Sports Stadiums of the Delaware River
Philadelphia is unique among major U.S. cities in that has all of its major sports stadium close to each other, not in the downtown area. The existence of the Philadelphia Sports Complex has its advantages: tailgating, easy access to public transportation and proximity to two different major highways.
The disadvantages? Philadelphia's stadiums are not integrated into the main downtown area of the city which, Xfinity Live notwithstanding, really cramp the style of those looking for dinner and nightlife options before and after the big game. There's always the Chickie's and Pete's on Packer Ave, but that's either a long walk, an Uber or a Taxi Crab ride away.
The other problem? A distinct lack of beautiful aquatic vistas. Yes, the sports complex is only about a couple of blocks away from where the Delaware and Schuylkill meet- but I-95 is in between, and you can't really see either river from inside any of the stadiums. University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field, as well as most other Penn athletic facilities, are about a block from the Schuylkill River- but none of the bodies of water or bridges are really integrated into the architecture of the facilities themselves.
Pittsburgh's baseball and football stadiums are near a confluence of rivers. Cleveland and Chicago's football stadiums border Lake Erie and Lake Michigan, respectively. Cincinnati's ballpark is on the Ohio River, and San Francisco built a baseball stadium so close to San Francisco Bay that it's possible to hit home runs into the water in right field. The City of Philadelphia's sports stadiums offer no such benefits.
However, if you look into some of the region's second-tier sports teams, they all have something in common: Proximity to water. Four of them, in fact, are situated on or near the Delaware River.
- Talen Energy Stadium (Chester). The local Major League Soccer franchise, the Philadelphia Union, moved into the stadium formerly known as PPL Park, on Chester's waterfront, in 2010. It's a beautiful stadium, situated under the Commodore Barry Bridge and offering breathtaking views of the bridge from the stadium and the stadium from the bridge. If you're sitting in the right part of the stadium, you can even see the river itself.
Sure, the parking near the stadium is something of a disaster, getting to parking lots requiring walking over railroad tracks and the promised economic development in the area never materialized, thanks in part to the real estate crash hitting around the time of its construction. But a trip to Chester for a Union match is highly recommended; even if you're not a soccer fan, the atmosphere is something else.
- Campbell's Field (Camden) This stadium, which opened in 2001 and was for 15 years the home of the independent minor league baseball team known as the Camden Riversharks. The ballpark is on the waterfront, on the New Jersey side of the Delaware, North of the Adventure Aquarium and BB&T Pavilion; the Benjamin Franklin Bridge dominates its outfield view.
The Riversharks folded after the 2015 season, but the stadium continues to be used for Camden-Rutgers' baseball team. And the Philadelphia 76ers this year will open a practice and training facility also on the Camden waterfront.
- Daniel S. Frawley Stadium (Wilmington) This stadium, located about a block from the Delaware on the Wilmington Waterfront, has hosted the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Kansas City Royals, since its inception.
Flanked by a large parking lot that's ideal for pregame tailgating, Daniel S. Frawley Stadium boasts a standout picnic area and an exhibit associated with the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.
- Arm & Hammer Park (Trenton) Another minor league baseball park, up the Delaware River from the others, the home of the Trenton Thunder was built in 1994 and formerly known as Mercer County Waterfront Park.
Affiliated with the New York Yankees and the occasional home of both future stars and established Yankees visiting the team on rehab assignments, the team and stadium were featured late last year in an ESPN feature about its three generations of batboy dogs.
Stephen Silver is a journalist who has lived in Philadelphia for 11 years. A father of two, his work has appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, New York Press, SB Nation, The Daily Banter, CSNPhilly.com, the Good Men Project, Chatterblast's The Lightning Strike, Splice Today, Screenrant.com and the Philadelphia area's Patch websites. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.