One experience that the Gunn clan has had our fill of is sitting in traffic on the Schuylkill expressway so we’ve adapted and now take 322 East over the Commodore Barry Bridge to visit our family and friends in South Jersey. We’ve always marveled at PPL Park as we crossed the Commodore Barry Bridge because it reminds us so much of the soccer fields in Europe. It’s set right on the Delaware Riverfront and just looks different than the football and baseball stadiums that you see all around the US. We had assumed our first PPL Park experience would be going to a Philadelphia Union (our local soccer team) match but when the USA Sevens Rugbytournament came to town and we had an opportunity to go (courtesy of Comcast-Spectacor), it was an experience we couldn’t pass up.
The drive to PPL Park is an easy one.. it’s located right off of Interstate 95 and 322 East. You take the last possible exit in Pennsylvania and the Park is right there. There is plenty of parking and the stadium is set against the backdrop of the Bridge and Delaware River. Once inside, you feel like you somewhere in between a college campus and professional sports venue. PPL Park is the perfect venue for the USA Sevens Rugby tournament because it includes 20 rugby teams from colleges all across the USA. There are students, parents, siblings and alumni from all 20 teams plus die hard rugby fans which creates a very youthful, exuberant atmosphere. This party-like atmosphere created a level of excitement that immediately attracted the Gunn clan to all the action!
We were all novices when it comes to rugby so we really just wanted to check out the stadium, learn a little bit about the sport and cheer on our alma maters (St. Joseph’s University and University of Pennsylvania) if their matches were scheduled when we were there. As luck would have it, the temperature was in the mid-90’s with high humidity so we were concerned about how our children would fare in the heat. To our pleasant surprise, we learned that the majority of seats in PPL Park are in the shade and the stadium gets an amazing breeze off of the river. The weather wasn’t an issue at all which allowed us to focus on the matches which were fast paced, hard hitting and had nonstop action. It is called a “Sevens” tournament because each team has 7 players and the match consists of two 7 minute halves. This creates a frenetic pace that, combined with the collegiate atmosphere, immediately draws you into the action. At one moment during the first match between Dartmouth and Wisconsin, Nicholas looked up and asked who he should cheer for. I told him to cheer for whoever he wanted and he quickly became a Dartmouth fan which led to a good lesson on which schools are in the Ivy League.
We weren’t sure how long the kids would last in the heat but would end up staying for several matches. We took a couple breaks to grab some food, walk around the stadium and take in some of the children’s activities that were set up. By the end, we all had a working knowledge of Rugby and a true appreciation for how strong and physically fit the players are. Nicholas couldn’t believe that they didn’t have to wear any pads. Anna liked the music that they played and I marveled at the incredible display of sportsmanship throughout. We sat through several hours of matches with young men slamming into each other, scrapping for the ball and tackling each other and not once did we see any pushing, shoving or outward display of disrespect. It was a great lesson in sportsmanship for the children to see.
Our first experience at PPL Park was a great one and we can’t wait to return to see the Union, Rugby and other events in the coming months and years!