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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
Valparaiso University has a long football tradition, dating back to 1919 when Brown Field hosted its first game. Unfortunately, the program has seen little success over the years. The pinnacle of the team’s history came with a perfect 9-0 season in 1951 where they won their first Indiana Collegiate Conference Championship. The Crusaders also won that conference in 1952, 1954, 1964, 1968, and 1969.
Since then, there has been little for the Valpo faithful to cheer about at Brown Field, including zero win seasons in 1988, 1989, and 2010. Valparaiso joined the Pioneer Football League in 1993, and won the League Championship in 2000 and 2003.
Brown Field has been the only home of the Crusaders football program over the years. Named for former Valparaiso President Henry Baker Brown (President from 1873-1917), the current facility is certainly functional, but there is little to excite visiting fans.
Field Turf was installed in 2008, and the field has lines on the playing surface for use for both football and soccer as needed. A track outlines the field, creating some distance for the fans in the stands.
Overall, this is a comfortable place to see a game, but not overly memorable, despite being the home of Valparaiso Crusaders football for nearly a century.
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".
You will probably want to grab a bite to eat before or after the game as the selection at Brown Field is rater limited, and the quality I experienced was less than great. Variations on hot dogs and nachos are the main fare here. Hot dogs ($2), chili cheese dogs ($3), nachos ($2), and loaded nachos ($4) are the heart of the menu. Snacks go for $1 and include popcorn, candy, chips, and cookies. I tried the chili cheese dog and wasn't able to finish it.
Drinks include 20-ounce Pepsi products ($2), Gatorade ($2), and water ($1.50). I was surprised that coffee and cocoa were not offered, but I was at a warm September game, so perhaps that is available as the weather turns colder. Brown Field is on campus so no alcohol is available for sale.
I did see several fans bringing in food from fast food joints, so that may be a way to go as well.
The team arrives from the nearby Athletics-Recreation Center, home of the Valpo basketball team, and after a brief pep talk from the coach, head on to the field through an inflatable tunnel and a cloud of smoke. A cannon is fired when the team enters, and after every score to help excite the crowd.
Most of the Valparaiso fans sit in the stands along the Valparaiso sideline. If it is a warm afternoon game, this is also where you will find the most shade, and the best seats are probably section C, below the press box so you have a view at the 50 yard line. In reality though, this is a small enough venue that you will have good perspective on the game wherever you choose to sit. This main stand stretches from the 10 yard line in each direction with the band taking up residence in section A.
Across the field, a smaller set of bleachers stretches between the 20 yard lines and is typically where you will find the opposition's fans. The bleachers offer pretty good leg room, and are reasonably comfortable.
Behind each end zone there are also a few more bleachers which may offer an interesting perspective on the game. This is where you will be closest to the field, so if the action is coming your way, it may be a good way to go. I did see a few fans bring in their own chairs to watch the game at field level behind the end zones.
The scoreboard looks fairly new, but only provides the very basic information of the game.
During my visit, the small pep band was augmented by a local high school band, which added to the overall atmosphere. The group was energetic, although a bit sloppy, and played as much as they could during down times or after big plays. The cheerleaders, with 20 or so members, also do their part to raise the crowd's spirit.
Valparaiso University has an enrollment of just under 4,000, and it really is a beautiful little campus, and worth strolling through if you have the time. The downtown strip of Lincolnway Avenue has several bars and restaurants, as well as shopping to choose from. My recommendation would be to stop into Pikk's Tavern. They have great food and a good drink selection, including a few local beers. I go for the Scotch Egg, a perfect little late breakfast before a football game.
Within walking distance from Brown Field is Gabriella's Restaurant. It's an eclectic mix of Mexican, Italian, and American cuisine with very friendly service. They also have a great outdoor seating area for the early season games, or a warm autumn day. I tried the Valpo wings during my recent visit, and though they were pretty good. They also serve some chips and salsa to your table when you arrive.
The extremely small student section camped out behind one of the end zones. Despite their size, they were an energetic bunch, with chests painted to collectively read "Go Valpo." After a Crusaders score, the group lifted one of their comrades and lifted him into the air once for each point on the board.
The main seating area was almost entirely full for my visit, and my understanding is that this is a pretty common scene. It is nice to see that despite the lack of success by the program, that suppoirters still come out to see their team.
The tailgating scene is very modest around Brown Field. The tennis courts along University Park Avenue seem to be the most popular place for people to congregate. The good news is that you have plenty of space to set up your tailgating area.
If you're going to a Valparaiso football game you will no doubt be driving. Parking will cost you $5 and will get you a spot right next to the stadium. If you're not tailgating, and don't mind walking a couple of blocks, then you can certainly find street parking for free. It's a good way to stretch your legs and see the campus a bit. If you're a bit more ambitious, park in downtown and walk to the game, and it is about a mile hike.
The signs for Brown Field are almost non-existent as you drive around the campus, so if you have trouble finding your way, look for signs for the Athletics-Recreation Center (commonly known as the ARC), and you should be able to find your way.
It's easy enough to move about once you're inside the grounds of Brown Field. One major downside is there is not a restroom within the football stadium. The school does offer a couple of port-a-potties, but if you would like something a little nicer, you'll have to walk inside the Athletics-Recreation Center next door. It's a good chance to see the basketball facility, but a bit of an inconvenience.
Tickets are $10 each and are all general admission seating. Valparaiso students, faculty, and staff are all free to enter with an ID card. Children under the age of 10 are also free. The prices are not out of hand by any stretch with $5 parking and low priced concessions, but for the overall quality of what you will see at a Valparaiso football game, I found the price to not be worth the overall return. More interaction by the mascot, reduced parking prices, a more interesting concession menu, and just an overall better product on the field could all lead to improvements in this category.
The team's entrance to the field was probably the highlight of the experience. Fans can easily make their way down near the tunnel and hear the coach's parting words to the squad and cheer on the Crusaders team as they enter the field.
The Victory Bell, unveiled in 1956 and located nearby Brown Field, is rung after every Valparaiso victory.
If you're only going to make one trip to Valparaiso for an athletics event, then basketball would be the way to go. But if you find yourself in Northwest Indiana on a Saturday afternoon in the Fall, then consider making a trip to Brown Field. This program should continue to get better and hopefully the overall experience will rise with the team.
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454 Greenwich St
Valparaiso, IN 46383
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2020 Laporte Ave
Valparaiso, IN 46383