21 March 2010

Red Bull Arena - A Review

I’ll start it off with the facts: I am not a die-hard Red Bull supporter. In fact, I cannot even say I am a FAN. I live in New York, so I do watch and hope they do well but at this point I am more of an MLS fan. While some of our group cannot root for Red Bull for various reasons, I am not one of them, so I will make this review honestly.

Red Bull could not have drawn up a more perfect evening, huh? Not only was the weather a gem, but the result on the pitch was special. You have heard the term “crown jewel” in reference to the new Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey - and the place really does live up to the hype.

As a soccer fan who wants to see the game grow in this country, it really did give me a chill walking into that stadium, as you really can say to all those soccer naysayer out there that the game is here to stay.

I’ll now give you my negative and positives of Saturday night at Red Bull Arena:

There were not many negatives, but I will start with them and I am happy to say that I think all of the negatives I did see can and will be fixed.

First, the arena is beautiful, but the fact that most of the exterior is gray kind of makes it look a bit gloomy...but that is at first - you get over that as you walk closer to the grounds. I am sure once the surrounding developments come together that will not be as apparent as all you will see is the roof over the bars and restaurants in the area.

Second, I know that Red Bull have started this credit-card ticketing system - which I honestly think is really awesome - but getting into that stadium yesterday was a bit chaotic. We walked from the path and there were pretty long lines. In fact, if we did not cut the line we got on, we would have missed the opening goal. From what I saw, those with credit cards scanned them on the scanners and walked right in, and that is, I guess, what they wanted to have, but for those with paper tickets, the scanning process was a bit troublesome. It took us more than a minute to properly scan our tickets and get past the turnstiles. The support staff didn't exactly help those who were struggling; instead they kind of stood behind the gate in a cheerleader role. Hopefully this gets better as the year goes on!

Third is a quick and very important negative: Midway through the first half many of the stands were out of BEER. Larger order next week please!

Finally, the last negative I would like to talk about was another cheap way for Red Bull to market the company. Now, we know they use the team’s actual name, but to be fair, walking around the ground and even the surrounding area, there is plenty of focus on the soccer team. I mean really, a Mets fan might be jealous about how much team referencing there is around the grounds! However, after the teams came out and we sung our national anthems and the crowd was ready to kick of a new era in New York area soccer, Red Bull felt the need to have a NASCAR racecar (sorry, I'm a New Yorker, not sure what it’s called) come out to deliver the game ball. Of course this car was painted with the Red Bull logo. Now, if you are trying to make this a true soccer environment and you want the “Euro snob” fan to come back, you have to take gimmicks like this out of the game. It was a cheap advertising scheme in my opinion and perhaps if we lived in a region in the country where NASCAR was a big thing I could understand but for the most part, New Yorkers do not care for it. Hopefully this will not be a weekly thing!

Now onto the positives: First is something I referenced before - they really did a great job in letting the fan know that this is the Red Bull stadium. Pictures of the players even appear on the warehouses across the road from the grounds. For a team and a fan base that spent all their existence in a stadium that was half empty and could care less about the sport of soccer, this was a refreshing change for sure.

Second is that roof! WELL DONE! I am a big advocate of the roof covering the stands and it is a thing of beauty not to have to fly 3,000 miles to watch a soccer game with a stadium with that kind of roof.

Third, it is very intimate. The fact that the stands are so close to the pitch makes you really feel like you are on top of the action and the fans seemed to really enjoy getting on the opposing players right off the bat. With a good team, this is going to be a tough place to play.

Fourth, did you see the grass? Did you? Did you see the white soccer lines? Did you not see a big "40" every time someone ran down the wing? Yes, finally the Red Bull fans can watch their team without the annoyance of the American football lines all over the place. Any soccer fan will say they are ecstatic that those lines are gone, and boy, it really changed viewing the game and made it easier to follow.

Finally to be noted, and most soccer stadiums in the country are starting to have it, is the designated area for the visiting supporters. It was great to look over on one end and see the Red Bull fans and the other end the Santos fans, and I am pretty sure when DC and Philly come in, the atmosphere is going to be very special.

Overall, despite the minimal negatives, this place is very special. I think we all should take this moment and congratulate the Red Bull fans because after years of being treated like shit by both the stadium and the “yellow jackets” they finally had their day - their day to stand up and say “We are home.” The team did a great job of making that day even better as by the time Dane Richards put home that 25 yard wonder strike you could see how this stadium is going to help both the Red Bull and soccer in the United States.

4 comments until now.

Anonymous + March 21, 2010 10:14 PM (#) :

i thought another cheap advertising scheme by red bull was the led board did not change sponsors it stayed "red bull" and when the fans were doing the wave i saw on the led board "waive you're red bull banner!" and i thought seattles fans were coperate. if thats not coperate fans idk what is. and the celebs that were "hired" to attend the game were sponsored by red bull like linsey vaughn and ryan sheckler and that nfl guy (im a soccer fan i can care less for any other sport). they had almost every single red bull owned sport figure displayed. i can see the red bull execs smiling from here. exactly what they pictured. people filling a stadium holding red bull cans, wearing new "jersey" red bull shirts. the players drinking red bull. red bull, red bull red bull! ugh!!!!!

but without red bull there would not be a soccer gem in the new york area (sadly not in new york). so kudos to red balls. but like you i am not a full on fan. they do claim to represent new york and that much im a fan. but u will not see holding a red bull can saying "glroy glory red bulls" or attending a red bull funded event (because 1.) its not in the new york city and 2.) i live in florida, im a ex-pat new yorker). but nonetheless great stadium for a coperate team.

treece + March 21, 2010 10:58 PM (#) :

Do not drive there! The parking situation is a joke, and the traffic getting out was a disaster. The whole area looks like a war zone. I sure hope they clean it up as time goes on. Overall though, it IS great to see a game in a "soccer specific" stadium; my 1st time. I will most definitely go back, but definitely by train. The only negatives for me inside were that they seemed to run out of a lot of items @ the concession stands; and not only that, but I don't think I've ever seen slower workers! They took FOREVER to complete an order. Oh well, I'll stop bitching now & just be happy that it's there. Now let's get one in NYC (or LI)!!

Lax Guy + March 22, 2010 8:15 AM (#) :

I hate NASCAR, but bringing the game ball in one of their cars (I believe RB has 2) for the opening game at their new stadium just seemed right. Having all of their endorsed athletes there for the first game also seemed right. I think the goal was to show the strength and unity of the brand.
Having said that, I hope we never get another team like Red Bull.

Carlos + March 23, 2010 5:09 PM (#) :

I think RB upheld their priorities with this stadium, they were smart by putting most of their resources on the essentials rather than appearances in which the stadium definitely didn't lack either, even though it isn't the most gorgeous stadium, but that's the tri-state area for ya..
If your a big fan of soccer you will immediately notice the top-notch aesthetics and design that really captures the most for the game, you truly feel like your part of the game.
The pitch was impeccable and it was the first time that the actual game distracted me rather than what is going on around me.
Red Bull should put gate letter on tickets to distribute crowd better...I walked on the east side and there was no line...the outside food was really good, the beer garden was cheesy but a great idea nevertheless...
I concur with aforementioned comment about bringing in athletes that most of the spectators didn't even care or know, I must of heard 5-6 people around me ask who those people were, I forgot I was in NJ and shouldn't have volunteered to answer them, since it was like I was offending them...
I am surprised I didn't get a free red bull, maybe they will make a Red Bull Beer soon...haha