Liberty Bank Stadium, home of the Arkansas State Red Wolves, mirrors the community it is nestled in, Jonesboro, Arkansas. Jonesboro, at the time the stadium was built, was a tiny, sleepy farming community nestled in Eastern Arkansas. The only action in the town was when the nearby Air Force base (now defunct) in Blytheville, AR, had events and servicemen might venture into Jonesboro for a while.
Arkansas State was a Division I-AA football school, and when they opened the $2.5 million Indian Stadium in 1974, the listed capacity was just 16,343. For many years, that was sufficient. The architectural firm that designed the original facility was Brackett-Krennerich. $1.4 million of the construction cost was contributed by friends and alumni of ASU. Indian Stadium was christened on September 28, 1974 with a 21-7 loss to Louisiana Tech.
Jonesboro grew slowly in the 1970s and '80s, and Indian Stadium did, too. Seating was expanded to 18,709 during a modest renovation program. However, the school began to grow rapidly shortly thereafter, and the town grew with it.
When ASU applied for NCAA Division I-A status, the move was granted in 1991. The Indians (as they were then known) had one condition to meet in order to keep the Division I-A (now FBS) designation, and that was to increase capacity at Indian Stadium. An upper deck was added to the grandstands on both the East and West sides of the facility, and bleachers were also added beyond the North end zone, swelling maximum attendance to 30,708. Additionally, the press area was expanded to four levels with a press box, two donor levels and a photo deck complete with an area for filming, the visiting team Athletic Director Suite and coaches booths for both teams.
10 years later, in 2001, a million-plus dollar video/scoreboard was installed behind the South end zone. The following year, a three-story complex was added just behind the South scoreboard. The efficient complex was designed with office space for coaches, dressing rooms, meeting rooms, and player lounges. On game day, the space is utilized as suites for use by Arkansas State fans to party and take in the games. Fans spill over onto the balconies to take in the action. When games are not in progress, the space is reserved for academic study areas, conference rooms, alumni functions, booster meetings, recruiting, and other university gatherings. The former football complex was then converted to space which now houses the athletic training center, a strength and conditioning center, a student-athlete academic counseling center, NCAA compliance area, sports offices and a computer lab open to all ASU students.
The only other major change to the stadium itself came in 2006, when the university decided to get rid of the natural turf of Bermuda grass and installed Pro Green synthetic grass at a cost of about $500,000.
In 2008, Arkansas State retired their Indian mascot and became the Red Wolves. The football stadium was re-named simply ASU Stadium. In 2012, Liberty Bank made a $5 million dollar gift to the school in exchange for 15-year naming rights. So until at least 2027, the Red Wolves will play at Liberty Bank Stadium.
And on September 6, 2012, it was revealed that the school would embark upon an ambitious, $22 million football facility project, including the construction of a new two-level football operations building and a 76,000 square foot indoor practice facility in the north end zone of the stadium. It will be 100% privately financed. The building will house A-State's locker room, strength and conditioning center, sports' medicine facilities, a players' lounge, coaching and administrative offices, and a team film room with theater seating, among other amenities. Brackett-Krennerich Architects will once again be called upon for the design.
Early renditions of what the facility will look like indicate that the seating in the North end zone will be sacrificed. No announcement has yet been made for how the loss of seats will be compensated
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
This is the South, so barbecue is obligatory. And the 'Cue that they feed you at Liberty Bank Stadium is actually pretty good. Not exceptional, but solid. The food concourse is clean, neat and well-marked, but there are not an over-abundance of food choices. Popcorn, hamburgers, hot dogs: the usual suspects are all here. The barbecue stand, run by Lewis' BBQ (one of the most popular barbecue joints in Jonesboro), is a nice touch, as is the Wings To Go at the South end of the food concourse.
You can purchase frozen snacks and desserts from Brewster's Ice Cream as well as shaved ice in a cup at Tropical Sno. You can also get nachos or burritos at a small trailer; the line here was lengthy all night long. Prices appeared to be very good at each concession stand, making up a bit for the lack of variety.
There was no real excitement palpable in the building, even though there were some 30,000 in attendance (near maximum capacity). Part of the problem might be the fact that this is an open-air venue, so when the crowd starts roaring, some of the effect is lost. In a more enclosed, bowl-type design, or even in the more modern overlapping concourse designs, the sound seems to roll back and envelope the crowd. Also, there wasn't a lot of trash-talking, or much talking at all; even though Arkansas State-Memphis is an old, traditional rivalry, and the games are generally hard-fought, there wasn't the type of buzz that one expects from an early season college football game. It just wasn't there for me.
Liberty Bank Stadium is nestled in a very safe neighborhood. There are several frat houses within easy walking distance of the stadium, as well as rows of student apartments. Now, this is not to say that students don't commit crimes (they sometimes do!), but I sure felt comfortable walking around because most students are innocuous, if sometimes a bit bratty. It looks like the kind of neighborhood where you could leave your doors unlocked for hours and not even worry about your car or its contents being disturbed. Additionally, within easy driving distance of the stadium are any number of eating establishments.
On Stadium Road, which logically enough takes you directly to Liberty Bank Stadium, you'll find fare as diverse as Golden Corral, Panera, Red Lobster, Waffle House, Wimpy's Burgers, and Zaxby's all less than 3 miles from the game. Cross over to Caraway Road and, in addition to Applebee's and Chili's plus some barbecue places, just about any fast food place you could desire can be found.
If that's not enough, there are no fewer than 10 hotels within a five mile radius of the stadium: Super 8 (2500 South Caraway Road), Hilton Garden Inn (2840 South Caraway Road), Holiday Inn (3006 South Caraway Road), Baymont Inn, 2910 Kazi Drive, Econo Lodge (2406 Phillips Drive), Holiday Inn Express (2407 Phillips Drive), Hampton Inn (2900 Phillips Drive), Candlewood Suites (2906 Kazi Drive), Comfort Suites (3404 Access Road), and Fairfield Inn & Suites (3408 Access Road). So if you're coming in from out of town and forget to phone ahead for a reservation, no sweat; you can find excellent accommodations just minutes away from the action.
Part of what football is all about is the rancor of a good crowd: people who make it plain which side of the fence they're on, and who make it equally clear that if you're on the opposite side then you're about to get razzed vigorously. It's okay - you're encouraged to be a little rowdy. ASU's fans were almost too kind and polite. There was a little noise on third downs and for big plays, but it really left something to be desired. Even when I was down on the field in the fourth quarter of a 5-point game, there just wasn't much noise.
To be such a relatively small stadium, access to it is horrible. Gridlock started well over a mile from the venue, making what should have been about a 2-minute drive into an almost 15-minute endurance test. Additionally, there are precious few signs to direct the uninitiated to suitable parking. Now, if you're a regular, and you're in the Red or Black parking, there's no trouble at all. But for a newcomer like myself, it was very confusing, not to mention frustrating. I actually did a circuit around about 80% of the stadium in something like a hook pattern, and I still had to walk about 5 or 6 minutes to get to the gate, despite paying $10 to park.
Red Wolves football is not a bad value. Season ticket prices begin at $75 for a season pass, just over $12 per game, which is reasonable. For kids (age parameters were not given), it's just $65. There's not a bad seat in the house, and the climb up to even the highest seat doesn't evoke nerves or call for an oxygen tank. The stadium itself is very clean, neat, and orderly. There are plenty of ushers to help point you where you need to go.
Paid parking isn't cheap at $10, but it's certainly not outrageous, either. There are myriad places to park for free, but you'd better show up at least an hour before kickoff to guarantee you can find one.
Food prices are certainly reasonable. There are plenty of free programs in the concourse, but it would have been nice to have more of an option to buy souvenirs. All-in-all, I would recommend taking the family to see the Red Wolves. It's a young, impressive team with a tremendous head coach (Guz Malzahn) and a high-octane, extremely fast offense. What's not to love?
Just can't get over how clean Liberty Bank Stadium was! That's important to me, and obviously, it's important to the staff at the stadium. The ushers are numerous, and they go out of their way to be helpful. The sound system is loud and impressive without being overbearing. If they can get a slew of crazy students to start going nuts, maybe the crowds will begin to have more of a football feel....
Liberty Bank Stadium feels like a slightly overgrown high school football stadium. Indeed, in Texas, there are several HS football stadia that are larger than ASU's home field is. However, that's not entirely a bad thing, it's not some bloated, antiseptic gathering place. The intimate setting is actually a pleasant change, though I would love to see Red Wolves' fans make it more of an emotionally charged experience. However, with a team coming off a 10-win season and having piled up 1,149 yards of offense in just two games this season, the Arkansas State Red Wolves make it worth your while to travel to Jonesboro to see them.
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3006 S Caraway Rd
Jonesboro, AR 72401