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Official Review by Ethan Grant, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Eat ‘em up, Eat ‘em up, go Cats go!
In San Marcos, Texas you’ll hear this chant every time the Texas State Bobcats get a first down, or make a big play.
An FBS school in 2012 for the first time in the history of the program, the Bobcats play their games on Jim Wacker Field at Bobcat Stadium and have since 1981.
The stadium now seats over 30,000 people after enclosing the structure to a horseshoe design before the 2012 season, the last in a line of scheduled renovations that began in 2008.
Home to camera crews from the hit movie “The Ringer” and the television show “Friday Night Lights”, this San Marcos landmark can even be seen from your car as you pass through the town on Interstate Highway 35.
Named after the legendary coach that guided the team to two national championships in the 1980s when the school was known as Southwest Texas State, the stadium is the crown jewel of the school’s move from FCS competition to FBS play, and is a bright spot in the future of the athletic program.
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".
If not for the tailgaters putting smoke in the air, the food would be quite below average. Tailgaters line the designated areas and come from all walks of life; many are fraternity and sorority houses.
Most people are friendly and will let you interact with their area, as long as you put on a happy face and are cheering for Texas State. I wouldn't recommend showing up to a tailgater zone in a rival t-shirt, but if you're there for a good time it's a great experience to show up early.
Inside, the prices are mostly what you would expect from a stadium venue. After halftime, it took a considerable amount of time to get a bottle of water and bag of popcorn, which would suggest the planning didn't take into account the spike in attendance.
There are no beer sales, which is a major bummer for fans and alumni of a school that's been known to throw a few back, but not unexpected for a college football stadium.
In the new area of the stadium, Hays County BBQ, a local eatery, is a great spot to get a sandwich and bag of chips. Marble Slab Creamery also has a spot, and a great place to take the kids before you head home for the evening.
When the game begins, the crowd is rocking and people are excited to participate in the atmosphere, which makes for a good experience. The Texas heat certainly is in play, though, and the student section on the East side of the stadium is directly in the sun.
The West side, or season ticket side, however, is in the shade around 5:00 p.m. and has padded seats in the lower level section.
Although there aren't many skyline settings, the new replay boards are efficient and the shine of the new renovations make this an enjoyable setting.
In terms of location, there isn't a better place than Aquarena Drive, the street on which the stadium is located.
The San Marcos river is within walking distance of the two major parking lots, the campus is just a few more yards away and the downtown bar scene is easily accessible by car once the game is over.
Simply put, you can make the game an all-day experience in the city of San Marcos. From historic restaurants like Gil's Broiler, home of President Lyndon Baines Johnson's favorite Manske Roll, to taking in a night music show at Cheatham Street Warehouse, everything is within sight both before and after the game.
The location of the stadium is perfect for what the city has to offer, and helps make it a great Saturday spot if football isn't the only family activity you want to accomplish.
The fans are rowdy and active at kickoff, but by the second half many have exited and gone on with their night. Against Nevada in 2012, there weren't more than 15,000 fans in the stands by the fourth quarter, a disappointing stat considering the game was still close and they are now a rival WAC school.
Loud and obnoxious, fans are more concerned with insulting opposing players than cheering for their team on third down.
Calls for position changes are prevalent in the stands, and the fans here seem to be waiting for that one good season before really selling out for the team and program.
The tailgating takes away from parking, and although the school has limited areas in which tailgating is allowed to loosen up parking spots, it's still somewhat of a challenge to find a good spot close to game time.
Aquarena Drive is also crowded both before and after game time, since a railroad runs right near the stadium, you can never tell when things will get worse.
Tickets are free for students with a swipe of their student ID, and only range from $15-$25 on the shady side of the stadium for other fans.
For a day in San Marcos, that's not a bad price. For a whole family, it might hit the pocketbook a little heavier. The team hasn't had a great amount of success yet, but it's still a nice environment with the new additions to the stadium, and a place with enough local history to warrant a trip to see the team play FBS football.
The Texas State Strutters are high-class dance team performers, and the band is also in full force at home games.
Getting to see Dennis Franchione back in action is a plus, but aside from that there isn't much going on at Jim Wacker Field that you can't find at another stadium.
The team and the stadium are a work in progress. The move from the ranks of the FCS to the WAC has given the school some credibility, along with a stadium capacity that looks more like a big-time school.
The city has plenty to offer once the game is over, though, so if you are looking for football to accompany your Saturday rather than overtake it, San Marcos is a great place to spend a football weekend.
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119 Cheatham St
San Marcos, TX 78666
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