This post and the several that follow are a retelling of my experience on my first ever road trip. The trip started in Newark, NJ, went through Pittsburgh, stopped in Cleveland, continued on to Indianapolis, landed in Saint Louis, and the final stop was in Nashville. Along the way, I would see 5 games in 5 days with a grand total of 7 games in 8 days and travel about 2,100 miles by car. Yes, it was as crazy as it sounds. But, to me, it was the perfect way to end 2016 and kick off 2017.
Phew. This is a lot of event jammed packed into a few days. At this point, the constant “go, go, go” part of the trip hit me pretty hard. My stop in Indianapolis was going to be a short one; I had planned to drive from Cleveland to Indy, stop in Indy for a game, and then finish driving to St. Louis. Halfway through that drive I realized that might have been a mistake.
The game in Indy was scheduled for 4pm, so I had to wake up and get in the road a little earlier than desired. I was on the road by 9am. And, a blast of cold snowy weather had hit that morning, so it made the drive a little stressful. About halfway through, I was ready for a nap. However, I made it to BankersLife Stadium, the home of the Pacers, about an hour before game time.
Which was plenty of time to scope out the area around the stadium and peruse through the arena. The cold weather kept me from seeing too much of downtown, although it did seem like the arena was nicely placed within the city. I spent the majority of my time walking through the arena and taking it all in.
The first thing I noticed was how open it felt. Calling it a fieldhouse instead of a stadium or arena makes sense for the design. There was a nice rustic touch throughout the concourse, which fit with the “fieldhouse” feeling. The part I really enjoyed was the dedication to their racing history, with a special area on the first level. You can even stop and test out what it would feel like to be a winner of the Indy 500 – wreath and milk jug in hand!
For 4pm on a Friday (yes, around the holidays so a little different), the place was jam packed. If it wasn’t a sellout, I would be shocked. However, it should have been a surprised – Indiana has a rich basketball history. One thing is certain – where the NHL has excelled at pre-game graphics on the ice – the NBA has perfected the pre-game fire and fireworks. Once the game started, it was clear that there was a sizeable amount of Bull’s fans in the building. Which, is to be expected. Any team like that with a winning history and big city appeal is bound to have fans throughout the United States. Indy’s fans still made it a clear home court advantage.
One thing I really loved was the special fan section they had. While the MLS (and even NHL) have supporters sections, they NBA takes after college sports and tries to create a “student section” type of atmosphere. From where I was sitting, it was impossible to see them due to the huge jumbotron. I could hear them clearly though. A loud drum and synchronized chants helped created that home court advantage.
My exhaustion was kicking in full gear by the end of the third quarter. I took at walk around the concourse, but it was becoming clearer that I needed to hit the road if I was going to make it St. Louis safely. So, I unfortunately had to cut my already short time in Indy a little shorter, but with a strong desire to make it back in the near future.