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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Mercer University is a private, liberal arts school located in Macon, Georgia, approximately 80 miles south of Atlanta. It has an enrollment of 8,300 students participating in 12 different colleges and schools. Academically, Mercer is ranked in the top 10% of all universities in North America by the Princeton Review.
Though a relatively small school, Mercer has a very strong athletics program. The Bear basketball program has had three straight 20 win seasons from 2012-2014, including a 27-9 record and a victory over Duke in the 2014 NCAA tournament. This earned the team an ESPY award in the “best upset” category. The school also revived its football program after a 75 year absence in 2013 and had a winning record in its inaugural season. Mercer competes in the Division I Southern Conference, which includes schools such as The Citadel, VMI, Samford University and the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. All of the Bear teams athletic facilities are located on a beautiful campus looking over downtown Macon.
The Bears soccer team plays at the Bear Field, which has a capacity of 500 in its bleachers, with fans welcome to bring lawn chairs, etc. to sit along the sidelines. The field is enclosed and lighted, with a grass field replacing artificial turf in 2009. The entry gate to the field features a wrought iron gate, mimicking the architecture found throughout the campus. Bear Field has been very friendly to the home team, as the soccer team has won 75% of its home games since 2010.
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The food and beverage offerings inside Bear Field are pretty basic with hot dogs ($5), popcorn ($3.25), burgers ($5.50), and water ($3.50). My recommendation is that you arrive early (games are usually at night to beat the heat), park your car and stroll across the street to Mercer Village. This brand new development offers a variety of good restaurants. Once you are full, you can then head over to the Bear Field and enjoy the remainder of your evening.
Expect a friendly, laid back atmosphere at Mercer soccer games. This is a small school where everybody knows everybody, and you'll soon forget you are a visitor. Also, with Mercer being in the Southern Conference, many of the visiting teams are located on campuses just a couple of hours away, and it sometimes feels like a high school reunion with former classmates getting together. Fans are quick to give you recommendations on where to eat. The local clubs in the area are very proud of their school. Don't expect much cussing either. Mercer has a Baptist Church heritage, although the school is now independent of the denomination.
A majority of the Bears soccer games are held in the evening, but you'll want to arrive early to visit the lovely campus and surrounding neighborhood. Mercer is located in the College Hill neighborhood of Macon, an area highly sought by families due to its canopy of old oaks standing in front of Victorian mansions, and walkable lifestyle.
The centerpiece of the neighborhood is Mercer Village (known by students as Bear Square) which is located across the street from the campus. Here you will find everything you need for an enjoyable evening... numerous restaurants, the campus bookstore (where you can pick up the latest in Bear-wear) and shops ranging from bike stores to the neighborhood coffee stand. Restaurants include Ingleside Village Pizza, Francar's Buffalo Wings and the Bear's Den. Don't expect chains in this neighborhood.. a majority of the shops and restaurants are owned by locals and Mercer grads.
If you are in town on a Saturday there will often be a festival or concert going on in the adjacent Tattnall Park.
Mercer has a long history as a basketball power and everyone is very excited that football has returned to the campus after a 70 year absence. That being said, the fans at the soccer games are also energetic. They have several clever bear-themed cheers and are very knowledgeable about the game. The fans around me on this occasion were parents of the players from both teams and they watched the game intently. It is certainly helpful to have a quality product on the field as Mercer has an excellent soccer history, especially when playing home games at Bear Field.
The Mercer campus is easily accessed via either I-75 or I-475. Parking in the athletics complex area is free of charge. Signs leading to the various sports facilities dot the campus and are well marked. The Bear Field stands are metal bleachers with no backs, so you may want to bring a stadium cushion or stadium chair with you to the game. Fans are allowed to bring in lawn chairs, as the bleachers are often full. Restroom access is limited to one bathroom each, which may lead to some long lines, so plan ahead.
A visit to a Mercer soccer game is not going to break the bank. Admission to the game is only $5, parking is free and the concession prices are reasonable. Even factoring in dinner at a restaurant in Mercer Village you can have a fun evening at a family-friendly price. If you are from the Atlanta area or making a day trip to Macon, it's close enough to Atlanta that you do not have to factor in an overnight stay. If you do stay overnight, lodging in the area is plentiful along I-75 (3 miles from campus) and rates are much cheaper than in the Atlanta area for a comparable room (expect $75-$80 per night).
Many people do not realize the musical heritage of Macon in both rock and roll music and the blues. Little Richard, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band all grew up and started their careers in Macon. There are a number of historic markers, statues and museums saluting these musicians within a two mile radius of the campus.
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2395 Ingleside Ave
Macon, GA 31204
1365 Linden Ave
Macon, GA 31204
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