Although access to sporting events started last season, many people (including myself) chose to watch from home. With cities continuing to welcome fans, I decided to finally take a step back into a stadium. On Wednesday, I went to my first sporting event since 2019! I know many people have questions about what to expect, so here are my observations.
One thing I missed the most about going to a game is tailgating. Thankfully, that was one part of the experience that felt the same. People had tents setup, beers were being chugged, and of course there were a few guys kicking around a ball. Even with a little rain, the atmosphere in the parking lot was lighthearted.
For those who are unfamiliar with Subaru Park, there are several entrances. There is also an exterior doorway for the Pro Shop. My buddy Kyle and I made our way toward the stadium at 6:45pm, and we found that everyone was being forced to enter thru the Premier Orthopedics Gate (see below for reference). The queue began to form, and we waited for security to welcome us in at 7 sharp. Our temperatures were taken (mine on the wrist), and we proceeded into the concourse. As expected, masks are required at all times, unless actively eating/drinking.
I hope you bring your turning signal when walking thru Subaru Park, because they have walking lanes marked on the ground. In fact, the stadium’s pedestrian roads are pretty organized. Arrows on the ground indicate which side to walk on, and there are even specific entrances and exits for each section. For example, we sat in 122. Even though we could enter at 122, we had to exit at the next section over. Arrows and signs made It easy to follow, and everyone seemed to abide by the directions with ease. An example of the arrows on the ground can be found below, and you can even see Phang sporting a mask!
We all know the struggle of shopping at a game. Long lines, crowded clothing racks, and a bit of chaos. The staff at Subaru kept It pretty organized with the new restrictions. First, there was a capacity limit in the store (about 20-25 people). Next, and this was throughout the stadium, the cashiers had cleaning supplies for their credit card pads/counters. Additionally, the plastic bags were laid out for each customer. The cashier would not bag the purchase for the customer, that was up to you.
The Concessions were busy, even with limited capacity, but things were organized again. One cashier handled only alcohol, while the other was for food and beer. A plastic barrier also separated the cashier from the customer. The oddest moment for me was when I purchased beer. The vendor usually cracks the can open for you, but each customer was now asked to open their own beverage before leaving the stand.
I love Subaru Park because there isn’t a bad seat in the house. I’m usually situated under the visitors section (next to the Sons of Ben), and I love the heated exchanges between the rival fans. My friend is a season ticket holder, so we ended up in 122. The stadium holds around 19k, and Chester is able to bring in 5k. Even with a limited crowd, and spacing in between seats, you still felt like you were at a sold out game. It was loud, cheers and boos echoed throughout the stadium, and the place erupted after each goal. In those high intensity moments, you forgot you were in a pandemic.
Yup, I know you guys and girls are wondering, how are the bathrooms? It’s basically the same. Everyone formed a single file line and waited for the next stall/urinal. The stalls were normal, but some urinals were covered in blue tape. This only left a few available, and we were definitely spaced out compared to a normal situation. The sinks even had tape across some of them, so you never got within a few feet of another person ( besides the line). I also noticed hand sanitizer areas if you needed an extra cleaning. At limited capacity, waiting on a bathroom wasn’t too bad.
Once you’re done Dooping and watching the Boys in Blue kick ass, it’s time to go home. The announcer stated prior to the game that they would be letting people out by sections. The point is to reduce the amount of people walking thru the same exits. Well....I wouldn’t say that this was enforced efficiently. Many people, including myself, just walked right out of the designated exit when we wanted to. No one stopped us, and we made It out of the stadium in minutes. I understand the point of their idea, but It didn’t really work out. We all just wanted to beat the traffic (which was minimal).
As most of you know, I am a Sons of Ben and massive Union fan. Our Supporters Shield Champs earned a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, where they defeated Deportivo Saprissa to advance to the quarterfinals. The MLS regular season starts in a few days, and I will be back at Subaru Park on April 24th for the Home Opener!!
Doesn’t matter how crowded the stadium is, or how poor the Union are playing. Subaru Park will always feel like home. It’s good to be back!
- Mike Barrera