If you have never attended a football game at Michie Stadium, please go ahead and put this on your bucket list of football stadiums that you have to visit at least once in your lifetime. If you don’t want to take my word for it, perhaps you will consider the rankings conducted by Sports Illustrated.
Sports Illustrated posted their top 20 Sports Venues of the 20th Century (6/7/1999) and the top five on their list were Yankee Stadium, Augusta National, Michie Stadium, Cameron Indoor Stadium and Bislett Stadium.
In July of 2007, Sports Illustrated came out with another list, this time ranking the Top 10 College Venues for all sports. Here are the top seven from that list: Rose Bowl, Cameron Indoor Stadium, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Michigan Stadium, Rosenblatt Stadium, The Palestra and Michie Stadium. These lists place Michie Stadium in some very heady company.
This review can be construed as part-football stadium review, and part history lesson, because when it comes to Army Football and the West Point Academy the two parts are intertwined.
West Point Academy was founded in 1802, and the Army football program was started up by Dennis Michie in 1892, which is who the stadium is named after. Michie organized the first Army football team and served as the initial captain of the team.
In 1999, the stadium also added Blaik Field to the name of the complex, in recognition of Earl “Red” Blaik, who was the head coach at West Point when they won two national titles in 1944 and 1945.
Michie Stadium was constructed in 1924 and has served as home to the Army Black Knights football team ever since. Seating capacity is 38,000 and the stadium overlooks Lusk Reservoir. The stadium is located on the West Point Academy campus, which is a sprawling complex of 15,974 acres.
In conducting research for this review, I came across two quotes regarding Michie Stadium that I felt were appropriate to share. The first quote comes from The Sporting News in an article entitled “Every Saturday in Autumn, College Football’s Greatest Traditions”:
“It doesn’t take long to figure out that West Point is a special place. Statues attest to the extraordinary people who lived, studied and trained there. Historic landmarks recall powerful events that are rooted in its red-brown New York soil. Cannons are everywhere, as are memorials and special tributes to heroic men who fought in not-forgotten wars. It’s an elegant setting for a football program that also is steeped in tradition. Fans still flock to see venerable Michie Stadium to experience an atmosphere and pageantry that only West Point can supply.”
The second quote originated from a story by Joe Connor for NBC Sports.com:
“On the banks of the Hudson River, overlooking Bear Mountain and the medieval-style campus, Michie Stadium, at Army in West Point, N.Y., is absolutely breathtaking on a crisp, fall-foliage afternoon. No parade matches that of the Corps of Cadets as it winds its way through campus –itself a living history museum of America—before entering the stadium that opened in 1924, as a precision parachute team lands at midfield from the skies above, with U.S. flag and game ball in tow.”
I believe these quotes very well sum up some of the feelings that I have felt from my visits to Michie Stadium over the years. I have been attending football games at Michie Stadium since 2007, so I have a very good feel for the stadium.
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".
As far as the food and beverage at the stadium goes, it is your standard American stadium fare. You can find everything from hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, popcorn, peanuts, Cracker Jacks, cotton candy, potato chips, and candy bars. For drinks, they sell coffee, hot chocolate, vitamin water and bottled water. Alcohol is not for sale in the venue.
While the menu may seem a bit limited, the biggest thing I observed was the amount of tailgating that went on both before the game, and after the contest. Tents were set up all around Buffalo Soldier Field (the parking lot that I was directed to) for tailgating. After the game, I noticed that there were various tailgating tents set up by parents from different states across the country, where parents of the cadets would gather to enjoy food and beverages that brought them a taste of home cooked meals.
As for atmosphere, you can't beat the West Point experience. After every Army score, there is a cannon that is fired off from the other side of Lusk Reservoir. Cadets and the Army cheerleaders get down on the field and start cranking out pushups. The higher the score, the more pushups they do.
Prior to the game, the cadets conduct a military parade on campus that is a spectacle to behold. If you are able to come early enough to attend the parade, you are certain to be filled with tons of patriotic pride. You can't help but get choked up observing the finest young men and women that our country has to offer.
Besides the parade, you will note the cadets that gather together for the game. They stand through the entire first half and then after halftime will stand for the entire second half. You might see anything from planes flying overhead to the Cadet Parachute Team dropping down at midfield with the game ball in hand.
If you have time to spend before or after the game, you will find a fascinating museum that contains the history of the United States Army from old uniforms, weapons and other interesting historical references. It is the largest museum for Army related material in the country.
If you are planning to arrive the day before the game, it is highly advisable to take a guided bus tour, as that is the best way to see the campus and be allowed access to areas that you wouldn't otherwise be able to see on your own.
While the town of West Point is rather small and quaint, the real attraction here is the West Point Academy campus. All of the statues around campus and the views of the Hudson River from various points of the campus are another aspect of the visit to Michie Stadium that sets this venue apart from the rest.
Regarding places to eat outside of town, there are restaurants in surrounding towns, such as; Cathryn's Tuscan Grill in Cold Springs, The Stadium Restaurant and Museum in Garrison, Highland Falls Market in Highland Falls, The Park Restaurant in Highland Falls and Loughran's Irish Pub in Solisbury Mills.
If you are planning an overnight visit, local places to stay range from Crowne Plaza Hotel in Suffern, the Ramada in Fishkill and Newburgh, Fairfield Inn in Spring Valley, Homewood Suites in New Windsor, Holiday Inn in Middletown, and Catlin Gardens in Slate Hill.
The fans here range from the cadets, their parents, family members, boyfriends and girlfriends, local football fans, and the traveling fans from the visiting team. While the cadets section is the largest contingent, (at least 4,000 strong), you will see various alumni sitting around the stadium to enjoy the game.
There are a number of unique things that occur during the game, that involve the crowd.
The Army football team will gather with the opposing football team to honor the Alma Mater song for both teams in front of their student body. It is a show of mutual respect and brotherhood after the hard-fought contest. Army obviously wishes to sing their fight song second, which means that they won the game. Along that line, the Army's motto in 2011 was "Stay Together, Sing Second".
As you walk around the stadium and see the faces of these young men and women dressed in camouflage, you have to admire them for their bravery and courage. To think that these 18 to 22 year-olds are prepared to sacrifice themselves for our country in the line of battle is an amazing thing to observe. It makes you very proud and very humble at the same time. Five stars indeed.
I will assign four stars for access because of the unique nature of what the West Point Academy is all about. Ever since the tragedy of 9/11, you can only imagine that security for the campus would be extremely tight. If you decide to drive directly to the campus, you will need to provide the military police with your ID, and you may be asked to show proof of insurance or your car registration. Your vehicle may be subject to search, and the vehicle may also be swept for weapons. There is no such thing as being too careful when it comes to protecting the health and welfare of the country's future leaders.
As a result, when you drive to Michie Stadium, you will be asked to park quite a distance from the field. From your parking lot, you will then board a commuter bus that takes you close to the venue. After you are dropped off, you will need to walk up a fairly steep hill to arrive at the stadium. If you need assistance in walking, be prepared to bring whatever things you need to assist, as the hill is quite steep and will tax you if you are not in shape.
Once you arrive at the stadium, you will then go through a security check point, where you will be physically searched. While some people might consider all of these steps a hassle, I consider it a minor inconvenience compared to the sacrifices that the West Point cadets willingly accept.
As your game day experience continues, you will find yourself in awe of the venue, and the qualities of the cadets that fill the stands. You will come to understand that our country is in great hands with these future leaders and you will be richer for the experience.
Tickets for individual games are priced anywhere from a low of $32 to a high of $75, depending on the opponent. Season ticket packages begin at $147, and there are also three and four-game ticket packages available. Group tickets are also available for groups of 25 people or more.
Children two years of age or older are required to purchase a ticket. There are seats and tickets available for handicapped and wheelchair seating.
For the more popular games, such as Boston College and Air Force, they are close to sell outs, so you are advised to get your tickets well in advance. If you wait until the week of the game, the only seats left are probably going to have a limited view of the field, so buy your tickets early.
For more information on tickets or parking prices, you can go to the Army athletics website or call them at 1-877-TIX-ARMY.
From the guided bus tours, to all of the history of our country that is associated with the venue, there is nothing else that comes to mind that is quite like West Point Academy. President of the United States and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower and General of the Army Omar Bradley were on the 1912 Army football team. Three players from Army have won the Heisman Trophy: Doc Blanchard (1945), Glenn Davis (1946), and Pete Dawkins (1958).
We will end our review with a couple of quotes from the Army Football Team entry of Wikipedia
General of the Army George C. Marshall Chief of Staff during World War II said, "I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point football player."
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur wrote, "Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory."
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