Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quest for 400

Happy Birthday to me! Or at least to the blog. Sports Road Trips is three years old today and it's time to change it up a bit. I've been doing odd trips over those years, generally when I found a bit of free time and spare cash, but there hasn't been a lot of rhyme or reason behind them. Mostly I've been trying to see Toronto teams on the road and all the new baseball stadiums, and then finding other games in the vicinity.

I've decided that this is no longer the best way to approach these trips, so I've set a goal to complete visits to 400 pro stadiums in North America over the next five years. Now, I've already been to nearly 300 venues across the continent, plus another 75 or so in far-flung international locations, but that was using a more scattershot approach. Since I'm only planning to do this for a few more years, I want to set a goal and use the blog to monitor progress.

What I've done is found 25 leagues that total 400 teams. I hope to see a game in each of those venues that I have yet to visit by the time I retire from this in 2017. The rules are as follows:

1) the game must be a regular season or playoff game, no pre-season antics allowed
2) the home team must be present. So although I saw the First Niagara Center twice (when it was the HSBC Arena), once was for an exhibition game and the other time was for the World Junior Hockey Championships, so it is still on the list to visit.
3) a full game must be played. I saw 5 innings in New Hampshire one year and so need to drop by again to consider it official.
4) Once a stadium becomes inactive, the new stadium is added back to the list. When the Atlanta Trashers moved to Winnipeg, Phillips Arena no longer counted as an NHL venue, so I had to check out the MTS Centre to stay current. This rule is most difficult in minor league baseball, which sees franchise relocations and new ballparks every year.

The breakdown of the 400 is as follows, with the number of active venues I have seen listed.

MLB: 29/30 - Marlins Stadium to be knocked off the list this summer.
NHL: 27/30 - Buffalo and Boston have been seen before, but not under the rules. Carolina also on the list.
NFL: 7/32 - Need to do an NFL roadtrip one of these years, it is too tough to see more than two games on the sort of trips I do, which are usually in the summer.
NBA: 19/30 - Not something I'm particularly keen on but will try to knock them off during the NFL trip
Minor league baseball: 70/150 - Not including independent leagues, there are 13 affiliated minor league circuits that I count here, excluding the Appalachian League. I was surprised at how low the number I've seen is, it used to be nearly 90 which shows you how much franchise movement and ballpark construction there is at this level.
AHL: 5/30
ECHL: 6/22 - another league with far too much franchise movement.
CHL: 1/16
MLS: 1/19 - Like the NFL, a difficult one to get when I travel. Three Canadian teams now.
NBA D-League: 2/16 - Yep, even minor league basketball.
CFL: 1/8: - Gotta get out west again.
NLL: 1/9 - Have seen two franchises that have moved, but the league has reached relative stability
MLL: 0/8 - When I started planning this, there were only 6, but they expanded for this season.

A rather arbitrary list of leagues but it totals nicely to 400 venues with Major League Lacrosse expanding 8 teams. I'm ignoring college sports for one main reason: too many venues. There are 345 here alone in Division 1 basketball and I am not immortal (nor a millionaire). I'm also ignoring junior hockey rinks as I want to focus only on professional sports. That doesn't mean I won't visit those places when opportunity presents itself, but I will not be counting them on this list.

Out of the 400, I have only visited 169 of them, a surprisingly low number (my overall venue count is 362). That makes 231 to go, not including new stadiums which will certainly be built. I'd estimate about 50 per year over the next five years to make it. I'm going to track this on the following page, along with my total venue count. I should note that this quest is predicated on my moving back to North America next year. If that doesn't happen, I won't be able to get home often enough to achieve this. But If I do move back, then it will be interesting to see if I get even close.



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