Monday, October 18, 2010

RBNY at PPL Park - First Impressions

Viper should be by later today with his impressions of Saturday's 2-1 loss at PPL Park, including video and other assorted insanity from the bus trip down.  In the meantime here are a few of my observations about PPL as a first time visitor (I'll leave it to Miguel to dissect RBNY's mostly dismal performance):
  • PPL Park is a very nice MLS stadium.  The setting along the Delaware River is unique among MLS venues.  You can see all the way down to the Delaware Memorial Bridge on a clear day such as Saturday.  Food and beer service is fast and efficient.  Red Bull Arena could learn a thing or two from them in this respect.  It may lack the "wow" factor of Red Bull Arena, but it's a fine stadium, if you can overlook the fact that it has been built next to one of the worst areas of Greater Philadelphia (more on this later).
  • Speaking of "Greater Philadelphia," I was struck by just how far PPL is from downtown Philly.  I'm not a great judge of these things, but from the look of the skyline crossing the Commodore Barry Bridge, PPL is further away from Philly than RBA is from Manhattan.  One in the eye for those who complain about having to take the PATH to and from Red Bull Arena.
  • Security was very tight.  When our bus pulled into the designated "Boat Slip Lot," we were greeted by dozens of cops, as well as mounted police and even a sniffer dog.  No tailgating was allowed (not even a drop off alcohol outside the buses).  We were then marched into our own designated section, surrounded on all sides by PPL security.  On the positive side, we had our own concession stand and restrooms - and there were only a few minor incidents between fans.  The PPL staff seemed to deal with things in a fairly even handed manner.  The horses and dogs may have been overkill, but hell it's not my tax money!
  • The heightened security, in my opinion at least, gave the contest a little edge that it might not have had otherwise, so in the end maybe it was a good thing.  I still think the Philly front office is going to have to eventually consider a designated away area further away from the Sons of Ben and the other home supporter groups.  As the rivalry with New York intensifies and clubs like DC and Toronto make trips to PPL next season, there is a decent likelihood that things will eventually boil over.  I can only imagine what it might have been like on Saturday if a playoff position were on the line for the Union.
  • To put it kindly, Chester is a pit.  I can understand that communities aren't exactly falling all over themselves to welcome MLS, but this is far and away the worst stadium location l've ever visited.  Just a few blocks away from PPL you have boarded up properties and people selling chicken out of their houses.  Some of the local residents we passed on the way in seemed less than pleased with the addition of a massive soccer stadium at the expense of a supermarket.  The Union would seem to have one hell of a task on their hands in building ties with the community.  From what I could tell, there are few if any pubs or restaurants close to the stadium (someone correct me if I'm wrong).  In that respect it's a much different experience from a game at RBA. Tailgating, eating inside the stadium or pre-gaming in Philly proper would seem to be the only options.

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