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Official Review by Garry Griffith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
You can almost hear the roar of the surf and smell the ocean from Brooks Stadium, home for Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers (pronounced SHON-ti-clear). Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the east coast, and a quick glance of the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will list copious accolades garnered by Myrtle Beach: From its affordability, to being consistently rated as one of the best family beaches, to the notoriety given to the approximately 100 golf courses. Indeed, Myrtle Beach has something for everyone, including the college football fan. Travel twelve miles from the Atlantic Ocean and you will find Coastal Carolina University, a dynamic, flourishing academic institution where during the fall months you can watch the Chanticleers play football at Brooks Stadium. Coastal Carolina University plays in the Big South Conference. A trip to Myrtle Beach during the college football season will be complimented by attending a game at Brooks 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".
Attending any sporting event without partaking of the venue's cuisine is simply unacceptable. Suspending dietary restraint is expected and is part of the fabric of a sporting event. Although Brooks Stadium does not offer exotic foods or snacks, there is plenty of sports ambrosia to satisfy any fan's desire. Beneath the home stands on the main concourse is "The Roost." There, you will find your staple of stadium food offerings ranging from a barbeque sandwich (one of the major food groups in the South) for $5.00 to popcorn at $3.00. Bottled water costs $3.00. Stroll 50 feet from The Roost and you can partake of a Chick-fil-A sandwich for $4.25. There is also Papa John's Pizza for $5.00 a slice. For those who do not demonstrate dietary discipline at the game, pacify your conscience at Sweet Frog 'Premium' Frozen Yogurt for $4.00 (toppings cost extra).
In brief, for a mid-level university, the game-day atmosphere at Brooks Stadium is outstanding. Reflecting its southern surroundings, the pre-game activities, such as tailgating, is relaxed and genteel. On the particular day I attended a game, the university college band was entertaining the folks outside the stadium. Then, some of the CCU cheerleaders formed a horseshoe-shaped circle and provided encouragement and a show for the people entering the game. There was a gigantic CCU blowup football helmet not far from the main entrance to the stadium - certainly noticeable from a distance.
I would be remiss not to note the spacious, clean restrooms at Brooks Stadium. Of course, my firsthand knowledge applies only to the men's restrooms, but I am confident it also applies to the women's restrooms.
One more item worth noting is the Adkins Field House in the north end zone of Brooks Stadium. Added prior to the 2011 season, it houses sports offices, weight room, and additional seating for fans who choose to sit in the end zone.
Brooks Stadium is on the campus so the "neighborhood" is the school. Actually, the football stadium sits within a sports complex that includes Watson Stadium/Voorman Field baseball stadium and the Coastal Carolina University softball stadium. The baseball stadium is being renovated and Coastal Carolina will have a new baseball stadium by 2014 (they will play their baseball games at the minor league Pelicans Ballpark during their 2012 season.). Once the baseball stadium renovation is complete, it will be a very compact sports complex that, coupled, with Brooks Stadium, will further add to the aesthetic environment on Coastal's campus.
Once the game is over, there are restaurants within a couple of miles of the stadium, along South Carolina Highway 544 and U.S. Route 501. Also, keep in mind, that Myrtle Beach is approximately twelve miles to the east and has an abundance of restaurants and other forms of entertainment. Conway is only about three miles to the west and it is worth your time to stop and visit the Crafty Rooster restaurant in downtown Conway.
Fans are supportive and jovial. Outside the stadium, the obligatory tailgating is evidenced by the abundance of food, beverage, and games. The tailgating geography fits the stadium: Not massive, like some college atmospheres, but small and enthusiastic.
As I strolled towards the main entrance, I noticed tents emblazoned with "Coastal Carolina University," music filling the air, and food aplenty. I got the feeling I could have drifted into any pre-game crowd and been welcomed as a fellow CCU sports fan. Inside the stadium, the crowd is a nice mixture of students and locals, united in cheering for the Chanticleers.
Brooks Stadium is on SC 544 and is very accessible to US 501. These highways parallel each other with the stadium in between them. Both of these roads will take you east into Myrtle Beach or west into Conway and points beyond.
Depending on one's perspective, parking may or may not be a problem. You may have to park on the opposite side of the campus, but the campus is not that large. Thus, it is all dependent upon your definition of "far." That is the only reason I give three stars for this category. Access to every other amenity is great. The main course is spacious and the stadium allows for easy movement from one side to the other.
A football ticket at Brooks Stadium is competitive with other venues of comparable size. Prices for individual games range from $20.00 for the Bronze, to $10.00 for youth 18 and under. They also have a "Mini Pack" ticket plan costing $30.00 for adults and $20.00 for youth 18 and under. Of course, full season tickets are available, but only for next season!
With a name like "Chanticleer," one should purchase some Chanticleer paraphernalia. There is a very accessible souvenir shop at the main entrance to the stadium. Baseball style caps range from $16.00 to $24.00, t-shirts for $18.00, and sweatshirts for $48.00.
Let me list them:
1. The radio announcers - Matt Hogue, Layne Harris, and Joe Cashion.
Hogue is the play-by-play announcer and anchors the broadcast. He is articulate, smart, and as solid of a wordsmith as you find on any sports broadcast. He excels at his craft because he does not place himself as the center of attention. Coastal Carolina fans are fortunate to have Matt Hogue and any aspiring sports announcer would benefit from listening to his broadcasts. Harris is the color commentator and is a nice blend of laid-back reflection with just the right amount of excitement at the opportune juncture. Cashion is the sideline announcer and is the embodiment of steadfastness and dependability. A recommendation here: bring your radios to listen to the broadcasts.
2. Very efficient game-day employees.
3. Weather. You don't really have to worry about cold weather until after Christmas.
4. Location, location, location. "Are you kidding?" As I mentioned, Brooks Stadium is adjacent to SC 544 and just a couple of blocks off of US 501. It is worth repeating that Coastal Carolina University is very close to Myrtle Beach or Conway. Here is a perfect combination: catch some rays, dine at your chosen restaurant, swim in the ocean, and then attend a college football game - all in close proximity to Brooks Stadium.
5. "What is a Chanticleer? According to the CCU athletic page, under the heading, "Fan Zone": "A Chanticleer is a proud and fierce rooster who dominates the barnyard." The origin of a Chanticleer is from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
I have three final thoughts. First, look for the unexpected in the obvious of life. What is obvious along the coast of South Carolina? That is easy. It is Myrtle Beach, of course. What you might not expect or know is that there is a great university nearby with a beautiful football stadium and it is yours for your enjoyment. Second, growth is usually a positive indicator in the right direction. Coastal Carolina University is headed in the right direction both in its academic and sports' vision. Third, did I mention location?
I'll see you at the stadium.
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