On September 16th, 1978, New Mexico State opened its brand new Aggie Memorial Stadium by hosting their biggest rivals, the UTEP Miners. The Aggies came out on top that day by a score of 35-32, but it has been one of the few major positives in their football program.
NMSU typically struggles on the football field, but their stadium overall is somewhat of a success. There are great views all over the stadium, and some recent renovations have given it more features for Aggies fans that make the trip out on a Saturday.
Located on campus, Aggie Memorial is located next to Presley Askew Field, Pan American Center, the softball field, and the other sports venues at NMSU. In 2006, the Football Field House, which contains the locker rooms and football facilities, was renovated. Along with this renovation project included a new walkway behind the north endzone, connecting both sides of the stadium. It’s a good thing that happened. Can’t imagine going to a game there without being able to access both sides.
Behind the south endzone is the Fulton Athletics Center, which houses training rooms for NMSU student athletes, as well as a club seating area for fans and boosters.
Overall, I think the stadium has a very nice feel and look to it, and NMSU games are very affordable. But there’s a reason they’re affordable, the team usually does not provide good entertainment.
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The main concourse has four food stands, one in each corner of the stadium. These stands sell the typical stadium food and Coke products, all available for about $4-$6. The highlight of these stands is the souvenir ice cream, which comes in a mini-helmet. These go for $5, and are very popular with the kids. These stands have long lines throughout the first half, but the way the stadium is constructed, the lines are mostly out of the way.
The good food is found on the plazas located on the north end. In both corners of the north side of the stadium, several food trucks and carts set up. The options here include loaded nachos, homemade Mexican food, freshly cooked BBQ, Papa John's Pizza, kettle corn, and even a Buffalo Wild Wings truck. I got a BBQ pork sandwich from the truck in the northeast corner for $6, and it was well worth it. The service at these stands is exceptional too because they are generally run by the owners. The lines for these stands move very quickly and there's never too big of a crowd.
Aggie Memorial is located very close to the Organ Mountains, which provide a great backdrop when sitting on the west side of the stadium. On the Organ Mountains, you'll find the big 'A', which is painted on the side of Tortugas Mountain each year. The A is about the length of a football field, and is clearly visible from all of campus.
The west side is where you want to be, as it is in the shade much sooner than the east side. And you don't have to look into the setting sun. The stadium is almost all metal bleachers except for the middle sections on the west side. That section is only for season ticket holders though. Fans can bring in their own chairbacks.
The logos on the field also all face the west side, and the Aggies bench is on the west sideline. One thing that I found weird was that the visiting cheerleaders were put in the northwest corner, and the Aggies cheerleaders were in the northeast corner. What made it stranger is that the visiting fans section is section R, which happens to be right where the NMSU cheerleaders are. Why not put the visiting cheerleaders in front of the visiting fans and next to their bench? Every time the Aggies score a touchdown, their cheerleaders throw out T-shirts to the fans.
The lone scoreboard is located on the north end. It does provide video replays during the game, but that's about the only exceptional thing about it. One thing that would help the stadium is if they put a basic scoreboard on the façade of the Fulton Athletics Center in the south endzone to help fans out sitting on the north half. All the seats face towards the center of the field, so looking at the scoreboard isn't exactly convenient for everyone.
Both teams enter from the north side, as well as the Pride of New Mexico Marching Band, which is billed as "The most dangerous band in the land". During the band's pregame show, they play the William Tell Overture while Pistol Pete rides around the field on a horse. You'll never forget about the horse during the game because it tears up some of the grass in the corners of the endzones and on the sidelines, leaving very visible divots for the rest of the day.
One other interesting in-game tradition is Striking the Wonder Dog. After each NMSU kickoff, the dog runs onto the field to retrieve the kicking tee. This gets a huge cheer from the crowd each time.
It's all about tailgating in Las Cruces on game days. The parking lots on the north side of the stadium and around the Pan-Am Center are full of tailgaters. There are separate sections for student tailgates and family tailgates, and each are clearly marked on the roads.
Gates to the stadium don't open until an hour before kickoff, so pregame festivities are definitely the way to go in Las Cruces.
Some restaurants are nearby for those that aren't into the tailgating scene. Lorenzo's Italian Restaurant was very crowded a couple hours before the game, as well as The Game Sports Bar and Grill. These are both located on University Ave., not too far from the stadium. University has several other options for fans as well.
There are a few hotels located at the University exit on I-25. Hilton Garden Inn, Comfort Suites, and Sleep Inn are all right next to each other, and are walking distance from the tailgating and the stadium. If you're flying to Las Cruces, your best bet is to fly into El Paso and drive from there.
Not a lot of electricity in the stadium, and a lot of empty seats. A lot. The Aggies have never really been that good at football, and the fan turnout definitely reflects this. The loudest they get during the game is when Striking the Wonder Dog goes out to receive the kicking tee after an NMSU kickoff.
One tradition they do have is to play small cowbells when the opponent is facing a third down situation. The PA also plays Hells Bells when that comes up. Before the game, they also cheer the opposing fans that came to Las Cruces that particular week, which is something I've never experienced and thought it was interesting.
Aggie Memorial is best accessed from I-25 at the University exit. If you're planning on just parking on the south side of the stadium, it's best to turn right after you get off the highway, and follow the signs for "Special Event Traffic". If you're going to the tailgate areas, turn left at the light, and then follow the signs to the various tailgates. All the parking is free. Some lots are restricted to Aggie Athletic Club members. Here's a map of the various parking locations.
Once in the stadium, it's very easy to get wherever you want. Take note that the concourse does not go all the way around. The south end is kind of a dead end in both corners, you cannot go behind that endzone. The main concourse runs around the middle of the stadium, and then there's an upper walkway which fans can use if their seats are higher up.
Bathrooms are located close to the 50 on both sides of the stadium. There are also porta-potties in each corner of the stadium, and a group of them up behind the press box on the west side. Handicap seating is available throughout the main concourse, and event staff assists guests to upper seats with golf carts.
Tickets are very cheap for NMSU games compared to other FBS programs. For single game tickets, you're looking at anywhere from $10-$25, and season tickets are available for less than 50 bucks. Buying the ten dollar tickets is good enough, because the ushers don't really check too hard to make sure everyone's in the right section. But you can find a seating chart here.
Free parking and relatively cheap concessions help keep the cost of going to an Aggies game very low. The problem is the quality of a game you get. From what I've heard, if you're going to go to an NMSU game, make it a day that UTEP or New Mexico comes to town. Otherwise, you'll probably be left wondering why you went.
The limited NMSU football history is on display both in the northwest corner, and on the Fulton Athletics Center. Honored numbers are prominently displayed at the top of the Fulton Athletics Center, and info on these players is found behind the food stands in the northwest corner.
One more extra for Striking the Wonder Dog. It's a very interesting tradition, and one that the Aggie faithful seem to love.
While the stadium was mostly empty, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it looks both on the inside and the outside. It's not exactly one of those places where you need to make a special trip to southern New Mexico to see, but if you're in the area, it's definitely worth a visit.
It seems like the foundation is there to build a good if not great football tradition in Las Cruces; a nice stadium with recently updated facilities. Maybe joining the Sun Belt in 2014 will stimulate the growth of Aggie Football.
The hype builds days before the game.
Excitement vibrates Aggie Memorial Stadium as the public address announcer introduces the players, and it crests to punctuate touchdowns or other highlight plays. That indescribable magic hangs in
the air, engulfing the fans that often fill the stadium.
But this isn't your average Saturday evening watching the New Mexico State football team.
It's the annual prep matchup between the Las Cruces High and Mayfield football teams, which often attracts larger, more passionate crowds than anything on the NMSU football schedule.
Unfortunately for NMSU, that's the result of decades of non-competitive, nationally irrelevant college football. Since the end of World War II, the Aggies have mustered only 11 winning seasons. The program hasn't played a bowl game since 1960. Its last winning season was 2002.
Aggie Memorial Stadium is probably nicer than what you would envision for a long struggling program. A game there is affordable, and getting from your car to your seat and back home won't leave you with a headache. But the venue lacks history and electricity, which is understandable considering how often NMSU has let down fans with losing football.
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