the visit I had this weekend, where we added Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium to the completed list at the College of Brockport. The school is one of 40 Division II or III football teams that have a stadium on The List and while the capacity of these select 40 are around many teams at the FCS level, the “Stadium” is much simpler. That’s not to say there aren’t any nice ones in D3 (check out Mary Hardin-Baylor, Linfield and Cortland), it’s just that this one was not it. 

It was cold and windy in the Rochester area, especially given the 80-degree weather just a few days earlier, thus making the wind all the more biting. I layered up with winter clothing and after driving through the pleasant village main street, I arrived on campus about 30 minutes before kickoff. While growing up in the region, I’ve been to the college a couple times, for things I don’t remember, but this was my first football game. In 1979, Brockport hosted the Special Olympics, a fact that surprises many when hearing it for the first time. It was a wonderful, grand event and it resulted in the current stadium which was renamed from “Special Olympics Stadium” to “Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium”, in honor of the woman who founded the organization. There are also two remarkable sculptures on campus in honor of the games and these are not far from the parking lot, so I checked them out before heading in. They are impressive works and these gifts from a Soviet artist in the late 70s is a rare happy story during the Cold War. 

Brockport’s stadium is touted as the largest in D3, but it is no more than just a significant amount of basic metal bleachers. It was homecoming and despite the crappy weather, a decent amount of people were on hand and the attendance number of 2,592 seemed accurate. They were treated to a decent affair between the Golden Eagles and Cortland. Brockport took a 14-13 lead into halftime and they extended it half-way through the third quarter when Nate Wilkinson made a ridiculous lay-out dive to catch a 46-yard pass in the end zone. It was a thing of beauty. The lead held up until Cortland finally put a drive together and they scored with 2:37 play to make it 21-19. With the crowd stomping the bleachers and raising the noise level, the defense made the stop on the two-point conversion and Brockport hung on for the win. The weather may have made things uncomfortable, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching a football game with zero media timeouts. It took 2:45 to play, which is about 30-45 minutes shorter than the agonizing FBS games, which I don’t know how more is not made of the slowness of those games. Anyway, congrats to Brockport. Numbers-wise for me that was: Stadium #177, Football Stadium #32 and Non-Division I Stadium #2 (Hersheypark Stadium was the other)

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Rockland’s Summer Home

Posted by Sean Rowland on May 24, 2016

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Amazingly. the streak of scheduled ballpark visits without an inclement weather postponement continues as the Rockland Boulders and Sussex County Miners got their game in ahead of the rain at Palisades Credit Union Park. Having a scheduled doubleheader and a 6:30 PM start helped as the 7th (last) inning featured everything getting wet. Having a scheduled doubleheader shows just how much sales & marketing controls lower-level baseball, though it is brilliant as the Boulders had their fireworks show between games. Less of that annoying game to be played on the field and an earlier start (8:30 – 9:00 PM) for the main show to bring out more of the younger ones. There was also a 5k going on that ended inside the park’s outfield walkway in the early innings. The Boulders really do a great job of being innovative and bringing people inside the doors. And it was a fine crowd for this second game of the season in mid-May. Upon arrival, I was taken aback by so many cars tailgating before the game. That’s something I haven’t seen for a minor or indy baseball game and it shows these fans make it an event. Given Rockland County’s demographics, it was no surprise to see the crowd made up of about 90% families with kids. As you would expect interest to the field was minimal and the concourses/other entertainment areas were consistently busy.

Despite all the corruption, money and subsequent debt that was the result of this ballpark, it is a great stadium from an aesthetic and hobbyist standpoint. The use of stone for many of the support and design pieces is an appreciated, yet natural touch given the nearby landscape. The exterior of the ballpark is a little odd and bare, but inside is terrific. Seats along the small, one-level bowl is angled towards the infield, while the specialty spaces that make the stadium standout. The Bridge Bar is a cool spot to watch the game and for adults to hang out in a bar-like atmosphere. Other outfield spots to watch the game make for a different perspective. A new thing to me are the loge areas framed by rock formations that are at the top of the seating bowl. I would assume this is cheaper than a suite and this exposed section still offers a private group a space to watch the game with food and drink (maybe this is why all but one of the above luxury level was empty). Great park and for more, check out the review: #171 Palisades Credit Union Park. The Boulders won the game easily 8-1 as they put up a four spot in both the third and fifth innings. Junior Arrojo had six RBI, which included a home run. Part two of the doubleheader was rained out.  

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A Big 4 Thriller

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 30, 2015

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In Western New York, the Big 4 is made up of the four Division I schools in the area: Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St Bonaventure (though the Bonnies are a bit of stretch given Olean’s distance from Buffalo-Niagara Falls). Annually, these schools play each other and last Saturday, I took in the first installment of this local round-robin by heading to Amherst for the Buffalo-Canisius game. This was easily the most entertaining game I have seen live in quite a while as the pace was high. Jim Baron team’s love to push it and score and the Bulls were happy to oblige. UB started pulling away in the second half, however the Griffs kept the deficit manageable thanks to the inside-outside tandem of Kassius Robertson and Phil Valenti. With a few minutes left, Canisius was down six when they converted a layup with a foul. A bizarre sequence then followed as Jamal Reynolds missed the free throw, however there was a whistle and then a five minute discussion. The Griffs then took the ball out of bounds with the crowd stumped as to what happened. It wasn’t until reading a recap well after the game that we learned it was an inadvertent whistle and Canisius had the arrow. This is where college basketball could follow suit with other sports and make an announcement as to what the heck happened. The Griffs took advantage by scoring on the ensuing possession. A three with :52 remaining got them the lead and then a terrific block shot by Jermaine Crumpton set up a couple free throws and UB was in trouble down three with :20 left. However, a Jarryn Skeete bomb from the corner tied the game with seconds on the clock and it was on to overtime.

In the extra session, it felt like Canisius controlled the whole period, but the game was tied at 96 with less than a minute to go. A bobbled ball out of bounds meant we had to endure a third video review (Please NCAA, make Coaches Challenges!!! I can’t take these non-stop periods of officials hovered over a monitor). A turnover meant the Bulls could hold for the last shot and they took it down for a crazy ending as a defensive breakdown led to two players following Willie Connor. All alone to receive a pass under the basket was Nate Perkins and he slammed it home. Canisius got a poor shot off at the buzzer on the other end and Buffalo won 98-96. What a great game and I was able to get the last minute of regulation and overtime on video here and here. Sorry for the fuzziness in part of it as I learned zoom is not a good idea on my relatively new camera during video mode. If you can hear a couple of my groans, it’s because I was pulling for Canisius. 

As for Alumni Arena, this was my second visit to the building, the first coming in 2004. This is such an ugly facility with the drab brown brick exterior and the sad “Alumni Arena” panel slapped on. The inside of the arena is strange too as the main seating is a three-tiered sideline structure that has the unique feature of the outer-most sections fanning inwards. Otherwise there is not a lot to like as many of the seats in the 200 and 300 sections have railings that obscure portions of the court. Seats are further from the court than you would expect from a 6,000 seat arena and that includes the other 3 pull-out seating areas (especially the ends). The one good part is the scoreboard and I especially like the metallic “Buffalo” wordmark around the top. Students were on Thanksgiving Break for this game, so the atmosphere was understandably down amongst the 2500 or so on hand. They applauded each basket and didn’t really get all that into the game, though they were certainly following intently. Only the game-tying and game-winning baskets brought the crowd to their feet (and it was maybe half of them at that). Another interesting note is the game I saw 11 years ago was also terrific as Buffalo tied the game on a dunk with no time left. They won that game in overtime as well and it came against Fairleigh Dickenson. Maybe I’ll try to catch the Bulls when their on the road too!

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Fly Eagles Fly

Posted by Sean Rowland on October 12, 2015

Lincoln Financial Field Interior

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I’ve driven by numerous times, seen the stadium from the parking lot on occasion and have been to seven other Philadelphia sporting events. This was finally the time to experience Lincoln Financial Field and Eagles football. On a picture-perfect October Sunday that began chilly and became comfortable, my brother from Rochester joined me for the trip. While planning the game, after I rubbed my eyes to see that the $40 parking charge was indeed correct, we opted for a different route that would save money and traffic headaches. We used PATCO, South Jersey’s train connection into Philly. The Woodcrest station is right off of I-295 and the train ride to Center City takes only 20 minutes. You can also buy a transfer ticket in Woodcrest for SEPTA and after I got into an argument with the mean lady at the ticket office we boarded the Broad Street Line down to South Philly and the Sports Complex. Side note on the two SEPTA employees I encountered…they were jerks. As a first-timer on the system, I showed the lady at the ticket counter near the turnstile my PATCO ticket which said “SEPTA” transfer on it. She just shook her head and repeatedly stated they don’t accept that. Instead of just asking for the receipt paper that had the actual transfer, I had to continually inquire why the other station would sell me a transfer ticket if it doesn’t work. All she had to do was ask for the slip instead of just shaking her head. Arrrgh. On the way back after the game, I encountered a woman who couldn’t even justify talking to me and would resorted to just pointing when I asked for directions to the ticket counter. This makes me want to write a post about mass transit system’s, since I’ve been on a handful now. For a later time.

Anyway…Lincoln Financial Field sits in a sea of parking lot, along with the Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Park nearby. There is at least the newly built Xfinity Live, which despite the crappy sponsor name, does have a handful of decent pre/post game establishments for fans. The tailgates were in full gear upon our arrival with a mixture of smells throughout our walk as footballs were flying and fans were having a good time, despite the nervousness of what lies ahead for the 1-3 Eagles. We walked around the stadium as I checked out all aspects and one thing quite apparent was the usage of solar panels and wind turbines. It’s a visible notice of the great things the Eagles have done to use renewable energy. The Linc’s varied exterior design culminates at the North End Zone, where the mostly glass enclosure acts as a gathering before the inner gates open. I enjoyed checking out the displays and team store inside, while the outside plaza had a nice mix of food trucks, music and entertainment. Inside the stadium, I thoroughly liked the design and it reminded me a bit of the great ballpark across the street as the use of angles to the seating bowl made for great sightlines. Various quirks gave the layout a non-uniform appearance, while the little touches like leaving an opening to see the city skyline and blending the Eagles logo into the upper seats all act to enhance the home.

We settled into our Section 107 seats and got goosebumps as a Rocky-themed montage brought the Eagles out. There was hardly an empty seat to be found for this game and anyone who watches NFL RedZone knows that there are only a few places in the league where true sellouts actually occur. The fans were jacked up and I was more than impressed by them, especially given the Eagles offensive ineptitude coming in. They were very loud, frequently rose to their feet and of course had the capability to boo. This was much louder than the Giants game I saw five years ago and (I hate to say it) the Linc created more noise than the Ralph. We had plenty of opportunities to hear “Fly Eagles Fly” in full throat as Philadelphia dominated the game and put up 28 points in the second half against a putrid Saints defense. Initially, it looked like this game would follow the earlier ones that Chip Kelly has drawn so much flak for. Sam Bradford threw a pair of red zone INTs and it was only 10-7 at the half. But 519 yards of offense was too much and the Eagles won 39-17.
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Lincoln Financial Field Interor

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After a great day at Lincoln Financial Field, we crammed into the subway like sardines and after anxiously waiting for departure, quickly made it to Center City (downtown). Each time I’m in Philly, I always become awestruck at the wonderful architecture at City Hall. I wanted to have my brother try his first Philly cheesesteak, so we went to Steve’s Prince of Steaks for dinner. So of course, he orders a chicken steak…Argh. I on the other hand, quite enjoyed mine. But, I do have to say the one I had at Larry’s after the Saint Joseph’s game was a little better. We then hopped back on PATCO and drove back home after an enjoyable day. I’ll have a full stadium review up later in the week and one for Stadium Journey will come out too. One other note…There are 9 stadiums on The List that are located in Philadelphia and this was visit #8. The last one is Temple’s McGonigle Hall (volleyball), which I may visit next month.
 

 

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Back at Sahlen’s Stadium

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 20, 2015

Sahlens Interior

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In prior posts, I’ve talked about the plight of the Rochester Rhinos soccer team, so I won’t do that here. However, I will highly recommend an excellent piece by Empire of Soccer on The Rise and Fall of the Rochester Rhinos. Very well done. I’m back in Upstate New York for an extended weekend with the family and last Saturday went to check out USL action as the Rhinos took on Charlotte at a muggy Sahlen’s Stadium. I would say there were about 3,000 on hand for the game, which is still decent for the third division, but the crowd looks small in the 13,768 seat stadium. It was good to see more die-hard supporters on hand as the Oak Street Brigade had about 30 people to stand, chant, sing and cheer all game. There’s also the Flower City Stampede at the other end, but with maybe 8 of that group and competing songs, it’s definitely for the best if they just headed over to Section 101 and join the Brigade. The crowd did the “Rochester”…”Rhinos” chant and they got on the refs during this game. It’s a good game atmosphere, I just wish the team would stop making it so minor-league Americana. There’s music played during each throw-in/corner kick, there’s t-shirt tosses, mascots, cheerleaders. This is soccer people! While I know the Rhinos have one of the best crowds/overall atmosphere’s in the USL, it’s so hard for me to judge it fairly when I’ve been to countless games in the 90s where the place was wild. As for the match, the first half was lackluster, while the Rhinos were the much better team in the second half. They pushed Charlotte and had a few chances (including a disallowed goal), but in the end, the final was a disappointing 0-0 draw.

Sahlen’s Stadium has a great design that is intimate and the upper-deck on the north side of the stadium features an awesome overhead view to go along with the city skyline in the background. However, the main issue with the stadium is the lack of care. The scoreboard is an embarrassing eyesore with handfuls of missing and distorted panels. Meanwhile, the concourses and walkways have so much blank space. Nowhere is there acknowledgment of the team’s four championships in their early years. Or even a mention of the old Lancers back in the NASL. Rochester native Abby Wambach just gets the walkway named after her and nothing else on the city’s biggest stars. Only small plaques for the team’s hall of fame sit on one wall. There could be so much done to liven up the place. For the game, we parked at the parking lot near Frontier Field, where the Red Wings were playing. That walk from Frontier to Sahlen’s is not long, but the change in scenery and overall feel is drastic as one goes from the enjoyable success of nearly 20 year old Frontier to a great pitch, but flawed stadium at Sahlen’s that is marked with sadness by what could have been.

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A Ride on the Rails

Posted by Sean Rowland on July 14, 2015

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Out of the 51 minor league ballparks I have visited, MCU Park in Brooklyn is rated the best. Given this distinction, I felt I owed it to the other ballparks (silly, I know) to truly make sure it is the best since my last visit came in the earlier years of this stadium chasing project. My first experience in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn was indeed awesome, except the whole getting there part. Driving in this madhouse was not good times and looking at the NYPL schedule, a Sunday game would work the best, which coincides with jammed beaches. So mass transit was the alternative and it meant an experience on three train/subway services. I’ve been around NYC several times, so while none of this travel was new, it still is a bit unnerving for me given my bloodlines not being from the area.

On Saturday, our family drove out to Long Island for a surprise retirement party thrown for my wife’s uncle. On the way, I left my car at the Denville NJ Transit station for the end of my journey. While my wife took the car back home Sunday, I got on the LIRR at Farmingdale, where the 30 minute train ride would stop at the transfer station in Jamaica. I’ve always heard “Never change in Jamaica” and been perplexed by that since that is where most commuters need to change if going to other places that their train does not offer. The process seemed simple enough and the TV screen showed Track 2 as the spot for the train to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Station. Fail. Turned out to be on Track 1 and only when I saw a few other people confused and scrambling to the other side did I realize their error. Once I made it to Brooklyn, it was off to the subway, where I managed to find vending machines only accepting EXACT change, so there’s now some extra cash on my Metro card that will linger for awhile. It was simple enough to find the D train that went to Coney Island (following people in beach gear added extra peace of mind). However, this subway took forever as construction on the N line meant that it was picking up those stops too and it was taking long enough that I asked someone on the train if this does indeed go to Coney Island.

It did and I stepped out into a refreshing ocean breeze that felt so nice compared to the heat that was baking inland. Hoards of people swarmed Surf Ave and though the chaos of the area is overwhelming, it is remarkable to take in all of the famous sites. Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Luna Park, The Cyclone, Boardwalk Games, The Beach and The Ocean. It’s hard to believe that Hurricane Sandy devastated this area just three years ago and seeing the resurgence is inspiring. In fact, Luna Park and its famous rides were in jeopardy of closing even before the storm hit and it makes the successful turnaround even more remarkable.
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MCU Park Interior

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Within this whole area is the terrific MCU Park, home of the single-A Cyclones and I don’t think there could be a better location for a minor-league baseball park. The place indeed remains a top ballpark and it starts with the way Brooklyn treats baseball. Respectful displays include the Jackie Robinson/Pee-Wee Reese statue on the outside and the Wall of Remembrance on the side of the ballpark. Inside, the stadium fits it’s surroundings perfectly with neon lighting, a boardwalk to the outfield seats and concession stands looking like the ones just beyond on the beach. The ballpark design incorporates all of the great outfield background and while baseball may seem like a sideshow to everything else going on, the fans are more intuitive than many other places. There was bit of a dropoff in atmosphere and crowd size compared to the last game I saw here, but those aspects are still decent. As for the game, the Cyclones dropped this one to Aberdeen 9-3, their first home loss in their last seven games (my 2015 ugliness continues for home teams). My journey home began with a 50 minute subway ride on the F train back to Penn Station and then the long route on NJ Transit back to Denville, where I took advantage of the free overnight parking. While it may be a pain to get to MCU Park, all of the other awesome intangibles make it a destination ballpark.

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Scranton…(What!)…The Electric City

Posted by Sean Rowland on April 27, 2015

PNC Field Exterior

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One of my favorite all-time sitcoms is The Office and whenever I drive by
Scranton, I can’t help but think of countless references. Instead of driving by it on I-81, this time I spent a day in the Electric City before heading to Moosic for a RailRiders baseball game at PNC Field. A day after snowflakes were in the air, it was still chilly, but at least the sun was out. My day started by driving downtown on the pothole-infested Lackawanna Ave and into the Steamtown National Historic Site. While Northeast PA is known for it’s former coal-mining days, the Lackawanna Valley also was the center of the Steam-powered locomotive area. The U.S. National Park system is fantastic and this site is no exception as they turned the former railyard of the DL&W into an indoor and outdoor museum. I spent nearly four hours here as there is a lot to absorb and the Roundhouse is especially cool to take in. For lunch, a few minutes away is Coney Island Lunch and in I went for a famous “Texas Weiner“, a Scranton staple consisting of meat sauce and onions on a hot dog with a National Bakery roll. Cheap and good, it made for a nice stop. When I went to use a coupon on my phone, you can imagine my surprise that it was for the “Other Coney Island”. I was eating in Coney Island of Scranton and wouldn’t you know, these two places are a couple blocks away and have been at Weiner War for decades.

After lunch, I walked to the Iron Furnaces, stone remains approaching 200 years old that were used to produce iron. It was then back to the Steamtown site, where across the parking lot is the Electric City Trolley Museum. This explains the city’s nickname as the first trains that used electricity to move started here. While not as well-done or expansive as Steamtown, this museum was worth an hour, of which I truly enjoyed learning about the development of inter-city transportation with these trolleys. Of note to those coming to see RailRiders baseball, the museum offers Sunday trolley trips to the ballpark. $20 includes a ticket and a 10 mile round trip ride on the 19th century trolley. Very cool. Since it was Saturday, I went back to the car and drove 10 minutes to Moosic for the game.

I was last here in 2006 to watch a playoff game involving my hometown Rochester Red Wings. Before planning this visit, it took me awhile to figure out how to quantify this stadium. Is it renovated or do I consider it “new”? With Madison Square Garden, I decided it was a renovation because while the inside was gutted, the outside was the same, so was the roof, the name and the team, while the history of the building was still recognized. Here at PNC Field, everything is new. Plus, the team spent an entire season on the road while they essentially re-built a stadium, so I’m considering this a brand new park. It’s been a topsy-turvy 10 years as SWB has gone from Red Barons to Yankees to RailRiders. While I like the RailRider branding, the ballpark screams Yankees thanks to the outside name sign, interior blue seats and boring light color. This isn’t a fault of designers as the name was choosen in the middle of ballpark construction, but I feel there is so much missed opportunity here to go with that rail theme (see Altoona on how to get that right). And what’s the deal with the porcupine riding the rails on the logo? The whitewash of the team’s history is also disappointing as you won’t find any piece about SWB’s past, save for a small retired number on the wall. 

None of that is to say this is a bad ballpark because it is indeed modern, clean and decent. The entrance opening is inviting with a band welcoming fans and message boards including game information if one is late. The concourse wraps around the park and the setting at the base of a huge incline is unique. As mentioned, it’s amazing that this site used to be Lackawanna County Stadium as PNC Field is totally different. The upper-deck has been replaced by a suite/club level and now wrapping around the field from each foul pole is a single set of seats. These have a decent pitch for sightlines. As for the game…yikes. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre forgot to wake up as their astounding 5 errors basically handed Pawtucket the victory. Typifying the contest was a key play in the 6th inning, where the RailRiders were down 2-1 and had a runner at third. Eddy Rodriguez fell asleep and got picked off, thus ending the threat and the inning. This was the first game of a doubleheader, so they just played seven and the PawSox won 4-1. It only took 1:41 to play, which is awesome! In fact, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins were playing Syracuse in Game 2 of their AHL Playoff Quarterfinal just 15 minutes away at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The short contest here would have been perfect for those looking for a two-sport day, something fellow road tripper Sean MacDonald loves (I have to try and meet up with him for the first time at one of these games). Alas, it wasn’t in the cards for me as I had to head home. Despite the chill in the air, it was a great day in Scranton and I’m now back on the board of seeing each of the ballparks in the IL North. Look for the detailed review (on the right) to come this week, along with a Stadium Journey write-up in May.

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Wowed in Buffalo

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 29, 2014

FNA Interior

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Both the NHL schedule-makers and Mother Nature lined up beautifully for me to get back to a Sabres game during the long Christmas Weekend as Buffalo took on the Islanders. Despite this being a “Gold” game, the 2nd highest tier out of 5 in Buffalo’s price structure system, I was able to score nice corner seats for half the price at $40. It’s been five years since the last time I made it to the First Niagara Center and it’s been rough watching the team hit rock-bottom with seemingly everything going wrong on the ice. As things looked dreadful to start this season (with one eye towards the prize of the 2015 NHL draft), the young kids have actually started playing with some heart and effort, turning in some nice results in the process. With Sam Reinhart a year away in Juniors, Zemgus Girgensons has been a stud, while others have looked good at times.

Walking to the arena, the landscape has certainly changed with the completion of the HarborCenter. While this blocks that nice view of the decent exterior sitting at the foot of Washington Street, this building is a huge deal for the city. With two rinks (including an 1800-seat one), a hotel and the massive restaurant 716 Food and Sport, this often-neglected section is better off. This is thanks to Terry Pegula, the region’s Knight in Shining Armour. God Bless this Man. As owner of the Sabres, he has made lots of great tweaks to the building since last I saw it in 2009, including the Alumni Plaza on the outside with a statue of the French Connection. Inside, Blue and Gold finally is the dominant color scheme.

After grabbing a Beef on Weck and snapping some updated photos, we settled in to our seats just as Doug Allen was ready to belt out the Anthem (The Finger-Point Guy!). I do love his rendition. Despite having a passionate following with often decent game turnouts (no matter the crapiness of the team), I was completely ready to blast our fan base in this space. Quite often, the atmosphere at FNC is dead and there is no energy in the building and this occurred even when the Sabres were fielding playoff teams several years ago. But on this night, the crowd was lively and even if maybe it was because lots of out-of-towners like me came back home and got to a game, it was great to see. Despite the energy, the “Let’s Go Buffalo” chants faded as the Islanders took a 3-0 lead thanks to a dismal and sloppy showing in the Second Period. In the 3rd, a Nicolas Deslauriers shot got thru and cut the lead to 3-1. Then shorthanded, Girgensons took a perfect pass and shielded the defender to put home a wrist shot that got the crowd really going with an extended ovation. With 8:09 left, Chris Stewart finished the comeback and the game was tied at 3. After an exciting overtime, about 80% of the building was full and the fans responded with a nice long ovation before the shootout, which the Sabres won. This was only the second time in franchise history that Buffalo came back to win from a three-goal deficit in the third period. It was an awesome night, something that I haven’t felt as a Sabres fan in quite awhile. 

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The Yale Whale

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 6, 2014

Ingalls Rink Exterior

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With college hockey so prevalent in my part of the country (the Northeast), I was surprised that it took until Visit #155 for me to see a college hockey venue. Now a decade ago, I spent plenty of time at the old barn (Romney Fieldhouse) watching Oswego State hockey, but that place barely held 1000. What better way to kick off a new genre of venues than at the home of the 2013 National Champions, Yale. The drive to New Haven is always a pain thanks to I-95 and I left work on a Friday, right at 1 PM so I could avoid rush hour and get some outdoor shots. Hoping for a long-term relationship, I would be testing out my new Nikon CoolPix P530 as an upgrade to my Canon Powershot A590 that served me so well over the years. 

It was around 3:30 when I reached Yale’s urban campus in New Haven, where parking is sucks. I had to swallow my pride to use a garage that would cost me $9 for just two hours. This was my second venture through the area and what a remarkable campus it is with beautiful buildings and an incredible tree-lined street in the middle of a city. The afternoon sprinkles paused just enough for dry pictures to be taken of Ingalls Rink, an architectural marvel created by Eero Saarinen. His 1950s design is a humpback shape that explains why the rink is called “The Whale”. This is certainly the defining feature of the arena and it gives the building unique character.

With gates not opening for another few hours, there was a little time to kill and somehow in a busy place I found myself alone at each stop. First, I passed the New Haven Museum, where I convinced the front desk to let me in for free with less than an hour until closing time. In a very quiet building, there was time to check out the history of the region, while the other portion of the museum was art (boring). From there, I walked down Whitney Ave for a quick bite, looking specifically for pizza, which is a staple of New Haven. Town Pizza would have to suffice and again there was nobody there (a little concerning at 5 PM, though I know its early). The salad was good and the pizza was ok, but nothing spectacular. Glad I used the bathroom after I ate instead of getting an impression of the place beforehand as yikes was it run down. I knew this was the best option in the walking area and it reluctantly had to do.

Then it was game time and I moved my car to the garage next to the arena for $5. Inside, the seating swails like the outside, where there are a good amount of seats in the middle before lowering around the corners and ends. It’s all wooden benches, so not the most comfortable, but they have been refurbished. Many choose to stand behind the seating bowl and this certainly offers the better view of the ice. That architecture uniqueness shows off inside too, where there seems to be oceanic ebbs and flows to the designs and walkways. The notable roof remains interesting to note throughout. While the surface area of the building is tiny, a recent renovation in 2010 added space and hallways below the seating bowl and Yale did an excellent job of filling this section with history and displays. That’s where you can always suck me in. As we got close to puck drop, the crowd was very slow to arrive, but eventually, they filled about 85% of the seats. While Ingalls is noisy acoustic-wise, it doesn’t really come from the fans, who mostly resign to “ooohs”, “ahhhs” and the occasional roar during a goal. Yale dominated the shot total for the first few periods and they built a 2-0 lead. Each time RPI cut it to one, the Bulldogs were there to push it back to two. In the end, the Elis pulled away 5-2 with the team ending the game saluting the crowd. This was a nice introduction to the college hockey world and I’m looking forward to more in the coming years. Look for a detailed review next week and an updated Stadium Journey entry.

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Ingalls Rink Arena Interior

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