August 30, 2010

First Visit to PPL Park for Union Game

A few weeks ago I made my first trip to PPL Park to see the Philadelphia Union play Real Salt Lake.  The only game I've seen the Union play was against Man United and I was rooting against them since I follow Man United more closely.  The Union played an exciting game so my cousin and I decided to make the trip to Chester to catch them in MLS action.

Up this point, the location of the stadium was the primary reason for not going.  I wasn't worried about the safety, but actually driving and parking.  I live in the Center City so making a trip to Chester is a pain when I am used to taking the subway to South Philly to see the Phils, etc.  

I heard from others that parking was difficult without a pass and it took awhile to leave the parking lot after the game.  However we had zero problems getting to the stadium and parking was a breeze with the parking pass.  If you don't have a pass there is a parking lot right off 95 and buses there to take to you to the stadium.  There are cops at nearly every corner from 95 to the stadium and you don't have to stop at any lights.  Clearly security is front and center.  

There was a lot of tailgating outside the stadium in the still-to-be-paved parking lots.  We chose to head into the stadium to look around.  

The soccer-only stadium is the highlight of going to the game.  The views are spectacular with the Commodore Barry Bridge as the backdrop.  I don't think there is a bad seat in the house and the crowd is diverse.  Sons of Ben cheers the entire game to keep the atmosphere festive.  It is worth going if only to see the stadium and take in the soccer-specific atmosphere.   

The concessions and prices are no different than Citizens Bank Park or any other major sporting stadium.  There are beer zones outside with several vendors serving all kinds of food. Plenty of restrooms for men and women, too.

The game was exciting and the Union have some players to watch, especially Sebastian Le Toux and Danny Mwanga, the first overall pick.  Both are strikers and are exciting to watch.  Le Toux is tireless and Mwanga is star in the making.  Everyone else seems average.  Mwanga scored the opening goal.   After the goal the "Doop" song is played and the crowd gets into it.  You can watch the first goal scored at PPL Park here with the song.  Sweet European version here.

I certainly came away impressed with the stadium, atmosphere and team.  Win or lose, the team is fun to watch and it is nice to have a local professional team and dedicated soccer specific stadium in the region.

The location will be the biggest obstacle to success long term.  It took a while to leave the parking lot and I would imagine it took even longer for those who had to take a bus back to the parking lots near 95.  I suspect this will be less of an issue next year.

Security is not an issue with all the extra police prominent on every block.  But, there is nothing to see or do near the stadium.  The Union must have been given the land, which is basically a waste land.  Combined with millions from the government to help "revitalize" Chester, you know why the stadium was built at this location.  I see Chester staying the same and the suburbanites escorted into and out of the stadium for years to come.

Go see the stadium and support the team.  It is worth the trip.  Long term, the team needs to win to keep selling out the stadium. Let's hope the area sees some bright spots in the years ahead.  Pic from our seats below.

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