www.thesportsroadtrip.com

- wadE

I admit it. I'm jealous of these two guys.

I wish I had the time and money to do what these guys did. Between 1998 and 2002 they traveled to a home game of each and every professional franchise playing in the four major sports (NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB). This covered 121 teams playing in 49 different cities.

Anyway, meet Andrew and Peter, a couple of guys from Buffalo who somehow had the time, the desire, and the money on hand to attempt this odyssey.

While these guys have started to get some recognition/notoriety for their exploits (as seen in the "National Media Appearances" section at the bottom of their homepage) and have expanded to include events like the Frozen Four and have future plans for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, however the best feature of this site is the stadium reviews of the 4 main sports.

I decided to cross reference my own thoughts on the venues I've been to with theirs, and I was surprised to see that I pretty much agreed with them...although I've been to Minute Maid (nee Enron) Stadium and Coors Field...and I liked Coors wayyy better; but besides that...they are right on.

I was also quite curious to see what they thought of our local stadiums here in Minnesota. To my surprise they actually had good things to say...unlike some other stadium review websites I've seen.

Xcel Energy Center

Minnesota's newest arena gets their top rating, 5 stars, and deservedly so. If you haven't been to Xcel yet, I highly recommend it. Comfortable seats, great atmosphere...and it helps that the Wild are putting a damn good team on the ice in only their 3rd season. Bonus points for selling mixed drinks on the concourses. There is only so much beer I can drink these days. The only minus points in their review is about the number 1 retired in the rafters for the Minnesota fans...since we are the #1 hockey fans in the world. I have to admit that is kinda cheesy...even if it is true!

Target Center

No surprise we take a big step down to 3 stars for our next stadium. Their first paragraph pretty much sums it up: "Having driven by the outside of this venue on our first two visits, we did not see too much to get jacked up about - a typical early 90s grey box arena downtown, and our thoughts going in were, "rip the ticket, enjoy some suds, see the game and check it off". So weren't we surprised that the City of Minneapolis and the Timberwolves served up an experience which really exceeded our expectations!"

Honestly, the Target Center is a victim of bad timing. A few years later, and it would have been designed much better (see Xcel Energy Center). However, that being said, it isn't a bad stadium, and as far as NBA venues go, it is better than average. In my opinion the fans could be better...it's a classic subdued Minnesota crowd that sits on its hands for most of the game. Maybe it is the post-season futility that's preventing people from really getting into it, but we could use some more energy in the building...KG can only do so much.

These guys actually have some very good things to say about downtown Minneapolis. These guys obviously visited on a Friday or Saturday night, since the Warehouse District is a ghost town any other day of the week. Regardless, this is the best feature of the Target Center, it's proximity to limitless choices in bars, restaurants, and clubs. (unlike the venue I'm about to talk about)

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome - Vikings

To my surprise, we maintain a 3 star rating for their trip to Dome to see the Vikings. Here are the high and lowlights.

"Tailgating is either prohibited or discouraged, and being a cold dismal weather day we saw none of it going on. We learned later that tailgating is permitted 'only in designated lots'." These guys visited on Nov. 12th 2000, a game against the Cardinals...you know, I'm pretty sure I was at that game... Anyway, first off, if it would have been anyone in our division (esp. the Packers) they would have had an even better experience. And secondly, yes tailgating is only in certain lots. If they would have found their way to the huge lots on Washington Ave. they would have seen that tailgating is alive and well...and back in 2000 it was even better than today.

"The going rate for parking anywhere within two blocks of the stadium is $25 and even $30!! $30.. to PARK, in Minneapolis folks!" Yup, it pretty much sucks. Minnesota has always been a football state, even more than hockey (believe it or not). The Vikings have been in the paper every week since football ended...they get year-round coverage here...and therefore, people know they can charge whatever they want for parking. I usually park about a mile from the stadium (the Washington lots are a good halfway stopping point) and it still cost me 7 bucks last year.

"There are no club seats or upscale amenities anywhere in the stadium. There are also no team stores, restaurants or food courts although there are many merchandise point of sale kiosks. At each end are small video boards, and a one color LED dot matrix board at one end zone which also highlights out of town scores and statistics." Right again... the scoreboard and jumbotrons are horrible, and there are too few of them. Oh, and don't forget "The sound system in the building is just atrocious.. voice and music muffled and barely distinguishable." That's right...better not lose your child here, or have someone try and page you... you'll never know. It's loud...but completely distorted...remember, we were the team that got in trouble with the league for pumping in artificial noise to disrupt the other team.

"Also, the lines to the menĀs and womenĀs restrooms were appallingly long. Probably the worst we have seen anywhere." That comes as no surprise to me. I hate the Dome's bathrooms. We are not cattle, we should not be pissing in a trough. Maybe I didn't play enough team sports growing up, but I have a hard time peeing when I am crammed in shoulder to shoulder with people I don't even know who are drunk as hell and looking to "swordfight" with me. I hate the trough...with all the fiber of my being. On the other hand...at least we aren't in Green Bay where people would just start peeing on the wall instead of waiting in line.

How could we possibly get even 3 stars with such a horrible building?

"The atmosphere in the building is just terrific... the team sells out all their games and has a waiting list for season tickets. Of course having a winning season for 17 straight years doesn't hurt. Everyone is dressed in their bright yellow and purple gear, helmets with Viking horns are in abundance. The intro has the team running through an inflated viking ship, led by two mascots - big burly guys with long hair and scruffy beards and dressed in animal pelts - the first "viking" is riding a harley and the second a snowmobile - only in Minnesota! These mascots do a great job entertaining and jacking up the crowds along the sidelines (sorry 'Billy Buffalo' you really oughta just hang it up!). The Vikings also have a great fight song 'Skol - Vikings - Lets Go!' which they play after each score. Kind of like the Bills 'Shout' song, the fans eat it up."

I couldn't agree more. What we lack in a shithouse of a stadium we more than make up for in atmosphere and spirit. Being a season ticket holder I've seen a lot of games the last few years and I still get chills.

Tough economic times like these aren't the best for getting support for a new stadium, but face it... the Dome is a dump.

and finally...

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome - Twins

I am shocked...the Dome got 2 stars for baseball...that's two more than it deserves! Much of what was said above applies to Twins games as well. Parking is cheaper, but no one really tailgates at all for Twins games. They do have some live music and food out on the "Plaza" in front of the Dome, but nothing terribly exciting. The lines for the bathroom are shorter, but with the twins doing well these days, it's not like the good old days back 1999 when you could have a whole bathroom trough to yourself.

My main complaint about the Dome is that it is designed for football. If you are sitting down the 3rd baseline in most baseball stadiums you are facing home plate...or at least you are angled towards the infield. In the Dome you are pointing straight towards the 50 yard line...which runs straight out to center field. So, by the 3rd innings you have a kink in your neck from continually looking right toward the plate.

As for our experts, they highlight two things. 1) The Dome Dog: "Again, we shout out to anyone who will listen about the enormous Dome Dogs here....Dodger Dogs cannot hold a candle to this mighty creation." As someone who has been to Dodger Stadium, I couldn't agree more...Dodger Dogs suck...they are small, dry, and expensive. 2) "One place of note here is the Twins Rally Room, located in a small space behind the right field lower concourse. This place appears very ordinary at first glance with a small bar and some inexpensive lounge seating. But any fan who wishes to tip a couple at a bargain basement price simply must come here. During the 2nd and 6th innings they have a 2 for 1 special where a pair of brews can be had for a bargain $3.25!!! We dare anyone, ANYONE to find a deal in major pro sports that tops that!!!!"

Look for me in the Twins Rally Room at the next home game!!!

- 04/10/2003


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