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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Boston Breakers are one of nine teams in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the longest running club in women's professional soccer. Supported by the Canadian Soccer Association, Federation of Mexican Football and the United States Soccer Federation, the NWSL is the top flight women’s professional soccer league in North America, featuring many of the top players from the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as talent from around the world.
Jordan Field, which was renamed in September 2015 in honor of former Harvard Crimson tight end Gerald Jordan, class of 1961, also serves as home to the Harvard men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams. The field, finished in 2010, features a Field Turf surface, lights for night games, a permanent press box, and seating for up to 4,000 fans. Jordan Field is now the Breakers’ fourth different home pitch in six years.
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".
There is a food court on the far side of the pitch, with refreshments served under a tent behind the bleachers. Hungry Breakers fans can choose from the usual stadium fare, with hot dogs, sausage and pepper sandwiches, and cheeseburgers available. Snacks such as popcorn, pretzels, cotton candy, nachos, and potato chips are sold here as well. Several portable carts are scattered around the area to provide variety in the menu. Fans can purchase chicken fingers and fries, churros, and frozen lemonade at these carts. Snowy Joey's Ice Cream truck rounds out the roster, selling frozen treats for the kids in attendance.
Coca Cola products are sold at Jordan Field. Fans looking for adult beverages can choose from bottles of Budweiser and Bud Light, along with Johnny Appleseed hard cider, Michelob Ultra 19th Hole Lemonade, Sutter Home Wine, and Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA.
Food quality is good and prices, while more expensive than other events held at Harvard, are in line with other professional venues in the area. Be warned that there are not many points of sale here, and long lines form, especially at halftime. Plan your visit to the food court accordingly.
The Breakers put on a laid back, low key show for their games. The team involves the many youth groups in attendance by having them walk onto the pitch for pregame introductions, and by having players serve as ball girls for the game. Afterwards, the team appears in Autograph Alley, where fans can get items signed by their favorite players. Part of the fun at a Breakers game is watching the youth groups in attendance roam the grounds. They give Jordan Field a buzz throughout the game.
Any soccer team worth anything has their own supporter group, and the Breakers are no different. The Armada, although small in number, make their presence known at Jordan Field.
Before or after a Breakers game, take a walk across the Anderson Memorial Bridge, which spans the Charles River, and explore Harvard Square, a top Boston tourist destination. While Harvard Square may not be the bohemian center it once was, it still is one of the most popular areas in Boston for walking, shopping, and people watching (yeah, yeah, I know, it's technically in Cambridge, not Boston). It's a great way to spend a weekend afternoon in the spring.
For those wishing to bask in the history, architecture, and aura of Harvard, this is the place for you. Take a walking tour of the campus if you are so inclined, and take a picture in front of the statue of John Harvard, as thousands of others have done. Just remember these three things about the statue: 1) It is not actually a statue of John Harvard (no image of him exists), but of a random student; 2) John Harvard was not the founder of the college, but its first benefactor; and 3) The college was actually founded in 1636, not in 1638, as the statue claims. But remember to touch his shiny shoe, it is rumored to bring good luck.
The area around the stadium complex in Allston is a working class neighborhood, and not the tourist destination that Cambridge is. There are, however, some hidden gems to be found in the area. Walk about a half-mile south of O'Donnell Field on North Harvard Street and you will find a cluster of restaurants and shops along Western Avenue. It's off the beaten path, but a worthwhile destination for adventurous visitors.
Boston and Cambridge offer numerous options for lodging, but be warned, prices can be high, especially during the summer months. Fans looking to save a few dollars may look at staying in the suburbs and taking public transportation into the city.
The Breakers have seen their attendance numbers increase over the course of the season, especially since the Women's World Cup concluded in July, 2015. The team, has sold out their last few games, with crowds of over 4,000 in attendance.
A typical Breakers crowd is full of families and youth soccer teams, as the team has tried hard to create an atmosphere friendly to this demographic. Hardcore soccer fans will find the Breakers' low key game day presentation attractive as well. Although the crowd is predominantly made up of girls' youth teams, it's not unusual to find several boys' teams here as well. After all, good soccer is good soccer, regardless of the gender of the players on the pitch.
While Harvard University is located in Cambridge, MA, Harvard's athletic facilities are located across the Charles River, in the Allston section of Boston. Even on its best days, the city of Boston is a difficult city to drive in. Depending on which direction you are coming from, you will be navigating some of the most difficult city streets you will ever encounter.
If approaching from the north or south, I-93 will drop you off approximately five miles from the stadium, and you will take Storrow Drive to the athletic complex. If travelling from the west, you will take the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) to Allston, and travel one mile through the city to the stadium. If you are foolish enough to drive to Harvard, give yourself some extra time, as there always seems to be a traffic jam or construction project somewhere to gum up the works. Best practice would be to have someone with you who knows the crooked streets of Boston well.
A much more efficient method of transportation in Boston is the subway, or "T" as it is called locally. The Harvard Station MBTA stop is a 10 minute walk from Harvard Stadium across the Charles River. Several bus routes also stop at Harvard Station. In addition, the 66 and 86 bus routes stop on North Harvard Street, directly in front of the stadium.
The seating area at Jordan Field consists of three sets of bleachers, one along the far side of the pitch, and two smaller bleachers on the end lines. Be warned that if you are sitting along the sideline, there is a walkway directly in front of the bleachers, so your view will often be obstructed by people walking in front of you if you sit in the first few rows. Also, if sitting on the far end line, there is no short cut to get to your seats. You will have to walk all the way around the pitch to arrive at sections 1-5. Luckily, the grounds at Soldiers Field are nicely manicured with paved pathways to all areas. Some fans choose to watch the game from one of the berms located at each corner of the pitch. These areas are also sold as standing room when crowds become large.
There are no permanent restroom facilities at Jordan Field. Fans needing the facilities will have to use one of the many port-a-johns located in a far corner of the stadium.
Tickets are priced on three levels for Breakers games, starting at $15 for end zone seats, $20 for sideline seats, and $25 for midfield seats. Waiting until game day will cost an extra $2-$3 per ticket. Pitchside seats cost $90 and are limited to 100 in number.
Parking costs $10 for a spot in one of the many lots around the Harvard athletic complex. Depending on when you arrive at Harvard, you may have a decent walk to get to the stadium.
Factor in concession prices that are in line with other professional venues in the area, and a Breakers game, while not overly expensive, will run you a few dollars if you are bringing the whole family.
Extra points are awarded for the great number of female youth soccer players in attendance at a Breakers game. It is wonderful to see a game where the majority of the fans at a game are female, and especially so when the players they are there to see are also women. Seeing young girls sporting jerseys of their favorite players, along with the long lines at the souvenir stand, is a testament to the growing popularity of women's soccer.
A second extra point is awarded for the family friendly touches at Soldiers Field, such as Autograph Alley, where the players will congregate after the game to sign for the fans. Youth groups accompany the players out onto the field pregame, and there are halftime contests for the fans as well.
Even though the Breakers moved little more than 500 feet to their new home for the 2015 season, in reality the change couldn't have been more drastic. In previous years, even their biggest crowds of over 4,000 would have been swallowed up by the sheer enormity of Harvard Stadium. With a move to the soccer specific Jordan Field, the Breakers have found a venue that suits their fan base and current following perfectly. With women's soccer on a roll following the USA's recent World Cup victory, fans are flocking to Allston to see the NWSL. Seeing so many young women running around the pitch cheering on their heroes is a most welcome sight indeed.
Follow all of Paul Baker's Stadium Journeys on Twitter @puckmanRI.
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