Comment: Does size matter?

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Mickey Charles, president and CEO, The Sports Network asks: "What is it that really draws you out to see the game...any game?

Precisely what is the lure, the magnet that entices you to leave the confines of your home, the giant screen TV in the den or the pals that gather at the local pub or sports bar to see the game, any game? The camaraderie, zaniness of the event itself, cheering for your favourite team and heroes, right out there in the stands, braving the inclement weather when it occurs, like a true Spartan gone to battle? Adoring yourself in front of the mirror before leaving the house, clad in the finery of the team, adorned with their colours and logos, a warrior ready for battle with the evil ones, the opposition of the moment, the hour, the day. It is a brotherhood to which you cling and, yet, wonder why you suffer, go through moments of despair and agonise more than the players themselves in the event of a loss. It is a Shakespearean tragedy for which there is little sympathy save for an encouraging word or two from those who attended with you or a loving spouse who could not care less about the result but is concerned about suicidal tendencies in evidence. There may, however, be a redeeming factor that we can, and should, toss into the mix and then stir, not shake. The venues themselves. The stadia, arenas, ballparks, pitches, battlegrounds of the combatants and yourselves, the fans. You should, at the very least, enjoy the surroundings, establish a comfort level, have a day that has its advantages, many of which will outweigh that which you have come to see and cheer. We all have our favourites and, hopefully, they are the home fields of our brave, stouthearted and intrepid warriors. The problem with discussions concerning the same is that I have been to Old Trafford, the all–seater football stadium in the eponymous borough of Greater Manchester, England, and the home of Premier League club Manchester United but not, certainly, to all the others worldwide. And, I have been to Wembley Stadium, the third–largest of any stadium in the UK, and the eleventh–largest in Europe. Old Trafford and Wembley have been given a five–star rating by UEFA and it is well deserved but have I been to a number of competitions at either. I have not!Also, as a colonist with little interest in cricket, I have also been a guest at Lord's Cricket Ground (generally known as Lord's) in St John's Wood, London. For those not aware, it is named after its founder, Thomas Lord, it is owned by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and is the home of Middlesex County Cricket Club, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the European Cricket Council (ECC) and, until August 2005, the International Cricket Council (ICC). Lord's is widely referred to as the 'home of cricket' and is home to the world's oldest sporting museum. FYI, Lord's today is not on its original site, being the third of three grounds that Lord established between 1787 and 1814 but, that said, it is steeped in history and first cabin all the way. When you, when I, begin to consider what is the obvious in Europe and elsewhere, the most popular and largest stadiums have to include Old Trafford (above), Camp Nou, Celtic Park, San Siro, Amsterdame ArenA, Emirates Stadium, Santiago Bernabeu, Stamford Bridge, City of Manchester Stadium and Anfield Road. Soccer is king, or as is said across the pond from yours truly, football. There are those, the obvious 'those', that say size matters, for a host of reasons, and then again, there are those among us that cater to, and emphasise quality. We won't touch that one much beyond what has just been stated but, when it comes to soccer, it is usually size that is the determining factor for biggest and best although everything from architectural excellence and creature comforts also come into play. Surely one of yours, your favourites, is among Estadio Monumental Isidro Romero Carbo, Guayaquil, Ecuador; Beijing National Stadium, Beijing, China; Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran; Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia; Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico; Salt Lake Stadium or Yuva Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata, India; Rungrado May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea. Turn to baseball and it is the US first (more on that in a moment) or Japan. I have been to the Tokyo Dome in Japan and it is awesome. But, taking a page from the Americans, more than one in most of the following, there is also Nagoya Dome, Fukuoka Yahoo Dome, Seibu Dome, Chiba Marine Stadium, Jingu Stadium, Yokohama Stadium, Koshien Stadium, Sapporo Dome, Skymark Stadium, Mazda Stadium, Kleenex Stadium, Kyocera Dome Tokyo Dome, Nagoya Dome, Fukuoka Yahoo Dome, Seibu Dome, Chiba Marine Stadium, Jingu Stadium, Yokohama Stadium, Koshien Stadium, Sapporo Dome, Skymark Stadium, Mazda Stadium, Kleenex Stadium, and Kyocera Dome. The emphasis on domes and sponsorship dollars, yens, is more than apparent. Now that brings us to the United States, home to more sports venues than anywhere else in the world – professional, amateur, collegiate, community, clubs and any other reason you, we, can think of to build one. Interestingly enough, the largest facilities are not among the professional teams but, rather, the colleges. Check it out when considering your own favourite US destinations to watch a game. Michigan Stadium – 107, 501–Michigan; Beaver Stadium – 107, 282 – Penn State University; Neyland Stadium – 102, 037–Tennessee; Ohio Stadium – 101, 568 – Ohio State; Sanford Stadium – 92, 746 – Georgia ; LA Memorial Coliseum – 92, 516 – USC ; Tiger Stadium – 92, 400 – LSU ; Bryant–Denny Stadium – 92, 138 – University of Alabama; Rose Bowl – 91, 136 – UCLA; Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – 88, 548–Florida. The fascinating item to observe is that the students, alumni and guests focus on the game itself and the food stands, beer and soda, restrooms, seating comfort and all the rest are secondary. They are, seemingly, oblivious to any evaluation of same, to any pre–determined criteria, to any scale of pampering, gratification or pleasure. It is all derived from the game and those with whom they have attended same. How simple is that? Build it and they will come. . . and they will enjoy. On the other hand, the elder among us, those who go to the stadiums of the professional teams, have the need for catering to our whims, seats that are apparently pre–fitted to our respective derrieres, food and drinks brought to where we are seated or, at the least, nearby, restrooms that eliminate endless waiting for the gentler set and are actually kept in a state of decency and cleanliness for the 'in, zip, do, done, zip and gone' clientele. Parking has to be less of a war than one to which sports fans have become accustomed. Endless waits to leave when the games are over cannot be eliminated but they have to be alleviated. Everyone has to be able to see the game albeit some are closer than others and attendance has to be affordable which, in today's world where TV revenues, food and beverage sales, team attire, etc. , are insufficient to make up costs like $1bn–$2bn plus to construct, city taxes, employee and player salaries and all the rest. So, we pay the price and not only expect a winning team but one that surrounds us with a destination that has purpose, intention, design, objectives with us in mind and a reason, more than one, to leave the comforts of our home...the family room, HD LCD or plasma screen that might even have 3D any day now, refrigerator stocked with food of our choice at very affordable prices and a bathroom that beckons without waiting...likely more than one and no lines of cars on the driveway...even if you have friends over. If the Yankees, the most storied sports franchise in history (sorry Manchester United) and most valuable team in the world, want me to come out to the game, they had better have everything necessary to entice me. They have done that with the new Yankee Stadium. It is Las Vegas, Florida and California joining New York within one confine. It is a facility that does, in truth, beckon and it is always good to have a team that wins most of the time. The present Stadium, replacing the original that was built in 1923, opened in 2009 (April) and has 63% more space, 500, 000 square feet more in total than the previous stadium, wider concourses, open sight lines to the game from the concourses, over 1, 100 high–definition video monitors (with most in the men's room) within the stadium and about $10m worth of merchandise from which to choose. Want to eat? How about 25 fixed concession stands and 112 moveable ones? Hard Rock CafÉ€€, NYY steakhouse, celebrity chefs, Mohegan Sun sports bar. Transportation? The train station stops across the street, come by ferry from New Jersey or drive...there's plenty of easy accessible parking and you can reserve a space in advance!!Yankee Stadium works for me!How about your place? And, when in the United States, in New York, you have to put a visit to a game...any the stadium on your agenda. It is an absolute must, right up there with the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, the Staten Island Ferry and Central Park...for openers. Size does count for some but, without any admission of less than adequacy, I will posture for quality and, as necessary, add size to the mix. To make the point, the new stadium accommodates 52, 325 including standing room, compared with the old one at 56, 866. For $2. 3bn or so, Yankee Stadium and the New York Yankees, my kind of place and my kind of team.

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