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Official Review by Greg Johnston, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Twenty-seven universities spread throughout Canada compete in the highest level of CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) football. With an enrollment of approximately 2,400 students, Mount Allison University is among the smallest CIS football schools, along with Bishop’s University in Quebec. Located near the Nova Scotia border in Sackville, New Brunswick, Mount Allison competes in the Atlantic University Sport Conference (AUS). The Mounties have battled on the gridiron since 1955, earning two Vanier Cup appearances in their history, falling just short of a championship in both 1984 and 1991.
Formerly known as MacAulay Field, this playing surface has been heavily used for a variety of sports dating back to 1900. After 115 years of use, the field underwent major renovations. Changes included removing the high-maintenance grass surface for a modern turf field, adding a new scoreboard, and building new spectator areas, including fixed individual seats and bleacher seating for 900 total fans. Renamed Alumni Field for the contribution and support of the recent project, this venue is a modern football facility of which university staff, students, and alumni can be proud.
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".
For former college students, purchasing food and non-alcoholic drinks at Alumni Field takes you down memory lane to your past college experience. "Gracie's Cafe" is a cafeteria-style concession stand located inside the Wallace McCain Student Centre. The cafe is the only spot to purchase food and non-alcoholic beverages. Pick up a pizza, burger, or a hot dog for a reasonable $3-$4. Accompany your main entree with fries, chips, or chocolate bar for $2. And wash down your meal with a wide selection of bottled and canned pop, juice, water, milk, or an energy drink ranging from $2-$4. Grab your desired items before the game or at halftime to avoid missing any action, as the cafeteria's layout makes it impossible to view the game while waiting in line. An advantage to the cafeteria setup is the ability to quickly pick up an item and head straight to the cash registers, without waiting for a large order in front of you. Cashiers gladly accept cash, debit or credit cards. Exiting the cafeteria leads you to a dining hall with an expansive horizontal glass window wall with excellent views of the field. Tables are available first come, first serve with the window seats being the most popular.
Alcoholic beverages are available across the corridor from Gracie's Cafe at The Pond. The full bar offers several different beer options from the usual Bud and Molson products, to Maritime favorites Pumphouse and Schooner. Alcohol must stay in the bar area. However, a lounge is set up with visual access to the field. If the lounge is too crowded, a video screen projects game action near the bar. Beer is also available in the open-air beer garden outside the west end zone.
The atmosphere at Alumni Field is a refreshingly unique experience for major college football. The Wallace McCain Student Centre lines one side of the field with views of the surrounding neighbourhood and campus on the other side. The multi-level stone and glass building offers great sight lines of the game from the lounge and workout facility on the main level, and an exclusive VIP area on the upper floor balcony. The student centre is built on a berm sloping down to the field. Fans get to the venue early, bringing their camping chairs and blankets to occupy the best spots on the berm for viewing the game. Perhaps the most unique aspect of Alumni Field is the admittance of dogs into the venue. Both large and small K-9's are only allowed on the berm, where a chain-linked fence protects any loose pups from affecting game action. Bring your sunscreen as all seats are exposed to the sun and the student centre is your only refuge from the rays. While in the student centre, you can purchase your Mount Allison gear at the university's bookstore.
Additional seating is found in the brand new grandstand on the opposite side of the field. The grandstand consists of five sections and ten rows of seating. Three of these sections contain colourful individual seats at mid-field, with two sections of traditional aluminum bleachers flanking both sides. Get there early for the best seats, as all tickets are general admission. Part of the renovation includes a new easily viewed scoreboard beyond the east end zone. But pay close attention to the game because there are no exterior video boards to replay any action you may have missed. Student band members play an entertaining brand of music during breaks in play and the university's dance team performs at halftime.
Seating Recommendation: Bring a blanket and sit high on the berm. You will clearly see the game over the player benches and be able to listen to the coaches talk to their team, creating a close connection to the action.
Sackville is a quaint town of approximately 5,000 residents. Downtown Sackville is an easy five minute walk from campus, with small shops and restaurants lining Main Street. Since Mount Allison is a smaller university, Alumni Field is easy to find as it skims the southern edge of campus just off York Street. The on-campus stadium enables students to easily attend the game and ample free parking is provided around the stadium for visitors. If you are a first time visitor, take some time to walk around campus as Mount Allison has numerous attractive institutional buildings and landscaping to enjoy.
If the weather cooperates, explore the nature and scenery at Sackville Waterfowl Park. Start at the Visitor's Centre and learn more about the long history and importance of the park. The Trailhead is just outside the Visitor's Centre front doors. Trails weave around a marsh providing many picturesque views of the water and offer great bird watching opportunities. For supper, try Patterson's Family Restaurant for a quality homemade meal located within walking distance of the Visitor's Centre.
Alumni Field is home to a wide range of loyal supporters. Students and alumni flock to the games, bringing with them a profusion of noise and school spirit to the event. Young families and dog lovers are also prevalent on game days, bringing an overall camaraderie of everyone in attendance.
Attendance has varied greatly over recent years, depending on the importance of the game and the weather. Homecoming games attract near capacity crowds, while a typical game attracts a range of 1,500 to 2,000 spectators. Though the crowds are small, fans bring enthusiasm and produce an uproar reminiscent of a crowd three times as big.
Alumni Field is easily accessible for out-of-town folks visiting the university for the first time. Sackville, New Brunswick is located just off the Trans-Canada Highway (NB Hwy 2), a half-hour drive from Moncton and two hours from Halifax. Take exit 504 and drive south on Main Street (Route 940) a few kilometres to Salem Street. After a few blocks, you will see Alumni Field on your left. Free parking is available just past the field.
Alumni Field offers easy accessibility inside the venue as well. Three entrances are provided, one inside the Student Centre, while the others flank the building on both sides. Purchase game day tickets at any gate, but leave any bottles or cans in your car as you will be unable to bring them in. Obtaining a ticket allows you to leave and return to the field as you please. Free programs are passed out with information featuring the home team. Fans enter and exit the student centre through a singular door, which can get log-jammed at times. Washrooms are located in the student centre, with a small washroom near The Pond, and a more popular location outside the gates. Access around the field to the grandstand is free flowing with a relaxed vibe. Enter the grandstand on either end for access to all sections. Bleachers include handicap accessible reserved seating at multiple sections on the first row.
Purchasing a ticket for a Mounties football game is a worthwhile endeavor whether you are a devoted fan, or just interested in some hard-hitting entertainment in a relaxed, family friendly atmosphere. Single game tickets cost $12 for an adult, $5 for a non-Mount Allison student, and free for 12 years old and under. Mount Allison students are admitted free of charge by showing their student ID. Season tickets are available to adults for $42, or $20 for a student. The rooftop viewing section costs $80 for the season. Incentives, including discounts to area restaurants and customized ticket stubs, are just a few extra perks to purchasing season tickets. If you lack funds to attend a game, join like-minded individuals just outside the west gate for a free elevated overview of the field.
One point for allowing dogs to check out the game with their families.
A second for the unique and relaxing picnic-style seating on the berm
And, a third for the dedication and investment to improve facilities and game experience at Mount Allison
Prior to this visit, exit 504 on the Trans-Canada Highway was mostly an afterthought. From the highway all you see are signs to gas stations and fast-food establishments. However, take the time to explore the town. You will find a storied university with a deep college football history, and a town with a close connection to nature.
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38 York St.
Sackville, NB E4L 4R4
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