That would be the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home to my USC Trojans, and the home ballpark for the San Francisco Giants, known to the world as Pac Bell Park—err, SBC Park...actually, AT&T Pa—let's just call it Mays Field.
Now before I get accused of ignoring all the other great stadiums out there due to my own form of venue-tinged nepotism, allow me to issue a reminder that the criteria of this editorial meme are decidedly in each individual writer's hands.
Thus, the choices I make are those venues that are nearest and dearest to me personally. That being said, I do have some reasoning to back up my selections. These two particular venues in particular stood out above the homes of my other favorite teams.
In other words, there are reasons I'm not writing about Candlestick Park (Dave Finocchio already covered this one), the Oakland Arena, the "Shark Tank", or Anfield. Mays Field and the Coliseum stood above the rest because of two things:
2. Fan Experience
Let's examine those two a little closer...
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: Home of Great Tradition
Coming into USC as a freshman in 2001, I didn't know much or care much about college football—I was always more about the NFL and the 49ers. Given that the Trojans stumbled through an unremarkable, very hit-or-miss campaign in Pete Carrol's first season, you might think that wouldn't have changed.
Yet sometime between freshman orientation and the forgettable appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl, something changed within me—I became a college football die-hard.
To what do I attribute that change? You got it, the L.A. Coliseum.
From first stepping foot into the hallowed concrete temple as a wide-eyed freshman to attempting to rush the field after our huge season-ending win over UCLA, something about the place just hooked me.
Maybe it was the banners commemorating past national championships. Maybe it was the way the band drove the crowd into a frenzy. Maybe it was the fourth quarter lighting of the Olympic torch. Maybe it was the fact that the stadium-wide ban on alcohol sales still wouldn't go into effect for a few more years.
Whatever it was, the L.A. Coliseum had it.
Granted, I only had to wait a year for USC to begin a dominant streak that few fans get the opportunity to experience, but that was just icing. Becoming a fan happened to me that first year—and while the streak came to an end (or at least a bump in the road), my loyalty will last forever.
And so will (or at least should) the Coliseum.
Mays Field: The Best Fan Experience in Pro Sports
Ever go to a stadium and feel like things just aren't as they should be?
Parking is horrible, as is the flow of foot traffic through the turnstiles.
Once inside, you find that the concourses are poorly laid out, the choice of food and refreshments is overpriced, unappealing, and just plain bad, and the bathrooms are disgusting, cramped, or both—and sure to have long lines.
The seats in your section provide a poor view of the action on the field while also not generous in size enough to accommodate the extra pounds you've packed on eating all the overpriced game-day food.
To put it bluntly, you just don't feel like your needs as a fan are being taken care of—and you're left wishing you'd rather watched on TV than ventured out to spectate live.
You're not alone. Thousands of fans like you have experienced the same thing—me personally when I cut my teeth as a baseball fan watching the Giants from the freezing cold and horribly designed confines of Candlestick Park.
I have some great news for those of you who are still experiencing this: there's a better way.
Drawing on years of bad game-day experience and what I'm sure was a mountain of complaint cards from ballpark patrons, the San Francisco Giants organization built a stadium on the bay that is everything that Candlestick was not.
A stadium which, for lack of a consistent corporate name, we'll call Mays Field.
Mays has everything you could imagine a ballpark to offer. A great setting with perfect weather on a summer afternoon. A breathtaking view of the Bay Bridge and McCovey Cove. A giant baseball mitt and can of Coke. Solid selections and decent prices in the concession stands. Mouth watering garlic fries. Free, stadium-wide wifi. A club section with half a dozen fully stocked bars. And a gigantic, HD jumbotron.
All this in a package that makes you feel right in the middle of the action no matter where you're sitting. That intimate feeling is the key to Mays Field's charm—with a small ballpark feel and all those amenities, you truly feel like you're being taken care of as a fan, like you're part of the family.
True, the Giants aren't the only team in MLB with a modern, decked out, baseball-only stadium that provides this level of fan experience. There is a host of new stadiums out there that have really ushered in a new era for fan enjoyment. Each have their particular charms, and for obvious reasons I favor the park in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, not all teams are so lucky. Some, like the A's in Oakland, Dodgers in L.A., White Sox in Chicago, and so on, or stuck in crappy, outdated parks that make you feel more like a prisoner in a spectator.
Well, fans of those teams, you're in luck. All you have to do is wait for your team to raise a few hundred million dollars, either privately or through some sort of local bond iniative, find some prime real estate to build on, then spend a few years constructing your new park.
Before you know it, you'll be tipping back a beer at the new stadium and wondering what you ever did before your team's great new home came along.
Until that day comes, though, if you ever want to experience all that a baseball park can be, come to San Francisco.