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Official Review by Justin Sutton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The home of Florida A&M football has come a long way since the first days of the Rattler program. Originally playing in a cow pasture, the football squad moved their games to a grass field before Bragg Memorial Stadium was built in 1957.
Named in honor of Jubie Bragg, one of the first athletic directors for the school, and his son Eugene Bragg, an All-American and coach for the Rattlers, the stadium has undergone many renovations over time to provide a suitable home for Florida A&M football.
The capacity of the stadium expanded from its original 13,200 to 25,500 in the 1980s when the Florida Legislature earmarked funds to update and repair the facility that had been condemned by state engineers.
While the crowds have not quite reached that level in recent years, the pride of those who support Rattler football at Bragg Memorial Stadium cannot be denied.
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".
When going to any sporting event, one can expect to buy fairly average food for an above average price. The same holds true for games at Bragg Memorial Stadium. The usual game day fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, soda, peanuts, a variety of candy and other snacks are available for fans.
Fans swinging by the concession stands will notice that the workers are often quite friendly and the lines move quickly, allowing patrons to hit the concession stand and not miss much of the action.
With a capacity of 25,500, the Rattlers often play home games in front of a crowd half of that size. Historically, this atmosphere has proven to provide one of the most difficult places for opposing teams to play in HBCU football. Rattler fans have a great amount of pride about their team, and they do not mind showing it all game long.
Also adding to the atmosphere of the game has been the return of the Florida A&M band. A few years ago, a hazing incident led to the suspension of the Marching 100, but the band made its return at the start of the 2013 season. Highly acclaimed for their abilities, the band adds to the environment of the game.
The Florida capital of Tallahassee offers many different things to the fans who attend a game within its confines, but one thing that it does not offer is an area dedicated to the sports in its city.
Fans wanting to spend the night before or after the game near the stadium can choose from a variety of hotels from within one or two miles of Bragg Memorial Stadium. This includes the Governors Inn, which allows residents to take a bit of a break from the usual type of chain hotels.
Fans looking for a bar in the area should swing by Tomahawks for the pre-game or post-game trip. While Tallahassee may not be a dream destination for a sporting weekend, the city is only about 40 miles from the beaches of Bald Point State Park to the south and only two hours from Panama City which would allow fans an opportunity to make a beach weekend out of a home game.
Florida A&M has many diehard fans that support the Rattlers no matter the sport. These fans will show up at the game wearing green and orange, and they will be ready to support their team from before the kick until well after the game.
The return of the Marching 100 has only added to the excitement of the fans.
However, the only disappointment has come in the number of fans attending games. Many times, the Rattlers are playing in front of a half-full stadium. This detracts from the overall experience, but the fans in attendance keep the game lively.
Travel to Tallahassee will prove to be easy for most fans coming to the game. In order to get to Bragg Memorial Stadium, fans will be able to take Interstate 10 or U.S. Highways to Tallahassee.
Fans travelling from the east will turn off at exit 209 and follow US 90 to the stadium, and those travelling from the west will turn off at exit 192 and follow US 90 to the stadium.
One thing that has proven to be a hassle in 2013 has been the cost and convenience of parking. Fans who purchased season parking passes in 2012 saw the cost of their parking double in 2013 to continue parking near the stadium.
Fans without parking passes can expect to walk about a mile or so to the stadium to avoid fairly high parking prices.
How one feels about their investment in tickets and travel to a Florida A&M football game will largely depend on the expectations they have for a college football game. If the expectations are for 50,000 or more screaming fans with top notch talent on the field, the game will seem like a waste of time and money.
However, if one is interested in seeing a game in front of fans that have great pride in their team and watching players that have talent, that fan would walk away feeling good about the investment that was made.
For the 2013 season, season tickets could be purchased for $85. Individual tickets for games cost $30 for reserved seats and $25 for general admission. A family four-pack could be had for $60, and youth tickets can be purchased for $10.
In all, being able to get your family in and out of a football game, including parking, and concessions, for about $100 makes for a pretty good deal.
The administration that oversees game days at Bragg Memorial Stadium has proven willing to put the good of the fans over the dollar on occasion. For the Rattlers' game against Samford in September, fans were allowed to bring an unopened drink into the game and misting stations were set up around the stadium as were complimentary cups of ice.
The Marching 100 adds to the game day atmosphere unlike many bands can. Having this group back has been a tremendous boost for the fans, and hopefully the tragedy surrounding their hazing incident can teach a lesson for many.
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