Parramatta thrashed the Wests Tigers in game one at Bankwest Stadium on Sunday, but what was it like for the fans?
A pair of NRL employees - Eels tragic Jason Langenberg and Wests Tigers supporter Kenny Scott - were among the more than 29,000 fans to attend opening day at the new jewel in the heart of western Sydney.
With the help of a shopping trolley, Langenberg and his son were able to enjoy everything the ground had to offer. The fact his beloved Eels christened their new home in style certainly added to the memories gathered.
As for Scott, the performance of his beloved Wests Tigers only partly soured the experience.
The Bankwest experience - Eels fan Jason Langenberg
Getting to the stadium
Given that I was taking my four-year-old son Oliver to the game, the idea of public transport wasn't appealing so I drove to the game. Despite warnings from the Eels membership team regarding how limited parking was at the leagues club, I approached with my perpetual membership card in hand. It was full.
Match Highlights: Eels v Wests Tigers
I then went to Plan B which was on the grounds of the old Cumberland Hospital, which for years welcomed fans on game day. This was not available and I ended up parking about 1500m away.
Thankfully a discarded shopping trolley provided a fun trip for my son until we dropped it off at the Coles supermarket from which it most likely came. Hopefully, this wasn't going to be the highlight of his day.
The other three people I sat with were my 70-something father and two mates, Mick and Mike, who were travelling by public transport from the different parts of Sydney.
All enjoyed a seamless journey and all decided to pass up the shuttle bus from Parramatta Station in favour of walking to the ground. They enjoyed the fanfare along the way.
View from my seats
Having been a ticketed member at the old Parramatta Stadium, my friends and I have indulged in Gold category season tickets. These placed us 11 rows back (as shown in the picture at the top of this article) on the second elevation. Much has been said about how close you are to the action. That is all true.
We had a better-than-TV view of the game and the proximity to the action was brilliant, especially given the many moments of celebration you enjoy when your team delivers a 51-6 drubbing.
Gutherson breaks away and provides for Jennings
In the 15th minute, after putting Michael Jennings away for a certain try, Clint Gutherson pulled up in front of our section and spurred the crowd on. Despite being more than halfway up, we could not have been more than 20 metres from him and were looking straight down at him.
The actual seats were great. They feature high backs which made them nice to sit in for a couple of hours, especially when compared to the seats at the old Parramatta Stadium.
Comparing the seating to that of a stadium that was knocked down a few years back would have been difficult if I did not have two seats from the old stadium at home.
Feast your eyes on Bankwest's food options
Bathrooms, drink, food, prices, waiting times
Before and during the game, the bars and food service areas were always busy. Despite the queues, we didn't have to wait long. The half-time test of whether you are able to visit the bathroom, buy a drink and get back to your seat in time for the start of the second half was undertaken and passed easily.
Atmosphere during the game
Supporting the home team in the first game at a new home was always going to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. The scoreline made the day something special.
When Michael Cronin raised the Blue and Gold Army flag, and when the national anthem was performed, the closeness of the crowd definitely fostered a tribal atmosphere. I'd love to see a Pacific Test at this venue.
The big screen
The screen was really clear and not too big, but you really don’t need one at a stadium like this other than to watch video referee footage.
While Gate B was the entry point for the majority of non-corporate spectators, there were many exit gates which made leaving the stadium really easy. We never felt like we were battling the crowd.
With most fans using public transport the streets of Parramatta were a sea of blue and gold, with a few streets blocked off for traffic to allow people to leave quickly.
Unfortunately, I was not able to find a spare shopping trolley, so I carried my four-year-old back to the car on my shoulders.
The appearance - inside and out
The view of the stadium upon approach is magnificent, with the LED panel on the front displaying gate information upon entry, and images of the winning team when we left.
The stadium foreground included some outdoor gym equipment and basketball courts, and there were some food stalls and a DJ set up, all of which created a real buzz.
The lighting panels inside and out of the stadium are reminiscent of what you see at modern venues in the US and in particular, the internal ones are crystal clear and really effective.
These mainly featured advertisements and were also used for the pre-game fire-up and game-winning celebrations as they featured the words to the Eels victory song "Click go the Eels" as well as a wriggling Eel which drew more than a few smirks from the crowd.
After a long wait and a lot of hype, Bankwest Stadium delivered. It will be the Eels home ground to me, but I hope that other Sydney teams take some of their home games there as it really does suit the game perfectly.
It is way better being at a game at Bankwest Stadium than it is to watch it on TV. My advice would be that for those who don’t support the Eels, go watch your team there the next time they are away to Parra.
The Bankwest experience - from a Wests Tigers fan
Getting to the stadium
It was tempting to drive in the hope I could jag the miracle spot, but erred on the side of caution and took the train to Parramatta station.
Upon descending from the platform to the station concourse I found the signage somewhat poor – my party spent a bit of time working out where to exit the station to head towards the stadium. Once we'd hit street level, though there was good signage pointing the way.
It is a good 20-minute walk from the station to the stadium, but it is flat and the excitement of anticipation basically carries you there. There were street performers roaming around the place as well which added to the fun atmosphere.
View from my seats
I was sitting in bay 209 which was reserved for Tigers fans. This was in the second tier in the corner facing Northwest - the equivalent of Bay 146-2 at ANZ Stadium. I was blown away by the pitch of the seats.
The view was spectacular. We were so close to the action.
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Bathrooms, food, drinks, prices, waiting times
Ten minutes before half time I went to grab food and a few drinks for the squad. I could see a large range of options and vendors, but went for the good old hot chips. Wait time was fine.
The best improvement for me was that hot chips and beers could be bought from the same outlet – that's a time saver!
Other people in the crowd seemed to be enjoying standard like pies, but I also saw some people eating gozleme and chicken wings so it seemed like there was a good range of options.
Atmosphere during the game
The atmosphere was amazing. Truly electric. The place was packed and there were more Parra flags than I ever care to see again in one place.
The big screens
Two big screens, one on each side gave a great view of replays and they were super clear and bright. There were live NRL Fantasy updates broadcast on the screens throughout the game which I think is an amazing addition to the gameday experience.
Getting out was fine – then again it's never hard to clear a stadium. We took an alternate route back to the station and it felt like it took half the time of the trip there. The roads around the stadium were closed to traffic which made the walk easy and. A leisurely stroll by the river was the perfect antidote to a painful loss.
What it looks like inside and out
The lighting inside was clear and bright. The LED signage around the stadium was impressive and was used at crucial times of the game to highlight events (tries for example, apparently there were a few of those). The signage snaked around the perimeter and over the grandstand as well which gave it a pretty cool visual effect.
Every try from Round 6
Bankwest Stadium is a long overdue addition to Sydney's infrastructure and is a huge step in the direction we, as a city, should be taking in our attitude towards live sport and events. For me, it was a drastic improvement but there were still things that could have been added to make the experience better.
Small things like cup holders, or a bit more space between seats to make the down the aisle shuffle a bit more comfortable would have been great, however, this is still the best stadium we've got and the benchmark for all others from this point on.