017 – La Bombonera

So. Cool. Very lucky to visit the famed La Bombonera during the summer of 2015. The colourful and lively venue is in La Boca, which is extremely colourful and lively itself, and home of Boca Juniors since it was built in 1940. Photos:

Bombonera001

Outside La Bombonera

Bombonera006

Panoramic view from the standing end, with the two steep stands and the third, which is the newest, consisting mostly of VIP boxes.

Bombonera005

Looking at the west stand from the standing area

Bombonera007

Looking across at the north site, spelling out BOCA on the third level and hailing the fans (12th man, La Doce) on the second level.

Bombonera004

The VIP suites (former Boca Junior Diego Maradona famously owns one). La Boca is sponsored by Pepsi – their bitter rival, River Plate? Coca-Cola, naturally.

Bombonera008

On the right sits the Copa Libertadores, the biggest trophy in South America – won by Boca six times. Only Independiente, from Avellaneda, has won won more (seven). Boca last triumped in 2007 (their fourth win since 2000).

Looking back at the standing room area from field level.

Looking back at the standing room area from field level.

The Boca shield on the exterior

The Boca shield on the exterior

Argentina's favourite cartoon character, Mafalda, outside La Bombonera

Argentina’s favourite cartoon character, Mafalda, outside La Bombonera

Bombonera010

La Bombonera on game day. Photo from team museum

While I was visiting Buenos Aires, it was announced Carlos Tevez was coming

While I was visiting Buenos Aires, it was announced Carlos Tevez was coming “home” to Boca, from Juventus. He played there from 1997-2004.
“Tevez somos todos” translates to “We are all Tevez”

016 – Coors Field

Denver, Colorado was granted a National League franchise in 1991, and the expansion Rockies began play in 1993 at the home of the NFL’s Denver Broncos, Mile High Stadium, on the outskirts of downtown. Mile High was actually originally built (as Bears Stadium) for Baseball in 1948 for the AAA Denver Bears but had long since been more associated with American Football. Still, the Bears (who changed their name to Zephyrs in 1985) continued to call the stadium home until the Rockies arrived.

In expanding the stadium in the late 1970’s to a capacity of over 75,000, Mile High’s east grandstand was ingeniously built on hydraulic tracks to allow a full baseball diamond (check out further information about the design and its engineer here) for the Bears. In 1993, the new Rockies took full advantage of Mile High’s capacity and the thirst for major league baseball in their first season, smashing the single-season attendance record with 4,483,350 fans. Like, really smashed it – the previous record was 4,028,318, set by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 (the World Champion Jays would go on to pass that mark in 1993 as well, with 4,057,947).

Coors Field home plate entrance on Blake Street and 20th Avenue, Denver.

Coors Field home plate entrance on Blake Street and 20th Avenue, Denver.

As the Rockies were packing Mile High Stadium, their permanent home Coors Field was being built right in downtown Denver at Blake Street and 20th Street (LoDo – Lower Downtown – area). Being built at the start of the Retro-classic wave, Coors was meant to have a capacity of under 44,000. But the success at Mile High (average attendances of 56,751 in 1993 and 57,570 in a strike-shortened 1994) necessitated revisions to the right field stand designs and a revised capacity of 50,200.

The sparkling new park opened April 26, 1995 with the Rockies hosting the New York Mets. They would average 47,084 fans in the inaugural season at Coors, again leading the majors in attendance (as they would annually through 1999) en route to their first postseason appearance.

Looking North-West towards Boulder and the Rocky Mountains

Looking North-West towards Boulder and the Rocky Mountains

Coors Field was the first of a new generation of stadiums in Denver, with the NHL Avalanche and NBA Nuggets opening Pepsi Center in 1999 and the Broncos moving into Invesco Field at Mile High in 2001. These facilities were built near their predecessors outside downtown.

My Coors visit was during the Rockies’ worse season to-date, on Memorial Day 2012 as they laboured to a 64-98 record. Still the 17-year old ballpark looked as good as new with its redbrick exterior and clean, simple interior. The Rockies beat the lowly Astros in the 10th inning on a Dexter Fowler triple and fireworks followed. Our seats were perfectly chosen along the first baseline, providing a great view of the Rocky Mountains and the sunset. On the second level, they were also not too far from the action.

Coors, the Banquet Beer. Mmmm, Beer.

Scoreboard and the “Rockpile” bleachers.

The accessible and cool location also came as advertised, right off the interstate near Union Station and many microbrews. While the higher-than-planned capacity was still low by MLB standards for 1995, by 2015, after most teams have moved into new ballparks, it is the second highest in MLB (behind only Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium). Yet Coors does not feel too big (provided, I would think, that there is a good crowd). Hopefully Colorado can finally turn things around soon and Coors will be full and, er, rocking again.

015 – Estadio Nacional de Chile

Santiago’s Estadio Nacional is a pretty utilitarian-looking football stadium that was built from 1937-1938 in Municipality of Ñuñoa. A product of its time, It was modeled after Olympiastadion Berlin (opened in 1936). It has remained the national stadium for Chilean football since its opening. I had the chance to see it from the outside in June 2015.

The original capacity was around 48,000, which is actually roughly the same as today. In between, though, capacity rose to over 80,000 as it was expanded to host the 1962 FIFA World Cup. The installation of individual seats in 2000, a requirement for the World Junior Championships in Athletics, lowered capacity to 66,000. Later, following the closure of the stadium from 2009-2010 for renovations, capacity was ultimately lowered to 48,665. The renovations to modernize the stadium, including the addition of a roof over all seats, were not fully realized due to delays and the February 2010 earthquake. The stadium still does not have a state-of-the-art scoreboard (it only has one board, on the south end of the stadium). The record crowd for a match at the stadium is 85,268 from December, 1962 for a Primera Division match between Universidad de Chile and Universidad Catolica.

Estadio Nacional from Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago

Estadio Nacional from Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago

Beyond all the events hosted at Estadio Nacional, from the 1941 South American Championships (predecessor of the Copa America) through the 1962 World Cup and on to the Copa America last month, its history is a most notorious one. It was used as a massive detention center by the Pinochet government following their 1973 coup d’état. The use of the stadium as a prison and death camp for thousands is well documented and an inescapable tragic history when considering the stadium. It is amazing that it wasn’t torn down or deserted following its history but the continued use following the final defeat of the dictatorship is a triumph (Chile’s return to democracy was celebrated by thousands in a 1990 rally at the stadium) and serves as a memorial to the victims.

Aside: I learned after that there is a section of wooden benches behind the north end goal that go unoccupied and serve as a memorial to the brutal history as a concentration camp. Check out BBC’s World Service World Football episode on the Ghosts of Santiago.

Santiago-EstadioNacional-WoodenBenches

Wooden benches – a memorial to the victims of the Pinochet dictatorship – are bordered in red

My visit to Chile coincided with the 2015 Copa America by coincidence. I had no plans to see any matches but as La Roja faced Mexico at Estadio Nacional, I couldn’t stay away from at least getting a taste of a match day. A friend I met at my hostel and I walked about 30 minutes to the stadium for the pre-game festivities. As expected it was electric. Due to heightened security, the lighting at dusk and the position of the stadium in a larger 64 hectare sporting park, it was tough to get any decent looks at the stadium or any appreciation of the architecture. It was certainly imposing, though, and I appreciated that the façade hadn’t changed in any of the renovations.

Estadio Nacional, under the spotlights for the 2015 Copa America

Estadio Nacional, under the spotlights for the 2015 Copa America

In the crowd off Av. Grecia, my friend and I quietly negotiated with scalpers. One man wanted 20,000 pesos for a pair – or so we thought. Turned out to be 200,000 pesos (or 300 USD). A little rich for our blood. We decided to make a long lap around the park and made acquaintances with a couple of students who were looking to sneak in. Hopefully they made it – we couldn’t risk it. The lap was long but the atmosphere was electric with many excited Chileans making their way inside to see their national team, led by Vidal, Sanchez, Medel, Bravo and Vargas. It was getting real dark but we passed through many fields – being used for parking – and the Polideportivo.

When we made it back to the main entrance our friend scalping tickets continued to barter. He was getting desperate. Finally, we got him down to the 20,000 pesos (30 USD) for a pair. Too good to be true we thought, but what the hell? We made the deal across the street – ostensibly to get away from security. But as soon as the money and tickets were exchanged, the guy hilariously ran onto a departing bus. We laughed and said “no way these are legit” but still hustled through the extensive corrals to the ticket scanners. Once there, we got the dreaded “ERROR” on the scanner. We put up a little fight claiming ignorance but ultimately had a good laugh with the crew working the tickets.

Damn!

Damn!

It all ended well as we walked backed to a bar near our hostel and Plaza Italia to watch the match. We found a seat, had some Escoba’s and ate a meat-packed pizza. The match was bonkers, ending in a 3-3 draw. Still, young Chileans packed the Plaza and celebrated on the grass and the monument. It was an awesome time… until the Carabineros rolled in with water cannons. Still super fun in the madness of it all. Weeks later, Chile won the Copa America – their first – and, this time, the celebrations at Plaza Italia were not interrupted.

It was real cool to be at one of 18 stadiums to host a FIFA World Cup Final – and even though I didn’t to explore much, I wouldn’t trade the night for a chance to explore an empty Estadio Nacional on another day or for a ticket into a run-of-the-mill Primera match where the stadium is mostly empty.

Site of Brasil's second World Cup triumph in 1962

Site of Brasil’s second World Cup triumph in 1962

014 – Mike Lansing Field

I came across Mike Lansing Field and Casper, Wyoming when I was driving to Denver. It is located on the north end of town off US-87 and on the North Platte River. The 2,500 seat ballpark was built in 2002 to house the Casper Rockies (later the Ghosts), a Pioneer League affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

2012-05-25 - Drive to CO (6)The field, of course, is named in honour of Wyoming native and former major league second baseman Mike Lansing. From 1993, Lansing played for the Montreal Expos, the Colorado Rockies – the nearest post for a Wyoming native – and the Boston Red Sox before ending his career in 2002 in the Cleveland Indians organization.

2012-05-25 - Drive to CO (5)

Unfortunately the Ghosts moved to Grand Junction, Colorado in 2012. A summer team in the Mountain Collegiate Baseball League, the Casper Cutthroats, now occupy Lansing. They had an amazing 2013 season, going 43-6.

2012-05-25 - Drive to CO (4)

Calgary-20130928-00562

013 – Tacoma Dome

Here is the Tacoma Dome as seen from across Commencement Bay. The particular spot I took from the photo from – Cliff House Restaurant – offers a great view of Mt. Rainier as well.

2010-08-18 - Washington (220)

The rest of the photos in this post are from the insanely busy Interstate 5. The Tacoma Dome’s wooden roof – at 530 feet in diameter and 152 feet tall is one of the largest in the world – announces it presence with an American flag topping its cupola.

The arena was constructed in 1983, and along with its roof, it has a unique characteristic in that more than 65% of its seats are not fixed so as to host any number of events and sports – even American football. Of course, there is an old axiom that might apply: jack of all trades, master of none. In other words, the arena doesn’t seem optimal for any one particular sport. See this (albeit awesome) picture* of the dome hosting hockey – it shows the cavernous atmosphere and awkward sight lines common with domes. Still, Tacoma Dome has served the Tacoma area for 30 years.

2010-08-18 - Washington (203)

With a basketball capacity of over 17,000, the arena was major league when the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics called it home from 1994 to 1995. This was while the Seattle Center Coliseum up north was being renovated. (Click here for a pic of coach Lenny Wilkins and his Sonics in Tacoma).

2010-08-18 - Washington (206b)

From 1991 to 1995, there was  a permanent major junior hockey tenant in the WHL Tacoma Rockets. They were followed by the minor-pro Tacoma Sabercats of the WCHL from 1997 to 2002. The ‘Cats won the Taylor Cup in 1999.

* The picture comes from this blog post. It features very Tacoma Dome info and pictures, particularly from construction.

012 – Saskatchewan Place

Saskatoon’s Saskatchewan Place is the largest arena in Saskatchewan. Built on the northern edge of the city off the Trans-Canada Highway, it isn’t the most central venue but it has lured many large events to the City of Bridges since opening. Despite consternation about the choice of location, SaskPlace opened in February 1988. The arena’s original capacity was 7,800 and the main tenant since day one has been the Western Hockey League Saskatoon Blades.

In 1989, SaskPlace hosted both the Labatt Brier (Canada’s national men’s curling championship) and the Memorial Cup (Canadian major junior hockey championship).  The Blades lost the Memorial Cup final in overtime to provincial rival Swift Current Broncos. In 1990, the arena was expanded to 11,330 to serve as the main venue for the 1990/91 IIHF World Junior Championships. Canada clinched the gold medal on SaskPlace ice on a goal by John Slaney versus the USSR.

Over the next twenty years, SaskPlace hosted two more Briers, one Scott Tournament of Hearts (women’s curling) and three CIS University Cups.  Various basketball and indoor soccer teams also called the arena home for short tenures. Come on you Saskatchewan Hawks!

Saskatoon_SaskatchewanPlace01I have only attended one game at SaskPlace – a September 2002 affair between the Blades and a Red Deer Rebels team that featured Cam Ward and Dion Phaneuf. The Blades won 5-2 in front of a crowd of 2,509. Despite the small attendance in the large rink, there was no lack of excitement or energy from the Saskatoon junior hockey fans.

The arena was renovated once again to host the 2009/10 World Junior Championship. This time the renovation ($6.7 million) expanded capacity to 14,311. The United States defeated Canada in the Gold Medal game before a record crowd of 15,171 on an overtime goal by John Carlson.

In 2013, Saskatchewan Place celebrates its 25th anniversary by hosting its second Memorial Cup. The four team tournament will take place from May 17-26. The Blades are already in as hosts and will be joined by league champions from the WHL, OHL and QMJHL. With a roster bolstered for hosting the Memorial Cup, the Blades hope to finally win a long overdue championship (and the Memorial Cup is the only opportunity they’ll have this year – the #2-seeded Blades were swept in four games by the Medicine Hat Tigers).

Calgary-20130325-00390

011 – Percival Molson Stadium

February was not a great month to visit Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal!

2009-02-13 - Montreal (9)

A couple of buddies and I had taken a red-eye flight to Montreal and the first thing we did after checking into our hotel was wander around aimlessly in the frigid -20C temperature. From our hotel on Boulevard René-Lévesque, we headed up Crescent Street (it was too early for a drink) and eventually reached Parc du Mont-Royal. After a deadly climb up the icy hill to the chalet, I could see McGill sprawled all to the east. Being a ginormous nerd, of course, I decided it was a great opportunity to see the home of the Montreal Alouettes, Percival Molson Stadium.

2009-02-13 - Montreal (36)

The stadium is readily apparent when looking at a satellite view but it is really buried within the hills and McGill facilities. So it took us a good hour to find it from the chalet. My buddies were less than impressed and frozen by the time we walked up to the north side of the stadium through some alleyway. I had to get a view of the stadium – after trying gates and even trying to get a look from the Montreal Neurological Institute that wraps around the end of the stadium, I finally managed by crawling under a chain-link gate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of course, once inside, the bleachers and field were completely covered by snow and ice. I snapped some photos and we moved on – or so my friends thought. Walking around the southeast side, it was wide open. The trespassing earlier wasn’t necessary. More photo taking ensued. And I was officially dubbed a “stadium nerd”. I appreciate the memories of my friends fearing frost bite as I discovered more angles to take pictures from. When we finally got back to Rue Sainte-Catherine, my one friend ran his cold hands under the hot water at Tim Horton’s for five minutes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This visit was before the $30 million renovation done prior to the 2010 CFL season that saw the capacity increase from roughly 20,000 to 25,012. The renovation was the culmination of an amazing comeback for both the Alouettes franchise and Percival Molson Stadium. The Alouettes returned to Percival Molson in 1997 because of a scheduling conflict with a U2 concert at Olympic Stadium. The average attendance at the cavernous Olympic Stadium for 1997 was a paltry 9,585 (they still went 8-1). In the November 2 East Semi-Final, though, the Als beat the B.C. Lions 45-35 in front of a season high 16,257 fans. The move back to their former home (1947-1967) unintentionally revitalized the struggling franchise. The Als moved in permanently in 1998 and have called the intimate stadium home ever since (save for playoff games where crowds of 50,000 typically pack the Big O).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As long as the Olympic Stadium stands, Percival Molson won’t likely see another playoff game or Grey Cup. The combination of selling 66,000 tickets and November weather ensures it. Percival Molson did host one Grey Cup, though. In 1931, the hometown Montreal AAA Winged Wheels defeated the Regina Roughriders 22-0. The Winged Wheels were the first Grey Cup champions from outside Ontario. The stadium even has some Olympic history: Percival Molson hosted Field Hockey in 1976 – and it was the first Olympic venue with artificial turf. Click here and here for a couple of photos from those Olympics where New Zealand beat Australia 1-0 in an all-Oceania Gold Medal final.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In six years, Percival Molson will be 100 years old. This is definitely an original stadium and location for the CFL and McGill University that has stood the test of time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA