October 21, 2006
Princeton Stadium (Capacity: 27,733)
Princeton Tigers vs Harvard Crimson
Final Score: 31 – 28
* The stadium was re-visited for a game on September 25, 2021
Historic Princeton University, founded in 1746, is located in the borough of Princeton, NJ and we spent a sunny (but chilly) autumn day checking out the town and school. This small, upscale community in Central Jersey is a wonderful place to live and visit as the residential area gives way to a great central road (Nassau Street) with mostly local businesses. On the other side of Nassau is the University, which takes up about half the town. Princeton gives off an aura of prestige and many great minds have studied at the school that has produced over 30 Nobel Prize winners. Athletics has a significant place at the university and Princeton was part of the first collegiate game against Rutgers in 1869. The Tigers sport quite a history with four national championships in the 1900s and many members in the College Football Hall of Fame. After becoming a part of the Ivy League, the school won 11 conference championships with the last outright title coming in 2018. The Tigers moved into wonderfully designed Princeton Stadium (capacity: 27,733) in 1998 after spending 82 years at Palmer Stadium.
Prestige Ranking: 3 out of 5
Nassau Street is within walking distance from the stadium and the college town’s main road is worth a walk-through. I should say it is worth an eat-through as there are a ton of great local restaurants, especially in the Palmer Square section. After spending time in town, we then walked through campus, which features many beautiful, gothic-style buildings, some of which date back to the 1800s. The oldest building, Nassau Hall, was completed in 1756. Aside from the Art Museum, there’s not much to do, but again the walk in itself is quite enjoyable.
Location Ranking: 7.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Princeton Stadium is located in the southern part of campus and it takes a little bit of extra driving to get to Princeton as the area is not near any major highways (though Route 1 acts like one). Things often get congested on Saturdays both in town and around campus. The parking situation isn’t great as it is quite limited, with only two lots where the general public can go. We didn’t even bother to try one and decided to park in a garage in town and then make the long walk. There is mass transit to Princeton as NJ Transit trains on the Northeast Corridor line make a stop about four miles south of town. From there, a local shuttle train (known as the Dinky) brings commuters on campus.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 5 out of 8
Surrounding 3/4ths of the stadium in a horseshoe design is an off-white concrete wall, designed almost to look like bricks. There are many square arches throughout and it mimics old Palmer Stadium, just without a true main entrance (which would have been good here). It is nice that the exterior is a separate structure from the actual seating bowl. In small black letters is the name “Princeton University” above each entrance.
Exterior Ranking: 6.5 out of 10
Concourse and Food
The concourse runs underneath the upper-deck and is mostly covered, expect for a couple corners and the south end. There is plenty of room and though it is quite bland with mostly beige concrete to look at, I do like the touch of landscaping and shrubbery that is set up along the sides. There are even some trees in the corners. What is awkward are the steps that bring fans up from the main concourse to the seats and there is a gap in the seating bowl that allows you to see the stadium, but not the field. For those that sit in the upper deck, even though there is not a separate concourse, there are walkways that lead to bathrooms, which is nice because the steep stairs can be a workout. Inside the stadium is a walkway at the top of the lower deck that features accessible seating. I mentioned the blandness earlier with the concourse and that is accentuated by just three tiny built-in concession areas. These include food options that are generally basic. No pizza, popcorn, peanuts or beer. However, a separate corner grill at least offers burgers, chicken and fries. Plus, there was a surprise addition during my 2021 visit which included sushi (I think I’ll pass).
Concourse Ranking: 3.5 out of 5
Food Ranking: 3.5 out of 8
Inside, the first level has seating that surrounds the field in the shape of a rectangle (with the corners being angled towards the field). Sitting above three sides is an upper deck section of seating that is unattached. I love an upper-deck and this one provides a really nice vantage point to see the game thanks to steep rows. Even in the lower level, the pitch of the seats is quite good. Enhancing sightlines is the absence of a running track. Seats are all bleachers with no backs, but the spacing between each row is above normal. One of the neat things about Princeton Stadium is the way the outer wall horseshoes the stadium, providing a more intimate feel. Above the seating in the open end is the scoreboard and a view of the other athletic facilities. The press box is located above the seats and built into the outer wall. One addition I would like to see is more orange and black color to liven the place up a bit as the beige and aluminum gives off a bland, sterile feel. They added some striking along the wall near the field, but the place could use more. Note that there is also no premium seating here. Otherwise, the design is pretty good as it quite intimate and close to the field with great sightlines.
Interior Ranking: 11 out of 14
Princeton Stadium’s main scoreboard above the south end is black with shield logos in the bottom corners and some team/stadium name labelling. The small-ish video screen does fine during live play, but gets choppy during replays. Game info below that screen is very scrunched. At the other end, is a tiny display built into the upper wall and the size is almost laughable as it is very difficult to actually see anything on there.
Scoreboard Ranking: 2 out of 4
On the outside of the stadium is an interesting Tiger sculpture made out of stainless steel. It makes for a nice photo op on the way in to the stadium. For a team with so much history, there wasn’t much on display during my first visit. Actually, there wasn’t anything on display. However, I saw on my most recent visit that they put up small championship banners in the south end zone. Current players also now have posters around the concourse.
Displays Ranking: 2 out of 6
Prices were very reasonable with tickets being less than $20 and programs passed out for free. The parking price was the only thing that was high as it was $10 to park on-campus (that obviously increased with my last visit). The garage we used in town and then walked from was cheaper to use. Concessions are priced fairly.
Ranking: 7.5 out of 8
Fan Support and Atmosphere
In 2006, there was a pretty good crowd on hand for a rather important game against an Ivy opponent. The announced paid number was 16,284 and it looked like that much as many of the sideline sections were full. It did take some time for the crowd to arrive and it took longer for them to get into the game, however they were into it for the second half. Princeton was one of the better draws in FCS as the school frequently saw crowds over 10,000. My second go-around 15 years later saw fan support really dropped off as only 4,000 or so were on hand for the team’s first home game in two years. Even if the pandemic is still having an impact on attendance, before that, there was a big drop in attendance during the last several years with averages for the school being around 7,000. That puts them typically fourth in the league behind Harvard, Yale and Penn. Atmosphere at this season opener was fine as the crowd cheered nicely for scores and the students added a bit of pep. The band’s wacky antics were annoying as usual. The size of the stadium does hinder what a crowd of this size might sound like somewhere else in FCS. Ivy games do also have more energy in the stadium.
Fan Support Ranking: 5 out of 8
Atmosphere Ranking: 8 out of 14
Though the winged football helmet is most famously worn by Michigan, it was actually at Princeton where the design was first used. After a long hiatus, the Tigers brought back their famed helmets in 1998……Prior to Princeton Stadium, the Tigers’ old football field (Palmer Stadium) was located on the same site and modeled after the Greek Olympic stadium. The horseshoe design had a very distinct Ivy League feel……The field is named after William C. Powers due to a donation he made.
Game (Initial Visit)
The game was great with lots of action in the first half including a blocked punt, several long QB scrambles and quite a few trick plays. By the end of the first half, Princeton was up 24-14 and seemed in control. But Harvard roared back with two TD’s in the third quarter to go ahead by four. Finally, an interception at the Harvard 39 yard-line set up the Tigers for a score near the end of the game. They failed on a 4th down, but a controversial unsportsmanlike penalty kept the game alive. Brendan Circle caught a 20-yard pass with 4:37 left and that held up for the winning score. Princeton went to 6-0, while Harvard dropped to 5-1. The Crimson committed 5 turnovers and both quarterbacks ran a combined 26 times.