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Official Review by Drew Cieszynski, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
While Angel Stadium is predominately known for its MLB tenant, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, it holds a second "opening day" each year with its kickoff of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross.
Supercross races are no stranger to Southern California as the name of the sport was coined here when Michael Goodwin held the "Superbowl of Motorcross" at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1972. Just four years later (1976), Anaheim would host its first AMA Supercross race with Marty Smith being the inaugural winner.
From 2001 through 2010, Anaheim hosted three races per year, with most other cities holding just one. In 2011, Dodger Stadium finally held its first race, and now Angel Stadium holds just two annually, but still currently holds the record for hosting the most AMA Supercross races.
An important race it is, as through 2011, the winner of the opening race in Anaheim has gone on to win the AMA Championship 18 times. Jeremy McGrath, Chad Reed, and Josh Grant all scored their first Supercross class wins in Anaheim.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
While not all of the permanent Angel Stadium concessions were open, fans still had their choice of a variety of items.
Perhaps the most famous items at Angel Stadium are found at Clyde Wright's BBQ. Mr. Wright is a name familiar to most Angel fans as he threw the first no hitter for the Angels at Anaheim Stadium. Some of the options here include Pulled Pork BBQ ($9.75), BBQ Beef Brisket ($9.75), BBQ Chicken Sandwich ($9.75), Rally Brat (footlong brat w/ peppers and onions for $9.00), Halo Griller (foot long Italian sausage with peppers and onions for $9.00), Turkey Leg ($11.50), and Franks & Beans ($2.50).
The stadium, like many other Southern California venues, offers its fair share of branded vendors. You'll find Ruby's out in centerfield, offering its shakes, tri-tip sliders, burgers, and fries. Carl's Jr., Panda Express, and California Pizza Kitchen are some other names you may recognize at the stadium.
At "The Grand Stand," you can get your hands on some more typical fare including an Angel Dog ($4.50), big league nachos ($6.50), large peanuts ($6.00), popcorn ($3.50), or Cracker Jacks ($3.50).
Beyond centerfield, you'll find Angelitos Cocina Mexicana where you can get the "Heavenly Nachos ($9.25)," "Big Bang Burrito ($7.50)," or fish tacos ($8.00).
If you are in pursuit of dessert, search for the "Sweet Spot," where you can get soft serve ice cream ($4.50), waffle cone ($5.50), caramel apples ($7.50), bulk candy (red vines, sour patch kids, etc for $5.00), giant cookies ($4.50,) or cotton candy ($3.00).
It seemed that many of the fans got their fill in the pits and were only interested in beverages inside of the stadium. Some of the simpler beverage stands simply included the domestic draft ($10), souvenir soda ($6), medium soda ($4.50), bottled water ($5), Monster ($6), and Icee ($5).
Taking a seat and witnessing a full Angel Stadium is a thing of beauty. The intros get started at about 7 PM, well into the dark during January and a combination of the pyrotechnics and lights really got the crowd going early.
The racer introductions are always exciting, with the highlights being the Kevin Windham transfer and the Ryan Villopoto riding on the back of a dune buggy waving to the crowd, while "The Champ is here" played over the PA system.
Easily the most exciting part of the evening is when someone challenges the leader for the top spot. As the crowd begins to notice the challenger approaching first place, a slow roar begins until nearly everyone is on their feet as the pass is made.
Many of the fans are attached to some of the staple racers that have competed over the years and when some of the more popular ones approach one another, you'll hear the fans begin to trash talk and cheer on their favorite rider.
If nothing else, Anaheim is known for being home to Disneyland, the much more intimate cousin of Disney World. The Disney of Anaheim will provide a much better neighborhood, much better weather, and fewer clueless tourists than its counterpart in Florida.
Before the event, I occasionally stop by Danny K's Billiards just a few blocks from the stadium. It's a rather spacious venue and it seems that the billiard area takes up at least half of the restaurant. It has most of the pub favorites on the menu, but I especially like the beer selection. They offer the everyday favorites as well as many unique brews in 25 ounce glasses.
Off Katella Ave, you'll find "The Catch," a restaurant that has served the fans of the Honda Center for over 30 years. The restaurant serves up some impressive steaks, Chilean seabass, drunken mahi-mahi, among other things, but it seems to be the burgers that stand out here. Sure, everyone has "good burgers," but the options here are a bit more elevated in uniqueness. Of course, the restaurant has quickly become most renowned around Anaheim for its "OMG Burger." This $36.00 burger might be worth the price just to see it in person. 4 pound patty, 14" bun, 10 slices of cheese. The prices here are a bit more than you will find at most eateries in the area, but the different experience is well worth the price.
Another option near the stadium is JT Schmid's, which offers an extensive menu and its own onsite brewery. You can have pizza, tacos, steaks, and seafood, but the real draw here seems to be their sweet potato fries. Another interesting option is the "Twenty Dollar Burger" which is topped with an eight ounce prime rib, bacon, swiss cheese, and avocado. While their beverage offerings are much beyond beer, they do offer at least six house brews including a light beer, an India Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, Amber, and a Stout. If you are not the adventurous type, they still offer the typical Budweiser, Coors, Hoegarden, Stella, and Woodchuck options.
Everyone can usually find something they like at the nearby Chili's, but I'd also recommend checking out the Lazy Dog Cafe or Auld Irisher Pub before the game.
I think the fact that the AMA holds Supercross races here 2-3 times per season speaks volumes of the fan base. Aside from the MLB opening day or a playoff game, I never see Angel Stadium this full for any other event as well over 40,000 showed up for the opening race.
Interestingly enough, some of the fans seem to cheer more for the bike brands than the actual racers themselves. I even heard one fan state, "Dungey will never win after switching to the KTM," which is an Austrian brand that, until this weekend had never even scored a podium in the premier class.
When the races were announced, the fans clearly cheered for the favorites such as Chad Reed, Ryan Dungy, and James Stewart. When leaving the venue, I noticed a backlog of fans trying to purchase the remaining Supercross merchandise.
With the stadium located in Anaheim, is not nearly as troublesome as getting to Dodger Stadium, and pairing it with a Saturday in January makes it much more accessible, as it is unlikely that any events will simultaneously be held at the nearby Honda Center.
If you are not driving to the stadium, other transportation options include the Metrolink Orange Line or Amtrak. These railways drop you off at the edge of the parking lot, providing easy access to the stadium. This is a large benefit for fans in San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, and San Diego as they can now easily get to the stadium without fighting traffic.
For Angels games, parking is extremely reasonable at $10.00, but due to the size of the pits in the parking lot, spaces are more limited and fans can expect to pay $20 or more for one of the satellite spots.
Further inside of the stadium, you'll notice four levels of seating. Make your way to the 200 level prior to the race as this is the only level that allows you to completely encircle the field.
The restrooms were not difficult to come by as there are 24 each for both men and women. They will back up just prior to the introductions and after the second or third race, otherwise they are extremely manageable.
Ticket prices for the event itself seem to range from $20-$70 per seat, and the price of the ticket is not always reflective of the actual view at the race. There are times where the higher vantage points provide better views of the entire track than do some of the closer seats.
Parking can range from $10-$30 with most seemingly at $30. A stop in the pits can cost $10 or can be as simple as free with a recycled Monster Energy can.
This event just seems to get bigger and bigger each year. As I stood waiting for friends in the plaza before the event, at least 30 individuals asked if I would sell any of my tickets as the event was sold out. I would suggest buying your tickets early, getting to the event early and enjoying a whole day of Supercross. Spending time in the pits can be relatively inexpensive with lots of interesting sights and possibly even some free "swag."
With the exception of Daytona, Salt Lake City, and the finale in Las Vegas, all Supercross events are held in notable MLB or NFL stadiums, so it's always interesting to take note of some of the unique qualities of each.
Most notable among the extras is the "Big A" sign now found in the parking lot. At 210 tons and 230 feet tall, this landmark is familiar to most Southern California residents. It was formerly part of the interior stadium and acted as the scoreboard, but was moved to the parking lot during renovations to expand the stadium. The halo at the top of the sign is illuminated when the Angels win. Other than letting passersby know that the home team has won, there is an LED screen that provides updates on the evening's event, upcoming promotions, or sponsor messages.
Credit should also be given to the stadium for appearing in two major motion pictures. Everyone certainly remembers Angel Stadium from the movie "Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad", although many of the interior shots were actually filmed at Dodger Stadium. The lesser known movie starring the Angels was "Angels in the Outfield," starring Danny Glover. Unfortunately once again, many of the interior shots for this movie were filmed at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Another can't miss landmark is the plaza in front of the stadium. Here you will spot the iconic giant Angels hats. Even if you parked in the rear of the stadium, be sure you circle around and take a look at these. You may even take note of the hat size of 649 1/2 on the sweat band. Below the hats, you'll notice a full-size brick infield. The distance between the mount and the bases is regulation, so this presents an opportunity to get a feel for the size of a true MLB diamond. The bricks near the respective positions list the names of the Angels players since 1961 who have started at these positions. Other bricks in the plaza can be purchased for $99 and engraved with a fan's name or message.
Once inside the stadium, you'll find a large plaza outside of the main areas. This allows the fans a moment to step away from the action and catch your breath if need be. Here, fans will find a statue of the club's longtime owner/chairman Gene Autry and another of Michelle Carew (daughter of Hall of Famer Rod Carew).
Another "can't miss" extra is the "California Spectacular" in centerfield or where the racers first enter the track. This familiar site in centerfield features erupting geysers and streams that cascade down an artificial mountainside with trees. At the end of each race or during big moments of the night, fans will notice the geysers shoot water high into the air. Be sure to walk around the 200 level to see the rear of the display and the interesting "A" in the rock formation.
I must admit, I'm still a newcomer to the sport of Supercross, but as I've now attended several events over the years, I continue to be amazed by its growth and interesting storylines surrounding the racers each year.
While I'm sure that 99% of sports fans have never attended a live Supercross event, I would urge them to give it a try. Once the rules are understood, it can be a very addicting experience. While the final at Sam Boyd Stadium is always exciting, there seems to be no place better than Anaheim to see it live.
Follow Drew's Travel's Through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew.
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