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Seeing the Stony Brook Seawolves Saturday

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 8, 2015


No offense baseball…but you’ve run its course this season and I am ready to move on to a new genre of sports stadium seeing. I’ve been waiting for the right time to get to a Stony Brook football game and the Rosh Hashanah holiday is it. I’ll be heading to the in-laws on Long Island for the New Year beginning early next week and we’ll arrive on the weekend, where I will keep going down the LIE to Exit 62 for the 6 PM game between the Seawolves and Central Connecticut State at LaValle Stadium. It has been an interesting start for Stony Brook as their first game against Toledo was cancelled last week due to multiple storms in the area. I’ve sat through a few delays in my day and given that there has not been measurable rain on the Island since August 21st, persistence would be welcomed thru this Saturday. This venture kicks off the football season for me as I’ll be at the Philadelphia Eagles game in October, maybe something in November and then (weather-pending), the PIAA State Championship in Hershey in December.



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Potential FBS Road Trips for 2015 Opening Weekend

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 26, 2015

2015 FBS Opening Weekend Road Trips

Four potential college football road trips for the 2015 opening weekend (map from Google Maps)


Guess who’s back. Back Again. Football’s back. With Labor Day being as late as possible on September 7th, that means we have a later start to the 2015 season, so those that salivate months in advance at the first slate of games will have to wait a little longer. At the college football level, numerous home openers are played on a Thursday or Friday. This means good news for us road trippers! This year, the schedule makers have given us a slew of possibilities as all of the below trips are doable. Not only can we see 3 or 4 stadiums in a weekend, but the match-ups are decent too. There’s still time for somebody to make one of these happen, let’s take a look at the options (all times are local)…


1) Thu, Sep 3 at 7:00 PM  –  Oklahoma State at Central Michigan  –  Kelly-Shorts Stadium
….Fri, Sep 4 at 8:00 PM  –  Kent State at Illinois  –  Memorial Stadium
….Sat, Sep 5 at 11:00 AM  –  Stanford at Northwestern  –  Ryan Field
….Sat, Sep 5 at 6:30 PM  –  UNLV at Northern Illinois  –  Huskie Stadium

This is an extremely rare opportunity to check out four stadiums in three days as the MAC and Big Ten is showcased. Start out in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, where Kelly-Shorts Stadium should be packed as the Chippewas get a rare visit from a big time school as Oklahoma State visits. The ride to Champaign the next day is only 6 hours and that is plenty of time for a night game for the Illini. It’s then an early weekend wake-up call to get to Chicago for a TV friendly 11 AM kickoff in Evanston. The day finishes in the outer fringes of Chicagoland with UNLV and Northern Illinois. 


2)  Sat, Sep 5 at 7:30 PM  –  Georgia Southern at West Virginia  –  Milan Puskar Stadium
…..Sun, Sep 6 at 3:30 PM  –  Purdue at Marshall  –  Joan C. Edwards Stadium
…..Mon, Sep 7 at 8:00 PM  –  Ohio State at Virginia Tech  –  Lane Stadium

The Number 1 team in the nation visiting one of the loudest places in all of college football is reason enough to pick this trip. But building up to the Monday main event, there are a couple of appetizers worthwhile. Gameday at Mountaineer Field is quite an event, while goosebumps are likely during the inspiring “We Are Marshall” chant. Plus, much of this trip involves driving around and thru the state of West Virginia. This is beautiful country and the gorgeous terrain will make you say “ahhh” as the scenery is quite peaceful.  


3)  Thu, Sep 3 at 6:30 PM  –  Michigan at Utah  –  Rice-Eccles Stadium
…..Fri, Sep 4 at 8:15 PM  –  Washington at Boise State  –  Albertson Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 5 at 5:00 PM  –  Eastern Michigan at Oregon  –  Autzen Stadium

It’s not easy driving around the spaced out Mountain and Pacific Time Zone, but this trip involves doable separate rides of 5 and 8 hours. Three unique cities should entice visitors along with the actual event as the trip begins in Salt Lake, where the mountains tower over the stadium. Plus it’s a great game to attend too as Miiichigan and Harbaugh come to visit the Utes. The Smurf Turf at Boise is next, where the place should be pumped for a visit from a Pac-10 opponent. Then, travel across the varying terrain in Oregon for a visit to funky Eugene and the remarkable Autzen Stadium. 


4) Thu, Sep 3 at 8:30 PM  –  Duke at Tulane  –  Yulman Stadium
…..Fri, Sep 4 at 6:00 PM  –  Baylor at SMU  –  Gerald J. Ford Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 5 at 6:00 PM –  Arizona State at Texas A&M  –  Kyle Field

The theme with this trip is new, as it begins in New Orleans, where the Green Wave host the newly good Duke Blue Devils. Tulane plays in a new stadium that opened to rave reviews a few years ago. Friday’s game is in Dallas, where things are relatively new as SMU plays in the 15-year old Gerald Ford Stadium. The matchup is enticing too with Baylor coming to town. Finally, it’s on to the home of the 12th Man in College Station. Though Kyle Field was built in 1927, a new renovation completed for this season will push capacity to 102,512. Hard to imagine something louder than this


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2014 Football Stadiums Update

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 24, 2014


The Green Wave return back to campus at Tulane’s brand new Yulman Stadium (Photo Credit – Stadium Journey)


As the NFL tries to play God and almost forcibly attempt to get every team into a modern, sparking and expensive new stadium, there are several updates in the league this season. The biggest of course is out on the West Coast, where Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara replaces Candlestick in San Francisco. The Stick was a cold, windy, ugly dump and this certainly is a needed update as few will miss the old stadium. The commercialization cracks me up…check out the official “R” trademark on the Levi’s name at the stadium’s website. With a price tag over $1 billion there are some crazy technological features at The Field of Jeans. In Minneapolis, I am saddened to see the Metrodome deflated (I really loved that bubble) and the Vikings will spend two seasons at the University of Minnesota while their stadium is built. Several renovations took place that altered the seating capacity involving five teams. Jacksonville built the biggest scoreboard in the world, Cleveland finished Phase 1 of their plan, Philly teched up the Linc, Carolina made some pricey tweaks and additions, while Buffalo made a lot of changes in trying to keep the Ralph up-to-date (and yet at the same time continued ridiculous discussion on a media-fueled new stadium in the middle of a $100+ million renovation to the existing stadium!). Lastly, in Houston, Reliant is no longer the naming-rights sponsor as the Texans’ home is now called NRG Stadium.

On to the college game, where a lot has happened. Three new stadiums have been built, all in the deep south and the most notable likely is in Waco. McLane Stadium, new home to the Baylor Bears, has opened to rave reviews and this terrific facility sits right on campus along the Brazos River. In fact, “Sailgating” has become popular as many are taking boats up to the stadium. The new place is a departure from their neighborhood stadium located in the Beverley Hills section of Waco and it is undecided on what the fate of Floyd Casey Stadium will be. Also in the Lone Star State, is the new digs for the Houston Cougars as TDECU Stadium replaces old Robertson Stadium. In New Orleans, Tulane football has come back home! No longer will the Green Wave be playing in a cavernous, empty SuperDome, they instead will play in the intimate Yulman Stadium, which has been very well received thus far. Check out the Stadium Journey write-up on it as Lloyd Brown has already made it to a game with a full review.

There is a helluva a lot more than just new stadiums as renovations are plenty this year and I’ll go threw them with a one sentence blurb about each one…The Cincinnati Bearcats will spend a season in the city’s NFL stadium (Paul Brown) as Nippert Stadium is re-done…At UMass, the team finally returns to campus for games at a renovated McGuirk Stadium, but its only for 3 games (the other 3 are stupidly a couple hours away in Foxboro, where the school thinks the rest of the state actually cares about them)…Ohio Stadium is now the third-largest in the US as the Buckeys can play in front of an official 104,851 each Saturday….At Purdue, they are setting up future renovations at Ross-Ade Stadium by knocking out seating and replacing it with a temporary party deck (the scene will surely look different than Jacksonville’s)…A couple of Sun Belt teams saw expansion: Georgia Southern’s was made because of their move up to FBS, while Louisiana-Lafayette is going through a huge facilities upgrade campus-wide…Finally, the SEC, where holy crap do they have some money (not a ground-breaking statement). Four of their 14 teams had more seats added, particularly in the premium seating/club/suite department. Most notable is both LSU and Texas A&M as they will exceed the 100,000 mark with their latest renovations.

Stepping down a level to the FCS, things are much more tame. The only new stadium is at Houston Baptist University, where they also are just beginning their football program. The 5,000 seat Husky Stadium is too small to get on The List, but all the best to HBU as they begin life in the Southland. Elsewhere, a couple renovations changed the seating capacities on a pair of stadiums. Missouri State did a nice job improving their facility by bringing seats closer to the field, adding a party platform and enhancing the atmosphere with things like a bear statue. At Austin Peay, Governors Stadium actually lowered their capacity to just 7,000 as a renovation for luxury seating on the west grandstand led to the removal of many seats.   

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Football is Back!

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 1, 2014

Start a month of football travel with a trip to billion dollar JerryWorld

Finish up a month of football travel with a trip to billion dollar JerryWorld (picture from Stadium Journey)

Ah yes, American-Style Football is back! This country’s most popular sport always brings excitement this time of year as fans gear up by setting up tailgates, having fantasy football drafts, buying new TVs or actually going to games. This is a stadium site, so of course I advocate heading out to the game, though the dragging out and over-commercialization of the 4 hour FBS events make it a little challenging. While exposure has placed different games on non-traditional days, that also means good news for road-trippers with trips that allow for multiple games and stadium. Here some tempting, great football trips to ponder making this month.


1) Thu, Sep 4 at 8:00 PM  –  Arizona at UTSA  –  AlamoDome
….Fri, Sep 5 at 7:30 PM  –  Lee at Jefferson  –  Alamo Stadium
….Sat, Sep 6 at 7:30 PM  –  BYU at Texas  –  Royal Memorial Stadium
….Sun, Sep 7 at 4:25 PM  –  Washington at Houston  –  NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant)

Texas is an easy state to find a great four-day stadium trip and this one is pretty good. It starts in one of my favorite cities, San Antonio and includes a High School Football game, which is a must when in the Lone Star State. Plus, 74-year old Alamo Stadium just completed renovations to upgrade, yet preserve the historical facility. Afterwards, check out 100,000 wearing burnt orange at a Longhorns game. For Sunday, Houston and Dallas are the same distance from Austin, so you can go to either NFL city. I only went with Houston here because I saved Dallas for a late September trip. 


2) Thu, Sep 11 at 8:25 PM  –  Pittsburgh at Baltimore  –  M&T Bank Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 13 at 12:00 PM  –  West Virginia at Maryland  –  Byrd Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 13 at 6:00 PM  –  Colgate at Delaware  –  Delaware Stadium
…..Sun, Sep 14 at 1:00 PM  –  Jacksonville at Washington  –  FedEx Field

I love this one…Enjoy one of the best NFL rivalry’s on Thursday Night, then take the open day Friday to either tour Charm City or the Nation’s Capital. Traffic is always a tricky thing to gauge in Maryland, but without it, the drive from College Park to Newark is very doable (1:30). That should be enough time to see one of the most well-supported FBS teams in the country. Then its back down to the DC area to check out a second NFL game. 


3) Fri, Sep 19 at 7:00 PM  –  Holy Cross at Harvard  –  Harvard Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 20 at TBA  –  Maine at Boston College  –  Alumni Stadium
…..Sun, Sep 21 at 1:00 PM  –  Oakland at New England  –  Gillette Stadium

While New England is more of a baseball-town, there is also good football and historical stadiums. A visit to an Ivy League game is a must-do at least once and Harvard is a great place to get a taste of the Ivies. Meanwhile, in Chestnut Hill, Alumni Stadium is an intimate and cool facility. Then the tour of Boston suburbs ends in Foxborough with the Pats.


4) Thu, Sep 11 at 10:00 PM  –  UCLA at Arizona State  –  Sun Devil Stadium
…..Fri, Sep 26 at 8:00 PM  –  Fresno State at New Mexico  –  University Stadium
…..Sat, Sep 27 at TBA  –  TCU at SMU  –  Gerald J. Ford Stadium
…..Sun, Sep 28 at 8:30 PM  –  New Orleans at Dallas   –  AT&T Stadium

Lots of driving on this one with a total of 15 hours in the car, luckily Albuquerque is in the middle of the trip and it splits up the days nicely. Hopefully, that TBA is not an early start or else it may be a little tough getting to the Metroplex. Otherwise, this trip is a great mix of college venues and cool places to hang out (spend some time in Tempe or Scottsdale after the game). The weekend is topped off in Billion-Dollar JerryWorld.


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Yale Bowl – Wonderfully Historic, yet Literally Falling Apart

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 29, 2013

Yale Bowl Interior

On a sun splashed afternoon perfect for football, Stadium Visit #140 was a historic one. Built in 1914 and site of some amazing moments, the Yale Bowl would be my fifth Ivy League stadium. Last April, we visited New Haven and Yale for a baseball game across the street, so Saturday was just for football as the slightly over two hour drive went smoothly. A winding, yet well-directed path led my car to lot D, where plenty of quiet tailgates with old alums were going on in the grassy field. It was a nice, welcoming atmosphere and everyone I encountered on this trip was very pleasant. Walking to the stadium, I had to rub my eyes a couple times trying to figure out if this was really it. The bowl is built below ground, so aside from the press box, fans just see a low-surrounding wall and then some tall grass above. Very peculiar and unexpected, yet the design was revolutionary for the time and it is a marvel when you think that the giant bowl was essentially excavated. After walking around the outside pathway, through the long tunnel I went for that always awesome moment of first reaching the inside of a new stadium.

The place definitely has a wow factor and I spent a minute just gazing. It is quite an amazing sight and while there is nothing architecturally earth-shattering about a 62,000 seat literal bowl, the thought that it was the first of it’s kind and 99 years old has an impact. After taking it all in, my eyes focused a little more to the closer surroundings, where I realized that in it’s current state, this is not such an ideal stadium. Every one of the seats is a blue, wooden bleacher that looks every bit like they’ve been there a century. Most of these bleachers are crumbling as there are paint chips and broken wooden pieces everywhere and there are even broken seats and concrete stairs. It feels like the stadium seating is falling apart. Walking the aisles is a hazardous operation thanks to the potential giant splinters, while sitting in the seats comfortably is an impossible task, especially since my 6’2″ frame barely fit. The best a fan can hope for is to seek out a wooden bleacher seat that is less splintered than the others. While I greatly appreciate and admire the history of this famed bowl, the uncomforable-ness is hard to overlook.

Yale Bowl Seating

The game was Yale’s home opener and there was a nice turnout over 10,000 that came out to root on the Elis. The opponent was Cornell and interestingly enough, I have seen the Big Red in four of the five Ivy League stadiums visited. Yale’s start was impressive as they took advantage of a long kickoff return and then zipped down the field in their quick offense to score the first touchdown. The game slowed down after that and at the half it was tied at 10. In the second half, Yale bubble-screened the Big Red to death and dominated by scoring 28 unanswered. Receiver Deon Randall had all four of the touchdowns. Cornell had a couple meaningless scores late and the game ended 38-23. Harvard also opened 2-0 and I hope the Ivy title is on the line at the end of the season when The Game is played at Yale in what is a packed house and great atmosphere. It’s on NBC Sports Network (Nov. 23) this year and is worth a look. I will be working on a detailed review of Yale Bowl this week and a new review at Stadium Journey will be up as well. Have a great week!


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New 2013 Football Stadiums

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 21, 2013

Mercer University returns to the football field after a 72 year hiatus and plays in their brand new, 10,000 seat stadium.

Mercer University returns to the football field after a 72 year hiatus and plays in their brand new, 10,000 seat stadium (picture from

This season, we have a couple new football stadiums at the FCS level, but first a few updates in the NFL. Two teams saw corporate sponsors added to their home venue (Cleveland and Dallas), while another team made a significant update. In Green Bay, a major renovation was completed to the South End Zone, thus increasing capacity, specialty seating areas, scoreboard and technology. It does give the famed field a new look and huge kudos to the team for entirely footing the bill. There will also be some concourse work done over the next few years. One other interesting note from the NFL…while checking stadium capacities for each team on their website (which looks like a league template), the teams not currently with the best stadium situation as viewed by the NFL did not have a link to their facility on the top main menu bar (Atlanta, Miami, San Diego). Meanwhile, those with newer places did (Arizona, Dallas, Indianapolis). These darn pro leagues thinking they know best for every city and situation (see Adam Silver).

Onto the college scene, where we have a pair of brand new stadiums. Down in Macon, GA, Mercer University has returned to fielding a football team for the first time since 1941. They will ease in to DI by playing a schedule of patsies before joining the Pioneer Football League. Their new Mercer University Stadium home has been jam packed and things seem to be going well at the new place. Charlotte is also starting up football and they will join Conference USA next season. For now, it is a FCS-type schedule in their first year at Jerry Richardson Stadium. I will send a boooo out to them however, for having PCLs (they call them FCLs). What a disgrace, this is a brand new team going to a mid-level conference in a 15,000 seat stadium!

In better news, the University of Albany opened Bob Ford Field last weekend and the new stadium was named in honor of their current, long-time coach. This will be Bob Ford’s final season and the 77 year-old coach is retiring after 44 years at the helm of the Great Danes. One other note in the FCS-level: Alabama State opened their new stadium last Thanksgiving. I thought a new name would be coming soon, but checking back this season, the stadium everywhere is referred to as “The New ASU Stadium”. Seriously? The New has to be affixed to the start of the name, even when “The Old” was called Cramton Bowl? Wow. Anyway, up to FBS, Houston played their last game at Robertson Stadium last season and they will play at Reliant Stadium while their new on-campus stadium gets completed. In the Pacific Northwest, Washington’s beautiful Husky Stadium reopened with renovations finished. The track has been removed, many improvements were made and the gorgeous scenery of Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains remains.


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Football Stadiums Update

Posted by Sean Rowland on September 24, 2012

Surprising that the lone new stadium in Division I this year comes from the SWAC (image from Alabama State University)

After going through each conference in Division I football and seeing current stadiums remaining in place, I thought this would be a quiet year with no new stadium openings. My last conference to check through was the SWAC, a place where I did not expect anything new as the conference has the lowest average athletic budget. Many SWAC schools bring in very little revenue and it is a conference notorious for old, crumbling sports facilities. So, I was quite surprised to find that Alabama State will be opening a new stadium on Thanksgiving Day. ASU Stadium looks beautiful and will be on-campus, which was not the case with current home Cramton Bowl. I’d really like to see Cramdon continue to host football as that old stadium underwent some nice renovations. Haven’t found any news articles on the Bowl’s future, but hopefully it remains a fixture with High School Football in Montgomery. Best of luck to the Hornets as they enjoy their own stadium.

As for the rest of college football, not too many changes, just some renovations. As UMass completes it’s move to FBS, they will play two seasons in Gillette Stadium, while their on-campus football home is upgraded. It’s quite a drive from Amherst (hour and a half), so I’ll be interested to see the turnout. It’s also ridiculous they’re moving to the MAC, but that whole conference thing is a joke for another day. Washington will also be renovating as the Huskies play in Seattle’s NFL home as opposed to Husky Stadium this season. The last note comes from Tennessee State, where the Tigers return to Hale Stadium for three games. The other games will continue to be at LP Field. Tennessee State last played at The Hole in 1998 and the place got refurbished enough to meet standards for Tiger football to return, which is great to see. No notes from the NFL, but we’re a year or two away from a couple new stadiums opening in Minnesota (boo, I love the Metrodome) and California (yea, Candlestick is ready to go).

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Posted by Sean Rowland on September 17, 2012

Football is back and what better way to spend a pleasant September college football day in…New York City? True, NYC may not be the first place you think for college football, but there is a team that plays right in Manhattan. Out of the Ivy League, Columbia University calls Lawrence A. Wien Stadium home and I made a visit as they opened the season against Marist College. Getting to the game was my biggest challenge as there is no general parking for the stadium. Mass transit is widely available, but I would be doubling my time if I decided to do go that route. Given that I was headed to the Northern tip of Manhattan, in the neighborhood of Inwood, I looked into possibly driving for the first time in my seven years living in the region into Manhattan. After scoping out a parking garage within walking distance, I got up the nerve to do it. Not something I would like to repeat, but I made it, surviving classic NYC driving full of cars blocking intersections, right lanes taken up by buses and rude, honking drivers swerving in and out of lanes.

I gave myself plenty of time and walked the Inwood section a bit, stopping at Park Terrace Deli for a pretty good sub (“The Godfather”, which was roast beef, provolone, onions and horseradish on a hero). They let you bring food into the stadium, which is great, so that was going to be my lunch at the game. In fact, there are a lot of things that Columbia does well and that includes keeping the prices down. An awesome pre-game picnic just outside of the concourse features free water, soft drinks and beer. That’s right free! Plus they have some local restaurants in the area giving away free samples, that you could make into a light lunch. Heading into the stadium, it reminded me a bit of Cornell and had that old feel….but it was actually built in 1984. The south sideline is where the bulk of the seating is and there are over 10,000 seats here with the bowl arcing very slightly at the top. A couple not-so-great things were the scoreboard and the maneuverability. I really liked the scoreboard design, but I couldn’t read the darn numbers in the sunlight! I wasn’t the only one either as fans kept asking each other the time, because it was too hard to see. There is a track around the stadium, but they don’t let you walk on it (like at Penn and Bucknell). So to go to the other side, you need to exit the stadium and walk all the way around, re-entering in the process (with a stamp on your hand). As for the big plus with the Stadium…a great view. Sitting in New York City, you would not expect a canopy of trees, but from the main seating area, a peaceful view of Inwood Hill Park can be seen. Straight ahead is the Hudson River spilling into the Harlem River, along with the Henry Hudson Bridge, then to the right are those towering apartment buildings that are so familiar with the city. It’s a nice setting for football.

And surprisingly, the Lions sent the crowd home happy! Columbia and athletics haven’t exactly been great together and football has endured a lot. No solo Ivy League championships, a 44 game losing streak in the 80s and a winning season that hasn’t happened since 1996. That’s why I was surprised to see a decent crowd on hand (despite the low attendance number, the 3,933 looked like more, when it’s usually the opposite). Fans were cheering nicely and gave nice support as many stood during the critical plays. Good to see optimism with the first game of the year. Initially, it wasn’t looking to go Columbia’s way after a 3-0 deficit at the half. But they came down and scored a touchdown, followed by a botched punt attempt by Marist and a Columbia field goal to start the the third quarter. Toward the end of the third, Marist was about to go in for a TD at the 1, but they fumbled. Columbia was just hanging on until a Marist score with 6:30 left. But they blocked the extra point!!! Their 10-9 lead held up and a couple big defensive stops gave the Lions the victory. All-in-all a great day in NYC and we can check off the fourth Ivy League stadium from The List. For a more in-depth review check out the details at: #127 Lawrence A. Wien Stadium and also, there will be a review posted over at Stadium Journey soon.

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Two Stadiums Getting the Rare Spotlight Soon

Posted by Sean Rowland on December 7, 2011

December is here and in the world of sports there is a lot going on. One event is the beginning of bowl season for college football’s ridiculous postseason. I don’t need to get into the why the system is so ludicrously insane. The little good that comes of it however is in the stadium world, as the spotline shines on three stadiums that remain very quiet for the other 364 days of the year.

Independence Stadium in Shreveport, LA plays host to one of the longer running bowl games in the country, the Independence Bowl. This simple stadium only sees high school action during the year and it’s one big moment is when the bowl game comes calling. Another stadium that is now down a bowl game as it’s main attraction is the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. They actually get to host two games: the Champs Sports Bowl and the Capital One Bowl. For nearly three decades, UCF called this stadium home, until they built their own stadium in 2007. A remarkable amount of teams have used this as their home facility, from the USFL to XFL to UFL. It even hosted the World Cup in 1994. Now the only other permament tenant is Orlando City SC, a USL Pro team.

The other two stadiums that host a bowl, but do not have a professional sports team or a FBS team as a main tenant are down in Texas. They are a couple storied venues worth seeing: the AlamoDome in San Antonio and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The Alamo Bowl is likely the biggest attraction at San Antonio’s stadium, however if you are to take in a game at the Cotton Bowl, the annual Texas-Oklahoma game that takes place during the State Fair is probably the best time to see the remarkably historic stadium.

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Penn and Franklin Field…History Everywhere

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 21, 2011

Back in January, I visited The Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It was a venue that I had long known about and eagerly anticipated a visit to as it was well known to college basketball fans. Saturday, I went back to Penn to see another venue, one that it is older and oozes just as much nostalgia, but yet doesn’t get the love like the basketball arena next door. Franklin Field is home to Quaker football and a place that also takes fans back into time. Along with hosting football, the Penn Relays have been held here since 1895 (that’s right as in 1800s) , hence the track around the field. Normally, I’m always against tracks in football stadiums because it cuts back on the view and is less intimate, but in this stadium its OK because of what that track represents. The stadium also was home to the NFL Eagles from 1958-1970.

Despite the parking drawbacks on this urban campus, it was nice to take a stroll this time during the day so I can appreciate the huge, diverse and scenic campus. Like the Palestra, Franklin Field doesn’t really jump out at you as being a stadium from the outside. Plus, there aren’t even any lights to give the stadium away, as those are built into the seating bowl. Inside…wow, unlike any other football stadium I have seen before. There are many stadiums that were built in the early 1900s (this one took its current shape in 1922), but few are left as untouched as Penn’s is. The double-decker horseshoe has so many different vantage points and I checked out a lot of them during the game. Some are amazing, like half-way up the sideline seats on the Penn side, where you have an incredible skyline view of Philadelphia to the right and a view of the University with Weightman Hall on the left. Then there are some that are uniquely awful, like in the corner of the lower bowl on the sideline, where you have a brick wall to your back and side, a pole in the way and a terrible view not even facing the football field. Though seating is uncomfortable and the amenities aren’t there, this is a pretty awesome place to watch a game. Unfortunately, the crowd was weak on Senior Day as it was only announced at 7,609 (and a few thousand of those fans were for visiting Cornell). The only plus atmosphere-wise was watching the weird, yet funny tradition of Toast Tossing.

For a full stadium review and more pictures of Franklin Field, please click the link. I’ll also be doing a review over at Stadium Journey that should be out in a week or two, so be sure to check that out as well!

Oh yeah, the game! Ivy football has yet to disappoint me as five years ago, I saw a classic between Princeton and Harvard. This time, it was Cornell and Penn that put on the entertainment in a game that had no defense, but plenty of excitement. It started great for Penn as Cornell fumbled the opening kickoff and the Quakers scored a touchdown a few minutes later. Cornell got the TD back and then after a few punts, the teams traded touchdowns until it was 21-21. A Penn field goal put them up by 3 at the half. The Big Red got the lead after Penn turned the ball over on downs and Jeff Mathews threw a 54 yard touchdown pass. A few possessions later, Mathews got nailed and Penn picked up the fumble deep in Cornell territory, scoring shortly thereafter for a 31-27 lead. Cornell quickly answered and so did Penn, leading to a 38-34 score in the middle of the 4th quarter. Cornell drove it deep on their next possession, but failed to convert in the red zone. However, as Penn got the ball back, Billy Ragone threw an interception and Cornell this time cashed in on the next possession to take a 41-38 lead. The Quakers followed with a great drive again, however their 44 yard field goal attempt to tie it with 5:23 left was blocked. Penn’s defense had no answer for the Cornell offense all day and they couldn’t get a stop when they needed it as the Big Red effortlessly drove down field, eating clock along the way before scoring a final touchdown. They won 48-38 in a crazy game. Cornell’s Jeff Mathews was 35 for 45 with 548 yards (an Ivy record), 5 TDs and 1 INT. The teams combined for 46 first downs. Meanwhile, Penn had 9 players catch a pass.

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