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Travel
June 12, 2017

Sport And The City

Text by Ashwin Rajagopalan

New York can credit part of its thrill to the great sporting venues that draw enthusiasts from all over…

A New York minute (a New Yorker takes an instant to do what most others would take a minute to do), that’s all you need to tune into the world’s most high-octane city. Some travellers don’t cope well and leave NYC gasping for breath; many others, like me, can instantly tap into this city’s reservoir of boundless energy. It’s why I keep coming back to my favourite city in the world.

So where does this unbridled energy come from? There are those who point in the direction of the city’s iconic sporting venues. My first port of call is named after a tennis legend — Arthur Ashe. Located in one of the city’s most historic boroughs, Queens, the Arthur Ashe Stadium is part of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows and is the largest ‘tennis-specific’ stadium anywhere in the world. It seats up to 24,000 spectators and yet it’s impossible to find room here during the closing stages of the US Open. The tournament is nothing short of magic since its first edition in 1881 and has been the happy hunting ground for some of the modern greats like Roger Federer. It’s the only Grand Slam tournament that features tiebreakers in every set of the match.

Flushing Meadows, under the lights on a typical New York summer’s day in September, is a moment for tennis fans to savour; you don’t even need to be hard core to revel in the atmosphere. That’s true for the city’s other sporting venues too. Many visitors jump straight into a baseball game and learn the rules as they watch their first live match. The Yankee Stadium is the first option for Baseball fans. It is home to one of the most popular Major League Baseball teams — the New York Yankees — and is one of the world’s most expensive stadiums. The 2.3-billion-dollar stadium replaced the original Yankee Stadium in 2009 and can seat over 50,000 fans. Architectural design firm Populous, who have envisioned some of the world’s most iconic sporting venues (it was involved in the upgrading of Wimbledon’s centre court), cleverly integrated design elements from the original Yankee Stadium. The exterior resembles the original look of the Yankee Stadium but once you’re inside, it is as modern as it gets with unparalleled spectator comforts that include 4,300 club seats and 68 luxury suites.

If large sporting venues are your scene, make the trek to East Rutherford in New Jersey, to check out the region’s other legendary sporting venue — the MetLife Stadium. The rules for American football may be as tough to fathom as those of baseball but that doesn’t deter sporting enthusiasts from coming to watch one of the two football teams — the New York Giants and New York Jets. This is one of the only stadiums in the US that two NFL teams call home. With over 80,000 enthusiasts on a packed day, the electric atmosphere might remind Indian cricket fans about an IPL game back home. The other reason this venue is popular are the ringside views that take you really close to the action; frontline seats are just 14 metres away from the sideline.

Not all venues in and around NYC involve a long commute. If you’re in the city for a short visit you don’t have to leave Manhattan for a piece of the sporting action. New Yorkers still talk about the Fight of the Century. This refers to the magic of the famous clash between boxing legends Mohammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971 that Frazier won. It also put the venue, Madison Square Garden, on the world map. This multipurpose indoor venue is located near Pennsylvania Station in midtown Manhattan. It’s the busiest music venue in the US — catch the Scorpions, Eric Clapton, Sam Hunt and Bruno Mars this summer. With 320 events every year, there’s always a good reason to land up. Come and watch the home basketball team, the New York Knicks, battle it out in the NBA. Or watch the world’s fastest game — the indoor stadium is home base of the New York Rangers ice hockey team.

There are enough places to cool off after the tension and high-adrenaline sporting action. Shop at one of the many retail destinations on Fifth Avenue, including the humungous 89,000-square-foot world flagship store of Uniqlo. Every conceivable cuisine from every corner of the world is in the mix in NYC. Vegans love Candle 79, which is a brisk walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you’re feeling adventurous, I’d recommend Black Ant on Second Avenue that plays around with traditional Mexican and South American cuisines and where everything from grasshoppers and black ants are on the menu along with agave-based cocktails. There’s never a dull moment in New York; this city doesn’t just stay awake 24/7; it throbs with a lively heartbeat that you can feel on any corner, even outside its sporting venues. It’s why I never tire of NYC even if it occasionally leaves me breathless.

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