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BLS Big Ballpark Review: Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Ballpark

Big League Stew

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I can tell you the exact moment I fell in love with Philadelphia. It was last October, it was a late Saturday night and I was in town for the Bears-Eagles game. I was in an excellent little bar named Dirty Frank's and I was trading shots and those mini-bottles of beer (I think the special was $2) with two locals. We were going back and forth about the Bears and Eagles — these guys knew their stuff — when I changed the topic to the Phillies and whether they should resign Aaron Rowand.

"Are you (BLEEPING) kidding me?" said a rather attractive girl who was standing near me. "For the amount of money that he's asking? Let him walk, that (BLEEPING BLEEPING BLEEP)!"

It was at that point I figured that Philadelphia — home to beautiful women who even had an opinion on their town's centerfielder and his contract demands — was the most passionate sports town I had been to. After telling you that story, I can't wait to get back.

Which brings us to the next yard in Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review — Citizens Bank Ballpark. Now in its fifth season of making Philadelphians forget about the Vet, the CBP is part of the jewel stadium complex just south of downtown. Our readers' tips for experiencing the place like a local — cheese steaks, crab fries and all — appear after the jump.

To submit tips on your home ballpark, e-mail 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com. This week's schedule: Fri. — Chicago's Wrigley Field, Upcoming: Busch Stadium, Comerica Park, AT&T Park.

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Facts and figures (More at Ballparks.com)

Address: One Citizens Bank Way Philadelphia, PA 19148-5249

Opened: 2004

Capacity: 43,000

Cost: $346 million

Dimensions: Left field line: 329 ft.; power alley: 374 ft.; LF corner: 385 ft. 390 ft.; inner corner: 381 ft.; left of CF: 409 ft.; center field: 401 ft.; right of CF: 398 ft.; RF power alley: 369 ft.; right field line: 330 ft.

Biggest moment: The Phillies beat the Nationals 6-1 on Sept. 30, 2007, the last day of the season to clinch the NL East. Philadelphia had trailed the Mets by seven games with 17 games left in the season.

Fun fact: The neon liberty bell in the outfield measured 35 x 50 feet and rings on every Phillies HR.

Resources

Buy tickets ($15-$50) • Stadium infoSeating chartGoPhila.com

How to get there

"If you're staying in the city, public transportation is the way to go. The subway is ideal as the Pattison station on the Broad Street line is a short walk from the stadium. If you're driving from northwest of Philly (as I do), avoid the Schuykill Expressway (I-76) traffic by taking the Blue Route (I-476) to I-95 North — make sure you take the left fork when the Blue Route merges with 95, and take the Broad Street exit." — Doug Sewell

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"You can park down the street from the stadium for free — it's only a 5-10 minute walk and it's safe ... well, safe for South Philly anyway." — Allen Wolfe

"The back of the Jetro lot off of Darien St. is fairly cheap ($10-$15) and by far the most tailgate-friendly. Just don't show up 20 minutes before the game or else you'll have to navigate through a pack of raucous drunkards heading towards the stadium." — Michael Milici, The Fightins'

Before and after the game

"I'm a fan of getting to CBP early and having a meal at Harry the K's, a restaurant located behind the left field seats and named for legendary Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas. The food is delicious, the prices are pretty reasonable. There's also a McFadden's located by the third base gate, but the food is much better at Harry's." — D.S.

"Chickie's and Pete's at 1526 Packer Avenue always serves up a good meal. Don't leave until you've tried the crab fries, and the lobster white pizza, though pricey, is worth it." — D.S.

"Before the game — if you don't partake in the various parking lot activites —I'd highly recommend Benny The Bum'sin the Holiday Inn on 9th & Packer (and not just because they're a sponsor on The Fightins'). It's within walking distance of The Bank, they have the best cot-damn wings you could possibly eat, their seafood is better than Chickie's, and the female bartending staff are, howyousay?, easy on the eyes." — M.M.

"Make sure to check out the Phillies Wall of Fame and Walk Down Memory Lane, on the backside of the batter's eye in Ashburn Alley, and located next to the bullpens. Join the boo-birds in heckling Billy Wagner in the bullpen right next door. Then check out the Phillie All-Star players honored in the walkway of Ashburn Alley - a large stone with the position etched on it, surrounded by smaller stones etched with the player's name and the year he played. And the Phillies HoF statues are not to be missed — Robin Roberts is at the 1st base gate, Mike Schmidt at the third, Steve Carlton is at the left field gate, and Richie Ashburn is located in the center field concourse named for him." — D.S.

"The cheesesteak is obviously the main food item in Philadelphia and Geno's and Pat's are the two places that everyone tells you to eat at. But listen closely because a few years back, a friend said not to even bother with either and head to Jim's Steaks instead. I did just that and while Geno's and Pat's may be good, I'll never have to try them. A steak 'wit wiz' and two cans of Miller Lite at the counter of Jim's approximates my view of what heaven may be like." — 'Duk

What to eat

"Bull's BBQ, though a blatant ripoff of Boog's in Baltimore (and the Ocean City Maryland boardwalk, too), is absolutely awesome. And the Bull (Greg Luzinski) is always on hand for autographs, pictures, and 1980 World Series championship stories." — D.S.

"The line for the Chickie & Pete's Crab Fries is always really really long and I have always wondered why they don't add another stand. They're worth the wait, though." — Morris Levin

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"Tony Luke's, hands down. Get the roast pork sandwich with provolone and you're good to go. Oh, and don't forget to ask for broccoli rabe on the side. It's not on the menu, you have to specifically request it." — M.M.

"The Schmitter. It's a delectable little prize. It's basically an open face sandwich with steak and scalloped potatoes on a torpedo roll." — K.S.

"The Schmitter. It's a closed-faced, with fried salami and tomatoes, on a kaiser roll. I am pretty passionate about that sandwich. It is great and it's even better at the restaurant that invented it — McNallys in Chestnut Hill." — Robert Smyth, Oreland, Pa.

"Most people might tell you to try the Schmitter, but those people obviously don't care about your well-being. You can literally feel your arteries start to clog as soon as you take your first bite." — M.M.

"If you're in the mood for a snack, try the Pennsylvania Dutch Funnel Cake next to Tony Luke's tucked inside Ashburn Alley. When you take it back to your seat, look for a fan of the opposing team in the row in front of you and blow the powdered sugar all over his or her back. I guarantee it'll still be there in the 9th inning." — M.M.

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Where to sit

"Anywhere in the lower level of outfield seats. You're bound to be within 50 feet of a home run ball at some point in the game, with Howard, Utley, and Burrell on the team. Not to mention the fact that I've chipped tiddly winks farther than the distance from home to the corners! The view from these seats is pretty comprehensive, except for balls hit to the wall, so you'll miss Victorino's outfield acrobatics and Burrell's attempts at defense. And $24 a seat is pretty reasonable (as far as I'm concerned). If you're on the Phillies mailing list, they'll send you occasional two-for-one deals for all tickets under $27, so these seats are always eligible." — D.S.

"The 'Rooftop Bleachers' in right-center hover over Ashburn Alley, which is the outfield concourse/pedestrian food court. The cool part is that they pump the radio broadcast into Ashburn Alley and the bleachers are the only place I have ever sat where I can watch a game and listen to the radio play-by-play.

"The bleachers also have a — hmmm... how to put this delicately? — a younger, distinctly South Philly, and inebriated feel to those who sit there. The banter is juvenile but the radio broadcast is kind of cool." — M.L.

"One of the best things about Citizens Bank is that anywhere you sit you can see the entire game ... But the special deals are the standing room only tickets. You can basically watch up close from right behind home plate ... if a million people aren't there already. (Get there early.)" — K.S.

"The best part about CBP: There's not a bad seat in the house. I've sat in most sections at the ballpark, and I can't complain about any of them." — D.S.

"I'm partial to the outfield seats, mainly because I like yelling at the other team's outfielders, but any seat'll do. No bad sightlines in the stadium. Normally, if I get a ticket in the upper level, I stay there for a few innings and then make my way down to the lower level. If there are no empty seats to occupy down there, you can usually maneuver to the front of the standing room only line by the bullpen. That's a nice spot to enjoy the action." — M.M.

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Misc.

"If you're looking for a souvenir for the wife/fiance/girlfriend/daughter that you left behind, you can't go wrong with the exclusive workshop where you can build your own Phillie Phanatic, the greatest mascot in all of sports. He also happens to be my dream job! A stuffed Phanatic costs $25 (last season's price — not sure if they've gone up), and comes with the default Phanatic uniform shirt." — D.S.

"Greg Luzinski does indeed sit in his little Greg-Luzinski booth in the outfield signing autographs every game. There is now no shortage of signed Luzinski memorabilia in the Philadelphia area." — M.L.

"The atmosphere and the fans at The Bank are unlike any baseball stadium I've ever been to. I can't remember one time I haven't gone to a game and struck up some interesting baseball conversation with a complete stranger. There aren't many things in life that I truly enjoy doing, but heading to Citizens Bank Park to take in a baseball game is at the top of the list.

"I can't begin to explain how invigorating it is to join over 40,000 people you never met who all want the same thing — a win for the Fightins' and to express our shared hatred for the opposing team." — M.M.

Have an insider's tip for Citizens Bank Ballpark that you didn't see listed here? E-mail it with your name and home town to 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com for possible inclusion in the post.

Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review will run all summer and will feature all 30 MLB ballparks. We welcome reviews for any ballpark. To do so, visit this post for submission guidelines.

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