Great College Football Stadiums Across the Country
From TRIPinfo.com's Resource Atlas & Handbook
College Football Fever spreads across the country each Fall. This growing tradition continues to bring millions of fans together across the country each Saturday.
|Illustrating the strong interest in college football, 657 NCAA schools sponsored football in 2013 – 13 more than 2012. And fans came to watch their team play. In 2013, a record-setting 50,291,275 fans attended college football games across the country. The SEC (Southeastern Conference) broke the all-time record for the highest attendance for a season with 7,567,406 spectators. This conference has led all others in average attendance for the past 16 seasons and, again, posted the record for average attendance per game. For the top 5 conferences, the average attendance per game was:
Two Big 10 colleges lead the nation in average attendance though. For 16 consecutive years, Michigan has been number one in average home game attendance with 111,592 fans per game in 2013. Ohio State was second with 104,933 and Alabama was third with 101,505 fans in 2013. The stadiums where these teams play, all among the largest capacities, are virtually sold out for each home game.
Why is support so strong and attendance booming, filling stadiums to capacity each week? According to National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame President & CEO Steve Hatchell, “College football fans have an unmatched passion for their sport, and the options for them to connect with their teams have never been greater.”
|While many of the great stadiums were built during the 1920s, they have kept up with popular demand and technology adding capacity, lights for televised night games, jumbotrons and more to bring the game closer to fans. It’s this ambiance and the rich tradition that makes college football the ultimate group experience.
Byron Cain, founder of Heritage Tours, has spent years traveling to college stadiums – the old and new – watching the pageantry, color and whimsy of college football. Byron shares his passion for college football in his National Tailgate Tour. He brings the game experience including rivalries, rival history, interesting notes and anecdotes to life. His reports focus on game day traditions, stadiums, their design and expansions, bands, the campus and the fans. TRIPinfo.com is very proud to present excerpts of Mr. Cain’s National Tailgate Tour to the following pages.
Enjoy the TRIP!
University of Alabama
Opened: October 1929
The Stadium: Bryant-Denny Stadium is right in the thick of the spread out campus, and with its expansions, bumps up against the campus buildings on two sides, a cemetery outside one end zone (obviously with the remains of defeated Tide opponents) and, on the other, the Walk of Championships. In The Walk are stone announcements of each National Champion teams with the names of coaches and players. To the side of The Walk is a park setting with semicircular garden areas featuring statues of each National Championship winning coach. Two of these five coaches are former Vanderbilt Assistants. My photo is with Former Vandy Assistant Bryant. The Walk of Champions leads to the Grand Entrance of the Stadium.
The architects have done a magnificent job of blending in the upper decks and end zones with the original lower bowl. The effect is an intimate feel to a 101,000 seat SEC arena, especially because they kept the end zones so close to the field. The end zone stands are steep, as are the upper decks.
The entry portals are evenly spaced and attractive. The architects placed the aisles on the forty fives, not on the fifty, so there is a complete section of seats midfield. All the better to sell 50 yard line seats.
As in most SEC stadiums, there are hedges around the field. It's a southern thing. We're an agricultural part of the country. The four sides are accessed by four round towers in the corners that one circles, up and up and up. Very efficient and a great use of space.
Tailgating: The Tailgating was mostly around the iconic Denny Chimes, named for the same president who is on the Stadium. He ran Bama for twenty five years, and raised enrollment from 500 to 5,000. He was a frustrated athletic coach and team owner (self admitted; an early day Mark Cuban) who used athletics to create fame and prestige for the University. This was not universally appreciated by some sectors. After Bear Bryant's demise, Bryant’s name was added to the stadium name.
Pre-Game Traditions: The Big Event is when the Team arrives two hours before kickoff, and drives up in their motorcoaches to debus and walk up The Walk to the stadium. The enormous crowd gathers to cheer and photo and gawk.
The Elephant Stomp is an exciting Game Day tradition at UA. The band will begin one hour before kickoff. There will be a pep rally and then the march to the stadium. The drum line will begin two hours before kickoff.
Unique Fact: The Million Dollar Band. So named in 1922 by some alum to a sports writer because that is how good the band sounded to him. They had an excellent pre-game with a typical Homecoming halftime. The MDB looked and sounded terrific. The sound was loud and full in the lower bowl. Their game management was excellent, as they played often and appropriately, with interesting in-the-stands choreography movements.
Tip: A must visit to the campus is the Bear Bryant Museum, a wonderful place for anyone who enjoys the color, pageantry and pure fun of college football. There is a recreation of Bear's office (just like they do with Oval Office in Presidential libraries), a crystal Bear houndstooth hat, a Heisman Trophy, championship rings, and lots of old programs from Great Games.
|Pictured above: 1. Byron poses with former
Vandy Assistant Coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant.
2. In Tuscaloosa, if you are a great coach, you
get a street named after you. 3. National
Championship trophies on display at the Bear Bryant Museum. 4. The Grand Entrance to Bryant-Denny
Stadium. 5. The team arrives at the Walk of
Championships, to be greeted by the mob of fans.
6. The Million Dollar Band performs its halftime
show to a packed stadium. 7. The Bear’s office at
the Bear Bryant Museum.
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA
Nickname: Death Valley
Opened: Fall 1924
Stadium Design: One of the greatest designs ever. The stands are very steep and so close to the field. The new upper decks are so steep that when you stand up you are looking over the head of the person in front of you. Superb visibility.
Tailgating: Totally awesome in its size and extent. The entire campus is open to be tailgated, with no fees. You just pick your spot. Most folks have theirs reserved by squatters’ rights dating back many eons, and others respect that. The parking lots are full of RVs as far as one can see, and tents and tables surround the areas around the campus buildings.
Pre-Game Traditions: The Band walks down Stadium Drive to the Maravich Center where they perform their halftime show as a Pep Rally. With 350 people playing indoors, what a sound! Once in the stadium the pre-game show is an unchanging ritual that the crowd is enamored with. The group comes out in simple, straight lines in the beginning with what they like to say is the most famous four notes in college football, the intro to “Oh That Tiger” to which the crowd roars in response. LSU is spelled out facing one side then the other, and then a tunnel line is formed for the team to enter from the north end zone tunnel, slapping the only-one-of-three-permitted H designed goalposts.
Unique Fact: Legend maintains that it never rains in Tiger Stadium. Indeed, when the press box announcer notes the weather at kickoff, “Temperature at game time is 78 degrees, wind at 10 mph from the ENE, and the chance of rain is…” the crowd roars “NEVER.” The dew, however, can get heavy at times.
Bright House Networks Stadium
University of Central Florida
Nickname: The Bounce House
Opened: September 2007
The School: UCF is one of the most unusual universities and campuses in the nation. Founded only in 1963 to provide trained engineers and scientists for the space industry over at Cape Canaveral, it was originally named Florida Technological University or Florida Tech. The name was changed in 1978 to the University of Central Florida to reflect its broadening curriculum. UCF now has an enrollment of 59,000, is the largest university in Florida, and the second largest in the entire US! The school is one of only a few high tech schools to receive federal space grants, and the academic curriculum is best known for its top-notch grads in optics, simulation, digital media, engineering, and computer sciences. The buildings are Florida stucco with bright turquoises, ochers and greens. Palm trees and tropical foliage line the walkways. Here, there are no cracks or gum on the sidewalks, no scuff marks on the curbs, no weeds in the beds.
The Stadium: It is appropriate that the Stadium is pristine and brand new; in fact, it is one of the newest stadiums in Division I. BHN is one bowl, with the same height all the way around plus the press box.
Pictured above: 1. Tailgating at Tiger Stadium.
2. The Pep Rally inside Maravich Center.
3. The band spells LSU before the team enters
the field. 4. The UCF mascot is the Knights, so
here is the charging Knight on guard outside
the stadium. 5. Covering 25 acres,
BHN stadium is comprised of aluminum
benches on top of a steel and concrete foundation.
Notre Dame Stadium
University of Notre Dame
South Bend, IN
Opened: October 1930
Stadium Design: Notre Dame Stadium, where they "shake down the thunder from the sky" (now that you have to admit is intimidating, kind of Biblical), was constructed in 1930 when Head Coach Knute Rockne was in his prime. The profits the program had made during a rather so-so 1928 season totaled over $500,000, a sum Rockne wanted to use to build a gargantuan arena to replace old Cartier Field. However, Father O'Donnell, President of the University, did not want to put the school in debt over a stadium. Rockne "resigned” over this issue (a tactic he employed several times) as a negotiating ploy. (Reminiscent of the comment, "Countess Dumarche has committed suicide." "What! Again?") Rockne got his stadium and O'Donnell commanded the financing plan, which included selling seating rights to the best prime locations for a ten year period (Cost: $3,000 between the 45's.) Over $150,000 was raised from O'Donnell's seating sales.
Rockne was involved in every aspect of the stadium design. He favored the simplistic bowl concept at Michigan, but he wanted it smaller, as ND was, and is, a much smaller school. He selected the firm that designed Michigan Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Commiskey Park. His major alterations were in the location of the entrance tunnel and narrowing the amount of space between the field and the stands. Rockne even oversaw the layout of the streets and the parking plan for the Stadium. What he drew remained in use until the 1996 renovations. The original capacity was 54,000; the final cost was about $750,000. In 1996, the capacity increased to 80,795; the field was lowered increasing the height of the first row over the field, a good move.
Pep Rally: A Friday night Pep Rally is held in a large open field near The Stadium. The Band enters from behind the stage, and the Leprechaun, backed up by the Cheerleaders, leads the frenzied event. Hearing their invigorating Fight Song, "Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame”, there actually at Notre Dame, being played by their band, and sung by their students, is simultaneously thrilling to a Goosebumps level, and intimidating. Within the area, booths sell beer, brats and other such Midwestern fare.
Pre-Game Traditions: The Tunnel. There is only one Tunnel, and it leads past the locker rooms to the middle of the north End Zone. Knowing that fans salivate to walk down The Tunnel and run into The Stadium, the ND powers recognize their national touristic appeal and open it for a couple of hours on Friday afternoons. 5,000 fans see themselves slapping the "Play Like A Champion" sign and rushing through The Tunnel and onto The Field amidst the strains of The Fight Song. Banners signifying the National Championships hang from the ceiling, eleven - so far.
The Dome and The Mall. Tourists and fans flood the quads and the Mall, where there is a line to get in the Dome Building. That is because bag pipers pipe inside the rotunda of the Dome. The players go to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for their pre-game mass. Afterward, the players leave the Basilica and follow the Band down the mall to The Stadium with the Golden Dome and the Basilica as the backdrop. What a setting!!
Unique Fact: A home game in South Bend attracts fans of the opponent and hordes of general tourists. More than any other school game experience, ND is a "tourist destination." Starting on Friday, green-coated volunteers are stationed at main intersections around the campus to greet visitors with a "Welcome to Notre Dame. May I help you with any directions?”
Pictured above: 1-3. Coaches winning National Championships get their names on gates and
statues as well. 4. A look inside the Basilica.
5. Fans form a tunnel as the team leaves
the Basilica. 6. For pre-game, the band forms the
great "ND" before the team enters the field.
7. The uplifted arms of Christ on The Word of
Life mural on Hesburgh Library is the
famous "Touchdown Jesus.”
University of North Texas
Stadium Design: Apogee Stadium is the newest collegiate stadium built in the 21st Century. This criterion specifies that the stadium must be completely new, not any renovations of an existing facility, no matter how extensive. The stadium meets this criterion as it is a completely new structure built across I-35 from the former UNT stadium, Fouts Field.
Apogee is the first stadium in the U.S. to be awarded the Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification from the U.S Green Building Council. Notable in the stadium design are these environmental features: Three wind turbines outside the Stadium that will generate electricity for a separate grid to supply juice for the stadium and other athletic buildings; recycled material used in the building structure itself; and windows allowing natural light and reducing heating & cooling costs.
Tailgating: Some tailgating still takes place in the lots next to Fouts, but most has moved to the open fields that surround Apogee. The new place is built out on the Texas lone prairie, with a small pond in front. Nothing but space surrounds it, so it is visible for quite a distance, and hundreds of thousands of vehicles pass it daily, as I-35 is the NAFTA Highway that journeys from the Mexican border at Laredo to Canada.
Unique Fact: For those of you not immersed in the band world, UNT has one of the nation's top five music schools and produces many of the nation’s talented band directors and performers. So, here you have one of the largest and best marching bands. In all my long years of listening to and watching collegiate bands, this is the best playing band I have ever heard. All of their music is memorized. Their sound is rich, blended and perfectly in tune, as befitting a group of 350 future professional musicians.
East Carolina University
Opened: September 1963
The Stadium: The Stadium opened in 1963, with only one side of stands, the south side, seating 10,000 with a press box. The north stands were built in 1968, doubling capacity to 20,000. Additional expansions were made in 1977 (15,000), 1996 (8,000), and 2010 (7,000) enclosing the west end zone. That makes the current capacity 50,000.
Traditions: The Pirates enter the field from the fancy athletic complex through the Ship at the East End Zone. The cannon is shot off on their appearance and each time they score. The prow flies a Jolly Roger Flag during the first three quarters. At the Third Quarter change, it is lowered and the burgundy colored (to symbolize soaked blood) Jolly Roger is hoisted, with the words NO QUARTER on it.
Historical Point: On November 14, 1970, the Pirates hosted the Thundering Herd of Marshall University. ECU won 17-14, with the game ending on a controversial intentional grounding call on the Herd QB. That night, the plane crashed during landing, killing all 75. A plaque depicting the Memorial Fountain on the Marshall Campus is located at the Visitors Entrance.
Pictured above: 1. The country’s newest stadium.
2. Access from campus to the stadium is a priority
including a fleet of pedicabs. 3. A talented
marching band welcomes the North Texas Mean
Green. 4. The Pirate threatens opponents outside
the stadium. 5. The Pirates Lighthouse guides the
fans to the Stadium. 6. The team enters the field
from the locker room through the Prow of the
Pirates Ship at the end of the stands.
Opened: 1926 & 1997
Stadium Design: William Dyche (pronounced dike), NU Class of 1882, was the Mayor of Evanston and later the Business Manager at Northwestern. Interested in athletics, especially that new found sport called foot-ball, he oversaw the construction of a 10,000 seat, wooden-planked stadium in 1905 at the site of the present day facility. By the 1920's, the Great Decade of Stadium Building, the need was obvious for a much larger and more substantial structure. As Business Manager, he oversaw the design and construction of the edifice that was named for him, Dyche Stadium. Built in 1926, the original capacity was 45,000. The insightful design focused on the curved tops of the sidelines, to provide more seats at midfield. While an obvious concept to give the most spectators the best view of the field and provide the most seats between the twenties for the ticket manager, it is astounding how few architects incorporate this concept.
From 1926 through 1948, the capacity and design remained the same. Then, after the Rose Bowl victory of 1948, the South End Zone (EZ) was added, curiously connecting to the Student Side (SS) but not the Press Box (PB) Side. This creates an asymmetrical EZ with an opening through it to the stands. The addition increased capacity to 52,000. The enclosed EZ is where the statue of the Wildcat stands. In 1954, sections were added to each side of the SS, which created seats that faced the End Zones. The capacity reached its zenith, 55,000, and stayed such until 1976. This was a period of Wildcat excitement and interest. Average attendance was in the forties, and Coach Ara Parseghian led the Cats to a #1 pre-season ranking in several polls in 1962. Then the Time of Troubles closed in over the stadium, like the fog drifting in off nearby Lake Michigan. The Wildcats endured the Nation's Longest Losing Streak from 1976 to 1982.
In 1996, the new reconstruction took place, with two significant changes. First, the Stadium had been built with a track, as were most of the 1920s coliseums. In the redesign, NU took out the track and lowered the Field of Play by something like 8 to 10 feet. They built a grass covered sloping wall that connects the stands to the field, creating the attractive setting of putting the field inside a grassy embankment. Second, they added an attractive, in itself, modern and functional Press Box. OK, but the bad part is that this destroys the signature identity of Dyche Stadium, the rounded Roman arches that stride the length of the exterior of both the PB and SS sides. The new stadium opened in the Fall of 1997. It was named Ryan Field in honor of Patrick Ryan – a 1959 NU graduate, founder of AON Corporation, donor to the Campaign for Athletic Excellence, and Chair of the Northwestern Board of Trustees.
The Campus: In pleasant, warm weather, the campus is most impressive: tree-filled, a spacious collection of old and new architecture that somehow blends together. Attractive mostly gray limestone buildings. And, get this, the campus is literally on Lake Michigan. There is a beach with real sand and a grassy park with hillocks and benches for studying and daydreaming, and clouds and sun and waves and sailboats.
Pre-Game Traditions: In the center of the treed classroom area stands a Great Tradition, The Rock, a large boulder sitting in the middle of campus. Campus groups compete to see who can paint The Rock for The Next Game. Pledges/freshmen are stationed there all night to guard the paint job once it is done; so no other clan can paint over their work.
Pictured above: 1. Outside Ryan Field with rounded
Roman arches. 2. The wildcat has a great view
of the field. 3. The curved tops of the sidelines
provide more seats at midfield. 4. Campus groups
compete for rock-painting bragging rights before
5. NU sits on the banks of Lake
with a gorgeous view of the Chicago skyline.
||Sun Bowl Stadium
University of Texas El Paso
El Paso, TX
Opened: September 1963
Stadium Design: In my estimation, the Sun Bowl cannot be equaled for its dramatic mountain setting in El Paso. At the point where the mighty Rio Grande makes a cut through the mountains, sits the ancient town of El Paso, “The Pass of the North.” The Franklin Mountains come down like a north-south upheaval toward the river, stopping just a couple of miles north of the international border. Thus the town has been forced to grow around the bare, desert uplifts, spreading to the northeast and northwest. The Franklin Mountains are now a State Park, comprising the only mountain system completely within a city boundary. The University of Texas at El Paso campus, the home school of the Sun Bowl, crawls up the southwest flank of the Mountains. The Sun Bowl is at the top of the campus, north of the academic buildings, dorms and other athletic facilities.
The Stadium is wedged in between two desert peaks – a fantastic, Frank Lloyd Wright-like union of stadium and nature, an engineering curiosity that allows for oddities of design, spectacular views, and a glorious place to watch sports. With its open south End Zone, spectators enjoy a magnificent view over the campus rooftops, El Paso, the plain beyond, and on to the mountain chains in Mexico.
In 1963, the lower bowl was built of concrete and housed a capacity of 30,000. This initial design contained only the two sidelines and no end zones. In 1969, the current press box was constructed, and it is still quite attractive. The only major addition was carried out in 1982 when the top half of the Student Side and the north EZ stands were created. To double the height of the student side stands, it was necessary to blast out a section of the east mountain that loomed over that side.
Tailgating: Tailgating doesn’t seem very popular. I counted about thirteen tents in various parking lots with no two next to each other. Possibly they were at another location that I did not see. The tailgaters we did see were very friendly, relaxed, helpful and playing salsa music.
Pre-Game Traditions: Founded in 1914, the school fielded a team their very first year, nicknamed the Ore Diggers and Muckers. That didn't last long...makes for too long a cheer. The next year a major supporter suggested a change to "Miners," and that, it has been ever since. Today, the football team enters the Stadium through a portal in the northeast corner of the EZ, about halfway up the stands. There is a temporary covering over the portal that makes it look like the entrance to a mine shaft. The steps going down to the field are painted orange, the school color. The Coach, brandishing a miner's pick axe, leads the team to the field.
Unique Fact: UTEP is justifiably known for the architecture of its campus, modeled after that of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. How did that come about? In 1916, after the original buildings were destroyed by fire, Kathleen Worrell, the wife of the school's dean, was reading a National Geographic article about Bhutan and marveled at their buildings with their low-pitched roofs, overhanging eves, and sloping, ponderous walls. She thought that might look neat on the new campus. Dean Worrell agreed with her. Hence, the style covers the campus, even the parking garages. Many of the buildings feature round symbols drawn from Bhutan culture. The ruler of Bhutan once came to the campus to bless the buildings.
Pictured above: 1. The North End Zone entrance is
the main entrance to the Stadium. 2. Spectacular
views from the stadium over El Paso, Juarez and the mountains in Mexico in the southern distance.
3. The football team enters the Stadium through a
portal with a sign above saying “Danger Mine Shaft.
Keep Out!” The steps are painted orange. 4. Note
the large white "M" on the hillside above the stadium.
5. The Bhutanese architectural style featuring round
symbols drawn from Bhutan culture covers the campus.
Reprinted from TRIPinfo.com's Resource Atlas & Handbook.
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