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  • Richard Smith

TU Arena – Baltimore Blast


Photos by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

TU Arena Auburn Drive Towson, MD 21252



Year Opened: 2013

Capacity: 4,000

 

Having A Blast In Towson

Most cities idolize their biggest sports stars. Baltimore has been fortunate that their biggest sports stars are also some of the biggest stars in their respective sports. The old Baltimore Colts had arguably the best quarterback in the history of the NFL in Johnny Unitas. The Baltimore Orioles have been blessed by being associated with Frank and Brooks Robinson. And they could shockingly almost pale in comparison to the iron man of baseball, local legend Cal Ripken Jr. The Baltimore Ravens counter by being the longtime home to a defense captained by middle linebacker and hall of famer Ray Lewis.


The Baltimore Blast is not as well known nationally as those other Baltimore teams. Indoor soccer is much more of a niche sport. But they still have their own sports legend in Stan Stamenkovic. Stan, whose real first name was Srboljub, was known in indoor soccer circles as “The Magician.”


The Serbian star played for the Baltimore Blast from 1983 until 1988, at a time when indoor soccer players made big money and were true star athletes. You will still find people around the Baltimore area who talk about Stan’s amazing ability. Besides his talent and creativity (check out this clip from the 1983 MISL all-star game below) Stamenkovic resonated with fans because he was the true “everyman.”


His love of pizza, beer, and cigarettes often showed in his non-athletic-looking body, but it was the fact that he put on a show every night that he gained the fan's love. Unfortunately, Stan died at the very young 39 in 1996 from a fall in his home country. His Number 10 is retired by the Blast and a banner flies in TU Arena.


The Baltimore Blast was a mainstay of the original Major Indoor Soccer League during the 1980s up until that league’s demise in 1992. Immediately a new team began in Baltimore, under the auspices of a new league, known as the Baltimore Spirit, which eventually changed its name to the Blast in 1998. Most people consider the two separate operations as one team. Leagues come and go but the Baltimore Blast stays. Currently, they play in the brand new Major Arena Soccer League (MASL).


Food & Beverage 2

The TU Arena really has subpar food offerings. There are a few concession stands offering a limited, basic variety. The concourse is open and has plenty of space for additional offerings if they so wished. Some non-food vendors were there at the game I attended, giving out pens and other tchotchkes.


Prices are okay, but not great, with $4 for a hot dog and $3 for a Pepsi. Pretzels are $4.25, nachos $4.25, and popcorn $3.25. Gatorade is $3.50. Alcohol is sold for Blast games.


Atmosphere 5

The lowered seating bowl of TU Arena makes the sound seem to pop here. It can be pretty loud. This place can be a loud arena. The stands surround the field with an upper concourse along three of the four sides. Part of the basketball stands is pulled in to make way for the soccer field. The field is much smaller than at the Blast’s former home at the Royal Farms Arena.


The Blast are still doing many of the same types of activities, as well as things such as player introductions, in the same general manner as they did 20 to 30 years ago. And that is not a bad thing. The crowd is fired up and ready for the explosive action of indoor soccer to begin. Change is not always good. The Blast really does it all right.


The Blast seems to work well with local recreation soccer systems, as many of the fans come in groups, all the while supporting their own team, as well as the Blast.


Neighborhood 3

Besides Johnny Unitas Stadium and the old Towson Center Arena, there is nothing right by the arena. You can walk to Bill Bateman’s Bistro at the corner of York and Cross Campus Boulevard.


Even though you may have to drive to other places, Towson is a semi-urban environment with a very large shopping mall and numerous restaurants in the area. Try the Charles Village Pub in the heart of downtown Towson for good food and drinks. Some other great options are Glory Days Grill, Sushi Hana, and Zia’s.


Baltimore is also a quick drive away. Check out the Federal Hill neighborhood, south of the Inner Harbor. There are a few fun restaurants and bars here. Abbey Burger Bistro is one great choice. The beer selection is good, and they offer a dizzying array of burger choices, which are all likely to satisfy.


Fans 4

Blast fans are truly knowledgeable about the game of indoor soccer. This sport takes the beauty and skill of soccer and marries it with the aggressiveness of hockey and basketball in an extremely fast-paced manner. The ricochets and quick bounces off of walls make me never want to be a goalie.


The Blast’s current league, the MASL, is made up of many teams from New York State and Pennsylvania all the way to Mexico. Expect to see mainly teams from the Eastern Division because travel in such a spread-out league can be expensive.


The Blast also brings many local rec teams in for each game so expect to see the stands filled with young ones in soccer gear.


Access 4

Towson is located right off the Baltimore Beltway/I-695. The only negative is that Towson is a maze of roads getting to the Osler and Auburn locations of the sports complexes. Parking is free and plentiful, although the closest lots may be reserved. Follow the signs along Osler Drive to the proper parking spot.


Return on Investment 3

General ticket prices begin at around $20. The most expensive tickets are nearly $50. Be on the lookout for bargains through sites such as Groupon where you may get in for cheaper. Groups are also a big deal for the community-focused Blast so you may want to see if a group you are associated with has any plans on attending. It may be a good idea to tag along with one of those groups.


Extras 4

The Blast work with local soccer clubs, church groups, and other organizations to keep the community involved. The array of summer soccer camps throughout the city and region is quite extraordinary. It makes the players part of the community and engages the fans.


This engagement is paid back on game days by getting players on the field for pregame introductions and halftime events. The old-style entertainment of the Blast games is refreshing.


The unique seating system and the small field of play are a feature in themselves. Check out the many banners for Blast teams of the past, as well as many retired and honored players.


Final Thoughts

TU Arena is a very nicely designed arena but it is strange to see the shortened indoor soccer field placed inside it. The Blast still does a nice job of making the atmosphere theirs and you WILL have a good time here.

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