Overall Grade: 7.5/10
Location: East Rutherford, NJ
Tenant: New York Red Bulls
Giants’ Stadium is one of the most storied sporting venues in the country, having played host to everything from American football games to a mass given by Pope John Paul II in 1995. When it comes to soccer, Giants’ Stadium is the perfect example of Jekyll and Hyde. As much as new stadium amenities can add to a positive experience, the environment created by the people in the stands is what truly makes or breaks a venue. When Giants’ Stadium is full for international matches or big ticket events, the problems with the playing surface and view can be overlooked thanks to the amazing feeling created by such a tightly packed stadium. When it is empty for New York Red Bulls games, it can have the feeling of a high school soccer experience.
Even when New York gets a good crowd by Major League Soccer’s standards, its energy is engulfed into the 60,000-some empty seats. Red Bull Park cannot open soon enough if you live in the Tri-State area. Really, the international crowds and the history that surrounds the stadium are what saved this stadium’s grade from being worse.
The Pros: As noted, Giants’ Stadium can offer an amazing experience for soccer when it is full. Having been to games such as AC Milan versus Manchester United and New York versus Barcelona, I know how electric feeling is when 80,000 people collectively hold their breath or erupt in a stadium whose seats are right on top of each other. It almost seems as though there are no modern stadiums that can retain the crowd’s energy the way that Giants’ Stadium does. There is also the history that comes with the complex. It has been the home of the NFL’s Giants and Jets for over three decades, and hosted the New York Cosmos in the prime of the NASL.
The Cons: Regardless of how many people are in the stadium, basic insufficiencies cannot be overlooked. The confines simply are not built for soccer. The field is narrow, yet stretches almost all the way to the wall that separates it from the stands. Unfortunately, the wall is very high at points, meaning that anyone with a sideline seat will be looking to the jumbotron to see the action when the ball is on the touchline nearest them. The play just simply cannot be seen; ironically (but economically) making some of the best seats in the house the ones that are closer to the corners and endlines. Even with all of this said, it still does not take into account the fact that the surface is a slick turf that is cluttered with football lines for at least half a year at a time. Unless the Red Bulls are packing the stadium for another game against the Los Angeles Galaxy, casual fans might want to save their money for a better experience when Red Bull Park opens in 2009.
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org