St. Paul bests Minneapolis in survey of best sports venues

Tim Nelson | MPR News

Xcel Energy Center comes out on top as far as Minnesota venues being ranked in Stadium Journey’s assessment of the best places to watch sporting events.

The website reviewed 761 sports venues in 2016 and this week ranked the top 100.

The home ice of the Minnesota Wild was represented at No. 21 (Full review).

The Wild have really hung their hats on the “Home Ice Advantage” slogan that was borne out of their playoff run a few years ago, and it’s quite the apt description of the atmosphere within the Xcel Energy Center. The place is raucous from the word go and it is the same regardless of the team’s performance on the ice.

Another sheet of ice — Mariucci Arena — was the second-ranked Minnesota venue at No. 23 (Full review).

Well behaved, but highly passionate, is the best way to describe Gopher hockey fans. While the fans make up a huge part of the experience make no mistake, the venue and the university add a great deal to creating a magnificent live hockey experience.

CHS Field. Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News file

At No. 28, the St. Paul Saints’ home: CHS Field (Full review).

There are many different ballparks that open each year in both the affiliated and independent leagues and each and every one of them provide customers with the opportunity to enjoy the game up close and personal. However, there are some ballparks that standout on their own. CHS Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, may just be in a class all by itself.

The Saints’ field, by the way, finished higher than Boston’s storied Fenway Park.

From the No. 28 spot, however, it’s a long fall for Minnesota.

Not until No. 58 does a Minnesota venue appear. Amsoil Arena in Duluth (Full review). Again with the hockey.

Every time the Bulldogs play at AMSOIL, the arena becomes the center of excitement in this quintessential Minnesota city. The passion for hockey in Duluth can’t be emphasized enough and in no way is it better represented in the state than by the fans who show up at AMSOIL to cheer on their Bulldogs each and every game.

Not making the list, however, is the alleged jewel of Minnesota sports facilities: U.S. Bank Stadium. Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium, and Target Center (appropriately) also were snubbed.

The website reviewed Target Field in August, giving it generally high marks with the exception of “fans” and “extras.”

It reviewed U.S. Bank Stadium in October, dinging the place because of the neighborhood and the access to the games.

Already mentioned is that this is a downtown venue, right? But truth be told, the wrong end of downtown. While the bustling Warehouse District adjacent to Target Field bustles with its plethora of restaurants and shopping and trendy lofts and apartments, the neighborhood surrounding US Bank Stadium is largely office buildings, urban parks, parking structures and some vacant buildings awaiting adaptive reuse.

There are a number of taverns and eateries nearby the stadium, but nothing truly notable. Maxwell’s American Pub and Day Block Brewing Company are good gathering spots just a couple blocks north of the stadium. I struggled to find a place for coffee and breakfast at 730 AM on game day. I wasn’t quite ready for beer ad brats at that hour. The Warehouse District just a half mile west or four stations down the Metro.

Tailgating here is a joke and little of it is to be found. A public park just west of the stadium has a collection of food trucks and a music stage offering pregame entertainment. Curiously, there are no beverage sales anywhere, even at these food trucks. A simple vending cart offering soda pop and bottle water would make a killing.

The top nationwide sports venue on the list was Camden Yards, the home of baseball’s Baltimore Orioles.