By Matt Villano, on February 2, 2014

Sports must-sees in New York City

As host of the biggest game on earth, the New York metropolitan area has spent most of this winter at the center of the sporting world. The truth, however, is that the Big Apple is a top-notch sports destination at other times of year, too, boasting some iconic “stadiums” and fan experiences that are second to none. 

I was born and raised in the area, and spent the first half of my life making regular pilgrimages to some of these spots. Here’s a rundown on some of my faves. 

Yankee Stadium

My family had season tickets (in Box 622) at Yankee Stadium when I lived in New York, so the House that Ruth Built always will have a special place in my heart. The original stadium—the one they tore down after the 2008 season in favor of the current place—was one of the oldest and most storied sports arenas in the history of the world. While playing there, the Yankees won 26 championships, more than any other franchise in any other sport. 

I admit: The new Stadium (which cost $1.5 billion, by the way) isn’t nearly as intimate or colorful as its predecessor. It’s still a pretty fun place to see a game. Before the game, immerse yourself in Yankees history with a stroll through Monument Park, a museum located behind the centerfield wall. During the game, grab a table at NYY Steak, the steakhouse inside the stadium that looks out on the field of play.

After the game, take some extra time to walk across the street to Heritage Park, site of the old ballpark. Provided Bronx residents aren’t playing at the time, you can run around the old infield. There’s also a chunk of the original façade. No, these artifacts won’t bring back the olden days. But they’re nice reminders nevertheless.

The old Yankee Stadium


Madison Square Garden

In the Big Apple, no venue is bigger than MSG. The multi-purpose arena dates back to 1968, making it the oldest sporting venue in the city. It is home to the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers. It also brings in hundreds of college games, music concerts, and other sporting events every year.

Fan experiences vary depending on what you’re going to see. Crowds are boisterous during Knicks games, especially when rivals such as the Celtics or Heat come to town. Rangers games can get even rowdier—in recent years, the team has challenged for Eastern Conference supremacy, making the playoffs particularly electric. My personal favorite sporting events to witness at the “Garden” are of the collegiate variety; the venue is home to the annual Big East basketball tournament and the competition is downright fierce.

(As an aside, if you have the chance, take the all-access tour; it’s a trip to check out the Knicks’ and Rangers’ locker rooms, and the luxury suites are fit for a king.)


MCU Park

Minor League baseball often offers the national pastime at its best. Fans can get close to the action. It’s affordable. And promotions are great. In the case of MCU Park, home to the Brooklyn Cyclones (a New York-Penn League affiliate of the New York Mets), the stadium itself also is part of the attraction: It’s smack in the middle of Brooklyn’s Coney Island amusement destination.

I’m not exaggerating here, people. The stadium sits just steps from the Coney Island boardwalk, right under the majestic Parachute Jump. Most of the grandstand seats boast views of the Atlantic Ocean. On warm summer days, there’s no better sporting venue in town.

The game is pretty fun, too. Sure, Minor League ball isn’t as flawless as the pros, but it’s downright fun, and often offers a chance to see up-and-coming (or fading) stars. (Case in point: There’s a chance disgraced Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez could play in the league this year.) In the summer of 2014, MCU will host the NYPL All-Star Game.

Viewfinder Tip: Bleacher seats are the most affordable tickets at the new Yankee Stadium. There usually are seats available on the day of each game.

The Cage

Hardcore hoops fans know that the best action in the city happens on the concrete court on West Fourth Street in Greenwich Village. This court attracts ballers from all over the area, and has produced dozens of players who have made an impact in the NBA. Because the court is so small, since the chain-link fence sits close to the sidelines, play is fast and physical. This makes games played here spectacles that often appear as a mash-up of basketball and cage fighting (hence the name).

This fast-paced action attracts big crowds; local officials estimate the courts draw more than 100,000 spectators every year. Most fans watch games by peering through the fence; others climb trees or stand on benches. The experience is gritty and visceral. As New York continues to reinvent itself, the scene at The Cage is one of the things that (wonderfully) has remained the same.

What are some of your favorite sporting venues in the United States?