Minneapolis

We attended an ice hockey game and a basketball game while staying in Minneapolis. The NHL team are actually based in St. Paul which means they don’t play in the same venue as the NBA team.

The Target Center

If you are staying in Minneapolis or St Paul you can easily get the bus or the tram between the two. You can also take the trip out to the Mall of America and you could easily spend a day there before a game. I’m not a huge shopping fan so we decided to take advantage of the fact that we had a car and head out of the city for the day. We drive around some of the lakes that are just outside Minneapolis and stopped in a couple of the towns. Given the February weather the lakes were frozen.

Frozen lake

We actually chose to stay in an AirBnB rather than a hotel while in Minneapolis. This was mainly a budget thing as hotels in Minneapolis were really expensive when we looked. The AirBnB has the added bonus of providing free off-street parking.

We knew that we were within a 25-30 walk of the Target Center. As the weather was so cold we looked into using the SkyWalk. For our journey to the venue we were only able to use the SkyWalk part of the way as we went for dinner beforehand and the quickest way from our accommodation to the restaurant was not using the SkyWalk. However when we left the restaurant we were easily able to use Skywalk to get to the venue without going outside.

This gave us confidence to use the SkyWalk when we left the game. Unfortunately about half way along we were met with a locked door. This was pretty frustrating as the locked door had opening hours listed on it, and the listed hours showed it should still be open. This resulted in us having to leave the SkyWalk and walk about 15 mins in -17 Celsius. Lesson learned don’t rely on the listed hours.

We could have used the bus to get the game and in theory we could have used the tram but the walk involved in getting to the tram meant it was not really an option (as it ended up being a longer option).

Block 214, row M

We sat in the upper bowl for this game. I was not very impressed with the seats. While they were padded and fairly comfortable, I had to sit at an angle in order to see the court properly. I found this really uncomfortable as the game went on, this definitely affected my enjoyment of the game. I had to twist a little to see the jumbotron as well so it wasn’t as though I could rely on that.

It felt like the venue wasn’t really designed for basketball. Though I’m sure if I was in one of the blocks at end line or along the sidelines, I would not have had an issue with the seat angle.

Milwaukee

Fiserv Forum

We drove from Detroit to Milwaukee so when picking a hotel we were looking at options with parking. Milwaukee does have many parking garages so you don’t need to limit yourself to hotels with parking. We choose the Brewhouse Inn and Suites. It’s a hotel in an old brewery building and the conversion was really well done. The hotel has a pub attached so you can get food/drinks without having to leave the building. We found out that the pub offers a shuttle bus to the Fiserv Forum. As the Forum is only a 10 min walk a shuttle isn’t really necessary but this would be useful if you had mobility issues or if the weather was really bad.

We had a full day in Milwaukee so we decided to get out of the city and go to the Jelly Belly factory for the free tour. You definitely need a car to do this trip but it’s worth it for the free samples.

We also went to the Mars Cheese place. It’s basically a supermarket with a heavy cheese theme but it also has a medieval castle theme. It’s a bit weird but good for a visit if you like cheese.

The Fiserv Forum is in the centre of Milwaukee so if you are staying downtown you will be able to walk from your hotel. If you are staying slightly further out you will need to get the bus or you can drive in and park in one of the many lots near by.

Milwaukee has a wide range of places to get food – if you like bratwurst this is the town for you. We did eat before going to the venue (in the hotel restaurant which seemed to be a popular choice).

Block 109

We sat in the lower bowl for this game. I was actually surprised by how cheap the tickets were. The seats were comfortable and this was a good view on to the court. There wasn’t much we couldn’t see and the jumbotron ( and screens around the upper level) helped with that while providing stats. I particularly liked the hustle board.

This is one of the newer venues in the NBA and it definitely shows when you are inside.

Detroit

Little Caesar’s Arena

We drove into Detroit and stayed at The Siren hotel. Now that the Detroit venue has moved to Little Caesar’s Arena (from The Palace At Auburn Hills) it is easier to stay in the downtown area and get to the game. There are many hotel options in Detroit. We picked ours based on proximity to the venue and ability to park the car. We ended up using the valet parking, this was entirely due to the weather as we didn’t want to have to move the bags any distance in the cold and snow but we could have easily parked within a couple of blocks of the hotel.

We arrived in Detroit the day before the game because we wanted to explore Detroit. On the first night we went to Cafe D’Mongos Speakeasy. It’s a small bar but the staff, and the regulars, are all really friendly and the cocktails are strong. We also went for dinner in Grand Trunk Pub which is a converted railway station. The have a good sized menu and the portion sizes are also good.

On our full day in Detroit we took a ride on the people mover (Detroit’s monorail). This was mainly for the novelty value but it was a good, cheap way to see Detroit. Importantly it was heated which was really appreciated in February in Detroit. We also went to the Motown Museum. If you are interested in Motown music, this is a must see. Apparently there are building an extension, I felt our tour was really comprehensive so I’m not sure what else they will cover. All tours are guided and I would recommend booking in advance as there isn’t really anything else to do in that area if you just miss a tour time.

Little Caesar’s Arena is on the street car system so you can use that to access the venue or you can walk if your hotel is close enough, as ours was. There are several restaurants on the outskirts of the venue providing a wide range of options. The arena is only about a 10-15 walk from the downtown area so you should also have gone to eat there before or after the game.

As it was Knicks v Pistons we decided to sit a little closer to the front than normal.

Row 4, block 125

I thought these seats were great. We were close to the bench so got to witness the team dynamics but were still able to enjoy the game even when the team all stood up. The seats were comfortable and padded. There is no at seat service so you do have to go to the concessions if you want anything but you would be doing that from any seat.

Jumbotron

The jumbotron lived up to its name, providing clear stats. I liked that the inside of the screens also showed information so that you could see the stats from wherever you were sat.

NBA Road Trip 2020

It’s that time of year again when we go on a basketball road trip to coincide with NBA All Star. This year we flew into Chicago and picked up a hire car. We did stay in each of the cities where we watched games so I will be able to explain different options for getting to the game if you are in the city.

All NBA Venues have parking next to or near the arena so you can always drive to the venue. We have done this a couple of times, but only because we were getting back on the interstate straight after the game. If you are staying locally I would not recommend driving as the wait to clear the parking lot, or the immediate surrounds will add to your journey time and I’m certain that other methods of transport will be quicker.

I’ve been to about 19 NBA venues now. To date they have all had ample restrooms and a good range of places to get food and drink. Although the options will vary based on regional preferences you will be able to get soda, beer, spirits, hotdogs, burgers, a chicken option and popcorn. I’m not going to keep pointing this out in every review but I will say if there is anything of particular interest at a venue.

There will be a few blogs coming up covering Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago. I’ve changed the style of the blog so let me know what you think.

Sheffield Sharks – Ponds Forge

After having a bit of a break from travelling to see basketball (not entirely through choice more as a result of other demands on my time), today I went to my first road game of 2020.

The London Lions were playing against the Sheffield Sharks at Ponds Forge. Sheffield is a relatively easy drive up from London so we decided to drive up the night before the game which allowed us to go walking in the Peak District before the game.

Ponds Forge has a large car park attached and is easily accessed if you come up by train (as a couple of our group did). We didn’t actually use the venue car park as we had parked in town to go for lunch and decided to walk the 15 mins venue rather than move the car.

The venue is nutlike function but the Sheffield Sharks logo is painted on the door that leads to the court. Once through the door there is a stall for ticket sales, a merchandise stall and some volunteers scanning tickets.

At Sheffield the seats are all on one side of the court. I think this layout works in smaller venues as trying to spread the crowd out on different sides of the court can affect the atmosphere as it is difficult for the crowd to create the same level of noise.

The seats at Ponds Forge all have backs, always a plus. They are hard plastic so not the most comfortable but that’s typical in BBL venues.

At every time out and quarter break the Sharks had some entertainment lined up. This appeared to be children from a local dance troupe. As we were siting behind the Lions bench my view was usually blocked by basketball players but the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

I would have preferred a bit less music during the game but I know not everyone agrees with me on that.

Overall I liked this venue and found it easy to get to (and get home from).

Oracle Arena – Golden State Warriors

Getting there

The venue is in Oakland. If you don’t want to stay in Oakland you should base yourself in San Francisco and take the BART to the game. You get off at Coliseum, take the footbridge and walk around the coliseum. To be honest, you take the BART and follow the crowds. It’s about 45 mins from downtown to the venue (including the walk).

The venue

One of the older venues in the NBA it’s easy to see why the Warriors want to move to new premises. The building is functional but has seen better days.

Seats

Pretty comfortable for such an old venue and the sight lines seem to be good from all sections.

Concessions

This is where the age of the venue can be seen. Although there are fan shops and food stalls there are fewer of each that you would find in other venues meaning that the queues can be much longer than you would expect pre-game.

There is a good range of food and drink available including healthy options

We bought one water and one shock-top beer and paid $20.

Atmosphere

We were at the Spurs @ Warriors game which was sold out so there was a good atmosphere. I know there are plenty of fans who only discovered the Warriors when they started winning championships but there fans at the Oracle are loud and proud of the Warriors.

Final tip

If you are planning a trip to Oracle make it soon as the new venue is scheduled to open in time for the 2019/20 season.

The Golden 1 Center – Sacramento Kings

Location

The venue is conveniently located in downtown Sacramento so once you have arrived in Sacramento you should have no trouble making your way there.

You can fly or take the train to Sacramento. We drove in.

Accommodation

I recommend the Vagabond Inn. It’s only a five minute walk from the venue and has parking.

The venue

This is a new venue. When you walk in you can actually see the court as you go down in to the lower bowl from the main concourse. This seems to be the new style of basketball venues.

The seats

The seats are padded and comfortable. There seems to be good sight lines from anywhere in the venue.

Concessions

They have the usual range of fan stores and food concessions. They have some healthy food options as well.

Atmosphere

The venue was fairly quiet and clearly hadn’t sold out the night we were there. This is a shame as it is a really nice venue but the team are one of the worst in the NBA just now which shows in their attendance figures. Still worth a visit though.

Staples Center – Los Angeles Lakers

Location

The venue is located in downtown LA.

Getting to the venue

We drove and parked in lot 1, you need to have booked in advance to use this. Lot 1 is right next to Staples Center and getting in is straight forward however getting out again does take a while.

I would recommend not driving to the venue if you can. If you are staying in LA anyway either walk or use public transport depending on how far away your hotel is.

The venue

Getting in was easy, the queues moved quickly.

This is a typical NBA venue with concessions and restrooms on each concourse.

Concessions

The usual range of fan stores, drink and food stalls. The is the first NBA venue I’ve been to that has McDonalds inside.

They have a few bars and there is a range of drinks available including margaritas (just remember that alcohol is not sold after the start of q4).

The prices are typical for the NBA. We got two cokes, small popcorn and a hotdog for $24.

The seats

We were in the upper bowl and the seats were really comfortable, al the seats were padded. It would have been nice if there were a bit wider but I understand the need to fit a lot of seats in.

Atmosphere

The crowd were loud on and off during the game. The venue wasn’t full which always impacts on atmosphere.

Portland Expo Center

Maine Red Claws

The Maine Red Claws play at the Portland Expo Centre in Portland, Maine. The venue is easy to locate in Portland and is well signposted/advertised outside.

There is a small amount of parking adjacent to the venue and plenty of car parks nearby. The team website suggests a specific nearby car park but we used the lot opposite that car park as it was cheaper.

Seats

The type of seat depends on which section you sit in. The most expensive sections have the best seats. We sat in the section that was $22 a seat and got small hard plastic bleacher type seating but with a small back. The cheaper seats were bleached style and the most expensive seats were the more common hard plastic seat variety.

Concessions

A good range of food and beverages was on offer.

Food – pizza, hot dogs, burgers, pretzels, popcorn, fries

Drinks – soft drinks, water, beer, spirits

It was reasonably priced and we got two cheeseburgers and a Diet Coke for $12.

They had a stall selling team merchandise and, a 50/50 raffle and a stall selling balls for the lobster toss (a competition played during the 4th where you through the balls at a lobster pot and if you get the ball in the pot you win a prize).

Entertainment

They have a dance squad and we had a special half time performance by Bronson Arroyo.

On the way in we were given a magnet featuring the schedule and a programme.

Overall I really liked this venue. The staff were friendly and helpful, it was well laid out and signposted and I was able to enjoy the game.

Sleuyter Arena/Versluys|Dôme

Team – Telenet Oostende

Getting to City – We take the Eurotunnel so we can drive the whole way.

Going by bus is cheaper but longer. You can also get there by train from Brussels or Antwerp if you are already in Belgium.

City – There is a good amount of things to do in Ostend. I have personally experienced the Promonade and the Atlantic Wall Museum.

Getting to Venue –  Ostend is not huge so if you can easily walk from your hotel, if you are staying in town. There is also a large car park if you are driving.

Venue – A good sized venue with the usual plastic seats.

Food in venue –  The venue has four bars and sells the usual range of options.