Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Denver Broncos 0 at Los Angeles Chargers 21 - October 22, 2017


As much as I would have liked to have a few drinks at a Vegas bar after the Golden Knights victory on Saturday night, I had to return to my hotel to get some sleep before an early flight to LA. I left my hotel at 5:30, and it was just warm enough to walk back to the airport, arriving at 6 for my 7:30 flight. Security took nearly as long as the walk, but I still had a half hour until boarding. I flew Southwest, whose open seating policy is great, as it allows you to choose which side of the plane to sit in the hopes of getting a good picture. Watching other planes take off, I determined that a right-side window seat would allow a view of the strip and T-Mobile Arena, which was included in the previous post. Landing in LA, I also took a shot of downtown...



... and the Forum (former home of the Lakers and Kings - I saw a Kings playoff game here in 1991), along with the beginnings of the new Los Angeles Stadium that will host the both the Chargers and Rams from 2020.



This day, however, I was flying to LA to see their newest team, the Chargers, in their current digs, StubHub Center.



Opened in 2003 on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills, the stadium has been home to MLS club Los Angeles Galaxy since then. The Chargers are using it for the next three seasons until their new home is complete, at which time I will return.



StubHub Center is actually very easy to get to on transit. I took the G shuttle bus to the Aviation/LAX Green Line station, where I boarded the Green Line to Harbor Freeway, switched to the Silver Line bus downstairs, rode two stops to Harbor Gateway Transit Center, and took a 52 bus to the corner of Victoria and Avalon. It sounds complicated, but it only took about 1:15 and cost just $2.50 (you will need a TAP card). Another option is to take the Green Line one stop further to Avalon and take a bus south on Avalon, or take a free shuttle bus from Harbor Gateway if you are there within 2.5 hours of kickoff.



Driving is an option, but the stadium is surrounded mostly by residential areas, and parking is not easy to find. You can choose to park in the tailgating lot for a mere $100, but I would advise taking transit if possible.



There is also a dearth of restaurants here. A small strip mall at the northeast corner of Avalon and Victoria contains a 7/11, seafood and taco shop, and Big Burger, which is a tiny shop with cheap, fresh-cooked burgers and other eats. Definitely worth a stop here instead of eating overpriced stadium food. While I was chowing down, Andrew and Peter from the Ultimate Sports Road Trip entered - they were on the first day of their trip out west and we caught up with our latest adventures. We then walked over to the stadium, checking out a few of the pregame activities such as the drumline, who are known as the Thunderbolts.



I also asked at the box office if I could have a hard stub printed out and was soundly turned away. At StubHub Center! Unbelievable. Fortunately, season ticket holders get cool stubs and I found a few of those after the game.



Anyway, temperatures were nearing 100 degrees so I made my way in and found my seat after grabbing a designated driver soda. Fortunately, I was in the shade the whole game (Section 141 if you are looking). It was also right above the tunnel where both teams enter the field.



With a capacity of 27,000, it is by far the smallest venue in the NFL, and tickets are priced accordingly, with lower level end zone seats going for $227. Fortunately, season tickets are cheaper ($165) and the team sees little demand locally, so I was able to grab a ticket for $100 plus fees (view below).



After resting for a bit, I did my usual walk around. Scattered around the concourse are high-powered misting machines which keep you cool as you explore. In the south end is the open plaza with several concessions and food trucks. Just behind here is a tennis court that is turned into a premium party area.



Another premium location is the cabanas atop the south end zone, above the Bud Light Party Patio in the photo below.



There is no history here for the Chargers, but there is a Wall of Legends for some Galaxy players, and a plaque for their 2002 MLS Cup title.



There is a second deck along the east side of the stadium, and this is shaded at the beginning of the game, but as the sun moves west, more and more of these seats become tanning salons.



Similarly, the lower level seats (below the suites) on the east side start in the sun but slowly move into the shade.



The north end zone is completely exposed and looks to be a very uncomfortable place to sit, while the south end zone is the only spot you can expect to remain in the shade from start to finish. There are standing areas here as well that fill up quickly with fans who want to avoid melanoma.



The Chargers move to L.A. is controversial and many San Diego fans are still upset about having their NFL team ripped out of the city. One fan has managed to rent an airplane and have it fly over the stadium before the game with a banner stating "Dean Spanos...Cheap Inept Weasel #FightForSD". Spanos is the owner who is now persona non grata among Chargers faithful, while the hashtag is in reference to FightForLA, the Chargers marketing phrase that can be found inside the venue and is also their website.



There were some decent food options, but as mentioned, not affordably priced. I saw one grilled cheese sandwich going for $14. I can't imagine those prices are used for the MLS games - I guess I'll have to come back to find out.



In case you forget the order of things, the sign below should help.



If your phone is losing juice, there are USB chargers along the east concourse, along with benches to relax on.



Overall, StubHub Center is probably a great soccer venue for night games, but for afternoon NFL tilts, it is the opposite. The lack of shade, which is clearly shown in the panorama below, is a big problem. Costs are ridiculous, and you have to wonder if the NFL has overstepped its bounds. San Diego had a good following, while Angelos don't seem to care. I'll be back in 2020 to see if things have changed.



The Game

The Denver Broncos were in town in an AFC West battle, and I'd say at least half the fans were wearing orange. Meanwhile, the Chargers came out wearing their powder blue uniforms that were the highlight of the afternoon.



After the Broncos second drive stalled, Riley Dixon punted to Travis Benjamin, who found an opening and raced 65 yards to open the scoring. In the second quarter, the Chargers drove 65 yards in 9 plays, finishing with a 1-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Austin Ekeler (wide open on the right below) to make it 14-0 at the half.



Trevor Siemian could not move the Broncos in the second half either, but he was not replaced by Brock Osweiler. With 5:51 to go, a 42-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Benjamin sealed the deal as LA won a stinker 21-0.



Notes

There was a fight about five rows in front of me during a timeout late in the game. There were even kids around but that didn't stop the combatants from trying to pummel each other. If you wonder why NFL attendance is down, it has nothing to do with the anthem protests, but the fact that people realize that many games are garbage like this one, and many fans are testosterone-fueled morons. I've basically stopped going to NFL games except for new venues like this one, and this experience certainly won't encourage me to make any more trip to MetLife Stadium or any other NFL venue.

Next Up

I'm heading to Princeton this weekend to visit their art museum and add their soccer stadium to my venue count, followed by a trip to Belleville on the following weekend to visit my parents and see a Belleville Senators game. One week later, I will head to Detroit to once again complete Club 123, with both the Red Wings and Pistons at home. Check back as always for recaps of these visits.

Best,

Sean

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