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.
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 their former home, Veterans Stadium. Citizens Bank Park is modern and humble at the same time, and that’s a more difficult feat to pull off than it looks.
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).
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 the Vet, 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?
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.
People who don’t like the location of Citizens Bank Park should really count their blessings. When the ballpark was being proposed, one of the sites was in the heart of the city near Chinatown, which was nixed when Chinatown folks protested the intrusion into their neighborhood. This probably saved people who rent cars in Philadelphia about $350 million in land acquisition costs.
All the same, baseball fans bemoan the reality that Citizens Bank Park isn’t everything it could be, because it’s in the same dreary neighborhood as the rest of Philly’s sports arenas, where Veterans Stadium once sat. To which I say, until you’ve ridden a shoddy 7 train to get to a Mets game or a sardine-packed Green Line train to a Red Sox game because traffic and parking are so miserable, quit yer bitchin’. One thing the Philadelphia sports complex has is ample parking.
Still, with the Phillies as popular as they have become, all of the parking lots near the Bank get full, making exiting the lot after the game a slow, patience-trying experience.
If you don’t mind a bit of a walk, I have the antidote. This tip was given to me by a Phillies usher by the name of Marty, who would know.
There is a NovaCare complex west of the ballpark on Pattison Avenue. Look for the sign in Eagles green. Just west of NovaCare (don’t try to park in their lot) is a lot mostly used by the employees of Philly teams, but there is ample parking for fans here as well. This lot costs the same as the stadium lots, and it’s a bit of a hike, but you’ll be glad you did it after the game.
Leaving the lot just make a right out of the gate instead of a left towards the park and its exiting traffic, and after a few hundred yards you can make a hard right onto Penrose Avenue (you’d do well to stay in the right hand lane until you get there), which leads straight to I-76 and points west and east including New Jersey. From I-76, you can also head east and quickly get on I-95 for points north and south. Meanwhile, people in the Bank’s lots will be wishing they had taken the Taxi Crab to Chickie’s and Pete’s to wait this out.
Like I said, it’s about a quarter of a mile walk to get to the park from here, but if you’re going to be downing a Tony Luke’s cheesesteak or a Schmitter, you’re going to need the exercise anyway. Better to get some extra blood flowing through your legs than have everything sit on your butt for an hour in a parking lot.
Hopefully, someday there will be some Pattison Avenue vendors of something besides oversalted soft pretzels, making the walk an even better one.
One of the many goals of the guides I am writing is to let people know where they can get a meal and possibly get an inexpensive brew before or after the game. Ballpark beers are running $7.50 and up these days, and we all know how much ballpark food is. The Taxi Crab gives Phillies fans a lot of the better of both worlds.
The Taxi Crab is a shuttle run by Chickie’s and Pete’s, a popular Philadelphia area restaurant chain. It carries passengers from the restaurant’s nearby location on Packer Avenue to Citizens Bank Park (or any of the sports venues in the complex). It will also pick up passengers at the park to take to the restaurant for a meal and good times, and then return them to the parking lot when they’re finished, giving them something to do as the parking lot slowly empties.
The shuttle is free; unfortunately you have to pay to park at C&P’s. But it’s still a better deal than parking at the Bank–your car is valet parked, and you won’t have to deal with post-game traffic in the Bank’s parking lot. It costs about the same, maybe a little less.
In addition to getting a better deal on parking and an easier exit, you can enjoy a meal at a popular local institution. This is a much easier way to try Chickie’s and Pete’s famous crab fries. They have a stand in Citizens Bank Park, but the lines for the fries get far too long, and they’re more expensive at the game. If you’re interested in trying the crab fries, try going to the restaurant and using the shuttle.
Besides the fries, Chickie’s and Pete’s has some pretty good grub at reasonable prices. You won’t save much money eating here over eating at the game, but there’s a good selection of seafood and a long list of different beers. They were voted #1 Sports Bar on the East Coast by ESPN, and the Best Seafood and Wings by the Philadelphia Inquirer. And the beer is cheaper.
So in summary there are three benefits to the Taxi Crab: less of a wait for the crab fries, less post-game traffic hassles, and a less expensive place for a beer or two before the game.
And Dr. Ballgame is all about finding a better way to do it.
I compiled a list of the Theme Nights that the Philadelphia Phillies will be holding at Citizens Bank Park in 2010, and how to get discounted tickets and other nice Phillies related stuff. Each of them has a promotional code that you enter when you’re buying tickets for a discount.
Friday, April 16 is Irish Heritage Celebration Night, where each fan receives a green hot dog…ok, not really. But there will be Irish delicacies (Does that mean Irish potatoes? Man I love them without coconut), music and dance. $4 discount off tickets priced under $34. Promotion Code: IRISH
Tuesday, May 3 is Asian Pacific Celebration night. More ethnic food and dancing without any specifics. I’d like to know if I can get dumplings. Same ticket discount, in fact I think all of these promotions offer a $4 discount on tickets with a promo code. Promotional Code: GOODFORTUNE
(Some of these codes come dangerously close to being ethnic jabs. Maybe it’s just the conditioning of a litigious society, but I’m chuckling at them and I’m not sure I should.)
Thursday, June 10 is Youth Baseball Celebration Night (II, for some reason). Organized youth baseball teams can parade on the field. Well, at least the first 3,000 kids can. $4 discount on Pavilion Deck and Terrace Deck (upper level) seats. Terrace Deck can in the infield, probably a better bet. Promotional Code: YBBC (pronounced “yibbick”)
Friday, June 18 is the Sound of Philadelphia Celebration Night. It’s in honor of Black Music Month, which I assume is June. No artists are specified, so I imagine Stevie Wonder won’t be coming. They do promise to announce the winner of the Phillies Gamble & Huff Community Partnership Award. Hopefully the winner will be deserving and Kanye West won’t have to jump onto the field to protest. $4 off tickets $34 or less. Promotional Code: TSOP
Friday, July 23 is Italian Heritage Celebration Night. “Great Italian food and entertainment”, says the Phillies. Hey, when is Italian food not great, except when it’s made by Americans? Same discount as the others. Promotional Code: ITALY
Monday, July 26 is Summer Camp Day. I presume it’s dedicated to kids in summer camp and their counselors, although they don’t quite specify. After the game kids can run the bases courtesy of Modell’s. Probably the most fun they’ll have all summer. Same $4 discount. Promotional Code: CAMP
Thursday, August 12 is Jewish Heritage Celebration Night. Great kosher food this time and entertainment. Don’t know if the entertainment is kosher. Same $4 discount. Promotional Code: MATZ (not joking, it really is)
Friday, September 3 is Latino Celebration Night. More food and entertainment. Sigh. They will announce the 2010 Phillies & Goya Family Service Award winner that evening. Because when you say Family Service, you say Goya. Same $4 discount. Promotional Code: SALSA (yuk)
Finally, Saturday, September 18 is German Heritage Celebration Night. You won’t believe this one–great food AND entertainment! Do you think the Scorpions will show up for this one? I don’t think they’ve had many good gigs of late. That’d be great, “Rock You Like A Hurricane” at a family event. Same $4 discount. Promotional Code: HURRICANE. Sorry, just kidding, it’s GHC.
The Phillies are also offering something called “Tent Party Packages”, where for $100 per fan you get admission to the pre-game Phillies Party Tent, with a buffet, beer and a gift (I assume the food and beer is included in the price). Plus you get a ticket to see a prime opponent…this year it’s available for games against the Red Sox, Mets, and Twins (?). The game against the Twins is on Father’s Day, so it would make a good gift for Dad.
Well there you have it…games where the Phillies offer a ticket discount in 2010, and some food provided you can stomach matzo-ball soup and fortune cookies. A little tightwad tip for you value seekers in the Philly area.