I live in South Jersey, which is unequivocally Philadelphia sports country. Nobody around here is a Giants or Rangers or Knicks fan, and the occasional Devils fan you find is not very vocal about it. People here bleed Eagles green, Flyers orange and Phillies red, and no one cares too much about the 76ers.
I don’t live and die with the Flyers’ fortunes and care much less about the Eagles, but I must admit that the new, revitalized sports complex in Philadelphia is quite the sight, especially driving by it on I-95 on the way to or from the Philadelphia Airport. The outside of the new hockey/basketball arena is impressive to look at, Lincoln Financial Field is beautifully in your face off of the highway, and if you’re heading north (as you would be coming from the airport) it saves the best for last, the view of the stunning relatively new home of the Phillies, Citizens Bank Park.
It’s great that the new ballpark in Philadelphia was so well done. Philly’s reputation as a harsh, unpleasant sports town full of perpetually surly fans was worsened by Veterans Stadium, a concrete artificial turf donut known more for its jail cell than its baseball ambience. With its new baseball-only ballpark, people come to Phillies games and think of beloved local heroes like Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn, both of whom are nicely honored in the team’s new home. They see great pitchers who are also likable fellows in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who could have gone anywhere. They see a father who hugs his daughter after she throws the foul ball he caught back on the field. And if Philly is good enough for them, how bad could it be?
The designers got just about everything right—from natural grass to the red brick façade to the unique octagon shape. From the scoreboard to the sightlines to the counters in the concourse areas. From Bull’s BBQ to Tony Luke’s to Harry The K’s restaurant. Even the ushers are as nice as can be—which wasn’t always the case at the Vet.
To many baseball people, the only flaw of the Bank is its location away from the heart of the city. But they certainly maximized what they had, with ample parking and an Ashburn Alley that may not have happened in the cramped quarters of Center City (downtown for you non-Philadelphians). Citizens Bank Park is modern and humble at the same time, and that’s a more difficult feat to pull off than it looks.
It also doesn’t hurt that the Phils are fielding an exciting team these days, a team that is full of colorful personalities and piling up winning seasons. The Phils are going to be one tough ticket this year, with perhaps the strongest starting rotation this writer has seen in his life.
I’m fortunate enough to be living just a 20-minute drive away, but wherever you live, you really should make the trip to Citizens Bank Park to see a Phillies game. You won’t regret it, especially if you’ve been to the Vet and can compare. Philadelphia went from having one of the worst venues in baseball to having one of the best, and now seeing a game is always a much more enjoyable experience.
And if you go armed with some knowledge, you can avoid the considerable traffic, park in a spot that will get you out easily, take the train without stopping everywhere, find a pretzel and drinks outside, get a hot dog for $1 and a gluten-free dog for your lovely celiac afflicted wife, decide which brand of cheesesteak at the game suits your taste, drink a free soda, and find a beer much cheaper than the ballpark price.
Believe it or not, despite having gone to close to two dozen games at Citizens Bank Park since its opening in 2004, I did not know how to do any of these things before researching for the Citizens Bank Park E-Guide.
Now you can too. And you should. The Bank is not to be missed.