September 28, 2018
Harvard Stadium (Capacity: 22,000)
Harvard Crimson vs Rhode Island Rams
Final Score: 16 – 23
An annual football trip with my brother featured Eastern Massachusetts as the destination and early rain cleared nicely for a day of touring and sport. We started with Harvard and while the stadium is technically in Boston, the University is in and mostly associated with Cambridge. This city of over 100,000 has its own distinctive character and was once quoted as “A city where counter-culture still lives, classic culture thrives and multi-culture is a way of life”. This former industrial center is considered a great place to live, work and learn as it has become a center for prestigious higher education and a boon for technological companies. Cambridge’s history mimics the University that is at its center as Harvard’s founding in 1636 makes it the oldest in the country. This private, Ivy League school is among the world’s elite and features a remarkable depth of research, areas of study and elite alumni. Crimson Football (as you would expect) dates back quite a way, to 1873. The program is a perennial winner with over 800 victories and less than 400 losses. Early history includes a Rose Bowl win and dozens of All-Americans, while more recent times feature 17 Ivy League titles and an 83-17 record in the last 10 years. It’s a shame Ivy teams don’t play in the NCAA Tournament. Their stadium is a remarkable piece of historical architecture that was built in 1903 as the first permanent, reinforced concrete stadium.
Prestige Ranking: 4.5 out of 5
As mentioned earlier, Harvard Stadium is actually in Boston, specifically the neighborhood of Lower Allston. The Stadium is within a large area comprising all of the school’s athletic facilities, while also nearby are other academic buildings, including the business school. Further south into Lower Allston is a quieter section of the city that features housing for a diverse mix of people. To get back into Cambridge, it is a walk-up John F. Kennedy Street over the Charles River. It’s about 15 minutes to reach the city center, which features Harvard Square and the diverging varying streets that lead to a hodgepodge of restaurants and taverns. Visitors should walk around to see both the city and university. A couple options exist for a campus tour, plus art aficionados can sample one of the three museums that Harvard owns. The Museum of Natural History is also a great place to spend an afternoon.
Location Ranking: 7.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Boston is a notoriously difficult city to drive in as the street grid is ancient and complex. Cambridge is just as bad, if not worse. Harvard Stadium’s location makes it a little easier to get to as the Mass Pike (I-90) limits the amount of non-highway roads needed. Still, there are challenges getting to the Athletic Complex thanks to some game day road closures. Parking is confined to grassy sections just past Gate 14 and it’s hard to tell how extensive this is since I never got to this section. The school says there is also some limited parking at the business school. We opted not to drive and instead use the subway system, known locally as “The T”. This was easy and quite accessible as Harvard Square has a stop on the Red Line. We got the train three short stops away at the Alewife Station, which is where we parked. It’s too bad the crumbling garage is in horrible shape and confusing upon departure for visitors, otherwise this would be the ideal option to get to Harvard and the stadium.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 4 out of 8
Harvard Stadium has a very “Roman Coliseum” look to it. All along the horseshoe shape are two rows of open archways and the total number has to be near 100. The wide-view appearance is impressive, however the gray color is drab and the concrete isn’t perfect as minor chips, cracks and discolorations can be seen. There is no main entrance or stadium name on the building as spectators either enter via a pair of side gates or under one of the archways themselves.
Exterior Ranking: 7 out of 10
The concourse is found underneath the seating and it’s what you would expect: dark, dingy and cramped. There are plenty of steel beams above and a ton of concrete poles anchored into the ground that are quite obtrusive. I can’t imagine what a pain this must be to walk around on a packed night. Stairs lead up to the seating bowl and I like how the accompanying signs display direction for seat numbers. The open end-zone features a paved walkway, but it is annoying that you can’t get to the east stands from here. There is one little area that is great to stretch out in as the lawn between the hockey arena and student center features picnic benches and standing tables.
Concourse Ranking: 2 out of 5
That open area near the hockey arena is also the best spot to find food as a few trucks fill the area. Phinix Grill Food Truck has plates with Greek items and Redbones BBQ feature Pulled Pork, Chicken and Ribs. Beer is available too, with Jack’s Abby being the lone craft option. Inside the actual stadium, options are more standard as you can find Burgers (that come with Fries), Italian Sausage and Turkey Wraps.
Food Ranking: 6 out of 8
The most unique element inside are the seats, err, concrete slabs. Equal parts fascinating and uncomfortable, it is quite rare to see seating in this fashion: one continuous row of concrete raised up above the next one. It does make stretching out and laying back easier if in an open area, but man is it unforgiving to sit on. I felt it at the end way more than a bleacher seat. Even the stairs are different as they have these small blocks to help with footing and a stand-alone metal handlebar spaced out every few rows. The design itself is U-shaped and there is one level of seats from the top to the bottom, which is raised up about ten feet above the field. Sightlines on the sideline are remarkably good as proximity to the field is stellar and the pitch between each row is decent. There are a few exceptions though as some seats within a couple rows near the concourse opening does have the metal girders in the way. Also, the curving of the bowl doesn’t really happen until beyond the south end zone and this also leads to those seats feeling secluded from the field. The open end features the ivy-covered walls of the Murr Center: an athletic and administrative building. At the top is a very cool element: the colonnade. This covered walkway framed by Greek pillars is not only eye-appealing in a historical prospective, but the area also affords protection while watching the game in case it rains.
Interior Ranking: 9.5 out of 14
The main scoreboard is on top of the Murr Center and 2/3rds of it is the videoscreen (on the right side). Size was adequate, but the quality is just ok and there are a few pixels out. They did have live action through the game and they piped in ESPNU’s coverage for replays. The other part of the board has game information and a “Harvard” logo above that. The opposite end had a traditional small score and time display. One missing piece on both: how many timeouts each team had left.
Scoreboard Ranking: 2.5 out of 4
On the outside, there are a couple personal dedication plaques and the one on the north end of the building is particularly interesting with an engraved artistic mural of old-time football players. Inside, the architecture is unique, but it lacks color as the plain stadium features a lot of gray. Only a bit of red is added on the skinny façade above the south end, where the years of each Ivy League Championship and (claimed) National Championship are displayed. I should also note that the Murr Center has team achievements displayed, but they are more centered on other sports.
Displays Ranking: 2 out of 6
Tickets are $20 and they go up $5 on the day of the game. That price is quite out of touch as it is nearly double the ticket cost for football at all of the other Ivy League schools. The poor price point is even more evident by heading to a secondary ticket market, where we easily got a seat for $10 (even including fees). The rest of the cost experience is not good with $20 parking and relatively pricy concessions ($10 for a Burger/Fries combo, $4 for a Hot Dog and $4 for a Soda).
Cost Ranking: 4.5 out of 8
Like most in the Ivy League, any crowd is going to look small inside these old-school large stadiums. That was the case on this Friday Night and saying that 20% of Harvard Stadium was full is generous. Taking away the actual visual, fan support is respectable on an FCS-level and within the Ivy, where Harvard draws more fans than most of the other Ancient Eight schools. Of course, there is always the bi-annual sellout against Yale (except for this year with the game being at Fenway Park).
Fan Support Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
The atmosphere was OK as there were louder claps for big plays. There wasn’t much spontaneous energy during the majority of the game as it took a Harvard player asking for noise to get some generated. Late in the game, the crowd managed to make it loud on a 3rd down sack and about half of them stood after a touchdown. I did note about a dozen people get up to leave with 5 minutes to go in a 7-point game. Harvard’s small band played occasionally, but they were hard to hear in the stadium. They also had that weird “scramble” halftime show that nearly all Ivy teams have. I just don’t get it, nor do I like it.
Atmosphere Ranking: 8 out of 14
The rivalry with Yale is known as “The Game” and it is one of the most storied in college football. It is the last game of the year and the two have played 135 times. Yale currently has the edge in the series as they have won the last 2 games. Fans come out in droves for the event and it really is quite a spectacle whether in New Haven or Boston…..There are planned renovations coming soon, however details haven’t been announced…..Harvard Stadium is a National Historic Landmark, just one of four athletic facilities in the country with that designation….Lights were added in ’06.
Despite limited offensive yards, the Rams r(h)ode accurate passing by QB JaJuan Lawson to a 16-3 halftime lead. The dagger came early in the second half, when a Harvard field goal was followed by an Ahmere Dorsey 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an insurmountable 23-6 lead. The Crimson did get within 7 points, but they had four possessions in the final ten minutes of the game all fail to lead to a touchdown. Justice Shelton-Mosely caught 10 balls for Harvard.