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Official Review by Geoff Crawley, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
PPL Park is the home of Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union. It is a brand new stadium for a brand new team, and my expectations were high going in. Taylor Twellman of the New England Revolution on Twitter recently called it the best stadium in MLS.
He was not wrong.
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".
Blown. Away. The food selection here is unbelievable. Let's start with the Crab Fries at the baby Chickie and Pete's. Then let's move on to the hot dog selection, which includes, among others, a "Monster Dog" which has lettuce, tomato, taco meat, shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chips. Oh, and a hot dog. Want a cheesesteak? Of course you do, you're in (or near, actually, more on that later) Philly. How about a vegetarian cheesesteak? Got those too. Burgers, sandwiches, wraps, teriyaki chicken skewers, ribs (legit ribs, not a McRib style cutlet) with candied yams on the side. Candied yams. At a stadium.
Great beer selection, 20 oz drafts are $8, 22 oz bottles are $10 or $12.
In a word: electric. The stadium is brand new, so it cannot get a 5 because there is no history. But the team and its band of hooligans (more on them later) absolutely rock this place. It has already earned an intimidating reputation despite only being open for a few months.
The stadium is part of the Chester, PA waterfront revitalization effort. Unfortunately, it is the only thing there right now. The parking lots are open five hours before game time for tailgating (four hours for off-site lots), as Philly fans tailgate at badminton.
The fans deserve a 10. Before each game, the official Union hooligans, er, I mean, supporters (The Sons Of Ben) march into the stadium singing, chanting and waving flags. They then go into the end of the stadium (The River End) behind one of the goals and set up camp. Then, they and a few thousand of their closest friends stand, chant, clap, cheer and sing for THE ENTIRE MATCH. The section in which they sit is over the locker rooms, and both teams must enter the pitch via a tunnel that goes right through them. It is marked with an official sign saying that opposing colors are not allowed in the sections comprising The River End. During opening introductions for the Union, when the PA announcer says the player's last name, the whole crowd says it with him. When the visitors are announced, everyone in The River's End turns their back to the pitch, and, after each player's name, yells, in true Philadelphia fashion, "SUCKS!"
The piece de resistance comes during every visiting goal kick. When the opposing goalkeeper lines up to kick, they chant, "OOOOHHHHHH," not unlike an NFL kickoff. When he kicks it, they all yell, "YOU SUCK, (SEVEN LETTER WORD THAT RHYMES WITH GLASS BOWL)!"
Every. Single. Time.
Kid friendly? No. Awesome? All kinds of yeah.
The stadium is right off Interstate 95 in Chester, which is just south of Philadelphia. On-site parking is $20 and fills up quickly. Off-site parking is $15, shuttles are available to and from the stadium. Take them, don't walk. Trust me. There is public transit available as well, check Septa. There are plenty of clean bathrooms.
A trip here would be a bargain at twice the price. Expect to spend about $50-$75 per person including tickets, food and drink, but not parking. It is well, well worth it.
Extremely fan friendly, this stadium rocks. I frequently caught myself watching the fans instead of the match, they are that awesome. It is, of course, brand spanking new, so it just gleams. The pitch is gorgeous. It intimidates opposing clubs. The seats are comfortable. The staff is super friendly. I seriously can't say enough good things about this stadium. Only the lack of a neighborhood prevents it from being the best venue I have ever been to.
If you are a soccer fan, you will love this place. If you are a fan of Philadelphia sports, you will love this place. If you are neither, you will STILL love this place. For the non-soccer enthusiast, it will convert you. Come on down. It is worth the trip.
Geoff Crawley is the Mid Atlantic Regional Correspondent and Voice of the Fan and is the host of a weekly podcast.
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