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Official Review by Gary Butterworth, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In the late 1980s and early 90s, New Jersey’s Giants Stadium was an annual stop on the AMA Supercross Tour. After a two-decade absence, the motorcycles returned to the Meadowlands in 2014.
Things changed in 20 years. Bikes became more powerful, stadiums became bigger, and energy drinks became a thing. But at the end of the day, dirt bike racing is still pretty much the same. So, New York area racing fans were happy to see Supercross stop back in for the 2014 racing season, and were even happier to see the race continued through 2016 and possibly beyond. We attended the 2015 edition and came away impressed by the event, but just a little bit underwhelmed in an overwhelming venue.
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".
MetLife Stadium is, debatably, America's most modern large outdoor stadium. For its $1.6 billion dollar price tag, it better be. Things here are bigger and perhaps better, including the food selection.
Hot dogs, pizza, burgers, burritos, chicken fingers, sandwiches, all the way down to fried clams, it's pretty much all available. Most options taste pretty good, and the walk around this gargantuan venue to find the stand that satisfies your craving might even burn off some of the calories that you're bound to take in. Kosher stands are a welcomed sight to New York's large Jewish and Muslim population.
The 2015 edition of the race allowed all fans to bring in outside food in clear plastic bags. Each fan was also allowed one sealed bottle of a non-alcoholic beverage less than 20oz, but the size limit was not rigidly enforced. Pepsi products are readily available inside for $5-$9. Craft beers are available, but fans might need to hunt for them. Monster Energy drinks are the title sponsor of the race. We didn't spot any inside, but we could have missed them.
Variety is good. Prices aren't terrible. Things taste good, but nothing is truly amazing.
The 2015 edition of AMA Supercross at MetLife Stadium was nationally live televised on FOX. TV viewers caught a few races, but they didn't see the preliminary races that began at 9am, and they didn't get much of a look at the pit area just outside the stadium. Truth be told, the pits are almost as much of a fanfest as they are a working pit facility. True moto-X fans can spend 8 hours here soaking in the ambiance, but most casual fans will turn up just before the bigger races begin in the mid afternoon. Riders thunder in with entrance music and fireworks as bikini-clad models cheer them on. In the stands, some fans cheer for their favorite riders, while other cheer on the spectacle.
Holding this race in one of the United States' flagship venues is both a blessing and a curse. The venue is comfortable: fans have lots of leg room, concourses are roomy, and video screens make sure that no one misses an important moment. But the roominess also means that fans are spread out. The sheer size of MetLife Stadium means that even a respectable crowd of 60,000 leaves the venue a quarter empty. Fans can hear the bikes, but do the bikers hear the fans? It's hard to say.
Overall, the atmosphere here is good, but not extraordinary. In fact, that's an apt description of MetLife Stadium in general.
Rumor has it that legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa was buried around here as the Meadowlands sports complex was being constructed in the mid-70s. The story is plausible: despite its proximity to Manhattan, there wasn't much happening in New Jersey's Meadowlands until this complex opened. Even now, with the Meadowlands experiencing its second life (MetLife replaces the original Giants Stadium, and the neighboring Izod Center arena is vacant), there isn't much around despite the stadiums and their parking lots. A horse racing track still exists, while a mega-mall and indoor ski slope sit vacant in partially-complete development limbo.
In spite of, or because of the remote location, MetLife boasts a respectable tailgating culture. Aside from this, there's nothing to bring you to MetLife before or after your event. Hang out in nearby Manhattan, or maybe even Newark.
Supercross flies under the radar of most sports fans, and even of many motorsports fans. It has a following, but not enough of one to have fan rivalries or any other unpleasantness. At the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross race at MetLife Stadium, a variety of riders brought fans, but the majority of those in attendance simply wanted to see a few good races. Fans cheered at the appropriate times, both with and without prompting from the video boards. Some turned up in team gear. The majority of the crowd, though, was as varied you'd expect at a non-mainstream event in a major market.
Parking started at $30 for the 2015 race. Knowing this in advance does little to cushion the blow as you pull into MetLife's sea of parking.
For the 2015 edition of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, the NJ Transit train to the Meadowlands from New York City did not run. Instead, direct bus service was available from Manhattan, or fans could take NJ Transit trains to Seacaucus Junction in New Jersey and transfer to bus there. For future editions of the race, fans relying on public transportation should inquire about specific transit operations. For those coming from New York, mass transit may be the better option, even if connections are necessary. In addition to the high price for parking, traffic congestion around the venue is an annoyance.
MetLife tries to make life easy for all fans, but the sheer size of the venue makes that difficult. Handicapped parking is still a long walk from entrance gates. Once inside, accessible seating exists, but can still be a hike from entrance gates.
Fans with no mobility issues can fully enjoy MetLife Stadium in all its enormity. Though the first two annual Supercross races saw large crowds, the stadium was not sold out, and fans had plenty of room to move around.
The AMA Supercross tour doesn't show much love to the northeast. In the two decades between New York-area events, fans in the most populous part of the US were left out in the cold. With the return to New Jersey's Meadowlands, Supercross fans in the northeast can now see their sport on their own turf. And with such a large venue, organizers are able to offer enough price points to entice fans from all walks of life. Additionally, 2015 saw Monster Energy offer fans free access to the pit areas in exchange for an empty Monster can.
Perhaps more than anything else, the "Party in Pits" sets AMA Supercross apart from other events at MetLife Stadium. The opportunity to get a little closer to the riders is appreciated, especially at such a large stadium. The variety of Supercross rider gear at the souvenir stands is also impressive.
The return of AMA Supercross to MetLife Stadium is a blessing to dirt bike fans in the northeast United States, as well as the fan who likes seeing events that are just outside the mainstream. Though the event and stadium aren't quite "can't-miss," those with an interest in checking out Supercross in person are likely to be satisfied.
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304 Paterson Plank Rd
Carlstadt, NJ 07072