TOP 10 STADIUMS: Halfway There

I really hoped that my 65th stadium was memorable (for those who see 65 as an arbitrary number, it’s the halfway point to visiting all 130 FBS stadiums). But battling sundown and thunderstorms, I passed right over it and didn’t even realize. I spent a total of eight minutes at Liberty’s Williams Stadium before bolting to make it to Virginia Tech before daylight disappeared.

You can find out how that went here, but I missed sundown.

Either way, I’ve passed the halfway mark to visiting all 130 FBS stadiums on the road, and that’s a pretty cool milestone in itself. In fact, I blew past 65 and have hit 75.

After seeing half of all the FBS stadiums in the country, here’s my favorite 10 so far (keep in mind, I haven’t seen games at all these, so it’s based solely on the stadium).

10: Faurot Field

Starting things off with a head-scratcher, I’m sure. Faurot Field is the fourth smallest stadium in the SEC and won’t likely fall on anyone’s list of favorite stadiums outside of Columbia, Missouri. I can’t exactly pin what it is about Mizzou; maybe it was the excitement of the road trip I was on, maybe it was the excitement about getting inside.

Either way, this is one of my favorite stadium layouts. The end zone argyle pattern and white rock M are unique features you won’t find anywhere else. The bowl layout makes it look way bigger than its 61,620 capacity and the brand new end zone complex helps, too.

9: Illinois Memorial Stadium

I promise I’m not just being a contrarian– Illinois Memorial Stadium is a beauty. It’s ancient and every bit of its history is preserved except for the lower bowl and playing surface. The columns are one of my favorite aspects of any stadium and the thought of students in the 1940s sitting in the upper deck bleachers (likely original) is awesome to me.

It’s also open to visitors and the Illinois state outline is a great midfield design. Despite being a Big Ten venue, it’s extremely intimate with it’s closed-in design. Now, this would probably never land in my top 10 for game day experiences (it wouldn’t crack my top 10 today given Illinois’ best effort), but the structure is a marvel. I’d recommend it to anyone in a 100-mile radius.

8: DKR–Texas Memorial Stadium

I’ve seen every 100,000+ capacity non-racing stadium in the United States, so it takes a lot to really impress me. But Texas’ DKR–Texas Memorial Stadium made me step back and say “wow” out loud. From AT&T Stadium to DKR and Kyle Field, even the stadiums are bigger in Texas. Once I got to my seat (pictured), I had serious vertigo and could see a thunderstorm over San Marcos (over 20 miles away).

To be transparent, I was completely let down by the atmosphere at DKR, but the structure itself is unreal. It has the lowest capacity of the eight college stadiums with a capacity over 100,000 (100,119), but it feels like the biggest. The north end zone stands tower as high as any nosebleeds in the world and it’s truly a marvel. It’s enormous from the street, and the entire lower bowl is below street level.

7: Veterans Memorial Stadium

If there’s a better Group of Five stadium in the country, it’s part of the 43% that I haven’t been to yet. Troy boasts itself as “The Most Beautiful Campus in Alabama” and I seriously doubted it; it was competing with Auburn and Alabama, who both have pristine campuses. But Troy seriously delivers. Everything right down to its stadium is downright amazing.

Everything about is Troy is what Group of Five stadiums should be– from the press box to the seats to the end zone complex. It even has a cool Trojan statue (not pictured). Not relevant but definitely played a part in my decision: maroon and silver is one of the best color combos out there. It doesn’t hurt that their team is currently dominant, either.

6: Neyland Stadium

I’ll admit fault to this one: I was as excited to have gotten into this stadium as any along the tour. I shouldn’t have even been in this one (find out why here). The place is ancient and the attached educational hall is decrepit, but the history and fame with Neyland is too good not to appreciate. The photographed press box isn’t even the home press box.

I mentioned that DKR–Texas Memorial Stadium wowed me, well, so did this one. I caught myself marveling the cavernous stadium at Rocky Top. It instantly moved it to top of my wish list to see a game at. Good or bad, Tennessee will always be a relevant football program, and it’s got the stadium to accompany the legend.

5: Kyle Field

Kyle Field has to be the biggest stadium world. It’s definitely not, but walk up to one of the gates and look straight up to the top of this place and you’ll agree with me. The nosebleeds are no stranger to me, as I travel to college football games on a budget, but Kyle Field’s nosebleeds redefine what nosebleeds are. The stadium is built vertically so you’re right on top of the action, but at the cost of being 150 feet in the air.

The game day atmosphere at Texas A&M is nearly unrivaled which really boosts the feel of this venue. The student section has got to be the largest in the country– it takes up both the lower and upper decks of an entire sideline and they’re the loudest in the world. The Texas A&M cadets are also one of the coolest traditions in college football.

4: Clemson Memorial Stadium

Clemson has spent more money on its athletic facilities than almost anyone in the world and a good portion of that has gone into it’s football stadium. One of two stadiums dubbed “Death Valley,” Clemson Memorial Stadium is one of the best stadiums despite only the 15th largest in college football. Its recruiting facilities are the unrivaled best, period.

Howard’s Rock, which is fixed to the north east end zone, is one of college football’s finest traditions. The Tigers are also in the middle of one of the most dominant runs in college football history and the current best quarterback-coach duo calls this place home. A redesigned southwest end zone complex is one of the finest in the world, too. Everything about Clemson (including the “CLEMSON” and “TIGERS” colored into the upper decks) is championship caliber.

3: Jordan-Hare Stadium

Auburn isn’t the first school to play between hedges, something that’s become quite common in the SEC, but they might be the best to do it (sorry Georgia). I love every aspect about Jordan-Hare, including its enormous south end zone video board. I’ll admit, a lot about this stadium is the fact that I even got in.

Auburn’s campus is gorgeous, too; it’s truly a staple in American college campuses. Even after visiting, Auburn remains near the top of my must-visits for a game day. Jordan-Hare is just a classic stadium that about be on top of every sports fan’s bucket list.

2: LSU Tiger Stadium

The pageantry of an LSU game day is a marvel in itself. But Tiger Stadium is a massive place that requires stories of elevators to reach the upper-600 deck (seriously, who has a 600 level?). The dual white goalpost, mismatched-colored end zones, and iconic Tiger Eye at midfield moves this venue from amazing to iconic.

Across from the stadium is the pen for Mike the Tiger (LSU’s official mascot) which is a legit tiger pen you’d find at a first-class zoo. LSU might claim the title as the true Death Valley from this fan when comparing the two facilities. Have yourself some down home Louisiana cuisine while you’re here, and everything about an LSU game day is perfect– right down to the stadium.

1: Ohio Stadium

Well, okay, this one might be a bit biased. I was born and raised an Ohio State Buckeye fan, but nothing beats Ohio Stadium. It’s the only FBS Stadium listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has the most unique end zone complexes in the country. Ohio Stadium is so iconic that, despite being far from the first of its kind, it bears the name “The Horseshoe.”

Ohio Stadium is the third largest stadium in the United States and bleeds history and tradition. It’s just a masterpiece and not a whole lot more needs to be said.

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