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Home, Sweet, PPL Park

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While I am sure you're sitting at home missing the friendly confines of PPL Park as the MLS Playoffs play out Union-less (as usual), here is something to sink your teeth into while we count down the days until we return to the banks of the Delaware River for First Kick 2015.

Mike Lawrie

PPL Park is one of the best places to watch a soccer game in this country and we are lucky to call it home.

We've all sang it's praises to our friends, coworkers, and anyone who will listen for that matter. Well, now there is a neutral website that does the ranking for us. Stadium Journey attends sporting events in venues across the country, representing every sport to rank them against each other. The ranking system covers seven categories; Food & Beverage, Atmosphere, Neighborhood, Fans, Access, Return on Investment, and Extras. Those scores are averaged out to determine the overall ranking. To date, Stadium Journey has ranked 2,018 different venues across 42 countries.

Kevin Jordan attended a match at PPL Park and offered up his rankings on our home field.

The Strengths

Earning a 5 (out of 5) ranking, the Food & Beverage as well as Fans earn top marks at PPL Park. If you've attended a match you know the food is more than your average concession offerings and the beer list is one of the longest I've ever seen at a sporting arena. Despite some high prices on beers, I've got no disagreement with Jordan here. The fans...what is there to say about them that hasn't already been said? Jordan tips his hat to the history of the Sons of Ben and the atmosphere they create.

Other high rankings go to Atmosphere, Return on Investment, and Extras, which all earned a 4. Lost points are attributed to only having a single scoreboard and lack of decorations (Atmosphere), parking price of $20 (Return on Investment), and nothing noted for the missing ranking under Extras. Easy to agree with the high price of parking in Union lots, but not sure how there is a lack of decorations around the stadium with tifo adorning the River End, MLS team flags across the opposite end, and large displays of fans on the outside of the stadium. With plans to add on to the River End, it is safe to say there may also be a scoreboard addition, depending on how the layout works.

The Weaknesses

There is absolutely no surprise that the Neighborhood category  would earn the Union a rock bottom score. In fact, only the New York Red Bulls had an equally low ranking. The adjectives of "down-trodden" and "boarded-up" are about as accurate as could be said of the surrounding area and the ranking rightfully calls out the lack of development that was promised to the City of Chester when the stadium was planned. It has been 5 years and only a renovated office building is the single piece of revitalization.

Access earned the second lowest ranking with a 3. When the only true option for getting to the stadium is by car, it would be a bit unreasonable to ask for a higher ranking that what was given. The only real saving grace is that once out of lots it is a quick trip to major roads and the police presence keeps the way safe. Luckily the writer did not get caught in any major pileups leaving the club's lots which have been complained about on social media.

Overall

The overall ranking of 3.7 is enough to put the Union into a tie with Real Salt Lake for 9th best ranking in the league. Outside of the Neighborhood ranking, the Union would have earned a 4.1, which would have boosted PPL into a tie with Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium in 6th. Mid-table for the Union is no foreign land these days.

The top of the overall rankings offer no real surprises. Sporting Kansas City's Sporting Park, Portland's Providence Park, and Seattle's CenturyLink Field are the top 3. The second tier of Vancouver's BC Place, Toyota Field in Frisco (FC Dallas), and Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium are relatively newer parks. The only other stadiums ahead of PPL Park are BMO Field in Toronto and Chicago's Toyota Park. The only real surprises in the top 8 are FC Dallas and Chicago's Toyota sponsored homes. Neither of which I would consider elite and usually lean towards empty. I recommend checking out all of the rankings to see where each stadium excels and falters.

Philadelphia Rankings

The only last comparison to make is where PPL Park ranks in terms of the many sporting venues of Philadelphia sports. Those venues hold centuries of history and are beloved by the fans that call them home. I leave you with the Philadelphia rankings:

1. Citizens Bank Park - Philadelphia Phillies Baseball - 4.6 ranking
2t. Lincoln Financial Field - Philadelphia Eagles Football - 4.4
2t. Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia Flyers - 4.4
4t. Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia 76ers - 4.1
4t. The Palestra - Penn Quakers Basketball - 4.1
6t. The Pavilion - Villanova Wildcats Basketball - 3.9
6t. Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia Soul Football - 3.9
6t. Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia Wings Lacrosse - 3.9
9t. PPL Park - Philadelphia Union Soccer - 3.7
9t. Villanova Stadium - Villanova Wildcats Football - 3.7
11. Franklin Field - Penn Quakers Football - 3.6
12t. Michael J. Hagan Arena - St. Joseph's Hawks Basketball - 3.4
12t. The Pavilion - Philadelphia Freedom Team Tennis - 3.4
14, Liacouras Center - Temple Owls Basketball - 3.3
15. Tom Gola Arena - LaSalle Explorers Basketball - 2.7
16. Lincoln Financial Field - Temple Owls Football - 2.6
17. Meiklejohn Stadium - Penn Quakers Baseball - 2.1
18. Hank DeVincent Field - LaSalle Explorers Baseball - 2.0
19. Skip Wilson Field - Temple Owls Baseball - 1.4
20. Villanova Ballpark at Plymoth - Villanova Wildcats Baseball - 1.3

Please tell us in the comments below what you think of these rankings. Is there a venue that deserves a different ranking? If you had to rank PPL Park, what would your rankings be?