Top 10 Football Stadiums
High school, college and professional football players are already enduring grueling twice a day workouts under the punishing August sun.
1. Hubbard Stadium, Smith Center, Kansas — The Redmen have won five straight Kansas State High School championships and 67 consecutive games, which is a state record as well as the nation’s longest active winning streak. The Redmen faithful in this town of more than 1,600 begin taping their blankets to the grandstands to hold their seats on Wednesday; by Friday afternoon pick-up trucks circle the field. Each home game begins with an all-town tail gate sponsored by local businesses. By 9 p.m., folks retire to “fifth-quarters,” a series of post-game parties held at churches and homes around town to relive their kids’ glory.
2. Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana — Love or hate them, and both sides have ardent partisans, the Fighting Irish are America’s team, and their stadium is nothing less than the cradle of college football. It blends history icons—The Four Horsemen and Knute Rockne. Touchdown Jesus, for example, is a large mural on the library where Jesus looms in the sky and looks like a referee signaling a touchdown, as are the golden domes of the players’ helmets. Everyone deserves to see a game there. This is why we watch football on Thanksgiving.
3. The Grove at the University of Mississippi — The Grove is one of the most stylish and elegant tail gates in America. Just take a look at the pregame extravaganzas that break out before every Ole Miss home game. We’re talking white table cloths, crystal glasses and a fashionably turned-out crowd hobnobbing on 10 acres of property, thick with oak, elm and magnolia trees. These gatherings are multi-generational too.
4. Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin — In an age of field turf and indoor domes, the home of the N.F.L’s Green Bay Packers is refreshingly retro. You can still park in the yards of people who live in the shadow of the hallowed “Frozen Tundra” for $20, or share a case of Milwaukee’s Best with folks in parkas and thermal undergarments on the witheringly cold days “Title Town” is know for. If you get hungry, the brat pizza and cheese curds are about as old school as you can get at a stadium.
5. The Big House, Ann Arbor, Michigan — On football Saturday afternoons, the crowd inside Michigan Stadium nearly matches the population of this leafy college town. The largest crowd in NCAA college football history was 112,118 and gathered here on November 22, 2003 for a game against hated rival Ohio State. When the Wolverines are ahead in the third quarter of some games, the student section initiates the Michigan Wave, which is taught to every student at freshman orientation.
6. Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia — Any Georgia Bulldog fan knows their team doesn’t really play in a stadium but rather, “between the hedges,” a description that has stuck ever since the famous privet hedges that circle the field were in place for Sanford’s debut in 1929 against Yale. No school takes better care of their mascots, either. UGA’s (ug-a) I through VI, all are descendants of the original white bulldog, and are entombed in the southwest corner of the stadium.
7. Michie Stadium, West Point, New York — The Black Knights have not been very good on the football field lately, but that is not the mission at the U.S. Military Academy. Game day on the banks of the Hudson River begins with the Cadet Parade, in the shadows of the statues of Generals MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower. This is a cozy stadium of 40,000 with breathtaking vistas of the Hudson, and the awe-inspiring Medieval campus sprawled out below.
8. Death Valley, Baton Rouge, Louisiana — This is the loudest stadium in America, especially during night games after the Louisiana State University faithful have Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez (let the good times roll) over crawfish boils and adult beverages. In 2003, ESPN recorded a noise level of 119 decibels from a capacity crowd of 92,400-plus. In laymen’s terms, that’s ear splitting. Against Auburn in 1988, after a last second touchdown pass that allowed the Tigers to win the game, the crowd reaction registered as a legitimate earthquake on the seismograph in the Louisiana Geological Survey office on campus.
9. Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wisconsin — It’s all about the marching band here in Badgerland. Before the game, the tuba section snakes in and out of the bars that surround the stadium. They reverse their caps as soon as the final gun is sounded on another Wisconsin victory. Then, 30,000 Badger fans stay inside Camp Randall to hear the band perform its fifth quarter performance. It’s a rollicking, whimsical program heavy on audience participation. We’re talking the Beer Barrel Polka, Dance Little Bird (or Chicken Dance), Tequila, and Space Badgers.
10. The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California — They don’t call our oldest bowl game the “Grandaddy of Them All” for nothing. It begot our current bowl game bacchanalia that keeps us in front of our televisions each December to early January. Back in 1902, Michigan came west to crush Stanford, and ever since has tried to match the best of the west against the best of the east on New Year’s Day. It is named after the Tournament of Roses Parade, better known as the Rose Parade, which started in 1890. Organizers added the Rose Bowl to pay for the parade, which has become a spectacle watched by tens of millions of people in more than 200 countries.