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Official Review by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When the Alamodome was built over two decades ago, the move signaled San Antonio's foray into “big time sports”. Originally constructed as a home for the San Antonio Spurs, the Dome was also built in an effort to attract a professional football team to the city. Those dreams have gone unfulfilled so far, but in 2011 a new tenant took up residence in the venerable stadium: the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Roadrunners fledgling football program. As the Alamo City's only FBS-level athletics program, UTSA set a record for the largest average home attendance for a new football program, with 35,521 during their first season; they had previously set an attendance record of 56,743 for their very first FCS game.
In advance of the Alamodome's 25th anniversary, the City of San Antonio approved a $43.5 million improvements package that began in the winter of 2015. The new upgrades will bring the Alamodome into the 21st century, as well as ensure the Roadrunners are long-term tenants of the stadium (UTSA signed an agreement that will keep them here through 2035).
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
As part of the renovations to the Alamodome, new concession vendors were brought in, and several stands and kiosks feature local San Antonio restaurants that add a unique, one-of-a-kind dining experience. Popular new spots include Earl Abel's Restaurant (try the brats), Los Barrios Restaurant (tacos, you want them, you need them), and Candy's Old Fashion Restaurant (this is arguably the best cheeseburger you could hope to find at any stadium anywhere). At each spot, you can find something tasty to eat for around $6; not a bad bargain.
If you are looking for more familiar tastes, you can get stadium-style nachos pretty much anywhere in the Alamodome. You can also find Chick-fil-A and Pizza Hut (cheese, pepperoni, or supreme personal pizzas) on multiple levels in the venue.
When it comes to beverages, beer in particular, the Alamodome also has some new vendors that will be able to quench your thirst. First is the Alamo Beer Co. and their stable of easily accessible craft beers - the Golden Ale is their most popular and tends to sell out quickly. You will also find Freetail Brewing Co., another local craft brewer that offers up real, artisan craft beers - look for their Bat Outta Helles beer on tap for a great entry point into what they do. At both stands, you can expect to pay between $8 and $10, depending on what size beer you want.
While the Spurs may have hold of the hearts and minds of San Antonians, residents' souls belong to the game of football, and it shows whenever the Roadrunners play at home. The Alamodome (re-christened "The Birdcage" by UTSA fans) is a cavernous venue for any sporting event. For football, this gargantuan space amplifies the crowd noise exponentially; in other words, it is either really loud or really quiet depending on how the team is doing. When it is rocking, though, it is really rocking.
The university has done a great job fostering traditions for their fledgling program. Rowdy towels, Roadrunners flags, and team chants and cheers all make for a fun and engaging atmosphere. While these traditions are still in their infancy and the history isn't there yet, things are building and it is a lot of fun to watch.
During timeouts and television breaks, the stadium crew does a lot to keep the crowd entertained. Live, on field contests with randomly drawn fans and taped video vignettes on the scoreboards liven up the down time during games.The highlights in terms of atmosphere are the Roadrunners' mascot, Rowdy, and the student band, the Spirit of San Antonio (SOSA). Rowdy can be seen from the opening walkout to the final whistle; he is on the sidelines and in the stands keeping the crowd on its feet. But the best part of any college football game is seeing how fired up the students get - when the band takes the field, the crowd, especially the students, go crazy. You can also count on the band to pipe in with the fight song throughout the game and play the traditional hit songs during lulls.
In terms of what is around the Alamodome, you probably aren't going to find a better college football venue. Not many major American cities have an FBS program (San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the country) and very few, if any, have their stadium in the heart of their tourist area the way the Alamo City has situated the Alamodome. Within walking distance is the city's famed River Walk with its celebrated night life, restaurants, and shopping, and should you be interested in taking in some sites before or after the game, the Alamo, Tower of the Americas, and Institute of Texan Cultures can all be walked to from the stadium.
Directly in front of the north entrance to the Alamodome is the city's former train depot, Sunset Station, which has been remodeled in recent years and is now a hub of activity with restaurants and tailgating festivities before and after Roadrunner home games (note that this area is currently under heavy renovation). St. Paul Square, which fronts the Alamodome, is also a great place to visit on game day with many bars, restaurants, and more available for fans and visitors.
Downtown San Antonio is also littered with hotels of all price ranges, many of which are within walking distance of the stadium.
San Antonians are passionate about football, and that passion is on full display in the Alamodome on game day. The tailgating scene literally goes on for miles, and the regular stadium parking lots are dotted with tailgate grills, corn hole games, and speakers blaring music, all amid constant chants of "UT - SA." The parking lots surrounding the stadium are also hubs for fans to congregate.
Orange and blue can be seen everywhere in the crowds, including jerseys, t-shirts, full body paint, Mexican wrestler masks, etc. - all of these can be found at Roadrunner home games. Even though the program is relatively new, this is a passionate fan base, and that feeds into the atmosphere of the games and makes them true experiences.
You can't beat how easy it is to get to UTSA home games. The Alamodome is accessible by two exits off of Interstate 37, and either exit will get you to the stadium's parking lots or to the outlying parking areas.
One of the better advantages of having UTSA play at such a large venue in such a large city are the public transportation options. The city has a park and ride service to all Roadrunners home games, so for $5 you can purchase a round trip ticket, and avoid parking costs and stadium traffic.
Tickets for UTSA games start at $20; if you couple that with public transportation and some frugal spending on stadium food, you can get a real bang for your buck. Part of the attraction to the game is the ancillary festivities; the Roadrunners have their "Spirit Walk," in which the mascot and the band lead the players up to the stadium for the pre-game walkthroughs. This happens a little over two hours before game time and is free to the public. Also in the north walkway, near Sunset Station, there are food trucks and vendors offering giveaway items.
The mascot, cheerleaders, and school band all add to the ambiance of the game and make it a truly fun event for the family. The stadium also has a live band on the Plaza/Ground Level. There are also team stores throughout the stadium, as well as several stands outside that sell fan gear.
For the cost and for what you get, it is hard to beat a UTSA game at the Alamodome. The crowd is engaged and entertaining, and the band is enthralling. The atmosphere can be quite electrifying, and the stadium provides a unique home field advantage for the Roadrunners, in that they play in the largest venue in their conference. The added bonus of being able to enjoy one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country is just icing on the proverbial cake.
Member Review by EGrant on Dec 09, 2012
The UTSA football program has awakened like no other program in the country over the past two years.
After not having football until 2011, the Roadrunners lured Larry Coker to San Antonio and now inhabit the Alamodome for their home games, the former stomping grounds for the San Antonio Spurs prior to the AT&T Center opening before the 2002-03 season.
The Alamodome has a 65,000-seat capacity for UTSA games, and can be expanded to 72,000 if necessary. It’s the home to various sports and companies across the United States, including the UIL State Marching competition, the San Antonio Talons arena football team and the Valero Alamo Bowl.
The Roadrunners play football in the Western Athletic Conference during the 2012 season, but will make the transition to Conference-USA beginning in 2013. They’ve done quite well so far, including finishing off a winning campaign this year and taking care of business against new full-time IH-35 rival Texas State.
Here’s a look at UTSA’s stay in the stadium. It’s quickly becoming San Antonio’s prized football possession, at least until the Dallas Cowboys return for training camp.
Member Review by JB302 on Feb 23, 2013
There could not be a better atmosphere for football than the Alamodome. I've been to several mid-major football games in several areas across the country and nothing else is even close. I did notice where the article states that:
"Just minutes away from the downtown scene, you could exit the Alamodome, get back to your car and be on the river in a matter of minutes if you play your cards right."
The truth is that you can walk across the bridge that crosses over the interstate and be at the Riverwalk in minutes as well. As the crow flies I would guess it to be maybe 8 or so city blocks from the Riverwalk & Alamo to the Alamodome itself. If you have a hotel room at one of the many surrounding the Riverwalk, you can make it one long day of fun and football and never have to get in your car.
Member Review by pwdonaldson on Nov 23, 2013
In 2006, the dream of bringing high level college football to San Antonio took the first major step forward with the University of Texas – San Antonio (UTSA) soliciting a feasibility study for Division I football. The dream became reality with board approval in 2008. Ensuring that the program made a big initial splash, the Roadrunners snagged former National Champion head coach Larry Coker to build a team from scratch. In 2011, UTSA hit the gridiron for the first time as a college football program. Calling the Alamodome home, the Roadrunners would seal a victory in their first ever game beating Northeastern State 31-3 in front of an announced crowd of 56,743.
The potential of college football in San Antonio and at the Alamodome was evident. In a major U.S. city with only one major professional sport (NBA’s San Anontio Spurs) and no other major college competitor, the sky is limit for UTSA football. The Roadrunners were able to jump the sinking WAC ship, the conference that initially offered UTSA a DI-FBS lifeline, for a step-up to a reloading Conference USA. If UTSA can string together a few winning seasons and maintain a strong attendance average, membership in CUSA may be brief as well.
If you’re following your favorite team on the road or just looking for an under the radar exciting college football atmosphere, you’ll be presently surprised with the overall quality of the Roadrunner football experience at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
12656 West Ave
San Antonio, TX 78216
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San Antonio, TX 78205
601 Tower of the Americas Way
San Antonio, TX 78205
1309 E Commerce
San Antonio, TX 78205