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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Sitting pretty much smack dab in the middle of New York State is the tiny village of Hamilton, and it is here that you will find Colgate University. This small, private school boasts a lot of recognition and notoriety for its academics, while on the athletic side, the Raiders quietly compete away from the nation’s spotlight in the Patriot League. In 2003, Colgate football made noise across the country by turning in an undefeated season and by becoming the first (and only) conference member to reach the FCS (then Division I-AA) championship game. Digging deeper into the history books, this storied program dates back to the 1800s, and perhaps the 1932 “undefeated, untied, unscored upon and uninvited team” is the most significant chapter. Home games are played at Andy Kerr Stadium, and this seemingly secluded part of the country boasts a very nice setting for football on a fall Saturday afternoon.
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Behind the main seating, a concession stand at each end offers the same menu. While the listings and variety are limited, enough is there for some choices at halftime. No item costs more than $7, and the Raiders Double Burger ($6.25) is perhaps the most filling. Also included is Colgate's version of the Philly cheese steak, sausage & peppers ($5.25), hot dogs ($3) and chili ($3.50). There are some snacks, too, while for beverages, choices come down to soda, water, coffee or cocoa (all for $3 or less).
Andy Kerr Stadium features two stands of seating on each sideline, while the end zones are left open. The primary section that seats several thousand is on the east side, and this makes up the general look of the stadium. There's nothing special to note, as the bleacher seats include a middle section where maroon metal seats include backs. A track puts the stands a little further back from the field, but it is better to sit higher up here. The surrounding view is bucolic, and beyond the football field are rolling hills that light up with color during the month of October. On the other side, the visitor's bleacher seating is much smaller and it is also the location of the press box. The background view of note from this location is the stone field house in the corner.
A large scoreboard is behind the north end zone, and despite the impressive size, the abundance of ads and grainy video deter from what could be a valuable asset. Cheerleaders and a small pep band are included in the college experience; however, I did not hear the band play once during the game and instead music was piped in to the sound system during breaks in play.
Keep in mind there is no cover inside the stadium, and the weather during football season in Central New York can be an issue. There is usually plenty of open seating space to bring an umbrella and not disturb others watching the game.
Hamilton is only home to about 4,000 people, so the makeup of the village is quite small. However, there is a very nice and historic center of town where many of the main roads meet. This section is a good spot to stroll, and it includes the Colgate Bookstore, along with a handful of decent places to eat. For the sports crowd, Rusch's, along with Good Nature Brewing offer both a food and bar scene that is worthy for a stop after the game. For a nice meal, the Colgate Inn has been in the same place for nearly 90 years, and the restaurant is excellent. Saturdays also feature a small farmers' market on the Village Green. The University is just a mile south of the central part of town, and while it does have an art gallery along with an anthropology museum, the restaurants are the main attraction for fans and family coming in for a football game.
Before the game, gatherings of friends and family can be seen with small tailgates, and the charm of the Patriot League is that you will also see the visitors convening as well, with road trips within driving distance. The Colgate fans are not able to fill up Andy Kerr Stadium, as most often it is less than half full, but it is important to keep in mind that the stadium capacity is well more than the village population and student body combined. Homecoming games are most popular, especially if it coincides with nearby rival Cornell as the opponent. During the event, fans are reserved but supportive, with the level of applause depending on the impact of the play. A few will get on their feet during touchdowns. Overall, the crowd has a very personal and close-knit feel, with many knowing one and another, making for an enjoyable outing.
A trip to Colgate means a journey through plenty of rural areas and country roads. It takes about 30 minutes to reach Hamilton from I-90 (NYS Thruway) and nearly 45 minutes if coming from the north or south via I-81. Along with utilizing GPS, expect to look at a map beforehand, just to get your bearings on the route and the roads needed. Once in town, campus is just to the south and the stadium is off of College Street. General Parking is in the grassy field off of this street and behind the stadium. Another mention of the weather is needed here, as the parking situation is not ideal in bad weather and either mud or snow cover will force the school to use other campus lots.
It gets a little strange entering the stadium, as the ticket booth is a somewhat hidden spot at the front of the parking lot for Maroon Council members. It is also at this booth that you essentially 'enter' the stadium, as someone is there to check your ticket. You can also enter the premises by walking across the practice field towards the south end zone. Nonetheless, the whole entrance into the facility is a little awkward.
To get to each sideline, fans have to walk around the entire perimeter, instead of walking on the track and cutting through, like what is allowed at several other FCS stadiums. All of the amenities are behind the east side stands, and this includes the lone bathroom, which is serviceable for the crowd size.
Tickets go for $10 in the general seating sections, and with $5 parking, this is an affordable event and priced appropriately for the level and sport.
Many of Colgate's campus buildings are stone, and the continuation of that appeasing design element is seen on the athletic side, as well. That is certainly evident at the Sanford Field House, which the players use as a locker room, and the stone design can also be seen in the lower walls of Andy Kerr Stadium.
More should be done in the display department, as the school has a storied football history that is barely recognized throughout the venue. At least the 2003 team that reached the championship game is noted by the marker at the bottom of the scoreboard.
While Hamilton may not be the most convenient or vibrant place to visit, it is a pleasant little small village worth a trip. There are a few nice spots to eat right in town, and the University is almost a walk away. The stadium experience at Andy Kerr is indeed bare-bones; however, taking in football at Colgate with limited media interruptions and in a pleasant setting is a very refreshing and recommended way of watching the college game.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium and Arena Visits.
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22 Lebanon St
Hamilton, NY 13346
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Hamilton, NY 13346
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