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Official Review by Drew Cieszynski, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
With less than a decade remaining until its centennial anniversary, the California Polytechnic State University football program remains the top football draw for the state’s central coast.
First opened in 1935 as Mustang Stadium, the venue has been undergoing renovations since 2006 to bring the capacity to 22,000. The stadium is named after Alex G. Spanos, current owner of the San Diego Chargers.
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".
The concessions were surprisingly limited for what appeared to be a large crowd in the expanding venue.
Some of the larger items included the tri-tip sandwich ($7), Vienna beef hot dog ($4), Johnsonville bratwurst ($4), nachos ($4), kettle corn ($6), peanuts ($3), sunflower seeds ($3), soft pretzel ($3), churro ($2), cheeseburger ($4), fries ($3 with chili and garlic add ons for an additional fee), and sweet potato fries ($4).
Some of the more popular and unique items included Lucy's chocolate covered strawberries ($5), or a Poly Pineapple (strawberries, pineapple juice, and pineapple sherbert for $5). The beverages included bottled water ($2), canned soda ($2), Monster Energy ($4), lemonade ($3), iced tea ($2), and coffee/cocoa ($2).
An interesting addition was a Cal Poly food truck (@cpmobilefood) on site that offered some additional options. I could see this being something utilized on more and more campuses nationwide to add additional concession capacity when necessary.
Despite the state of California offering many reputable football programs, few can boast a setting as beautiful as that surrounding the stadium. Views of Bishop's Peak and San Luis Mountain can be seen from within the stadium.
Even with the serene surroundings, the inside of the stadium still provides a lot of excitement. Prior to all kickoffs, fans rise up to support their Mustangs.
Musty the Mustang & the cheer team are on the sideline throughout the contest inspiring fan interaction. The loudest interaction takes place after a Cal Poly first down when the PA announcer says, "First Down," and the fans respond "Mustangs!"
I always enjoy a visit to San Luis Obispo as there is a variety of different settings that a fan can explore.
Closer to campus fans can find a Carl's Jr, Pita Pit, Subway, The Shack and Nucci's pizza. Both Indian and Thai restaurants are also nearby.
I would recommend heading to downtown SLO if time allows. In the vibrant downtown area surrounding the San Luis Obispo creek, fans can find bars, restaurants, shops, theaters, and art galleries.
If fans are willing to take a short trip north to Paso Robles, they can experience wine tours at places such as J. Lohr Vineyards or brewery tours at the popular Firestone Walker Brewery.
If you cannot find something for you in San Luis Obispo, try the nearby towns of Morro Bay, San Simeon, Shell Beach, or Pismo Beach for a variety of entertainment options.
Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Cal Poly football program provides local fans their pigskin fix.
The recent stadium expansion should be a testament to the passion of the fan base. The student section opposite the grandstand was definitely the most animated, but it seemed that all parts of the stadium were contributing to the noise levels.
As previously stated, this is the closest college football program for many fans of the central coast, so much of the fan base has been following the program for years. During the contest, I overheard many such fans reminiscing about the conference title years under previous head coaches Andre Patterson and Rich Ellerson.
Once you've made it to the central coast, getting to Cal Poly is a breeze. Fans will not experience the traffic problems of the Bay Area or Southern California.
Parking on campus requires a pass for $6, but exercise caution in the lot you choose as some of them require a bit of a walk to get to the stadium.
The restrooms were a bit on the small size for the expanding venue. There were only approximately seven stations in each restroom I visited, but perhaps these will be modified during the ongoing expansion.
The stadium offers a single scoreboard at the north end of the stadium and I did notice that it is difficult to see from certain vantage points.
As many of the Cal Poly fans have been following the program for years, the season tickets are very popular. Reserved seats are available for $80 for the full season. If fans just want a single game or to attend a few, the reserved adult tickets are $20 and $15 for seniors/youth. General admission seats go for $15 for adults and $10 for seniors/youth.
With parking at just $6 and concessions priced at levels fans would expect at any local eatery, the whole experience turns out to be an extremely reasonable value.
My first extra goes for the scenery surrounding the stadium. I've mentioned some of the mountains that surround campus which provide the perfect backdrop. Fans can also walk up to the upper level of the west end seats for some panoramic views of the stadium. It is a bit removed from the action, but can provide some great perspective in watching the plays develop.
Behind the scoreboard fans will find a small rose garden and fountain. This serene setting offers a relaxing place to get away from the action.
Lastly and most importantly is the Mustang Memorial Plaza outside of the stadium. During the 1960 football season, an airplane crash took the lives of sixteen Mustang players, the team's manager, and a football booster. The plaza was constructed in 2006, and is certain to evoke emotion from all sports fans. A mustang statue sits in the middle and is surrounded by 18 copper pillars, one for each member of the Cal Poly program affected by the crash.
After enjoying both the baseball and basketball programs at Cal Poly, the football program certainly did not disappoint. The campus remains one of the most beautiful in California and the fanbase makes it one of the more memorable sporting experiences in the state.
Follow Drew's travels through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew.
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858 East Foothill Boulevard
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
785 East Foothill Boulevard
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
1400 Ramada Drive
Paso Robles, CA 93446
728 Higuera Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
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