Category: NYC

College Game Day Visits NYC

College Game Day Visits NYC

A Little Background of Sports in NYC

When it comes to sports, NYC is a weird town. Our “home” football teams play in New Jersey. Hockey games will have more Long Islanders than NYers in the crowd (including Rangers games). The baseball stadiums might as well be outside of the city because it’s a trek to get to them. There are a lot of sports fans here but there also isn’t. You can definitely find packed sports bars on Sundays. But you can also find busy super markets and other normal life things being done by normal people. The city doesn’t shut down for a big game.

A big reason for this is because of the “melting pot” aspect of the city. With so many transplants, you find sports fans from all over the country. Team loyalty is real so no one is going to jump ship to start rooting for the Mets. But they will go to a bar to watch the Cubs play. Then you also have people who moved here from outside of the country. Places where their professional sports aren’t aired in the big midtown pubs. Even football (Soccer) doesn’t get much of a TV showing outside of a handful of designated bars.

If professionals sports don’t have as much traction in NYC as other cities, you can only imagine the lack of passion for college sports here! The process of talented athletes playing for a college then being drafted from that pool is very specific to the US. With such a diverse population of the 8M people living in NYC, it’s no surprise that not everyone grew up with college sports. I was raised in a very blue-collar rural part of New York state and college sports was definitely not a thing in our family.

Outside of the lack of tradition of college sports shared by NYers, there is also the lack of college FBS teams in the city as well. Much of the Northeast college representation is of the ivy leagues. They do have football teams, but not in any of the Power 5 conferences. There aren’t big tailgating bashes for Columbia games (there should be). The closest P5 conference team to NYC is New Jersey’s Rutgers, unfortunately. And that is a 2-hour drive from the city.

Still, NYC is a “bucket list” item on many college-aged American’s list of Places To Live. Bars in the city know this and accommodate accordingly. Every single college you can think of has a bar here that will play all of that school’s games. It’s a fun way to celebrate (or commiserate) with fellow school alumni. If you’re a recent grad, it’s a great way to make friends. If you’re a long-time alum, it’s always fun to reminisce.

I have even attended watch-parties for other school’s games at these bars, just because the atmosphere is so fun and energetic. Sure, maybe the whole city isn’t watching the game, but everyone at this one bar cares a whole lot.

So, when ESPN’s live sports show College Game Day decided to come to NYC, it wasn’t a popular choice, but it did make sense to me.

No Matter How Hard You Try, NYC is Not a Campus

College Game Day is a live sports show that is usually recorded on a college campus where the day’s featured game is held. It is recorded live to capture the energy of that school’s fans. Everyone comes out with signs to support their team or trash talk their opponent. It is great promotion for the school. Especially since many college campuses are in smaller cities that revolve around the school.

Even though I’m a Michigan State alum, I never had the chance to attend College Game Day while in school. Moving to NYC, I certainly never thought I would have the opportunity here. When I learned that the show would be visiting here on Sep 23, I was immediately excited and knew I had to go.

Typically College Game Day crowds start lining up near the stage area around 4am or earlier. The show starts at 9am but they open their ‘pit’ area a few hours prior. Well, NYC is a bit different. Bars close at 4am (well more like 3:30am), and even though it’s the “city that never sleeps”, it actually does sleep. Usually around 4-6am is a weird dead zone in NYC especially on weekends. Retail stores and many restaurants don’t open until 10 or 11am on Sat & Sun. Times Square specifically is not a really fun place at 4am.

Another aspect some people didn’t think about was the commuter transportation. Most of these large-crowd-events in NYC are actually commonly frequented by people from the metro-areas, not NYers. (Because we are jaded & grumpy & get enough crowds on the subway during rush hour.) People who live on Long Island, in New Jersey, and Connecticut often head into NYC on the weekends. While there is public transportation via commuter rails (Metro North & NJ Transit) into the city, their hours are few and far between especially on weekends. The first train coming into the city on a Saturday morning isn’t until close to 6am. So people couldn’t even get to Times Square until about 7am.

This is a huge difference from a college campus where many of the students live-right-there and can easily walk. No one lives in Times Square (no one should) and even living in Manhattan it’s unlikely you’re within reasonable walking distance to midtown. No one is driving into midtown either. The crowd ended up being huge but it definitely started out slow.

Experiencing College Game Day Live

I left my apartment in Brooklyn (deep Brooklyn) around 5:45am and took the Q straight to 42nd st, arriving around 6:30am. There was a not-too-crazy line of people waiting to get into the pit. Some people wanted to stay outside that area and already had the key spots next to the barriers by the stage. I understood that these spots made it more likely you could watch the show and be on TV. But, honestly, I wanted the true immersive experience.

At 6:45am they let people into the pit area behind the stage. It is surrounded by barriers and you have to go through a mild security check to get in. Considering the size of the crowd and it being in Times Square, security was super relaxed for a NYC event. You weren’t allowed to put sticks on the signs, but people got around that by using cardboard wrapping paper tubes. Signs had to be approved, no markers allowed in the area, no food or drink, etc. Though the checking was minimal so all that stuff was brought in.

If you stayed outside the pit, there were no security checks. But! This was just on the active sidewalk! Once that got packed later in the day, it looked really annoying to try to be watching the show with oblivious people walking behind you.

Oblivious people was a common theme, by the way. It was hilarious seeing the double decker tour buses roll by and everyone got out their cameras totally confused as to what was going on. We all waved. It was great.

Anyway, nothing really happened until 8am. I can’t imagine getting there any earlier than I did. After 8am, they had someone come out and try to get the crowd amped up. They started blaring hip-hop/dance music and just generally trying to motivate some energy out of us.

I’ve been to live tapings before and was surprised that there wasn’t any direction given to the crowd at all. I guess I’ve only done in-door studio live shows where there were signs for “applause” and “silence”. This was different. They did direct us throughout the show, but no one knew where to look or what to do so it was confusing. A crew member would be at one corner of the stage flailing his arms up to get us to cheer, but we didn’t know to look to that side. I was up front where a camera-man was trying to give us direction for some of the pre-recorded fan shots but again, it was haphazard.

Once the show started at 9am, there was a huge crowd in both the pit area and the sidewalk. Lots of great signs as always! I was very disappointed by the Spartan turn out, but what can you do. I only saw three other MSU fans. Sparty is definitely getting no love by ESPN this year.

Around 11am, people started leaving. To go drink or because they were tired, whatever. I’m not sure if this is typical or not. I was a little surprised but the experience was exhausting.

I knew that people make signs and want to see them on TV, but I didn’t realize how aggressive people are about this. Many of the much bigger guys surrounding me kept thrusting their arms in front of my face and using their body weight to get me out of the way so their super-hilarious-sign could be seen on TV. Obviously I also wanted my sign to be seen, but at the end of the day, it’s really not a big deal. I guess since I don’t go to events like this often I’m not super aware of such attention-seeking behavior. It was rather off-putting. I did tell two guys to “calm down” since they put their sign directly in front of my face, and they were nice about it.

With that said, I did get my 5-seconds of fame!

I’m famous now!

Actual Good NYC Sports Bars

There was a NYC College Bar segment that listed a dozen bars who feature certain team’s games. I would like to rename that segment as, “Bars in NYC to Avoid“. Obviously I’m glad they didn’t mention any of the actual good ones. But I will share them with you! An Ohio State Bar, and generally a B1G bar, and overall fun sports bar in East Williamsburg is 4th Down. An Alabama bar but also just a really great bar with excellent food in Alphabet City is Double Wide. And if you need to watch 100 games at once, all of the tvs at 200 Fifth in Park Slope have you covered.

Wrapping Up College Game Day NYC

I do want to say that I was very surprised and relieved at how respectful everyone was! Well, obviously we all disrespected our rivals, but the crowd was fairly respectful to each other that I saw. I didn’t see any crazy drunk people (I know it was 9am but I still thought there might be). Since I went by myself, I was hyper-aware of my surroundings the whole time. But there was no inappropriate touching or verbal harassment, so all in all a success.

Lots of people on the Internet still didn’t like the show in NYC and felt they should have stuck to a college campus. One aspect of the show I did like, that is very unique to NY, is seeing all the different schools come together! Since the show discusses all the major match-ups of the day, every team fan got their 5-seconds to cheer & show off their sign during the segment. And it was fun hearing all the different kinds of trash talk. I really liked that people from so many different schools came out!

At noon, the show wrapped up and the ESPN crew cleared out the area immediately. My arms were physically shaking from holding up my poster board sign for 4 hours. (They are still sore the day after!) Once ushered out of the area by staff, I headed over to Chick Fil A to get a spicy chicken sandwich for lunch. Going without food/drink for 5-hours was rough.

Overall, the experience was a blast! I am so glad I was able to see College Game Day live! And in my city! And be able to represent MSU in a sea of Michigan (boo) and SEC fans. Go Green!

NYC’s First Annual Formula-E Series Race

NYC’s First Annual Formula-E Series Race

2017 formula e brooklyn

The 2017 Formula-E Series race is the first-ever sanctioned auto race within New York City. The reason for not having auto racing on a tiny island of 8-Million people, is to avoid adding even more noise & air pollution to the area. For this reason, Formula-E is perfect. Formula-E racing exclusively uses all-electric open-wheel race cars. The entire race is centered around proving that the future of auto racing can be sustainable & auto-friendly. It is not just the race cars that are fully battery-powered. The safety car and trucks used on the course are also all-electric. This certainly makes for a unique experience!

Promoting Eco-Friendly Transportation Even Outside of the Race

formula e bike valet in red hook

The entire Formula-E organization promotes eco-friendly transportation all around. Putting a course in NYC was perfect for this. The race organizers did their due diligence sending information emails with a large variety of options to get to the race. They heavily discouraged driving yourself to Red Hook. They provided a free bike valet, shuttle buses from two of the closest subway stops, ride-share, and multiple entrances making walking feasible. Roads outside the event were not closed off so the regular MTA buses were using their normal routes. I was pleasantly surprised for the Information emails to even include which train lines were out of use for the weekend. Would love to see more larger event planning include those details!

Pro Tip: The bike valet was free for anyone, you did not need to show your ticket to the race. The service was available until 7pm.

Setting Up A Formula Race in Brooklyn

Formula-E’s first ever NYC race was held in the neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn on the water in the cruise terminal there. Although this was the first year for the race, apparently they signed a 10-year agreement with the city for it to be held annually in this location. The Formula organization spent millions of dollars making upgrades & modifications to the track & surrounding areas.

Personally, Red Hook is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn. In fact, I’ve written a whole separate post about this unique neighborhood. It has beautiful views of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. There are awesome food places including Steve’s Key Lime Pies and the bakery Baked. Also the neighborhood was ripped apart by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy several years ago and is still rebuilding. To see it being a destination for a large event like this is wonderful.

Top Notch Event Organization for Formula-E

formula e nyc signage organization

I’m used to attending large events and tend to get lost or confused at the layout. I’m sensitive to bad signage and have little tolerance for an organization not providing enough signs, bathrooms, food, and other facilities. So I quickly noticed that Formula-E went all out for this one!

Since it is a temporary location, the bathrooms were port-a-johns. However, they never got to the point of being unusable. And there were enough of them spread throughout that I never had to wait (truly a miracle). There were also two separate privacy facilities for diaper-changing/breast-feeding. I had feelings about this!

So, the Formula series of races are predominantly International/European. Most of the tracks are not in the US and it does not have a huge following in the US. For example, you have probably heard of NASCAR but aren’t as familiar with Formula-1 racing. The race, organization, and environment just felt a bit more European/nicer than standard car events I’ve been to. Also, I haven’t been to a car race in a while, but I was happily surprised by the breast-feeding/changing privacy areas for moms & children.

Outside of facilities & signage, there was plenty to do in what they called the E-Village! You could check out one of the electric single-seat cars close-up. There was a all-electric pace car on display. There was information, a VR booth, and lots of other fun car activities. The whole area was huge since it was spread out along half of the 1.2-mile track. I did not even get to see one side of it. I arrived around 11am and was able to get around easily. But by 2pm, the crowds were huge making it not as fun to explore the area. It was also very hot – but what can you do in July in the city.

In true Brooklyn fashion, food was provided by a row of local Food Trucks! And alcohol had it’s own large area with normal-priced drafts provided by Red Hook brewery, Six Point. I did notice that the prices for everything were standard. There was not any baseball-stadium-price-gouging here. What a relief! You could only have booze in the restricted area but this area was huge! Lots of tables, seats, shade, and a large-screen to see the goings on of the pre-race events.

There was plenty of entertainment (also in the alcohol section) from a pop/rock band, to a brass band, then a break dancing group. Everyone is allowed in the alcohol area. If you are over 21, you get a wrist-band. The children’s activities were also in this area (which to me is brilliant). There were kid’s games, face painting, etc.

Since it was so hot, the race provided many water fill up stations throughout the whole village & grandstand area. You were allowed to bring in a water bottle. I didn’t, because I’m so used to venues banning them. But I will remember this for next time. If you needed to buy a bottle of water, I think they were $3.

Checking Out The 1.2-Mile Circuit Track in Red Hook

formula e red hook grand stand 1

Unlike most NASCAR races that have a traditional oval track, most Formula courses have a road circuit. This means there are hair pin turns, different directions, switch backs, plus long straight-away’s. There are two Grand Stand sections. I sat in Grandstand 1 which had a great view of Red Hook proper. For the course, I could see two long straight-aways, the race start/finish, and a switch-back turn that took out at least two of the cars! Since you can’t see the full track from any seat, there were large jumbotron’s in the area. These were also nice to see replays.

The Grandstand 2 section had a view of a sharp turn in the second half of the course and another hair pin. It might be interesting to sit there next year. For getting good seats, you want to sit a bit higher up so you can see more of the track. I think tickets were available online and at various shops in Red Hook leading up to the race. My ticket cost $90 for single-day. You could get a weekend pass for maybe $150 – I’m not positive on that.

Formula-E races are taken place over a weekend. One race is Saturday & the other is Sunday. There are qualifiers each day. Even though it is the same drivers, the starting set-up may be different. Despite having practices, Sunday could likely be a different race since the drivers now have a better idea of racing on the track.

I wasn’t super familiar with Formula-E before buying the tickets. The race is quite different from other auto races. The actual race itself lasts about an hour. This one had 43-laps. Exactly at the half-way point of 23 laps, they had to switch batteries. The drivers are not allowed to change tires at all during the race. This is because, “swapping batteries” actually means getting a whole new car. They jump into a new prepared identical electric car to then finish the next 23 laps. Before switching, the leader got his battery down to 1% before going into pit.

The strategy of races with tires & fuel (for NASCAR specifically) always amazes me! Racing is strategy as much as it is endurance. To have to strategize your driving with battery power, is such a unique element of Formula-E. They also regenerate power by braking, which happens often in those tight turns.

Overall I had a great time checking out the first-ever Formula-E race in NYC! For me, I did not have to travel far and was able to see one of my favorite neighborhoods in a different way. I look forward to Formula-E hopefully returning next summer. I would only change bringing a water bottle and wearing more sunblock.

The winner of the race was Sam Bird of the DS Virgin Racing team! Vroom vroom!

All Photos of Formula-E in Booklyn

Shipwrecked NYC is an Amazing Mini Golf Interactive Pirate Adventure

Shipwrecked NYC is an Amazing Mini Golf Interactive Pirate Adventure

Shipwrecked NYC is an indoor miniature golf course located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY. Featuring a storyline, prop design, and a hill course, this mini golf experience is perfect for kids and adults.

Shipwrecked Miniature Golf (Interactive Pirate Adventure) in Red Hook Brooklyn NY
Shipwrecked Miniature Golf (Interactive Pirate Adventure) in Red Hook Brooklyn NY

Theater majors should always make miniature golf courses if this will be the end result.

I was at first skeptical of an indoor mini golf course. Mini golf is about waterfalls and being outside in the sweltering heat with zero shade and being able to laugh at all the other golfers and kids crying and mosquitoes that you can swat at with the club. Wouldn’t indoor mini golf lose all that? Well, yes. And in exchange we get an interactive adventure with a story and a plot and scenes! What a way to golf!

Think of this as a very small-scale children’s version of something like Sleep No More. As you golf, you are immersed into a story of a fellow pirate who sunk his ship while looking for treasure. On your golf-pirate-adventure journey, you travel underwater, then trek through a jungle, get lost in some caves, and finally find treasure. It is designed for both kids and adults because there are a lot of puns and dad jokes. We went as two adults and had a blast.

This is a traditional hills miniature golf course. The owners of Shipwrecked NYC bought a mini golf course in Maryland that was being torn down. They purchased everything then relocated all the holes to Brooklyn. The course is easy but still fun. You are definitely not losing anything with the added indoor experience.

I can’t find it now, but while reading up about the course and it’s owners, I found a fascinating interview with them. In it, they said that they just want to make people “smile, laugh, and have fun”. Shipwrecked NYC definitely accomplishes all of that!

Indoor Mini Golf Brooklyn Style

The four areas I describe above are designed as scenes. Each scene (underwater, jungle, caves, treasure) is in a separate room with four miniature golf holes set up.

First Scene: Jungle
First Scene: Jungle
Second Scene: Jungle
Second Scene: Jungle
Fourth Scene: Treasure
Fourth Scene: Treasure (Third scene was Caves but it was hard to take a photo)

The golfing part is traditional and fun. Everything is about a par 2-3. The rooms themselves are extremely immersive since they are all separate. Because the experience includes a story, the golf course is closed off from the main lobby. Where in traditional outdoors mini golf, you can see everyone on the course, here you can’t. We always had every room to ourselves. Not because it wasn’t busy, but because that boosted the experience. At 1pm on a Saturday we waited about 15-minutes to start. Not being able to see the course before starting also really adds to the excitement.

The story portion of Shipwrecked NYC is entirely optional and is at an extra charge. To hear the story features along the course, it is an extra $5 per game. This comes in the form of tokens ($1/token). You enter a token into certain set pieces along the course and get to hear more of the story. You have to do this! (figuratively, not literally). I cannot imagine going through this the first time without the story!

Getting to Red Hook

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn is Red Hook and I have explored it several times already. Although Shipwrecked NYC is located closer to Gowanus than the main parts of Red Hook.

Shipwrecked NYC Hours & Location

You can take the F/G train and walk, or the B61 and walk, or take a car service (a cheap ride from most surrounding neighborhoods), or bike (a short ride from most areas in BK). It is located on Court St next to a lot of warehouses, apartment buildings, and an auto shop. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. There is a sign out front though it might be hard to miss if you’re in a car or on a bike.

You will walk into what looks like a normal apartment building (and it is) where you have to take the elevator up to the second floor. There are signs all along the way pointing you in the direction of Pirate Adventure! There is an entrance area with lockers and I saw some scooters & strollers parked there. You might be able to leave your bike there, I’m not sure (there are not bike racks out front of the building).

While you’re in Red Hook, don’t forget to get a key lime pie and check out the pier!

Just a note, they sell some snacks and sodas but currently not alcohol.


Shipwrecked NYC Details
Address: 621 Court St. , 2nd Fl. Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY
Hours: Mon-Thurs Noon-9pm; Fri noon-11pm; Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 11am-9pm
Price: Adults $14; Kids $10