November 6, 2021
Casey Stadium (Capacity: 8,500)
Albany Great Danes vs New Hampshire Wildcats
Final Score: 20 – 7
Sunny and 50 degrees is about as good as I could hope for in this part of the country as the setting was ideal for football. The capital of New York is home to around 100,000 people and is located in the eastern part of the state along the Hudson River. Albany is a part of the Capital District, which is made up of a cluster of other nearby cities (Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga). The University at Albany is a state school and one of the flagship campuses. Originally started as a teachers college, Albany has grown quite a bit and now has 17,000 students. Football has had a relatively short life at the school as the program began in the 1970s. They moved up the ranks and joined Division I in 1999 and they’ve made the FCS playoffs twice, with their first win coming a few years ago. Continued growth is seen by the new-ish Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, a facility that opened in 2013 and one that is designed very well with a lot of school spirit.
Prestige Ranking: 3 out of 5
The main campus (known as Uptown) is in the west end of the city, which is five miles from downtown, where the State Museum and Capitol buildings can be found. Nearby Western Ave is a busy thoroughfare and you’ll find a standard array of retail here. Stuyvesant Plaza contains multiple places to eat, a few of them unique to the area. If you have time, I’d recommend walking to the central quad as the organized, geometric layout is unique. While it’s reminiscient to the brutalist design of Governtment Plaza downtown, the buildings here are more intriguing with pillars and colmns and glass. The focus is an incredibly expansive centralized building and the middle open plaza features a huge fountain. Beyond this, dorms are placed in four corner towers.
Location Ranking: 5.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
I-90 and I-87 enable for arrival from all four cardinal directions as campus lies right near the convergence of those highways. It is easier to reach campus via 87 because that allows you to avoid a few roundabouts (which I loathe) to Fuller Road. Parking is on the western edge of campus and there is confusing information on their website that tries to imply you have to pre-pay. You do not as it is a cash lot and you can pay on arrival. Though there is a shuttle, this parking area is a long walk to the stadium, which is frustrating because it seems they could’ve put another lot near University Drive.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 7 out of 8
You have to walk to the South Gate in order to see the face of the stadium and it is worth it as the sleek design is a great introduction of what is to come. Various shades of silver-ish panels provide a new-age look that most football stadiums don’t have. Accents of purple support beams and a yellow slight overhang add character, as does the logo and facility name which sits on the tower in the corner. To be honest, I can’t figure out what is in that tower, except to act as a connection via elevator and then covered walkway to the press box/suites. Regardless of use, I love that it seems to have been built as a nod to the four corner student dorm towers on campus.
Exterior Ranking: 8 out of 10
This quite frankly is a terrible concourse, especially given the age of the stadium. It is located behind the first level seats and underneath the upper deck. Space and maneuverability is a real issue as numerous sets of stairs that protrude into the walkways. This shrinks the space, plus the bathrooms are in the middle, so any sort of line will lead to more of a backup. At least there is a field view with standing room. The area features decent color with plenty of purple beams and yellow coloring. Beyond the main grandstand concourse are two open corners. The North Gate features a walkway behind the back of the seating berm and then the walkway curiously stops at a merchandise tent before going to the edge of a hill. It is a stupid set-up as you have take path B to take the longer trek to the other sideline. Over here, visiting fans are treated like crap as storage equipment fills the pavement behind the bleachers. There are no concession stands and the peasants must use porta pottys if they don’t want to walk all the way around. Speaking of that, the other end zone can not be cut through as it is inaccessible without a pass.
Concourse Ranking: 1.5 out of 5
Only two permanent stands are featured under the grandstand, each near the end wall and they are quite limited in offerings: Chicken Tenders, Hot Dogs, Pretzels, Nachos. A couple tables in the corner are terrible excuses for food since they have a pen/paper menu right next to the register, so you have to get up close to see what is available. I had a bland Sausage + Peppers/Onions, while the other option was a Chicken Philly. They also had a special drink, which was anything but special as they threw different flavors into a lemonade and sold it for $10.
Food Ranking: 2 out of 8
The yo-yo nature of good and bad with Casey Stadium continues as the interior is quite good. The main grandstand has some of the widest rows I’ve ever seen at a football stadium. Not only does that make it easier when someone comes by, but it also provides another option if you want to spread out. An upper-deck enhances sightlines and the pitch is decent. There are a couple spots though that railings get in the way of your view and aisle seats near concourse openings should be avoided. The 200 level is set in aluminum, with a similar bleacher style, while down below in the concrete base there are a couple center sections of yellow chairbacks to go along with the bleachers on either side. Another nice feature is that the stands begin about eight feet above the field. Vibrant team colors can be seen still throughout the grandstand and “Albany” is embedded into the upper section. Five suites and the press box are located above and behind the upper deck and they even built a little overhang to cover the last few rows if it is raining. Looking out, you’ll see the green grass of the many athletic fields behind the stadium. On this side as well, you’ll see 15 rows of cheaper, aluminmum bleachers. The north end zone has a large grassy berm that features the best maintained lawn I’ve seen at a stadium (I’m jealous). At the other end was a cheap “Field Club” with standing tables.
Interior Ranking: 11.5 out of 14
The tall purple scoreboard behind the aforementioned field club is pretty good and a large video screen is the highlight. Live action and replays provide everything you want to see. Below the screen is a traditional box score. What makes this board unique is that there are three arm panels that stick out on each side. While two of them contains ads, the bottom one has a stats display. Nice touch. I would have liked to see something on the other end, even just a simple score/clock, especially because late in the season you have to look into the sun to view the main scoreboard.
Scoreboard Ranking: 3.5 out of 4
School colors go a long way in adding character and it is done quite well here. As for more traditional displays, there isn’t much when it comes to the actual team. CAA team flags fly behind the visitor bleachers and helmet logos are on the concourse walls. There’s a few player pictures on the pillars as well, but that’s about it. A sign near the entrance honors the stadium’s namesake.
Displays Ranking: 1.5 out of 6
The cheap seats are fine at $15, it’s the more centralized ones that are a little out of whack for this level. It goes up to $25 and even $40 if you want a midfield chair. Parking was $10, not too uncommon for the CAA, but still, ya know. Concessions were unreasonable as the $10 sausage might be the worst value of any food item I’ve bought at a game. A hot dog cost $5 and soda was $4.
Cost Ranking: 6.5 out of 8
The small crowd featuring maybe 2,000 was understandable given that we were watching a winless team late in the year. Earlier this season, Albany had a great crowd for the season opener with a near sellout. However, that seems to be an anamoly, because outside of the homecoming game, the majority of the time features a Casey Stadium that isn’t even half full. The Great Danes are annually last in the CAA Attendance standings and the team drew a paltry announced number of 1,660 for their first home playoff game ever in 2019. Local media at least does a decent job covering the team and providing a platform for some interest.
Fan Support Ranking: 3 out of 8
To begin the game, a small marching band came out and they played classic sports snippets that I appreciated. The team runs out through purple smoke to the field as the crowd gave them a nice hand. I thought the atmosphere was good as fans produced relatively loud cheers when you would expect they would. There wasn’t anything super loud or organized, but it was an average showing from them nonetheless.
Atmosphere Ranking: 6.5 out of 14
Here comes a rant: The school is insistent that they are known as “UAlbany”. Despite the hundreds of schools that are University of ______, for some reason, Albany insists to put the capital U in the front of their name and make it a one-word thing. Why!? It gets better (or worse from my perspective)…their tagline is “UA, U Know”, which was used frequently during the football game. Ugh. I don’t know why the UAlbany thing bothers me so much…..The full facility name is Bob Ford Field and Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. Ford was the football coach from 1970-2003…..Albany and Stony Brook play in the last game of the season and the recent rivalry has been dubbed the “Empire Clash” with the winner getting the Golden Apple trophy….The Albany International Airport is nearby and you get a cool close-up of planes coming in for a landing.
This was a game between two teams with a combined record of 4-13 and it showed. There easily could have been six interceptions during the first half as this wasn’t a pretty game. It was the Albany run game that led the team to victory as they seemingly got 5+ yards per carry each time and they smartly stuck with it. Karl Mofor ran 45(!) times for 222 yards and a near 2:1 advantage in time of possession helped the Great Danes get off the shneid with a 20-7 win.