My name is Scott Griffith, a.k.a. Stadium Dude.
Throughout the course of my life, I’ve managed to see a regular season game in 34 NFL stadiums and 40 NHL rinks, including all that were in use as of spring 2021. But baseball parks are my true passion. I’ve seen a regular season game in 57 stadiums. With the exception of the newish park in Atlanta (which I’ve been to a half-dozen times) and Globe Life Field in Texas (five games and counting), I’ve seen at least 10 games in every single current park. Many summers in the 2010’s, I managed to get to all 30. It’s my thing.
I became a baseball fan at a young age. As a Canadian kid, I casually rooted for the Expos and Blue Jays. But I was really a Detroit Tigers fan. For four years, our family lived a very short drive from Tiger Stadium and I went with my Dad several times a summer. It was fantastic.
As much as I loved Tiger Stadium, I knew I wanted to see games in some of these other great stadiums that I saw on TV: Yankee Stadium, Royals Stadium, Dodger Stadium, and especially Wrigley Field, a place that looked so great on TV, I made the Cubs my National League team of choice. In fact, I wanted to see them all, including the ugly cookie-cutter multipurpose parks. It became a “bucket list” goal.
When I was a teenager, my family moved to the city of London, Ontario which was a two-hour drive from either Detroit or Toronto. Alas, this ended my monthly Tiger Stadium trips with my Dad. But once I got my driver’s license, I could do day trips to catch a game, not just to Toronto and Detroit, but also to the other parks within a “day’s drive”. It wasn’t unusual for me to drive up to 8 hours each way to catch a ball game, which allowed me to knock off all the parks in the Midwest. In my junior year of college, a friend and I toured the east coast. After graduating before starting a job, when everybody else went backpacking in Europe, a different buddy and I packed up my 1988 Mercury Topaz and headed across the country. We embarked on an epic month-long roadtrip where we picked off the 9 ballparks to which I had not already been (as well as other “must see” American landmarks like Zion National Park, Las Vegas, the Pacific Coast Highway, The Grand Canyon and New Orleans). By the age of 22, I had completed a lifetime goal.
As an adult, I moved to Toronto to begin my professional career in advertising, and witnessed expansion and the stadium boom of the 1990’s and 2000’s. By the turn of the millennium, I realized that I hadn’t seen a game in most parks and needed to redo my journey. This took a few summers, but by 2008 I had completed the circuit again.
Shortly afterwards, our family moved to the Chicago area. Among the wonderful things afforded by living in Chicago is that every city in America is a direct flight away. Plus, my job would naturally take me across the country; if my business trip and the MLB schedule were in synch, I could knock off a park while having transportation and lodging covered. In 2011, between work travel and few weekend jaunts, I managed to hit all 30 parks in one year. It was so much fun, I repeated that feat the next summer, and the summer after that, and the one after that… These multiple visits have allowed me to get a better sense of the heart and soul of these cathedrals. And by attending them all in the same year, I feel I get a more accurate comparison.
I wanted to share my travels with other fans, but never had the time to fully craft a website until the COVID-19 shutdown. And so, I now offer my biased opinions.
The baseball reviews are detailed. I feel most qualified to review them and I have painstakingly agonized over the actual scores. Baseball venues tend to have more character, and therefore more difference between them. Fans seem to have a greater connection with their home ballpark than football fans have to their stadium, or hockey fans to their arena. I also think it’s because the ballpark has a bigger influence on the experience due to the more relaxed pace of baseball; one can soak everything in and still pay attention to the game. It’s likely the reason why the ballpark circuit is a more common goal than hitting all the NFL stadiums or NHL arenas.
The football and hockey stadiums are ranked but don’t have the same detailed breakdown. For one, I’ve only been to 1-2 games in most of these places. As well, the differences tend to be more pronounced in the exclusive premium seating areas rather than the main seating bowls (which is where I sit).
Almost all NFL stadiums are grand castles that reflect football’s popularity; some of the most impressive public venues in this country are NFL stadiums. But most of the time, what you remember most about an NFL game is the total experience including the tailgate, the fan passion, and the loudness. The building, however nice as it may be, plays a lesser role. For instance, one of the worst buildings, Bills Stadium, offers a fantastic experience thanks to the tailgate antics of the Bills Mafia. While I tried to focus just on the in-stadium experience itself, the rankings aren’t necessarily a reflection of how much fun you’ll have. (Really, unless you’re in brutal weather for a meaningless game, or get stuck beside some belligerent fans who want to fight, ANY NFL game is going to be a full day blast of an experience).
NHL arenas are even harder to rank for those sitting with the common fans and not in the high-end club areas. With the exception of the now-retired-for-NHL-hockey Barclay’s Center (great arena, but was never built for hockey), ANY rink can offer a great experience, and the biggest differences are game day presentation, the location of the arena, and the passion/knowledge of the fan.
If you disagree and want to debate a little, I’m game. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what I find attractive, you may find plain. What I find to be kitschy cool, you may think is dumb. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or better yet, offer to connect over a beer the next time I’m in your town. I believe passionate discussions are best had over hops.
Cheers to live sports!
The Stadium Dude