16. Paul Brown Stadium

(Bengals vs Browns TNF)

Stadium: 3/5
The stadium isn’t very unique or impressive from an architectural standpoint. The team has done some renovations to improve the video boards, spice up the concession stands, and added bars to cut down on the empty concourse space, but it’s still rather average.

Fan Experience: 3/5
Jun-gle Boo-gie, Jun-gle Boo-gie! That’s all you’ll hear and it’s all you’ll want to hear, especially if you’re not down with the whole Who Dey chant (big one here). Dance party vibe in “The Jungle” and what the stadium lacks in looks they sure make up in stadium environment.

Logistics (getting to stadium locally, proximity to stuff, etc): 4/5
Paul Brown is on the river downtown and super easy to get to and from. There are many lots next to the stadium and in the city as well as street parking. With all the parking options, the traffic leaving the stadium isn’t nearly as congested as other city’s venues.

Tailgating/pre gaming: 4/5
Lots surround the stadium are full on game days and the bars within walking distance are packed as well. Along the stadium (you walk up a ramp from the ground level similar to New Orleans) there’s a fan “Jungle Zone” set up and if the games in prime time, ESPN will set up in there.

Cost: 4/5
Inexpensive ticket and concessions. Might change if this team ever gets a playoff win.

Local Flair: 5/5
Queen City is underrated. The area around the stadium has been built up and there are neat pockets like Over the Rhine. Go eat at Skyline so you can brag to your friends you had a three-way when in town.

 

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17. Ford Field

(Lions vs Eagles Thanksgiving Day)

Stadium: 3/5
I’m not a huge fan of domes and this one is on the older side, so despite its best intentions it comes across a little dingy. It’s small which is nice and they go to great lengths to incorporate the city (similar to most ballparks) which greatly adds to the atmosphere. There’s plenty of standing room in the end zone concourses and along the visitor’s sideline of the lower bowl.

Fan Experience: 3/5
I visited on Thanksgiving Day and expected more pageantry to be honest. High expectations are your worst enemy when visiting a sports venue. There was a giant Christmas tree decorated festively in Lions colors and the team even has a Santa for you to take pictures with before the game (it’s free!). The fans are friendly and where in particularly great spirits since the team was stomping the Eagles. I loved the live performance of the team’s fight song following every score. Theo “Gridiron” Spight never misses a beat, gets the crowd going, and probably had a very hoarse voice after this game!

Logistics (getting to stadium locally, proximity to stuff, etc): 3/5
The stadium is downtown, but it’s a little tricky to find free street parking in this city. A lot of rules and some places you might not want to leave your car. There are lots of lots, and the further away the cheaper (obviously).

Tailgating/pre gaming: 2/5
There was a significant amount of tailgating going on, but it’s spread out and chopped up because the different parking locations. It’s not in one area next to the stadium like other cities. There were some bars next to the stadium that were full of fans and the street between Ford Field and Comerica Park was closed off for fans to party on with live music and pop up bars.

Cost: 4/5
Even though this was a marquee game (Thanksgiving) ticket resale was cheap because neither team was doing well. Concessions are affordable as well.

Local Flair: 3/5
Detroit is on an upswing, but it’s still Detroit. I do love the city’s architecture, but am not too interested in walking around too much by myself. There are some fun cultural areas and a flashy casino in Greektown to visit, plus you can always cross over to Canada if bring your passport.

 

18. TCF Bank Stadium

(Vikings vs Rams Sunday noon)

Stadium: 3/5
TCF Bank Stadium is just the temporary home to the Vikings as they build their amazing new stadium at the site of the old Metrodome. It’s a great college sports venue as it is home to the Minnesota Gophers, but it’s not a pro venue at all. The Gophers and Vikings colors clash pretty bad, so it doesn’t look great.

Fan Experience: 3/5
Vikings fans are displaced and the environment was a bit subdued despite the organization’s best efforts. It’s hard to give a pro sports experience in an obviously college venue, it doesn’t feel right. This is my favorite fan base costume wise, they really run with the Nordic theme and look good doing it.

Logistics (getting to stadium locally, proximity to stuff, etc): 3/5
It’s easy to get to thanks to the Light Rail, but since it’s east of downtown, lots of people are riding and there are long lines after the game. There’s some parking around the stadium and it’s walkable if you’re staying at a hotel around the campus.

Tailgating/pre gaming: 3/5
Despite being a noon game there was considerable tailgating in some of the lots around the stadium. Fans really go to great lengths to deck their vehicles, tents, and areas out. It’s appreciated.

Cost: 3/5
Minneapolis is an affordable city and the ticket prices and concessions reflect that. Not sure how they’ll be next season in the new stadium though.

Local Flair: 3/5
Minnesota nice is really a thing and despite being a large city, the people are polite and welcoming. It has the largest mall in America, but Minneapolis has more to offer its visitors than just that!

 

19. Ralph Wilson Stadium

(Bills vs Bengals Sunday 1:00)

Stadium: 3/5
Ralph Wilson Stadium was nicer than I expected, but not all that impressive. It’s a white building without any real decorations or flair. It felt pretty intimate and blue collar which is a solid football vibe to give off.

Fan Experience: 4/5
Bills fans are notorious for their drunkary during tailgates and it carries over into the games. I could tell the people around me in the upper level were quite intoxicated- in fact there was a guy who got kicked out for puking on himself and not making an effort to clean up. The fans stayed into the game, even when it was a little obvious they were going to lose. They play a Bills version of the song Shout which will be stuck in your head following the game and shoot off fireworks from flags after touchdowns. They got rid of the Jills, but they have male flag wavers. I wasn’t close enough to objectify them unfortunately. 😉

Logistics (getting to stadium locally, proximity to stuff, etc): 3/5
This stadium isn’t in Buffalo, it’s in a suburb and a bit of a pain to drive to and especially to leave. If you don’t want to pay a lot of money to park in a stadium lot you can try the neighborhoods, but the people will charge you to park on their streets and in their drive ways.

Tailgating/pre gaming: 5/5
Losing four Super Bowls in a row would drive anyone to drinking and that’s where this fan base excels and then some. It was snowing pretty hard before the game started, but didn’t put a damper on their fun one bit.

Cost: 4/5
Tickets are cheap by NFL standards and the upper bowl is still fairly low to the field, so “noose bleeds” are a great option. Concessions were low and if you parked in a neighborhood your whole trip could be done under $100.

Local Flair: 3/5
The area where the stadium is actually located is boring, so go up to Buffalo and see the Niagara Falls and eat some chicken wings where they were invented.

 

20. University of Phoenix Stadium

(Cardinals vs Ravens MNF)

Stadium: 4/5
Beautiful indoor venue with all the amenities you can ask for in a modern stadium. Views from around the stadium are great, concourses are wide and well lit, nice pockets along sidelines for people to stand and watch the game. There’s the option to open the roof, but it was closed when I visited.

Fan Experience: 3/5
The crowd was into the game and the stadium was split so there was always noise when a team was on offense. The Cardinals try to help pump up the crowd and do a decent job of in game production, but it’s fairly average. For some reason the stadium staff at this venue weren’t very friendly and were a little annoying, but after engaging a few inebriated fans, I’ll give them a break. This was one of the few stadiums I wasn’t completely comfortable in and ended up moving around just to avoid people (made the mistake of wearing a crop top). There was some great ‘people watching’ though. Trashy people watching.

Logistics (getting to stadium locally, proximity to stuff, etc): 2/5
Glendale is about a half hour drive from Phoenix and though the area is now built up around it, it’s still out in the middle of nowhere and traffic is a nightmare coming and going. By chance I found a church across the street from the stadium lots that was donation only parking. A cheaper option, but don’t stiff them- you’ll go to hell.

Tailgating/pre gaming: 4/5
Venues that you have to drive to tend to have great tailgate vibes and this wasn’t an exception. Fans from both teams were mingling and seemed to enjoy each others’s company.

Cost: 4/5
Even though the Cards are good this year, they still don’t have much of a fan base and rely on who they’re playing to draw crowds/ set prices.

Local Flair: 3/5
There’s definitely some flair happening in Glendale, though I wouldn’t stay over by the stadium. Stay in downtown Phoenix or over in Mesa by ASU. There’s more going on and you should take advantage of the mountains and hike up one!

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