Posts Tagged ‘sports travel’

Top Five Sports Power Weekends: December 24-26

Monday, December 20th, 2010


Christmas weekend does not offer a great deal of Sports Power Weekends, but there are still some great travel options out there. With college basketball taking a study break, it is up to Week 16 of the NFL, the NBA and NHL to carry up the SPW flag.

I present to you the five best Sports Power Weekends of December 24-26. To purchase a Sports Power Weekend package, please contact us at info@SPWtravel.com.

1. Pittsburgh –> Cleveland

Thursday
  • Panthers at Steelers
Friday
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (Canton)
Saturday
Sunday
  • Ravens at Browns
  • Timberwolves at Cavaliers


This Sport Power Weekend requires a bit of flexibility and creativity. Starting in Pittsburgh, catch the Panthers-Steelers game on Thursday night at Heinz Field. Friday morning make the two-hour drive to the birthplace of football, Canton, Ohio. Tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame and catch up on your NFL history. Either later on Friday or Saturday morning, drive one hour to Cleveland for the rest of the weekend. Saturday is an open day; you can visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens visit their old home and take on the Cleveland Browns. Football and family (or friends) on a holiday weekend sounds nice.

2. Oakland

Friday
Saturday
  • Trailblazers at Warriors
Sunday
  • Colts at Raiders


The Bay Area provides a nice one-two punch with the Warriors hosting the Portland Trailblazers at Oracle Arena, followed by Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts trekking into the Black Hole. Bring out your spiky shoulder pads with the insulated lining.

3. Los Angeles

Friday
Saturday
  • Heat at Lakers
Sunday
  • Suns at Clippers
  • Ducks at Kings


The term “White Christmas” doesn’t mean much in southern California. Expect it to be 75 and sunny, an apt climate for a weekend visit by the Heat and Suns. One of the most anticipated NBA games of the season takes place on Christmas day as LeBron, Wade and Bosh invade the Staples Center. It is up to Kobe and Pau Gasol to hold court as the Lakers host the Miami Heat. Sunday sees two of the most exciting players in the league on the same court: Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns and Blake Griffin of the LA Clippers.

4. Tampa Bay/Orlando

Friday
Saturday
  • Celtics at Magic
Sunday
  • Seahawks at Buccaneers


Another anticipated Xmas NBA matchup takes place in Orlando as the “Big 4” of the Boston Celtics visit Dwight Howard and the Magic at the newly minted Amway Center. On Sunday, an hour and a half southwest of Orlando the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Seattle Seahawks, a game with NFC playoff implications, at Raymond James Stadium.

5. New York

Friday
Saturday
  • Bulls at Knicks
Sunday
  • Maple Leafs at Devils
  • Canadiens at Islanders
  • Richmond at Seton Hall


With the Knicks making a resurgence and becoming relevant in New York again, this game on Saturday against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden has meaning for just about the first time since Michael Jordan’s second retirement. On Sunday, check out the comfortable confines of the Prudential Center in Newark, an easy train ride from Manhattan, to catch the Devils host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Honorable Mention:

The best of the rest are “one-off” Sports Power Weekends. Sunday in each of these cities brings a significant NFL game in a great city to visit during the holiday weekend. Unless Miami is your choice here, make sure you bundle up!

Chicago

Friday
Saturday
Sunday
  • Jets at Bears
  • Blue Jackets at Blackhawks


Green Bay

Friday
Saturday
Sunday
  • Giants at Packers


Miami

Friday
Saturday
Sunday
  • Lions at Dolphins


Denver

Friday
Saturday
Sunday
  • Texans at Broncos


Philadelphia

Friday
Saturday
Sunday
  • Vikings at Eagles

Top 10 Sports Power Weekends: December 17-19

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

As December reaches its mid-point, the NFL reaches its stretch run, the NBA and NHL hit their stride, and college basketball approaches conference play. This overlap creates a plethora of Sports Power Weekend options. I present to you the 10 best Sports Power Weekends of December 17-19. To purchase a Sports Power Weekend package, please contact us at info@SPWtravel.com.
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Facility Roundup: Dallas and Austin

Monday, December 13th, 2010

NFL:

Cowboys Stadium (Dallas Cowboys)

The Skinny:  This $1.2B palace is the largest domed stadium in the world, and sports the world’s largest HD video screen, which hangs from the 20-yard line to the 20-yard line, 60 yards long. The retractable roof stadium has hosted a number of events in sports and entertainment, including NBA All-Star Weekend in 2010 (with a record crowd of 108,713 fans), the Cotton Bowl, a number of college football and college basketball games, soccer games, boxing matches and high-profile concerts. The stadium will host Super Bowl XLV in February of 2011, and the Final Four in 2014.

Year Opened:  2009

Capacity:  80,000 (expands to 110,000 with standing room only seating)

Best Moment:  January 3, 2010. In a Week 17 game that would decide the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 24-0 to win the division in their inaugural season at Cowboys Stadium. One week later, the Cowboys would host the Eagles again in a Wild Card Weekend playoff matchup, with the Cowboys again proving victorious, by a 34-14 score.

MLB:

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Texas Rangers)

The Skinny:  One of the early retro-style ballparks, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington – which hosted the 1995 MLB All-Star game – incorporates features from Tiger Stadium, the old Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. Greene’s Hill, named after former Arlington Mayor Richard Greene, is a sloped section of grass behind center field that serves as a “batter’s eye.” The Rangers have announced extensive renovations to upgrade the technology of the park that are set to debut for the 2011 season.

Year Opened:  1994

Capacity:  49,170

Best Moment:  October 22, 2020. The Rangers clinched their first-ever American League pennant at home by defeating the New York Yankees 6-1 in Game 6 of the ALCS. The Ballpark also hosted Games 3, 4, and 5 of the 2010 World Series.

NBA/NHL:

American Airlines Center (Dallas Mavericks & Dallas Stars)

The Skinny:  In addition to being a state-of-the-art sports facility, the American Airlines Center is also considered to be among the best concert venues in the country, even being named “Concert Venue of the Year” by Pollstar Magazine in 2006. Forbes ranked it the fourth most lucrative arena in the US in 2008. The unique design that includes retractable seating makes for a very easy transition between basketball and hockey, and results in great sightlines for fans on the north and south ends.

Year Opened:  2001

Capacity:  19,200 for basketball, 18,532 for hockey

Best Moment:  June 8, 2006. In their NBA Finals franchise debut, the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat 90-80 in Game 1 of the 2006 NBA Finals. The Mavericks would go on to win Game 2 at home as well, but eventually lost to the Heat in six games.

MLS:

Pizza Hut Park (FC Dallas)

The Skinny:  Home to FC Dallas of Major League Soccer, Pizza Hut Park also sports 17 additional tournament-grade fields for youth and adult soccer, as well as high school sports and other events. The soccer-specific stadium located in Frisco has hosted FC Dallas since it opened in 2005.

Year Opened:  2005

Capacity:  23,500

Best Moment:  The stadium hosted the MLS Cup in each of the first two years it was open, in 2005 and 2006. Both of those games had thrilling finishes; in 2005 the LA Galaxy defeated the New England Revolution 1-0 in overtime, and in 2006 the Houston Dynamo defeated the Revolution 4-3 on penalty kicks after finishing 1-1 in regulation. The stadium also played host to the NCAA Men’s College Cup in 2008, and will host the NCAA FCS championship game in 2011-2013.

College Football:

Darrell K. Royal Stadium (Texas Longhorns)

The Skinny:  Keeping in line with the “Everything is bigger in Texas” mantra, Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium offers a 55 x 134-foot HD display board, one of the nation’s largest. With over 100,000 fans in the stands each week, the stadium offers one of the largest crowds in college football. The Longhorns have won 77.9% of their games in this stadium since it opened through the 2010 season.

Year Opened:  1924

Capacity:  100,119

Fun Fact: On December 9, 1988, Darrell K. Royal Stadium was the site of the 5A state semifinal game between Dallas Carter High School and Odessa Permian (won by Carter 14-9) that was the center of the Buzz Bissinger book Friday Night Lights.

Gerald J. Ford Stadium (SMU Mustangs)

The Skinny:  The bowl-shaped stadium within the Dallas city limits was the last on-campus Division I-A stadium to be built in the 20th century. It features Doak Walker Plaza outside the northeast corner of the stadium, honoring the former Mustang Heisman Trophy winner. The plaza features a replica of the Doak Walker Award trophy, awarded annually to the top running back in college football. In 2007, the stadium hosted a #1 vs. #2 matchup in high school football between Miami Northwestern and Southlake Carroll in front of 31,986 fans.

Year Opened: 2000

Capacity:  32,000

Best Moment:  September 2, 2000. In this inaugural game at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, the SMU Mustangs defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 31-17. It started a new chapter in the storied (but tumultuous) history of SMU football.

Amon G. Carter Stadium (TCU Horned Frogs)

Photo Courtesy of GoFrogs.com

The Skinny: The stadium has undergone a number of renovations over the course of its 80-year history, most recently in 2008, when capacity was expanded to 44,358. A $105M renovation is underway in the West stands that aims to enhance football fans’ experience at the stadium, with an expected completion by the 2012 season. The Armed Forces Bowl has been held here since 2003.

Year Opened:  1930

Capacity:  44,358

Best Moment:  November 14, 2009. The fourth-ranked Horned Frogs welcomed the 14th-ranked Utah Utes to Amon G. Carter Stadium, with ESPN’s College Gameday making its first appearance on TCU campus. TCU won 55-28 in front of the largest crowd in the stadium’s history, 50,307 fans.

Kyle Field (Texas A&M Aggies)

The Skinny:  Known as one of the most intimidating venues in college football, Kyle Field in College Station, Texas is nicknamed the Home of the 12th Man, an ode to Aggies fans. From “Midnight Yell” practice to kissing your date every time the Aggies score, Kyle Field offers a top-notch game experience. It is no wonder CBS Sports named it the best venue in college football.

Year Opened:  1927

Capacity:  82,600

Decade of Dominance: n the 1990s, Texas A&M was dominant at Kyle Field with a 55-4-1 (92.5 winning percentage) record. During that span, the Aggies put together two of the longest home winning streaks in school history, a 31-game winning streak from 1990-95 (fifth-largest in Division I-A history) and a 22-game winning streak from 1996-2000.

Jones AT&T Stadium (Texas Tech Red Raiders)

The Skinny:  Between 1999 and 2009, Texas Tech has spent $84M on on-going renovations to the stadium that have kept it modern and increased seating capacity by nearly 10,000 seats. Located in Lubbock, Texas, the stadium follows the Spanish Renaissance architecture seen throughout the Texas Tech campus.

Year Opened:  1947

Capacity:  60,454

Best Moment:  November 1, 2008. ESPN College Gameday made its first-ever trip to Lubbock to see Texas Tech knock of #1 ranked Texas 39-33 on a Michael Crabtree touchdown catch with one-second remaining in the game. The fans rushed the field (a bit early, actually), providing perhaps the greatest memory in the stadium’s history.

College Basketball:

Erwin Center (Texas Longhorns)

The Skinny:  Often referred to as “The Drum” because of its drum-like appearance, the Erwin Center is Austin’s premiere venue for special events and concerts, as well as Texas Longhorns basketball, of course. A 2003 expansion and renovation added 28 seats and increased seating capacity to 16,734, as well as a new Jumbotron.

Year Opened:  1977

Capacity:  16,734

Fun Fact:  The first sellout and largest crowd at the Erwin Center do not belong to Texas basketball. Lawrence Welk was the first sellout of the arena on March 12, 1978, and the largest crowd showed up for John Denver on May 6, 1978 to the tune of 17,829 fans.

Reed Arena (Texas A&M Aggies)

Photo courtesy of AggieAthletics.com

The Skinny:  The Reed Rowdies help make the arena one of the most hostile in college basketball, similar to the atmosphere that has made football games at Kyle Field so popular. Reed Arena features parquet wood floors, and set a record attendance of 13,717 in a February 27, 2010 win over Texas.

Year Opened:  1998

Capacity:  12,989

Hurricane Relief: Reed Arena has served as a temporary shelter for evacuees during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike. It served as the temporary home to Tulane’s basketball team in 2005-06.

United Spirit Arena (Texas Tech Red Raiders)

The Skinny:  The arena has played host to the Red Raiders and Lady Raiders basketball and volleyball teams since opening in 1999. The building is named for United Supermarkets, the 68-store retail grocery chain that contributed the $10 million gift to kick-off construction of the arena.

Year Opened:  1999

Capacity:  15,000

Best Moment:  January 1, 2007. Texas Tech defeated New Mexico 70-68, giving head coach Bobby Knight his 880th win, making him the winningest coach in men’s college basketball history.

Miscellaneous:

Dr. Pepper Arena (NAHL Texas Tornado & NBDL Texas Legends)

The Skinny:  Located in Frisco, Texas, Dr. Pepper Arena serves as the executive offices and home practice facility of the Dallas Stars as well as the home of the Texas Tornado North American Hockey League team and the Texas Legends of the National Basketball Developmental League.

Year Opened:  2003, reopened in 2009

Capacity:  7,000

Facility Roundup: New York

Friday, December 10th, 2010

NFL:

New Meadowlands Stadium (New York Jets & New York Giants)

The Skinny:  The $1.6 billion stadium opened hosted its first NFL game in August of 2010 in a preseason matchup between the two tenants, the Jets and the Giants. Getting to the stadium has never been easier with the addition of a New Jersey Transit stop directly in front of the stadium. The stadium is able to seamlessly transition between hosting Jets and Giants games over the course of an 18-hour process that is aided by interior lighting system.

Year Opened:  2010

Capacity:  82,500

Best Attribute:  The technology. The stadium sports four massive 30 x 118 foot HD display boards at each corner of the stadium, and more than 2,100 HD monitors throughout the stadium. If you are going to get food at some of the vastly upgraded concession stands, you will not miss any action with all of the TV coverage.

MLB:

Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees)

The Skinny:  The dimensions of the field remain the same, but just about everything else has changed as compared to the old Yankee Stadium. The concourses are nearly twice as wide, there are tons of food options, and the 59 x 101 foot HD video board in centerfield is among the best in the majors. With wider seats and more legroom, the new stadium may lack the history and tradition of the 85+ year-old original, but the viewing experience is on a different level.

Year Opened:  2009

Capacity:  50,287

Best Moment:  November 4, 2009. The Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series at Yankee Stadium, bringing home the franchise’s 27th World Series title.

Citi Field (New York Mets)

Courtesy of Mets.com

The Skinny:  The state of the art facility is much more intimate than Shea Stadium as a result of the reduction of more than 13,000 seats. The classic design was inspired by Ebbets Field, former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the wider seats angled towards the action, increased legroom, and widened concourses make the in-game experience significantly better. Concessions such as Shake Shack and Blue Smoke behind center field are hard to top.

Year Opened:  2009

Capacity:  41,800

Best Attribute:  Fans are welcomed through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, a magnificent tribute to the late Brooklyn Dodgers hero. An eight-foot sculpture of Robinson’s number 42 stands amid the 160-foot-diameter rotunda.

NBA/NHL:

Madison Square Garden (New York Knicks & New York Rangers, College Basketball)

The Skinny:  Known as “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden opened in its current location in 1968 and is the third busiest arena in the world in terms of ticket sales. Located above Penn Station between 31st and 33rd Streets and Seventh and Eighth Avenue is Manhattan, The Garden is the longest-active major sports facility in the New York metropolitan area. A nearly $800M renovation from 2011-2013 will keep The Garden alive for another 40+ years.

Year Opened:  1968

Capacity:  19,763 for basketball; 18,200 for hockey

Best Moment: MSG has been the site of some of the most historic moments in NBA (Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals), NHL (Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals), boxing (Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier), college basketball (home to the Big East Tournament since 1983), and music history.

Prudential Center (New Jersey Nets, New Jersey Devils, & Seton Hall basketball)

The Skinny: The Prudential Center is the cornerstone in the revitalization and renaissance of downtown Newark, and hosts Located in downtown Newark, just 2 blocks from Newark Penn Station, the arena is accessible via New Jersey Transit, PATH and Amtrak making it easy to get there. An externally mounted 4,800 square-foot LED display, one of the largest in the world, welcomes fans entering the arena, and a 6,000 square-foot mural along the Grand Concourse wall features depictions of famous New Jersey sports legends.

Year Opened:  2007

Capacity: 17,625 for hockey and 18,500 for basketball

Best Attribute:  With more than 750 flat screens and the Championship Plaza, an outdoor space designed to celebrate the Devils’ championship history, the fan experience at the Prudential Center is a vast improvement over the former home of the building’s tenants, East Rutherford’s Izod Center.

Nassau Coliseum (New York Islanders)

The Skinny: Located in Uniondale on Long Island, the Coliseum opened in 1972 and has housed the Islanders ever since, also playing home to the New York Nets of the ABA and NBA from 1972-77, during which time Julius “Dr. J” Erving was leading the Nets to the ABA title and winning the ABA MVP (1974). The Coliseum was nicknamed “Fort Neverlose” during the Islanders’ four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980-84; over the course of those four seasons the Islanders sported a home record of 141-36-23, including the postseason.

Year Opened:  1972

Capacity:  16,250

Best Moment: May 24, 1980. The Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 in overtime in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals on a goal by Bobby Nystrom that started the Islanders dynasty in the early 1980s.

MLS:

Red Bull Arena (New York Red Bulls)

The Skinny:  The soccer-specific stadium opened in Harrison, New Jersey, a suburb of Newark, in the Spring of 2010 and has become a big draw for metropolitan soccer fans. It is a short walk from the New Jersey transit station in Harrison, making it easy for fans from New York and New Jersey to attend. Sections 133, 101 and 102 are nicknamed the “South Ward” and are reserved for fans of the Red Bulls support clubs, making that area the rowdiest and loudest area of the arena.

Year Opened:  2010

Capacity:  25,000

Best Moment: July 22, 2010. French national team star Thierry Henry makes his Red Bulls debut and scores a goal in front of more than 20,000 fans during a New York Barclays Challenge game against Tottenham. The fans greeted Henry with a roar and he delivered, blowing kisses to the crowd after his goal.

College Football:

Rutgers Stadium (Rutgers Scarlet Knights)

The Skinny:  A recent $102M expansion pushed the capacity to more than 52,000 and was completed prior to the 2009 season. The on-campus stadium added a 38-foot x 112-foot video board as part of the renovations, and features a cannon that fires upon Rutgers scoring drives. The stadium has also hosted NCAA tournament soccer and lacrosse games, including the Men’s lacrosse championship games in 188, 2001 and 2002.

Year Opened:  1994

Capacity:  52,454

Best Moment:  November 9, 2006. The #15-ranked Scarlet Knights faced the #3-ranked Louisville Cardinals in front of a then-record crowd of 44,111. In what was heralded as the most important game in Rutgers history, they defeated Louisville and the fans stormed the field. It was known as “Pandemonium in Piscataway.”

College Basketball:

Carnesecca Arena (St. John’s Red Storm)

The Skinny:  Between opening its doors in 1961 and its renaming for long-time St. John’s legendary coach Lou Carnesseca, Carnesseca Arena was called Alumni Hall and was home to some high-quality basketball. The Johnnies play most of their high-profile games at Madison Square Garden, using Carnesseca Arena mostly for their early-season non-conference games.

Year Opened:  1961

Capacity:  6,008

Fun Fact:  Carnesseca Arena is the last venue in New York City that the NCAA Tournament was held; it hosted first-round games from 1970-74. Madison Square Garden is the home to the NIT and Big East Tournament.

Louis Brown Athletic Center “The RAC” (Rutgers Scarlet Knights)

Courtesy of ScarletKnights.com

The Skinny:  It has been called “louder than a 757 at nearby Newark” and it is definitely one of the loudest arenas in the nation. It has a trapezoidal design that allows the noise to resonate, making it an incredibly tough place to play. In addition to hosting the Scarlet Knights since 1977, the RAC (it was officially called the Rutgers Athletic Center until 1986 but still goes by the RAC moniker) was also home to the NBA’s New Jersey Nets from 1977-1981.

Year Opened:  1977

Capacity:  8,000

What They’re Saying:  “It is very difficult at the RAC. They have a great home crowd. The student body and everybody really comes out to support them. Just the way the gym is shaped, it seems like everybody is on top of you. At times, if you’re not focused, you can get lost in the game just by how intense the crowd is.”
– Former Connecticut Guard Ben Gordon

Sports Power Weekend Destination: New York

Friday, December 10th, 2010


December 17-19 Friday
  • Heat at Knicks
  • Predators at Devils
Saturday
  • Coyotes at Islanders
Sunday
  • Eagles at Giants
  • Hawks at Nets
  • NJIT at Seton Hall


Big Bite Out of the Big Apple

With so many professional and college teams calling New York (and New Jersey) home, hardly a weekend goes by without multiple teams playing here. It is not hard to find a Sports Power Weekend in New York in any season, but picking the right one can be tricky. As December rolls along, baseball and college football have given way to the NBA, NHL and college basketball, and the NFL regular season approaches its end. This creates a rare window where you can see the Knicks play at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” and a game from the perfect Sports Power Weekends league: the NFL.

The holiday spirit has cast over New York by the middle of December, and so has the cold weather. But that shouldn’t chill your excitement, especially with the Heat coming to town. With the Knicks and Giants both home, and the possibility of an NHL game on Saturday in play, there is a lot to be cheerful for this holiday season.

Travel note: With potential weather issues and traffic this time of year, it is important to know your options regarding traveling from the airports. Cabs back from LaGuardia are often in the range of $25 and take about 30 minutes depending on traffic to Manhattan. Cabs from Kennedy airport are a flat $45 plus tips and tolls. A more inexpensive option is taking the Air Train from the airport to Jamaica station, and then taking the E subway line into Manhattan. This will take between 45 minutes and one hour, but only costs $7.25.

Friday

  • Madison Square Garden
  • Lombardi’s
  • Lower East Side

Courtesy of Getty Images

They don’t call Madison Square Garden “The World’s Most Famous Arena” for nothing. Since opening in its current location in 1968, MSG has been the site of some of the most historic moments in NBA (Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals), NHL (Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals), boxing (Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier), college basketball (home to the Big East Tournament since 1983), and music history.

While tonight’s game may not live up to those lofty moments, the Knicks welcome LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat to The Garden in what promises to be an electric atmosphere normally befitting a playoff game. James and Michael Jordan are the only players who have scored multiple 50-point games at the current Madison Square Garden; it is always a show when he comes to New York in front of 19,763 fans and a tremendous media contingent.

Your next move should be from an historic arena to an historic pizza joint. The over 100 year-old Lombardi’s Pizzeria (take the F subway line from Herald Square to Second Avenue) is worthy of the incredibly lofty praise that has been heaped on it like cheese and sauce. Lombardi’s was the first pizzeria in the country, and has a story that will make your head spin (Scott’s Pizza Tours has the inside scoop for you as part of what could be a fantastic afternoon of pizza eating and pizza history).

There is no shortage of nightlife options while you are down on the lower east side. Right around the corner from the Meatball Shop is Arlene’s Grocery, a small, unassuming live music joint that promises a good time. Also, a few blocks north is Alphabet City in the East Village, where even more young-leaning bars reside.

Saturday

  • Sarabeth’s
  • Central Park
  • NBA Store
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • China Grill
  • Museums
  • o   Museum of Natural History
    o   Metropolitan Museum of Art
    o   Guggenheim

  • P.J. Clarke’s
  • Second Avenue

There are so many great breakfast and brunch spots in Manhattan that it is difficult to only offer one suggestion for starting your Saturday morning, but Sarabeth’s on Central Park South is a good option. Its location, just across from Central Park between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, sets up your morning nicely. It is up to you if you want to wander through the park and see what it is all about; the 18th is the final day of Winterfest at the Central Park Zoo, which is located just off Fifth Avenue at 64th Street.

Making your way south, the NBA Store on 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue is the world’s only NBA Store and is worth a visit. It opened in its current location in 1998 and will actually be moving in February of 2011, so this may be your best chance to check it out. With a half-court shooting area, video games, memorabilia and tons of merchandise, you are sure to find something you can wear to represent your favorite team.

Next up, a little holiday spirit in the heart of midtown. Head two blocks south to Rockefeller Center at 50th Street and Fifth Avenue to check out the Tree, the Ice Skating Rink, NBC Studios and 30 Rockefeller Plaza. If it is a clear day you can even go to The Top of the Rock, 70 floors high, for exhilarating and unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline. It isn’t quite as far-reaching a view as the top of the Empire State Building, but you will avoid that tremendous wait and those higher prices. You can then make your way through the rest of the plaza towards Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) to check out Radio City Music Hall and perhaps catch one of the several Radio City Christmas Spectacular performances that are put on daily.

After the show you will have built up a bit of an appetite, and the nearby China Grill is just the thing for you. Right across the street from the Museum of Modern Art, this Asian-fusion restaurant serves some great lunch dishes, including their Confucius chicken or crackling calamari salads.

An avenue west of China Grill is the 1-2 Subway line that will take you up to 79th and Broadway and drop you off just a few blocks west of the Museum of Natural History and the adjoining Hayden Planetarium. Just across Central Park and its Great Lawn over on 82nd and Fifth Avenue is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition, the Guggenheim Museum resides at 89th Street and Fifth Avenue. There is a whole lot of culture in a small radius in this city.

You do have the option of making your way to Penn Station to catch the Long Island Railroad to Uniondale station, a stone’s throw from Nassau Coliseum, where the New York Islanders are hosting the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coliseum opened in 1972 and has housed the Islanders ever since, also playing home to the New York Nets of the ABA and NBA from 1972-77, during which time Julius “Dr. J” Erving was leading the Nets to the ABA title and winning the ABA MVP (1974). The Coliseum was nicknamed “Fort Neverlose” during the Islanders’ four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980-84; over the course of those four seasons the Islanders sported a home record of 141-36-23, including the postseason. The Coliseum has since become quite dilapidated, but if you have the urge to catch an NHL game on this day, the trip from the city is easy and you can be back in the city for the nightlife.

If you opt to skip the hockey game, head down towards Midtown to P.J. Clarke’s on 55th and Third Avenue, a location it has maintained since the late 1800’s. P.J. Clarke’s serves up some of the best burgers in New York, and it will be worth the wait at the historic, if not cramped, bar at the front of the restaurant. Just a block east of P.J. Clarke’s on Second Avenue there are a bunch of bars that you can feel free to pop in and out of to see what suits your tastes. The bars cater to a mostly young professional crowd, but even though they all seem to be constructed the same, one may have more of a vibe that fits you better than the others.

Sunday

  • H&H Bagels
  • New Meadowlands Stadium

Courtesy of AP Images

You would be remiss if you came to New York but didn’t have one of the delicacies that helps separate the city from the rest of the country: the bagel. And there is no better place to have one than H&H Bagels. With locations on both the east and west side of Manhattan, regardless of where you are staying this should be your first stop of the morning. After devouring one (or two), your mindset should switch from food to football, as two of the NFL’s premier franchises are set to face off across the river.

With the New Jersey Transit rail line making stop directly in front of New Meadowlands Stadium, traveling to and from Giants and Jets games has become much more convenient. For maximum tailgating experience, driving and arriving early is still the best way to go, but if you are coming from Long Island, New York City, Westchester or parts of New Jersey, the NJ Transit (via Penn Station and Secaucus) is a great option.

The New Meadowlands Stadium made its debut earlier in the 2010 season and offers fans four massive video boards, one at each corner of the $1.6 billion stadium, and a tremendous number of TVs throughout the wide concourses. The concession stands have been tremendously upgraded from the options previously offered at Giants Stadium. More than 82,500 fans pack the stands each week for either the Giants or the Jets, who share the building. The stadium is set up to seamlessly transition between the Giants blue and Jets green by an interior lighting system. The whole process of changing over the stadium, including the field decorations, takes about 18 hours.

With the division-rival Eagles coming to town this late in the season, the NFC East title is essentially on the line, adding importance to an already heated rivalry. Make sure you bundle up; three hours or more in the mid-December chill of New Jersey is no joke. Especially since you can always count on a bit of a wait to actually make your way home, even if you decide to take the train, which is situated right outside of the stadium.

As your weekend in New York winds down, you will realize that even though you crammed an incredible amount of sports, food, and sightseeing into your weekend, you barely scratched the surface of “The City That Never Sleeps.” So hop over to the Sports Power Weekends tab, check out the next weekend that works for you, and contact us to make it happen!

Stadium Specifics: Wrigley Field

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

By Jared Cooper

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

There are few venues in all of sports with the tradition and cache of Wrigley Field. Home to the Chicago Cubs since 1916 after opening in 1914 as Weeghman Park, Wrigley Field is the second-oldest ballpark in the Major Leagues (Fenway Park, 1912), and with a capacity of 41,160 it is among the smallest in all of baseball. That homey, intimate feel only contributes to the atmosphere, however.

Nicknamed “The Friendly Confines,” Wrigley Field has seen its fair share of incredible moments. That tends to happen when you are the home of the Cubs for almost 100 years and played host to the Chicago Bears from 1921 to 1970. Recently, Wrigley has begun to expand its horizons, hosting the second-annual NHL Winter Classic on January 1, 2009 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, and putting on the Wrigleyville Classic between Northwestern and Illinois on November 20, 2010, the first college football game at the stadium in 72 years.

Traditional Features

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

There are few images in sports as iconic as the ivy-covered outfield walls at Wrigley Field. The distinctive Boston Ivy was first planted in 1937 by then-General Manager Bill Veeck, he of the family of master marketers. Since that point, the ivy has become synonymous with the stadium, and even though a ball gets lost in the ivy every so often, it has become an integral part of the Wrigley experience.

Past the ivy and above the centerfield bleachers is one of the last vestiges of the traditional 20th century baseball stadiums: the hand turned scoreboard. Wrigley and Fenway are the only two stadiums to maintain such a scoreboard, with Wrigley’s installed in 1937. The manually operated board has undergone some behind-the-scenes rehabilitation, but making cosmetic changes to the front of the board, or the stadium structure for that matter, has proven difficult because of the landmark status the stadium was granted.

Before getting the chance see the ivy and the board, fans get a good look at the marquee above the main entrance of the stadium. The red sign, installed around 1934, is painted in white letters and reads “Wrigley Field, Home of the Chicago Cubs” to welcome visitors.

The Experience

Part of what makes Wrigley Field special is the surrounding area of bars and shops, known appropriately as Wrigleyville. Prior to the game, fans can mingle and get in the right mindset at any number of establishments within a few block radius of the stadium. The area provides an incredible pre- or postgame experience for fans and visitors of the ballpark.

Until 1988 when lights were installed at the stadium, only day games were played at Wrigley Field. It wasn’t until MLB officials told the Cubs they would not be permitted to host postseason games without lights that stadium and club officials relented and installed lights. Still, games are best experienced during the day at Wrigley Field. There is a certain added element to the atmosphere that simply is not replicated during night games at the stadium.

A long-held tradition that has contributed to the in-game experience for Cubs fans has been the singing of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. After Hall of Fame announcer Harry Caray died in 1998, former players, local athletes and well-known celebrities have been invited to lead the crowd in a rendition of the song. Some are more equipped at getting the stadium riled up than others, to be sure.

What They Say About Wrigley Field

Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers:

“I played in both Wrigley Field and Soldier Field with the Bears and I must admit I really enjoyed Wrigley Field. You definitely had a home-field advantage in Wrigley Field, unlike Soldier Field, where the people in the stands are so far away from the field. Wrigley Field being a baseball stadium, the fans were right on top of you, behind you, behind the benches. They were close and they were loud and all the other teams sure knew they were in Bear territory.”

Former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox:

“It’s always been my favorite place to go.  Always.  Forever.  It’s the head of the class for some reason.  I can’t put my finger on it.  It just seems like it should never be touched.  It’s too much of a treasure.”

Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro:

Wrigley Field was my favorite place to play because I would much rather play day games and I loved to smell the bratwurst.”

Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane on 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field:

“It was amazing – the whole crowd, the whole atmosphere, it was really unreal. It’s like it wasn’t really happening. But it was really fun to be a part of.”

Illinois head coach Ron Zook on Wrigleyville Classic between Northwestern and Illinois:

“It was just a great venue. It was exciting. You think about all the great players that have played here and gone through here, I think it was something that our guys are going to remember for the rest of their lives.”

10 Live Sporting Events That Shaped My Fanhood

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010


Upon coming across a number of “10 Books that Influenced Me The Most” lists in the past months, I have been inspired to list the 10 Live Sporting Events That Shaped My Fanhood. I invite you to send me your 10 Live Sporting Events list (at info@SPWtravel.com) and I will share excerpts from your lists in an upcoming post.

Without further ado, the 10 Live Sporting Events That Shaped My Fanhood:

1. New York Jets 23, Miami Dolphins 20 (OT). December 22, 1991 (Week 17), Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida

This game serves as my inaugural Sports Power Weekend, as I attended this game with my late grandfather as a seven year old at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens. As a newly minted Jets fan, I witnessed Raul Allegre’s game-tying field goal with no time left in regulation and game-winning field goal in overtime to send the Jets to the playoffs. At that point my love of football and sports travel was cemented. I have since made a point to go to as many stadiums (in all sports) and witness as many games in different environments as possible.

2. Michigan Wolverines 31, Washington Huskies 29. August 31, 2002, Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Photo courtesy of The Michigan Daily

I had been to a Michigan game at the Big House in each of the previous two seasons while visiting my brother who was a student at the time. The game vs. Washington was my first as a student at Michigan, and it was a pivotal game right off the bat as Michigan was ranked #10 and Washington #9. From Chris Perry’s 57-yard touchdown run on Michigan’s second offensive play forward, this was a seesaw game with a ton of excitement and suspense. After Michigan kickers had missed three previous field goal attempts in this game, senior kicker Phil Brabbs had a chance for atonement with a game-winning 44-yard field goal lined up on the final play. Brabbs nailed the kick and the stadium erupted. In addition to the 100K+ fans already committed to Michigan in the stadium, 7,000+ freshmen became die-hards that day.

Note: Phil Brabbs has been battling multiple myeloma since being diagnosed in 2008. You can read his story at his blog here.

3. New York Mets 4, Arizona Diamondbacks 3. October 9, 1999 (NLDS Game 4), Shea Stadium in Flushing, NY

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

For the first time in my Mets fanhood, the team was in the playoffs and had some hope for a World Series run in 1999. As the Wild Card team in the NL, the Mets had built a 2-1 series lead over the NL West Champion Diamondbacks and did not want to return to Arizona for a decisive Game 5. A Mike Piazza injury earlier in the series forced him to sit in Game 4 and thrust backup catcher Todd Pratt into the spotlight. In the bottom of the 10th inning of a tie game, Pratt smacked a fly ball to the centerfield fence moving Steve Finley on to the warning track. Finley seemed to have timed the jump perfectly and landed without indicating what had happened with the ball. Two seconds felt like an eternity before Finley looked in his glove and dropped his head when he realized the ball wasn’t in there. Shea Stadium went wild on Pratt’s walk-off homer, literally and figuratively rocking at that time (anyone who has been to a game like this at Shea has felt the concrete under them moving in an exhilarating and scary way).

4. USC Trojans 32, Michigan Wolverines 18. January 1, 2007, Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California

Even though Michigan was essentially playing a road game against USC in the Rose Bowl, I still expected a Michigan victory and was pretty upset with the outcome. Nonetheless, the pageantry of the Rose Bowl, especially between two Rose Bowl rivals like Michigan and USC, makes it a special game. The 2 PM local start on a beautiful southern California day, the San Gabriel mountain backdrop and second-half sunset make the Rose Bowl the best setting for a football game in America. Even on a day when your team disappoints you it is hard to come away anything less than impressed and awed.

5. Italy 1, France 1 (Italy wins 5-3 on penalties). 2006 World Cup Final, July 9, 2006, Olympic Stadium, Berlin, Germany

The World Cup Final is an incredibly special event as essentially the eyes of the entire world are on this game. The festivities throughout the entire city of Berlin, from parades and parties to public viewings on huge screens in public squares, make the pregame atmosphere electric. The stadium itself was a marvel, especially considering its history and having hosted significant events during the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. While many games of this magnitude have a corporate crowd, the World Cup Final was filled with fans that lived and died on every shot and set piece. More memorable than possibly even the outcome for many people was the infamous Zinedine Zidane headbutt of Marco Matterazzi late in the second half. Witnessing a game of this magnitude, with the intensity and drama of a shootout for the World Cup trophy, further illustrated to me the power of sports and how it can affect so many people’s lives.

6. New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14. Super Bowl XLII, February 3, 2008, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

This game has different meanings to many sports fans. Patriots fans remember this game as the unceremonious end to an until-then perfect season. Giants fans remember the glee of slaying Goliath and becoming unlikely champions. Most sports fans remember this game as further proof of the old “on any given Sunday” adage. For me, this was the first Super Bowl that I worked at as part of the NFL PR staff. It is a surreal experience for a life-long sports fan to walk along the field hours before the first fan arrives through the gates and be a part of the behind-the-scenes action that goes into putting on a game of this magnitude. What was most foreign to me was watching one of the best Super Bowls ever played, with perhaps the most memorable play in NFL history (David Tyree’s Helmet Catch), and not being able to outwardly cheer. Cheering is prohibited in the press box, and in any case as an NFL staffer I had to maintain my professionalism and level head. Super Bowls are unforgettable experiences, but not being able to wear your “fanhood on your sleeve” is an odd dynamic to say the least.

7. St. Louis Cardinals 3, New York Mets 1. October 19, 2006 (NLCS Game 7), Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York

Uggh. This one will forever sting. The Mets were the odds-on favorites to win the World Series in 2006, but found themselves in a decisive Game 7 at home against the Cardinals to advance. This game shaped my fanhood in that something was taken away from me that night. As a fan I had experienced crushing defeats (these tend to happen as a fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Michigan football) but it was rare to be in a position to be so sure of a triumph only to come crashing down in such an unforgiving way. Having the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, down two, with one of the most feared hitters in the league batting creates an intensity and stomach sickness that is hard to describe. Seeing him strike out looking was absolutely the pits. 55,000 people were stunned and dejected. I was a total zombie. It took me quite some time to get even close to the level of excitement for one of my teams that I had prior to that defeat.

8. Michigan Wolverines 45, Michigan State Spartans 37 (3OT). October 30, 2004, Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

This was that proverbial rising from the dead game. Michigan was down 17 points with 6:30 to go in the game to Michigan State. One of my friends who grew up in Michigan had about five Michigan State friends visiting him and staying out our house. They were talking tons of trash in the student section and based on our lackluster play there really wasn’t much we could say back. Then Braylon Edwards took over. Braylon caught two ridiculous touchdown passes in the final six minutes of the game to force overtime and caught the game-winning touchdown in the third overtime. Being at this game will forever remind me that “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” and that, unlike many of my friends who left before the comeback, staying until the end is the right thing to do.

9. 1997 NBA All-Star Weekend. Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

At the age of 13 I was part of a group of 10 of my buddies to go to Cleveland for the NBA All-Star weekend in 1997. A couple of dads served as chaperones as we went to the arena for All-Star Saturday night and the All-Star game on Sunday. We went to the NBA headquarter hotel to try to get autographs and see if we could catch a glimpse of our NBA idols. Needless to say we were collectively in heaven. Two of our friends even made it on TV during the dunk contest holding up “10” cards for then-rookie Kobe Bryant. We still often allude to some of the hilarious stories and situations we were in at the time. Just more proof of the power of sports to shape memories and bring people together.

10. Australia 74, Samoa 7. International Rugby friendly at Telstra Stadium in Sydney, Australia on June 11, 2005.

There are few events outside of international soccer that can really enthuse a nation like rugby can in Australia. I spent a few months studying in Australia in 2005 and went to several Rugby Union and Aussie Rules matches, but when I decided to take in an international friendly at Telstra Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park and was taken aback by the national pride Australians have in their team. This wasn’t much of a game, as Australia romped, but seeing rugby played at the highest level with the fan support the game demands was enlightening. As Dhani Jones strives to show us in “Dhani Jones Tackles the Globe,” sports around the world can really explain cultures and bring people together.

Honorable Mention

  • Michigan Wolverines 27, Penn State Nittany Lions 25. October 15, 2005, Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan

With only one second left on the clock, Chad Henne throws a game-winning touchdown Mario Manningham on the final play.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23. Super Bowl XLIII, February 1, 2009, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida

Santonio Holmes makes a toe-tap catch in the back of the endzone with under a minute remaining to complete a game-winning Super Bowl drive for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

  • 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game Home Run Derby. July 14, 2008. Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York.

Josh Hamilton puts on an historic hitting display, belting 28 homers in the first round of the Home Run Derby in what was one of the most magical moments in the history of the All-Star game festivities.

  • FC Barcelona 4, Real Valladolid 1.  March 23, 2008. Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain.

My first Spanish soccer game was as good as advertised. The fan experience was top-notch and the home team came away with a convincing win.

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17, Green Bay Packers 16. September 5, 2005. Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

On the second leg of my Wisconsin Sports Power Weekend (Michigan vs. Wisconsin in Madison the day before), I made my first pilgrimage to Lambeau Field. It is a place all NFL fans should see a game.

Facility Roundup: Washington D.C. & Baltimore

Monday, December 6th, 2010
NFL:

FedExField (Washington Redskins)

Photo courtesy of Redskins.com

The Skinny:  The largest stadium in the NFL packs in the fans and houses a franchise with one of the richest histories in the league. FedExField is a good place to tailgate, and that is an option you should consider since the traffic to and from games can be a strong deterrent. The Metro does get you close, but you still have a long walk from the station to the stadium for the game. The club levels are top-notch, but seating for the general public leaves a bit to be desired. The fans keep flocking though. The stadium has been sold out for more than 350 consecutive games.

Year Opened:  1997

Capacity:  91,704

Best Moment:  January 8, 2000. The NFC East-winning Redskins hosted a playoff game for the first time at FedExField, defeating the Detroit Lions 27-13 in the 1999 Wild Card Playoffs.

M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens)

The Skinny:  M&T Banks Stadium is home to some of the most passionate and loudest fans in the NFL. Seeing Ray Lewis coming out of the tunnel on TV is fun, but seeing it in the stadium pushes this “event” to another level. The fans get as worked up for that as they do for a key play late in the fourth quarter. With updated HD boards, strong fan support, wide concourses and good food options, as well as a festive pregame atmosphere, M&T Bank Stadium is a top-notch facility.

Year Opened:  1998

Capacity:  71,008

Best Moment:  December 31, 2000. In the first playoff game in Ravens history, they hosted the Denver Broncos and defeated them handily by the score of 21-3. The Ravens used that momentum to win two consecutive road playoff games and then defeated the New York Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV.

MLB:

Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

Photo courtesy of MLB.com

The Skinny:  Camden Yards ushered in the “retro” ballpark era and continues to be considered one of the best and most state-of-the-art stadiums in all of baseball. Eutaw Street, just past the outfield seats, houses monuments to players who have had their number retired by the O’s and plaques dedicated to members of the Orioles Hall of Fame. Boog’s BBQ is a must-stop for some barbecue beef and pork when attending an Orioles game.

Year Opened:  1992

Capacity:  48,876

Best Moment:  September 6, 1995. Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games played, and hit a home run, in one of the finest moments in baseball history.

Nationals Park (Washington Nationals)

The Skinny:  The newest stadium in the D.C.-metro area, Nationals Park is innovative, accessible via the Metro, and provides a good gameday atmosphere. There is a good buzz pregame at The Bullpen, a collection of bars and concessions just outside of the center field entrance. Local institution Ben’s Chili Bowl is well-represented in the stadium, as is Five Guys, and panoramic site lines from the stadium offer views of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument.

Year Opened:  2008

Capacity:  41,546

Best Moment:  June 8, 2010. Hyped rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg made his major league debut for the Nationals against the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitching seven innings and striking out 14 batters with zero walks while picking up the win. Strasburg set the team single-game strikeout record in one of the most impressive major league pitching debuts in baseball history.

NBA/NHL/College Basketball:

Verizon Center (Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, Georgetown Hoyas)

Photo courtesy of VerizonCenter.com

The Skinny:  Located in the heart of downtown Washington D.C., the Verizon Center has welcomed nearly 31 millions fans over the course of over 2,600 events. With one of the most compelling stars in both the NBA (John Wall) and NHL (Alex Ovechkin) calling this place home, as well as one of the titans of the Big East (Georgetown), the Verizon Center is a huge draw for D.C. sports fans.

Year Opened:  1997

Capacity:  20,173 for basketball; 18,398 for hockey

Best Moment:  March 26, 2006. In the 2006 NCAA Regional Final, George Mason, located just across the Potomac, defeated UConn to become one of the biggest underdogs to ever reach the Final Four.

MLS:

RFK Stadium (D.C. United)

The Skinny:  Currently the home of the MLS D.C. United and the Military Bowl in college football, RFK Stadium had been called home for the Washington Redskins for 35 years and the Washington Senators (1962-71) and Nationals (2005-07). RFK was a bandbox when the Redskins played here, and provided one of the best homefield advantages in the NFL, with a deafening crowd noise and a successful team on the field. The best days are behind it, but RFK still gets up for D.C. United and college football once a year, and it is easy to get to via D.C.’s Metro.

Year Opened:  1961

Capacity:  45,596

Best Moment:  NFC Championship Games in 1972, 1982, 1983, 1987 and 1991. The Redskins were 5-0 in NFC Championship Games at RFK Stadium, twice defeating the rival Dallas Cowboys, and also defeating San Francisco, Detroit and Minnesota en route to their five Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl wins.

College Football:

Byrd Stadium (Maryland Terrapins)

The Skinny:  Byrd Stadium has played host to national champions in college football as well as men’s and women’s lacrosse, and has hosted 10 NCAA lacrosse championships, more than any other school. A recently completed $50M expansion project has spruced up the stadium to ensure that this 60 year-old stadium has several decades left in it.

Year Opened:  1950

Capacity:  54,000

Best Moment:  September 24, 1955. Fifth-ranked Maryland hosted the top-ranked UCLA Bruins in what was dubbed as the “Best of the East” vs. the “Best of the West.” Maryland topped UCLA in a then-record crowd at Byrd Stadium 7-0.

Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Navy Midshipmen)

The Skinny:  A $40M renovation finished in 2004 has spruced up this 50 year-old stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. The multi-purpose stadium houses the football and men’s and women’s lacrosse teams.

Year Opened:  1959

Capacity:  34,000

Best Moment:  November 9, 1963. Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach led the Navy Midshipmen to a 42-7 victory over local rival Maryland in the Crab Bowl Classic. Navy finished number two in the country in 1963 with wins over rivals Army, Notre Dame and Maryland.

College Basketball:

Comcast Center (Maryland Terrapins)

The Skinny:  The Comcast Center opened in 2002 and has consistently ranked in the top-ten in attendance in college basketball since its first game. The arena boasts of one the most intimidating student sections in all of college basketball, and helps make it one of the best home court advantages in the ACC.

Year Opened:  2002

Capacity:  17,950

Best Moment:  January 18, 2003. After Duke defeating Maryland in the Final Four in 2001 and won the national championship, Maryland followed up with a title of their own in 2002. The stage was set for their 2003 matchup, when Maryland knocked off #1 Duke 87-72 in their inaugural season at the Comcast Center.

Sports Power Weekend: Atlanta, Georgia, December 3-5

Friday, December 3rd, 2010


SportsPowerWeekends.com founder/editor Jared Cooper takes a closer look at Atlanta, Georgia, home of the 2010 SEC Championship Game. SEC East Division champion South Carolina will take on SEC West Division champion Auburn on Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia at 4:00 PM ET.

While Atlanta isn’t home to an SEC school, it is the host of the most important game on the SEC calendar. Each year all 12 SEC teams aspire to take part in the game that will determine the SEC champion and the conference’s automatic qualifier for a BCS bowl game. By winning the SEC East and West respectively, South Carolina and top-ranked Auburn have the pleasure of meeting at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

While the SEC Championship Game is no doubt the headliner of the weekend’s activities, it is by no means the only thing going on in Georgia’s capital. Ranked as the eighth-best sports city in the country in 2010 by The Sporting News, Atlanta is also a city full of culture, great food and a thriving nightlife.

FRIDAY

  • Fat Matt’s
  • Philips Arena
  • Buckhead
Photo Courtesy of PhilipsArena.com

Photo Courtesy of PhilipsArena.com

Atlanta is a pretty spread out city and is best navigated with a car, though by using the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), you can get by without one. Take whichever mode of transportation you find easiest to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, up north in Atlanta near Emory University, for some of their top-of-the-line ribs, chicken and sides.

With some of Atlanta’s best in your stomach, you can head to Philips Arena to cheer on the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks as they take on the visiting Philadelphia 76ers. The Hawks are led by two former SEC stars, Florida’s two-time champion Al Horford and Arkansas’s Joe Johnson, and bring a ton of excitement (and a lot of wins) to this 18,729 seat arena that opened in 1999.

After the game you can head to Buckhead, an upscale uptown district in Atlanta that has some very worthwhile restaurants, shopping and bars. The bar East Andrews is broadcasting sports radio shows live on Friday night in preparation for tomorrow’s SEC Championship Game. The whole town has SEC fever!

SATURDAY

  • Flying Biscuit
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
  • Centennial Olympic Park
  • Georgia World Congress Center
  • Georgia Dome
  • Virginia Highland

The game to crown the SEC champion will kick off at 4 PM local time, giving you plenty of time to explore the city a bit before filing in to the Georgia Dome to see the much-anticipated matchup between the Gamecocks and the Tigers.

Start your day at the Flying Biscuit, a homey spot known for their grits and of course, their biscuits. They come with a homemade cranberry apple butter that makes any wait to be seated well worth it.  After breakfast make your way to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, which operates a number of facilities that contain Martin Luther King, Jr. exhibits and artifacts, such as the King Center and the Visitor’s Center. Tours of Dr. King’s birth home start at 10 AM and last 30 minutes from start to finish.

Photo courtesy of SECSports.com

After checking out the birthplace of Dr. King, make your way to the park that honors the 100-year anniversary of the Olympics from their birthplace in Athens, Greece, Centennial Olympic Park. The 21-acre park was refurbished for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games and features the Fountain of Rings, and during the winter, a skating rink for public use. Centennial Olympic Park is operated by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which also oversees the Georgia World Congress Center and the Georgia Dome. Those three properties, as well as Philips Arena, the CNN Center, the World of Coca-Cola, and the Children’s Museum of Atlanta are all adjacent to one another in downtown Atlanta.

Make the quick walk from the park to the Georgia World Congress Center for the 2010 Dr. Pepper SEC Football FanFare, featuring games, autograph stages, food vendors and official SEC apparel stands. Spend some time mingling with fans and former SEC players, kick field goals or test your throwing accuracy, or watch action from around the country on any of the TV monitors in the building. It is a great way to get in the mindset for the game that follows. The FanFare runs until 4 PM, but by that time you should already be in your seat eagerly anticipating kickoff.

The Georgia Dome has been the host of the SEC Championship Game since 1994; in the first two years of SEC play – 1992 and 1993 – the game was played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The Georgia Dome opened in 1992 and is the largest cable-supported domed stadium in the world. The 71,250 capacity stadium plays host to the Atlanta Falcons, and has hosted Super Bowls XXVIII and XXXIV, the gymnastics and basketball events for the 1996 Olympic Games and both a Men’s and Women’s NCAA Final Four. In addition, the Dome hosts the Bank of America Atlanta Football classic and the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game and Bowl game as well as the SEC title tilt.

The Auburn Tigers are looking to become the fifth consecutive SEC team to win the SEC Championship Game and go on to win the BCS National Championship Game. In the previous four years, the Florida Gators – who have won an SEC-record seven title games – have done this twice, and the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide have each won one. South Carolina hopes to add to the East Division’s 11-7 lead in title games over the West Division. Something has got to give, and seeing it live will sure be fun.

A good area to check out after the game is the Virginia Highland, a neighborhood popular for its shopping, dining and nightlife. Choosing from places like Atkins Park – the oldest restaurant/bar in Atlanta, Highland Tap and Figo will give you some options. You’ll be having a burger tomorrow for lunch, so unless you want to double up you may have to save George’s for your next visit. There are also a number of bars in the area. Check out Dark Horse for some live music.

SUNDAY

  • Ria’s Bluebird
  • Grant Park
  • Little Five Points
  • Vortex Bar and Grill
  • Philips Arena

Start the final day of your Sports Power Weekend at Ria’s Bluebird, a hip breakfast spot in Atlanta serving some of the best pancakes and eggs in the Peach State. The restaurant is located across the street from the famous Oakland Cemetery, where golf legend Bobby Jones and Pulitzer Prize winning Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell are buried.

Nearby is Grant Park, Atlanta’s oldest park established in 1882. The park houses Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Cyclorama, a museum housing a cylindrical panoramic painting of the American Civil War Battle of Atlanta. Grant Park is just a few blocks east of Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, which opened in 1997 and has become a landmark of sorts in the city. Stop by and take a peek if you would like.

Next, you can make your way to the Little Five Points area to check out some of their eccentric novelty shops. Also in the area is Vortex Bar & Grill, home of one of the best burgers in town. They do require that all patrons be over the age of 18, so keep that in mind depending on your company.

As your Sports Power Weekend winds down, you can look back and be satisfied with all of the can’t miss spots you saw, great food you ate, and exciting times you had. Assuming you don’t push back your flight so you can see the Usher concert at Philips Arena tonight, you have now experienced everything SEC football has to offer. Don’t fret, however. Basketball season is now upon us.

Jared Cooper worked for the National Football League’s PR department for four years before creating SportsPowerWeekends.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@SportsPowerWknd) or contact him at Jared.Cooper@SPWtravel.com.

“What I Like…” — Washington D.C.

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010


I caught up with three highly-regarded NFL players from the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens and got their quick thoughts on the city they now call home.

Washington Redskins safety LaRon Landry

Cooper: How would you compare your experience of playing at Tiger Stadium (LSU) to some of the other stadiums you have played in?
Landry: “Tiger Stadium – there is nothing like it. I mean, the only true stadium that reminds me of LSU stadium is our own, FedExField, because the crowd noise is real loud and it is like the 12th man on the field. It is really family-oriented. There is nothing like it at all.”

Cooper: What it is like being on the Redskins with fellow LSU Tigers, and national champions, running back Keiland Williams and linebacker Riley Perry?
Landry: “I played with both of them at LSU. They were sophomores when I was a senior. Ever since I came to the Redskins, I had never had an LSU guy on the team. Most guys have a teammate from college on the Redskins that kind of looks out for them. I am a big brother to those guys. After spending time with them at LSU, especially Keiland, as soon as he came in I had to give him a hard time. With him being a running back and me being a safety, I would always hit him and give him a hard time. We do the same thing out here just like at school because we are all the same old people. I am definitely a mentor to them. They come by my house and chill now and we keep it a family. You know, always a Tiger.”

Washington Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers

Cooper: Now that you have spent a number of years in D.C., what are some of your favorite things about the city and being a Redskin? What are your favorite places to go out and eat?

Rogers: The fans support you anywhere you go. Sometimes, they are down and sometimes they are up and no matter where we go they support us. We have fans in other states that support the team. Traditionally a lot of guys that were here before us come back around. We get to meet those guys. Some of those guys come in our complex and see those trophies in our complex. They are the ones who tell us what Redskins tradition is about and I love it. Being in D.C., there is a lot of politics here and sports fans, Redskins fans. We see a lot of it going on here with the White House and we are in our nation’s capital. It is wonderful.

Baltimore Ravens tackle Michael Oher

Cooper: Now that you are in your second season in Baltimore, what are your favorite things to do in the city?

Oher: The inner harbor is pretty nice. I like going down there and hanging out.