PHOTO: Yankee Stadium, 2016. (photo via Flickr/shinya)
Some travelers believe that exploring the world is about seeking out natural wonders like the Grand Canyon or the Niagara Falls; others prefer to have their breath taken away by manmade spectacles such as Christ the Redeemer or the Taj Mahal. For sports fans, though, it’s all about searching for and experiencing the greatest stadiums on the planet.
To the avid fan of competitive team games, stadiums are awe-inspiring structures. Each have their own unique environment and evoke different emotions. Sir Bobby Charlton nicknamed Old Trafford “The Theatre of Dreams,”and John Madden said he got a special feeling when visiting Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
This is not just a suggestion for sports fans. America is home to some of the greatest sporting venues on Earth, but these structures represent so much more. There are three venues in particular that highlight the U.S. history of fandom, its architectural heritage and sports venue’s increasing representation of our obsession with over-the-top displays of capitalistic hedonism.
If you could visit just three such venues, we have a tour that will let you see first-hand our country’s most representative athletic meccas.
Lambeau Field (NFL)
The home of the Green Bay Packers is the oldest continually operating NFL stadium. With many of the other teams in the league flaunting much newer and modernized facilities, Lambeau Field is considered by some as the only NFL ground worthy of appearing on a sporting bucket list. The population of Green Bay ranks 146th and dead last among professional sports cities in America at around 105,000, but their team’s stadium has one of the largest capacities in the league at 81,435. This should provide an indicator as to just how passionate these supporters are and what kind of atmosphere they can create.
The team itself is a perennial contender, currently an 11/1 bet to win the Super Bowl, according to online betting site Bet365. With the heart of the head-to-head schedule ahead for the NFL’s fiercest rivalry division, the NFC North, now is the perfect time to see what all the fuss is about.
Yankee Stadium (MLB)
The new Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx area of New York, and is home to the world famous baseball team, The New York Yankees. Major League Soccer outfit New York City FC also play their home games there, so fans of either sport could enjoy the stadium at different times of the year.
Though it would be best to experience Yankee Stadium during a series with the Boston Red Sox to witness perhaps the greatest rivalry in all of sports, fall and winter are great times to see the $1.5 billion shrine to the Bronx Bombers. Tours are an inexpensive way to see the innards of the Stadium, and tour director Tony Morante has been called the best sports tour guide in America by many due to his lifelong dedication to all things Pinstripes.
Although some people such as ESPN commentator Peter Gammons described it as a “not very well planned ballpark”, there is no denying the thrill of the buzzing crowd as balls are whacked out of the ground. The late-December Pinstripe Bowl is one of the more effective ways to see live action without breaking your bank.
Madison Square Garden (NBA)
While in New York, another essential stop would be to visit the stadium in which NBA side the New York Knicks play their home games. Madison Square Garden is one of the best known sporting venues on the planet, and also acts as the setting for other massive sporting events including boxing and wrestling.
The first ever Mohammad Ali – Joe Frazier bout was held there, along with the inaugural Wrestlemania in 1985. The once-dated arena with limited seating has been reborn with a $1 billion renovation completed in 2013 that features design marvels such as the two walkway bridges that run high above the event floor and state-of-the-art scoreboards, eateries and seating amenities. The Garden is worth a visit because of its rich history- it still remains one of the most iconic sporting sites in the world, home to signature events involving far more than just the New York home teams.
HONORABLE MENTION: These venues have barely scratched the surface of what America has to offer. New York would be a good place to start the experience, but then a road trip across to the west coast would allow sports travelers to encounter places like the Horseshoe, home of college football’s Ohio State Buckeyes. Then dip down south to touch Howard’s Rock at Death Valley inside Clemson’s campus. Finally, head to JerryWorld and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on the way to the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers.