New Philadelphia Soccer Stadium Features Craft Beers such as Victory Hop Devil, Golden Monkey, Prima Pils, Sierra Nevada, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois and many others…
By Tim Rodgers
Being an avid soccer fan here in the United States, I was excited when news broke that the Philadelphia Metropolitan area was getting an MLS franchise with a brand new state-of-the-art stadium. Then, something immediately sucked the oxygen out of the room; the stadium was to be built in the depressed city of Chester just south of the Philadelphia International Airport. Chester, Pennsylvania was the first city in the state founded in 1644 not to mention one of first in the United States. However, it is now one of the poorest and crime ridden cities in America. In 1996, the State approved $1.36 billion dollars to “re-develop” the city, and fortunately for soccer fans in the Philadelphia area, some of those funds were allocated to build a brand new stadium on the waterfront of the mighty Delaware River for the MLS franchise Philadelphia Union. The only problem is that you have to drive through the heart of Chester to get there.
Their motto “JUNGITE aut PERITE”, is a Latin phrase meaning “JOIN or DIE”, which was displayed by Franklin in his cartoons along with the rattlesnake. So when season tickets went on sale, I did what any revolutionary would do, I got myself a pair.
Finally, on June 27th 2010, right under the Commodore Barry Bridge on the Delaware waterfront, the Union launched the 18,500 seat venue to its local soccer fans. The Union was now set to play its first game in its new stadium against the MLS Seattle franchise. In true Philly style, I had every intention of bringing an Eagles-esque style tailgate drinking and eating motif to the Union pre-game festivities. That was not a problem, since I took control. The lot attendant wanted me to park in the middle of that yet to be paved stone lot, but I ignored his power trip and veered off right towards the river front. While most tailgaters were sucking down Miller Lite’s in MLS licensed merchandized personalized “cozies” and eating soft pretzels, I was pouring Sierra Nevada Pale Ales into a cup. It was over 100 degrees in the stone and gravel parking lot, but that didn’t stop me from eating a Sack-o-Subs roast pork I picked from the Jersey Shore where I was staying. The river breeze provided relief in the brutal heat, and the Delaware was still somewhat majestic despite the river rats or the industrial run-off nearby. It was close to game time, so now it was time to check out the amenities that PPL Park had to offer.
The view outside and inside the stadium is amazing. You can see the bridge and various vessels floating by in the river in the background from multiple angles. The pitch is perfect green and in great condition. First things are first, I worked up a thirst walking from the VIP parking Lot B to our gate in section 114. The inaugural game was a sell-out so I had to fight my way through the crowds to get a beer. The question is will I have to fight my way through the Budweiser/Coors Light vendors to search for any kind of craft beer stand that they hide in some obscure corner? To the contrary, right behind my section alone was a “Beers from Around the World” vendor. Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Victory Hopdevil, among others were readily, steadily, and easily available from every vendor. Since my Sons of Ben shirt was completely soaked in sweat from the 100 degree and 100 percent humidity, I went with the Belgium white ale. Although the best value there was the Foster’s Oil can which provides an extra eight ounces of brew for the same price, eight bones.
One beer down and it’s already been 45 minutes since I wolfed down my roast pork; I was starving! Time to check out the grub. Being a native Philadelphian, hitting up 1 out of the 2 Chickie&Pete’s would be cliché. Although, crab fries, chicken tenders, roast pork, amongst its other items are always tempting, I’m still perusing. There’s a small nameless vendor in the corner who is grilling up sausages and brats, and not the kind that look puny, nor frozen, they look legit. And the peppers and onions being fried besides them provide an appetizing aroma. They have hot dogs, pizza, pretzels, popcorn, but since this is the first game, I need to go for the gusto! The “Black Angus” vendor will be my choice. What more appropriate than to go with the “Philadelphia Union” Burger. One half pound of ground Angus beef, served with a fried onion ring, bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce. The burger came with fries and I got to choose from an array of condiments including honey mustard, ranch dressing, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, among many others. Of course I dipped my fries in all of them!
I’m not sure if MLS soccer will be as successful as the other major sports in the United States. However, as our culture becomes more diverse and global, soccer is the dominant sport worldwide. Furthermore, the Philadelphia Union have a great new stadium with a top of the line amenities. You can also text message your order and a friendly PPL park attendant will bring your order to your seat. (Eat your heart out Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie!) Since I am a founding season ticket holder, I also get access to the VIP club, restaurant, and bar in the club box area. I need to consult with Haroon to see what cigar goes with Chester City soccer as I sip Louis Tre on owner Jay Sugarman’s dime. I have taken some casual fans and novices to this soccer venue since that first game, and everyone has had a great time so far. Being right on top of the action helps keep the excitement at a high level. I highly recommend that you see a game for an average of $25 per ticket. Even if you are disappointed, you can check out the Harrah’s Casino two miles up the road afterwards. But based on my experience; I think many people will be surprised about this upstart league and sport that will be here to stay in Philadelphia as well as the United States.