Super Bowl 50 @ The Hipp
When you grow up in a low profile town some place out in the sticks like myself you most likely develop your perception of casino’s from James Bond movies. That is until the first time you walk into one as a young man who has since moved away to a location less like Mormon life. Most casino’s I have been in as an adult have offered little sign of a Martini never mind 007 himself. Usually they offer half empty rooms with an obvious lack of the female form and with bouncers looking a little too grim for their only slightly sophisticated attire. The lighting is often poor & the atmosphere resembles something akin to your neighbour’s creepy cellar.
In my honest opinion the same cannot be said for the Hippodrome London. Yes there is always room for improvement however the Hipp is generally a classy establishment. Situated in Leicester Square it’s a great place to meet up with friends, everybody can find Leicester Square right? The surrounding area offers a vast array of places to eat and drink in good company regardless of time or day. The bouncers at the front door are not actually bouncers, rather they are doormen who get that they are not working for your standard gambling den. Inside the decor has had a lot of thought put into it and it’s hard not be impressed the first time you stroll through the corridor to meet the hustle & bustle across 3 different floors. Indeed James Bond might actually consider stopping by this venue and there are women too! The more I explore this place the more I find it amuses me. If you go down stairs don’t be surprised to find some attractive & dressed women dancing on tables in some form of clean & tame version of table top. Even the “outdoor” smoking area smacks of coolness in that it gives the smoker in us the option of “getting fresh air” while also having cover from the hard rain just a few metres away. There is something pretty neat about the ability to chat, drink and cane the roulette table all while outside in the core of winter.
So what about the football?
I’m getting to it ; )
Way back in the day the Hippodrome served up circus & variety performances, decades later it’s great to see the Matcham theatre still goes strong. These days the auditorium typically serves up cabaret Monday to Saturday evenings so during the NFL season Thursday & Monday night football can only be watched on 2 to 3 reasonably large screens which are located in different areas of the casino. These screens are ok but are no match for the Large screen in the theatre which is opened up to NFL on Sunday nights. During the season and post season leading up to the Super Bowl there is enough seating in the theatre for 100 approx and in my opinion the theatre is the best place in London to watch the game (Sunday nights) through the regular 17 game season and playoffs.
Comfy Seats, Plenty of Space, Lots of Goodness…
Let’s start with the good.
You can buy a ticket which was not possible at all venues hosting similar events such as the o2 in previous years, the £20 ticket is not cheap but then I guess they would advise that the location and quality of venue are worth it. As we found our seats in the theatre they surprised us with several comedians who ran through really enjoyable topical routines. A series of nice but glum looking gals bring the food, beer and change right to you & based on my friends stat monitoring there is at the very least free “make do” WIFI.
The theatre takes on a different dimension for the Super Bowl, the Hipp spotted an opportunity to earn and they went at it full tilt. Rather than seat 100 they added seating for as much as 160. The more the merrier you might say but this is not the case when sitting in a small auditorium. The effect of adding seats moves away from straight rows facing the screen and introduces a very serious arc to the seating arrangement. The lucky “those in the centre of the room” will have a great view and yet their buddies who were not quite so fast will have an unpleasant viewing angle to deal with. We were a group of nine this year and it was our first time to the Hippodrome for the Super Bowl. I think it’s fair to say that at least five of our group were rightly unhappy with the view they had. I sat out widest of all and my viewing angle of the huge screen must have been a 75 degree angle, absolutely unwatchable! To be fair to the staff they acknowledged that many had spent good money on a poor seat by standing up a 32" TV, three feet away from our faces. In addition to the poor viewing angle the comfortable looking chairs above were replaced with much more basic, smaller seats which were squashed together to ensure everybody had zero personal space. One small selling point the Hippodrome waved around was the serving of American classics all night long. Well, let’s just say I saw one of my friends rightly turn away some nachos which were not as ordered and another friend was right to express his disappointment at “seriously hot” wings being the only flavour available.
Dont let this image full you, the person sitting at this angle did quite well…
The Hippodrome advertises itself as being open 24 hours, it is indeed but the same cannot be said for the bars within. Shortly after the SB finished our people were asked to move upstairs where a bar would remain open however not long after this all bars closed for the night. A little disappointing for those waiting on trains home.
The Hipp knew they had a great chance to position it’s venue as the de facto standard for watching the NFL in and around London, I know they knew this because when the SuperBash event cancelled I told them… I generally really like what the Hippodrome has to offer and I was in the process of talking people into joining me here for the big game, suffice to say that it was in my interest for the venue to pull out all the stops. Sadly what occurred was more akin to finding a cute little moggie on the street and slowly chocking the living life out of it because there was only one of them! It’s essentially puzzling to see a business which utilizes quality as its main driver to throw away a golden opportunity on the basis of greed. Each seat sold was another 20 macaroons and they ensured a full stock at all costs. The truth is if they had maintained their usual seating plan they could probably charge 30 to 40 a pop. Given the venue I imagine the Hipp will have no problem pulling off the very same deal next year and the next and the next and I expect that they shall never look deeply enough to notice the low percentage of SB return customer.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great venue for Sunday night football (Regular Season & Playoffs) and it would make an awesome stop off for any group hitting the city centre for a big night out. They are apparently holding a draft party this spring and I would consider returning for that event on the basis that they revert to the usual seating arrangement. Next year I will look to be somewhere that offers the football fan a little more “quality”. A venue where we can enjoy the game in comfort and have all the banter that usually comes with watching it unfold with a crowd of friends who are not all sat in a row squinting at the screen.