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Judging by the relatively sparse attendance at Red Bull Arena, it appears the soccer craze hasn't fully caught on in the New York area just yet. But with the brand new, state-of-the-art facility the Red Bulls have built, it shouldn't take long.
The arena, new for the 2010 season, is intuitively designed, squeaky clean, and extremely fan-friendly.
From the architectural innovations that allow the arena to be open air but still stay warm, to the easy-to-navigate concourse packed with concession stands boasting diverse food and drinks from around the world, the Red Bulls offer a venue that will satisfy everyone from the die-hard soccer hooligan to the novice checking out their first professional soccer match
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".
The food was actually better quality than what you find at most sports venues, and slightly less expensive.
The tacos were fantastic and a relative bargain at $6. Pizza will run you $4.50, cheese steaks are $8, and the surprisingly good chicken tenders were $8.50.
Domestic drafts are $6 for a small and $9 for a large, and the arena also boasts a "Beers of the World" stand with a diverse variety of bottled beers from all over the globe.
Red Bull Arena also offers a special promotion of $1 hot dogs on the plaza level (underneath the stands) at halftime, and the dollar dogs are the same ones served upstairs for $4.
Built in the traditional European style, the brand new Red Bull Arena is a breeze to navigate and a comfortable, fun environment no matter where your seats are or where you are on the concourse. The seats in the lower seating bowl are so close to the action and well-placed that you practically feel like you're sitting on the field.
Concession stands are many, the concourse is clean and protected from the elements, and there are plenty of restrooms, all of which are clean and warm.
Most impressive was the fact that the arena was designed to minimize exposure to the elements. The roof is open, so you still get the feeling of being at an outdoor match, but the design is such that you barely feel the cold. It was less than 40 degrees outside on the day I visited the arena, but I was comfortably toasty in my seat and on the concourse despite being without a warm coat.
Much like Meadowlands Stadium, there is no neighborhood to speak of around Red Bull Arena, so unfortunately, there is no option to explore the venue's surrounding area for those who enjoy doing so.
Save for a pizza shop and a tiny convenience store, there is nothing in the immediate area except for parking lots and a few unused industrial facilities.
I was surprised to find that the stands looked to be only about half full, considering that the team had made the playoffs. It appears that soccer hasn't fully caught on with the local population.
That being said, those fans who were in attendance were enthusiastic and very into the match. Attendees were fully decked out in Red Bulls duds, and came armed with noise makers, signature Red Bulls scarves (which fans hold up in unison during matches), and some very elaborate hats.
Most of the fans were pretty intense in their enthusiasm and interest in the match, but all were friendly and polite
Like Meadowlands Stadium, home of the New York Jets and Giants, the New York Red Bulls' stadium is actually located in New Jersey.
Access via train is very easy. It's a 20 minute ride on the PATH train from downtown Manhattan, and the station drops you off about a block from the arena. I waited less than five minutes for a train both to and from the arena.
Parking is a bit of a hassle, but far less expensive and infinitely less confusing and congested than at Meadowlands Stadium.
The train is your best bet, but access via car isn't too big of a headache compared to most New York teams' venues.
Overall, a Red Bulls game is a worthwhile experience. The concession prices are steep, but less so than at most venues in the area, and tickets are surprisingly affordable.
The Red Bulls have created an environment that seems to fit for all ages, at once family friendly and also appealing to an adult crowd. Everyone in attendance seemed to be enjoying their experience.
The Red Bulls do a notably nice job with extras. There is a "tailgate" area outside the facility with music, activities, and food for those who want to start the festivities before entering the arena. Many matches have a nice promotional giveaway, and a helpful, well put together program is given to each guest as they enter the gate.
I was given a tour of the facility by a Red Bulls employee before the game, where I noticed a few additional great extras. First, the club lounge for special guests and season ticket holders was most impressive. It felt much less like a cafeteria than most club lounges I've encountered. The dessert bar was especially striking, with colorful bowls of candy and beautifully crafted pastries. The options at the carving station were also notably superior to those in other club lounges, where "carving station" usually just means "we have a ham."
Also worth checking out: the gift shop. The shop has a bevy of merchandise at a range of prices, and has one particularly interesting item in jerseys that can be personalized on-site. You purchase the jersey and request what you'd like sewn on the back of it before the match, and you can pick it up afterward to take home.
This soccer-specific stadium is quite striking on the inside as it feels like you are in the middle some brand new grounds in the middle of England, Switzerland or Germany. From the translucent roof covering all the seats to the terrific sightlines on the great seating design it is an excellent place to watch a game. Looking forward to it being shown off during the MLS all star game in a few weeks. Too bad Red Bulls management continue to bring in overpriced guys who have yet to win anything in the franchise's 15 years of existence. There are a lot of diehards who go and it was a blast watching the Empire Supporters Club during the game. Yes, the neighborhood surrounding RBA is as bland as it gets full of abandoned warehouses and drab industrial areas. Its well worth eating inside with all of the great options featuring a Newark flavor to it.
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