Friday, December 22, 2017

Now that I've visited every NFL venue... Here are my NFL gameday expirience rankings

Haven't touched this site in awhile but wanted to make another rankings list.  I started this 2017 NFL season with 20 current NFL venues visited and finished my last 12 in 15 weekends with only one vacation day used (looking at you.. Seattle).

A few years ago after I did all 30 MLB parks that year, I made a rankings list.  So now here is my NFL venue rankings list.  One thing of note... when I visit a stadium, I like to walk each concourse as well as see whats going on outside of the venue.  This is big for the NFL as most cities have some sort of team sponsored fan zone area as well as tailgating.  So when I rate a venue... it is based off the total fan experience.

32.  Stubhub Center - Los Angeles Chargers
This 26k seat stadium is a soccer first stadium and a great one at that.  For the NFL however, this temporary home doesn't work out quite as well.  Sure, most seats are good but tickets and concessions are super expensive to compensate for the lack of seats.

31.  O.Co Coliseum - Oakland Raiders

Oakland's fans are some of the very best in the NFL.  They are a passionate bunch though that has been tempered somewhat by the fact that the Raiders are leaving for Vegas in a couple of years.  It's too bad because these fans deserve better.  The venue gets bad marks though due to an aging stadium and Mt. Davis, an extra seating bowl that blocks the view outside the stadium during A's games.

30.  Fed-Ex Field - Washington Redskins

Stadium is far away from anything related to DC.  Expensive parking and traffic is a pain.  I parked on the street a couple of miles away and had a good experience there.  But if I lived in DC, I wouldn't want to see many games here.

29.  Paul Brown Stadium - Cincinnati Bengals

Of the newer stadiums, this place is very basic.  Recent developments outside the stadium have helped some but this venue is as plain as it gets.  The Bengals don't sell out much either so the atmosphere isn'twould it could be.

28.  Nissan Stadium - Tennessee Titans

Great downtown area across the river from the stadium.  However, the venue itself is already outdated.  Much like the Chicago White Sox stadium opened before the blueprint aka Camden Yards...Nissan Stadium opened shortly before the modern NFL venues seen today.

27.  LA Memorial Coliseum - Los Angeles Rams

Iconic venue and host to two different Olympic games.  Sort of has an empty feel to it for the NFL however.  90k seats here and a third of them not filled.  However, LA favors the Rams much more than they do the Chargers.  It will be exciting to see what their new venue looks like in a few years.

26.  Raymond James Stadium - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cool features here such as the Pirate ship.  Lots of seats in the sun.  Unlimited free refills on all you can drink sodas are a nice touch.  The Tampa/St. Pete metro area is pretty spread out so there really isn't a good central location for this stadium.  The current location is easy to get in and out of.

25.  First Energy Stadium - Cleveland Browns

Maybe deserves a higher ranking but I visited here in week 17 of the 2015 season.  It was cold, snowy, and the wind off the lake was horrendous.  Downtown Cleveland is very underrated and the lake front location is nice besides the cold and windy days.  Hoping the Browns can turn things around in the coming years.

24.  New Era Field - Buffalo Bills

Probably the best tailgating scene in the NFL.  The building is a bit dated but also is a good classic throwback to football in earlier years.  Fans are loud and into the game.  The "shout" singalong after each score is unique.

23.  Ford Field - Detroit Lions

This may be too low on my list but I haven't visited since 2004.  Recent renovations to this place have had good reviews.  I like how the street level entrance leads to the middle of the seating bowl area rather than the 100 level.  A big step up to the old Pontiac Silverdome and in a great downtown location.  I grew up going to games at the Silverdome but its time had passed.

22.  Arrowhead Stadium - Kansas City Chiefs

Another classic venue like the one in Buffalo.  Great tailgate scene and the fans are very loud.  One of the only places I've been to outdoors that made my ears ring.  One of the most underrated cities in the US.

21.  Everbank Stadium - Jacksonville Jaguars

Older venue that has been modified to keep up with the times.  Some areas of the upper deck are tarped off.  On my visit, seats were tarped off despite "selling out" and a 9-4 record.  Fanduelville is a fun party area with swimming pools and a outdoor bar area open after the game.

19/20.  Metlife Stadium - New York Jets and Giants

Modern stadium with a lot of amenities  Very sterile environment though and the location can be hard to get to.  The Giants have a nice hall of fame area and display.  Sit in section 146 if here.  There are big screens behind you with the nfl red zone on plus your current game.

18.  University of Phoenix Stadium - Arizona Cardinals

An impressive looking stadium both inside and out.  A cool feature about this place is their field is on rollers and can be placed outside for sunlight, watering, etc.  This venue would be better if it were downtown or near the rail line.  The NHL venue is on the same complex as the Cardinals place.

17.  Bank of America Stadium - Carolina Panthers

Had a fun time here.  Great up and coming city and state.  The venue has the flags of both NC and SC hanging, a shout out to the name "Carolina' and that region.  Keep pounding!

16.  Levi Stadium - San Francisco 49ers

A venue with a lot of modern features and excellent standing room spots downstairs.  If one doesn't mind standing, they never have to leave the lower bowl.  Too many seats in the sun here and the location of the stadium makes it hard to get to by a lot of this regions populace.

15.  NRG Stadium - Houston Texans

Retractable roofed stadium.  Big scoreboards and great fans.  Located right next to the Astrodome which still stands although it isn't used for anything now.

14.  Lincoln Financial Field - Philadelphia Eagles

The city of Philadelphia did a great job in planning out their sports complex.  All four major pro sports teams play next to each other.  Philly Live is a nice bar and entertainment area.

13.  M&T Bank Stadium - Baltimore Ravens

Nice downtown location in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore.  Very underrated city with lots of great bars and things to do downtown.  Located right off the light rail line.  Look for the Memorial Stadium tribute outside the stadium.

12.  AT&T Stadium - Dallas Cowboys

Everything is bigger in Texas and this place proves it.  Biggest stadium capacity in the NFL.  60 yard long big screen.  Lots to do and see inside the stadium.  Also is one of the most expensive tickets and concessions are pricey.  I bought a standing room ticket and was able to move around quite a bit.

11.  Sports Authority Field at Mile High - Denver Broncos

Another stadium where the fans are super loud.  Wide seats and plenty of legroom here.  Rocky Mountain thunder aka fans slamming their seats makes for a unique sound.  The city of Denver is one of the best for things to do or see.

10.  Gillette Stadium - New England Patriots

Very nice stadium with lots of history on display around the stadium.  Fans in Revolutionary War gear are a good look here.  There is an outdoor mall outside the stadium as well.  The only downer here is how far away the place is from Boston.  Hence the name... New England.

9.  Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis Colts

Great downtown location.  A new outdoor party area pregame is a nice touch here.  Downtown Indianapolis turns into Colts central on Sundays as fans pour out from all corners of town to see the Colts.  Lots of history and cool things to see on the concourse.  Retractable roof and windows.  Slight bad marks for the AFC Finalist banners hanging though.

8.  Mercedes Benz Superdome - New Orleans Saints

An older stadium but has been renovated in recent years.  Great concessions choices like cajun food and other local delicacies.  This stadium has an epic feel to it.  Downtown New Orleans is like Disney World for adults due to what there is to do and also the Bourbon Street area.

7.  US Bank Stadium - Minnesota Vikings

Opened in 2016 and has lots of modern comforts and amenities.  The "glass" roof and facade have a certain wow factor.  Probably the most picturesque venue in the NFL.  Located right on a light rail stop and in a great downtown area.

6.  Lambeau Field - Green Bay Packers

Lots of history here and probably the most college football like atmosphere in the NFL.  The Packers Hall of Fame is a must visit.

5.  Mercedes Benz Stadium - Atlanta Falcons

The newest NFL venue and the rare one built with fans in mind instead of the .usual "get fans in the door and take as much money as you can" model.  Cheap concessions and good standing room areas.  The only downer is the lack of exits in this place.  It is hard to leave in its current setup.

4.  Hard Rock Stadium - Miami Dolphins

New renovations have made this a top notch stadium.  Easy entry and exit points.  Self scanning gates.  The canopy covers most of the seats on hot Miami days.  I was here last in 2011 and there is a night and day difference between then and now.  This place will be around for a long time.

3.  Heinz Field - Pittsburgh Steelers

Great downtown location.  The fans here are loud and into the game at all times.  Wide seats and plenty of legroom.

2.  Century Link Stadium - Seattle Seahawks

Had a great time here.  Seattle is one of the best cities to visit and there are lots of places to hang out before and after the game.  The fans or "12s" are very loud.  The stadium is constructed in a way to maximize crowd noise.

1.  Soldier Field - Chicago Bears

Newly renovated and some people don't like the new version.  I love it and have never had to sit in the upper decks here.  The standing room areas downstairs are very close to the field.  the lakefront location is nice and a great downtown area sits not too far away.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Top Games Attended

Last year, I did a sports travel year in review which was a fun exercise and I figured on doing another one for 2016.   In total…. I saw 182 live sporting events in 2016, 9 new NFL stadiums, 9 new NBA stadiums, 6 new D1 FBS NCAA college football stadiums, 4 new NHL stadiums, and 10 MLB stadiums.  Also, I attended the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in Louisville Kentucky, the Round of 64 in St. Louis, the men’s/women’s Big Ten basketball tournament in Indianapolis, the Women’s Final 4 in Indianapolis, and spring training baseball in Montreal.  Most importantly… the year in sport was spent with friends and family across North America.  So, without further ado…. Here are my top 16 sports events attended in 2016 as inspired by my love for live NCAA tournament games:

#16:  Montreal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs 1/23/2016
A great day had in Toronto on this day for a hockey tripleheader.  Started the day with a Canadien women’s hockey league all-star game at 1pm.  Saw the Toronto Marlies AHL hockey team at 4pm.  Ended with this gem at the Air Canada Center.  The Leafs had a hall of fame ceremony before the game.

#15:  Miami Marlins @ Milwaukee Brewers 4/29/2016
Most baseball games are rather mundane but this one was special.  The Brewers turned a triple play in this one and the Marlins had a no hitter going through 8 1/3 innings before the Brewers got their first hit.  After their first hit, Milwaukee scored three runs and had the bases loaded in a 6-3 game before Miami closed it out.

#14:  NY Red Bulls @ DC United 8/21/2016
This one wasn’t as much fun for the game itself as it was to see RFK Stadium for the first time.  Opening in 1961, this stadium played host to multiple MLB teams, the Washington Redskins, and multiple big time events.

#13:  Jamaica vs Venezuela
This Gold Cup soccer match was played at Soldier Field.  It was neat to see the Gold Cup played in the states and fun to see a game in an epic setting.

#12:  Women’s Final 4 -  4/3/2016
This event comes to Indianapolis every five years as does the men’s final four.  Unbeaten UCONN steamrolled the competition again this year.  In the other semi, Syracuse beat Washington.  I didn’t see the final this year due to seeing the Reds opener in Cincy.  I did see the 2011 women’s final in Indy.

#11:  Milwaukee Brewers vs St Louis Cardinals – 7/2/2016
This one wasn’t so much for the game itself but instead… the company I was with.  A friend of mine told me that he had great seats and all you can eat food/drink.  He had an extra and the tickets were free for him.  As it turns out… it was a second row behind the plate seat in the owner’s seats.  Literally.  This was a great weekend as I saw 2 Cards games, a Guns and Roses concert in Chicago, and a Yankees-White Sox game on the 4th of July.

#10:  Michigan Wolverines vs #10 Indiana - 3/11/2016
Michigan needed this win to get into the NCAA tournament.  Indiana had won the big ten regular season title.  Michigan hit a three at the buzzer to move onto the semis.  I saw every game of the big ten women’s and men’s tournament games this year at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  26 games total in an 11 day stretch.  This one was the best of a very good bunch of games. 

#9:  Washington Redskins vs New York Giants – 9/25/2016
A great game at a new (to me) NFL venue which was won by the Redskins 29-27 at MetLife Stadium.  Bought a $105 face value seat for $40 on the street.  Stubhub get in price was $128.  Went through heck to get to the game via public transportation.  Had to use credits or else they would expire meaning a crazy same day fly in and fly out kind of day. 

#8: Indy 500 – 5/29/2016
Biggest single day sporting event in the world at 350,000 or so fans in attendance.  An absolutely crazy day.  I admit to knowing little about auto racing but this event was for the people watching.  As a friend dubbed it: “the great American sh^tshow”. 

#7:  Kansas City Chiefs vs Houston Texans (Wild Card playoff) – 1/10/2016
Had a fun time with the KC crew and witnessed a KC blowout win vs Houston, 30-0.  This one was such a laugher that Chiefs fans had free reign on the lower deck in the 4th quarter.  Also, toured the NASA space center before the game including the Mission Control Center (!!).

#6:  NFL Hall of Fame Ceremony – 8/6/2016
This was my first time doing something like this and it was a lot of fun.  Bret Favre was the big draw here as well as locals… Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy.  Had a ticket to the Hall of Fame Game the next night but that one was cancelled due to poor field conditions.

#5:  Boston Red Sox vs Toronto Blue Jays (in Montreal) – 4/2/2016
This was a spring training game but the draw was seeing live baseball at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.  I had never seen an Expos home game so it was fun to see this place packed for baseball.

#4:  Michigan State vs Middle Tennessee State (NCAA Round of 64 action) – 3/18/2016
Went to St. Louis for Fridays action and four tournament games.  Two of them were duds and two were classics.  Statistically speaking… the fifth biggest upset in NCAA tournament history as the two seeded Spartans lost 90-81. 

#3:  Villanova-Kansas (NCAA tournament Elite 8) – 3/26/2016
After two boring games in Louisville for the sweet 16…. This one lived up to its billing.  Two top five teams faced off in a thrilling game, won by Villanova.  The wildcats would go on to win the NCAA title. 

#2:  Washington-Alabama (NCAA playoff semifinal) – 12/31/2016
Biggest game in stature that I went to this year.  An Alabama dominated performance.  Very fun event to see and be a part of. 

#1:  Ballpark Chasers + Stampeder Meetups 7/23/2016 and 8/20/2016
Two baseball games with activities and such.  One in Cincinnati and one in Baltimore.  Both events had a combined 200 or so fellow sports travel enthusiasts.  It was fun meeting people with the same interests.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November Sporting Recap including 3 New Club 122 Venues

It has been an easygoing last month or so for me... a time of normalcy almost.  For me at least....

Since I last wrote, I've added three new Club 122 venues to my list. 

The last weekend of October, I drove to Charlotte, North Carolina for two of them.  As per usual, I rented a car early that Saturday morning.  I had a nine hour drive from Indianapolis to Charlotte.  It was a fun and scenic drive through the mountains of Tennessee/North Carolina.  I got to Charlotte around 3pm and was able to check into my room and get a couple hour nap.  Feeling refreshed, I headed downtown to the Comcast Center and the surrounding neighborhood.  I ended up parking at a courthouse parking garage which ended up being free on the weekends.  This move worked out for Sunday as well.  From there, I had dinner at a brewery downtown before heading in to tour the stadium.  Charlotte's basketball arena (My 22nd current NBA arena)is nice.  Nothing really stands out with it but the view from the upper deck was fine.  I liked how fans could purchase food/drink in some spots and still see the game.  As for the game, Avery Bradley hit 8 three pointers and Boston beat the Charlotte Hornets, 106-98.

The next morning, I checked out of my room and stopped off at church.  It was the weirdest one that I've been to so far but you never know what you get... especially when you are relying on internet research.  The message was on par with what I've seen but the way it was presented was weird. Afterwards, I went downtown a few hours early to see a bit of downtown and the pregame atmosphere.  As per usual when I see a new venue, I went inside when gates open to tour the place and get photos.  The Panthers venue was my 19th current NFL stadium.  Nothing really stood out here but the place is newer yet and aesthetically pleasing.  For the first time this year, I sat upstairs at an NFL game.  My ticket ended up being in the very last row at the 30 yard line.  I actually don't mind the last row because you can stand whenever you want.  I had some fun people around me as well so it was good to converse with strangers for the game.

Afterwards, I checked out the NASCAR hall of fame which is a mile or so from the stadium.  It was fun but I will say this... no where near as nice or as much to do as the Indy 500 museum.  After this visit, I drove the nine hours back to Indy.  This may be the last time I drive that far in a weekend... it was a rough ride home.  With plenty of airline miles and cheap winter prices (booking far in advance)... I think I'm done with anything over four hours.

The weekend of 11/5, I stayed in town and kept pretty low key besides hanging out with friends.  I did take in an Indianapolis Fuel AA ECHL hockey game with my friends from Buffalo aka Peter Farrell and Andrew Kulyk.  They were on a big sports road trip and happened to be in town.  It was good to see them again. 

The weekend of 11/12, I went to Milwaukee to see family and friends.  I always enjoy going up there and it's always a non stop action type of weekend for me there.  Saturday night, I took in a Milwaukee Bucks game after dinner at Miller Park.  Milwaukee beat Memphis, 106-96.  We had lower level seats behind the basket for this game.  The new arena is being built across the street and will open in a couple of years.  On the way home, I a matchup between the east and west leaders in the NHL aka Montreal Canadiens vs the Chicago Blackhawks.  It was an exciting game won by Chicago, 3-2.

This past weekend, I traveled to Minneapolis to see my 20th current NFL stadium.  U.S. Bank Stadium opened this year and wowza was it ever nice.  It is a lot different than newer venues that opened recently due to the setting and construction of the building.  I liked the amount of daylight that was in the place due to all the glass on the roof and the open walls.  Two downers about this place that makes it only a 9 out of 10 for me.... first is the entrances or lack thereof.  It took forever to get to the concourse after my ticket was scanned.  And once I got to the concourse... it was basically a wall of people everywhere I went.  Luckily, the third deck wasn't that bad.  My seat was an obstructed view seat which wasn't really obstructed.  It was an aisle seat in the second row that had a glass barrier up so fans don't fall over.  I paid $50 for it while the going rate was $110 so I was happy.  After the game, I went to Mall of America for a bit.  It was good to be back in my old stomping grounds of the Twin Cities again.

I should mention I had a $16 round trip flight due to points and credits.  Also, my flight going home was delayed but luckily I went standby for an earlier flight and got on.  My body was happy for the extra sleep that I was able to get.

This week and weekend will be family time.  I am seeing the Clippers@Pacers Sunday.  After this weekend begins three weekends and 6 or 7 Club 122 venues.  Trail Blazers and possibly Seahawks 12/3-4, Sacramento Kings, San Jose Sharks, SF 49ers 12/9-11, and Wizards, Capitals 12/17-18.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!!! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Busy October for Sporting...

It has been a busy October so far as I keep hitting the highway almost every weekend.  It has been fun chasing down Club 122 venues as well as picking away at my number of division one football venues seen.

The first weekend of October brought me to Happy Valley, PA for a Minnesota-Penn State game. I rented a car bright and early from the Indianapolis airport at around 4am.  I have been renting cars a lot when the price is right lately.  I can usually get a car in the $10-$20 a day range on weekends and I have a credit card that has rental car insurance on it.  Makes it a no brainer rather than continue to rack up miles on my 160,000 mile Chevy Cobalt.  The drive up to Central Pennsylvania was an easy and quick ride.  I wanted to get to campus early as I was covering the event for Stadium Journey.  That and get some ice cream at the famous creamery on Penn State's campus.  I did have a hiccup though in the form of pouring rain a couple hours before game time.  Luckily, it let up and I was able to enjoy the pregame festivities.  As for the game, Penn State won 29-26 in overtime.  I wasn't impressed with Beaver Stadium but did like the atmosphere there.  The student section was one of the better ones that I've seen at a college game.  I can only imagine what a whiteout night game there would be like. 

Sunday, I drove to Washington D.C. to see the Cleveland Browns take on the Washington Redskins. I was able to nab some free residential parking here just like I did at Penn St.  I liked FedEx Field, home of the Redskins.  They have a marching band and a lot of nice features on the concourse.  As has been par for the course this year, I have been able to get lower level access without paying for it.  I made friends with some season ticket holders behind me and stayed with them for the entire game.  Their section was in the end zone next to the band.  As for the game, Washington won 31-20.  Cleveland was down big early but made a game of it late.

The following weekend, I decided to see two new football college football stadiums.  These two places brought me to 55 FBS Division 1 college football stadiums visited.  For the record, there are 127 of these at the highest level of college football and my lifetime goal is to visit every campus for a game once.  The perfect opportunity arose to see both Kansas and Kansas State in the same day.  Once again, I rented a car for the drive.  The University of Kansas is a nice campus located in Lawrence, Kansas.  Their attendance at football games lacks because it is a basketball school.  Knowing this, I was able to score a ticket for $5 on Seatgeek. 

Before the game, I was able to tour the basketball museum at Allen Fieldhouse.  The big draw was the Naismith rules aka the original 13 rules to the game of basketball by James Naismith.  It was a fun experience and I'm glad it was open to the public on a Saturday.  As for the game, Kansas gave TCU a battle but a big fourth quarter helped TCU pull out a 24-23 victory. 

After the game, I drove 81 miles west to Manhattan Kansas aka the Little Apple.  It's a small college town in some surprisingly hilly countryside for the state of Kansas.  I didn't have a ticket to this game since it was going for $50 at the cheapest online as well as $65 face value.  A big challenge was out for me since the State of Kansas has rules against buying/selling on state property aka college campuses.  After an hour of searching and being prepared to walk away without seeing the game, I saw a father and daughter holding up an extra.  I had two twenty dollar bills in my pocket at the ready and asked them how much they wanted.  The father said twenty will work.  Worked for me!

Kansas State has a very good game day atmosphere.  Very rowdy and loud.  On this night, they took on the pass happy Texas Tech Raiders football team.  Tech had 330 yards passing at the half in a 31-28 halftime deficit.  Tech ended up with 500 yards passing but Kansas St won 44-38.

On 10/15, I drove to Columbus Ohio to see some NHL action.  I had wanted to see the Cleveland Indians take on the Blue Jays in ALCS baseball action.  Buy a ticket on the street, etc.  However, I had a sleepless night which woke me up at midnight and I couldn't fall back asleep until four am.  Next thing I know... my alarm clock read 11 and I had overslept it... turned my alarm off in my sleep perhaps?  Anyways, hockey is my favorite sport to see live so this was a nice Plan B.  I got a ticket for $15 off of seatgeek.  As for the game, Columbus lost to San Jose 3-2.  The Blue Jackets arena is my second favorite of the 16 I've been to... only behind Minnesota.

The next morning, I drove from my hotel in Cleveland to Buffalo to see my 18th NFL stadium.  This was well worth it... what a game day atmosphere!!  The Bills are widely known to have the drunkest fans in the NFL and they didn't do anything to change that when I was there.  I parked a couple miles out for free and went to work on buying a ticket.  The game was sold out and tickets were going for $110 on stubhub just to get in.  I was fully confident on getting a cheap ticket but it didn't work out.  Ended up having to pay $80 which sucked!  Still though, I wasn't going to keep waiting as tickets were surprisingly scarce on the street and I had struck out for quite some time that morning.

As for the game, it was Colin Kaepernick's first start at QB since his national anthem protests started.  The buffalo crowd booed him loudly and chanted USA USA USA before the game.  Buffalo won big 45-16.  LeShawn McCoy stuck it to his former coach (who traded him) by torching San Fran for 140 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Last weekend, I stayed in Indy and didn't see any games.  Instead, spent time with friends and family.  This weekend, I will be headed to Charlotte North Carolina for my 22nd NBA arena and 19th NFL stadium.  Stay tuned!!