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Five Red Bull Arena hacks for NYCFC fans

Heading to New Jersey to watch NYCFC play Seattle Sounders? Here’s some advice for a better experience.

The sightlines at Red Bull Arena are excellent.
Courtesy NewYorkRedBulls.com

As every New York City FC fan should know by now, the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal matchup between New York City FC and Seattle Sounders will be played at Red Bull Arena, a short-ish hop across the Hudson in Harrison, NJ. We’re the first to admit that our sworn rivals have a good stadium, but despite all the “home” games NYCFC played there last season it remains an unfamiliar place.

That’s why we reached out to journalist Ben Cork, Red Bulls supporter and Managing Editor of Once a Metro, to give Hudson River Blue readers the skinny on Red Bull Arena: When an estimated 4,500 NYCFC supporters descend on the arena on Wednesday night, the well-informed among us will head straight to Brisas Empanadas on the East Concourse, and get our RFID-enabled credit cards ready for the self-serve beer kiosks.

PATH, NJ Transit, or drive? If we drive, where do we park? The NYCFC game against the Sounders is at 9 pm ET, which means it ends after 11 pm ET. What do you think will lead to the fewest tears?

PATH is your best bet. I am but a simple commoner who only uses public transportation, so can’t say as I’m terribly familiar with the car situation. But judging from the occasions I have gone to the arena by car, the PATH gets you in and out of the stadium complex much quicker than navigating the parking lots and freeways of the Meadowlands.

But as you mentioned, the timing postgame could make for a longer wait for a PATH train late at night. The arena has made arrangements with the train line in the past to have extra traffic on game nights, but a weeknight could see a longer wait for a departure.

Where should you eat in the Ironbound for a pregame meal? What about a pregame drink?

Within Harrison and walking distance to the arena, the food and beverage options are somewhat thin. Though the Joia Restaurant has recently opened in one of the condo blocks next to the arena, it is unclear how much of a gameday crowd has developed there.

Meanwhile, the Ironbound district across the river in Newark has a variety of different refreshment venues. An assortment of Brazilian and Portuguese restaurants line the main streets, with the closest large space being Iberia Tavern and Restaurant.

Best food at Red Bull Arena? Best selection of beers? Is there a hidden gem among those concessions?

The concessions at RBA are mostly the standard sports fare of hot dogs, pizza, and popcorn. But the most popular specialty stand for years now has been Brisas Empanadas on the stadium’s east concourse opposite the team benches.

The beer selection has been enhanced by the installment of self-serve kiosks where fans can select their own beers from refrigerators and pay at their own pace. However, it should be warned that this amenity and all transactions at RBA are cashless and done only by card or app.

Is there something special about the arena that we should notice? A plaque, a viewing point?

I must admit it’s not immediately obvious what unique feature of the arena would hold the reverence of City fans. Most of the arena’s bells and whistles are related to RBNY and its history.

I suppose if I had to give a pitch for the arena experience, it’s a similar one to the Red Bulls on the field — the system is the star. Red Bull Arena’s symmetrical sightlines and ample acoustics are meant to bring out the best in the game atmosphere rather than accentuate it. If it’s a high-stakes game like the second leg vs Seattle promises to be, the arena will make the experience that much more intense.

What do you love most about Red Bull Arena?

As touched on above, it is a cathedral to soccer and the game on the field is more important than anything else. The arena adds gravitas to big games, and the last time the CONCACAF Champions League was hosted there, the atmosphere was electric.

You just have to hope the result goes your team’s way, and the building will do the rest.