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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Brown Stadium, originally named Brown University Field, opened in 1925 in Providence, Rhode Island. It currently serves as the home of the Brown University Bears men’s football and track teams. The stadium, which seats 20,000, consists of aluminum bleachers without seat backs throughout and is located about a mile off campus in the residential East Side neighborhood of Providence. Brown Stadium consists of a large trapezoid-shaped concrete grandstand on the southwest side of the football field, along with a smaller concrete stands on the northeast side of the field. The football field is encircled by a track, and the pits used for the field events are located beyond the northwest end zone.
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There is no concourse to speak of at Brown University Stadium. Even though the stadium was refurbished in 1978, there are few permanent concession stands in the Stadium. Instead, local establishments set up portable stands to serve patrons. The offerings do not stray far from your standard ballpark fare, with sausage and pepper subs ($7), hamburgers ($5) and hot dogs ($3) anchoring the menu. Student-run concession stands offer snacks such as sodas ($2), assorted candies ($2), popcorn ($3), and cotton candy ($3). Lines are not an issue, even at halftime. In addition, there is a table set up offering various Brown University items such as t-shirts and sweatshirts for sale.
Despite the small size of the crowd during my most recent visit, there was a positive buzz in the stands. Whether this was due to it being opening day, or due to the home team's 41-7 victory can be debated, but the fans who were present were knowledgeable about the game and part of the action.
The overall atmosphere of the stadium can be described as laid-back, as the Ivy League prides itself on the ideal of the student-athlete. The pressure of big-time college athletics are nowhere to be seen here, and the results on the field almost seem secondary to friends and families getting together for an afternoon out. While this kind of atmosphere may seem blasphemous to some, to others it is the very essence of sport.
There is a small parking lot directly adjacent to the stadium in which tailgating is allowed, provided that partying be done in moderation. As I walked through the parking lot, this did not seem to be an issue at all. Fans who attend Brown Bears games are more interested in a laid-back, fun afternoon at the game than getting drunk and rowdy.
Brown Stadium is located about a mile away from the main university campus in the affluent East Side neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island. The immediate area around the stadium is a residential area, with a few businesses scattered around. The East Side is known for its quaint old-school charm away from the bustle of the downtown area.
Providence has a well-earned reputation as one of the best cities in the country for culinary options, and there are several wonderful options for those looking for top-notch food around the Brown University campus.
Under a half-mile to the west of Brown Stadium is Hope Street, which has several dining options for the hungry football fan. The Ivy Tavern consistently ranks among the top places in Providence for burgers. For those desiring a more upscale dining experience, the Pizzico Ristorante offers excellent Italian fare.
For those desiring a more traditional college experience, the Brown University campus is located a mile away, and Thayer Street is well known for its collection of shops and restaurants. Downtown Providence is located two and one half miles away, with a wide variety of great restaurants that would rival many larger cities.
I attended Brown's 2013 season opener against Georgetown University. Brown traditionally opened their season against an Ivy League opponent, but this tradition has been discontinued. Attendance varies widely at Brown games, with games against conference or geographic rivals drawing far better. Crowds in excess of 15,000 are not uncommon for traditional rivals such as Harvard. Unfortunately, despite this game being played on a postcard perfect fall day, it drew only about 3,000 fans. Another disappointing factor was the almost complete lack of any student attendance. Shuttle buses are available to bring students from the main campus to Brown Stadium, but there were few students in attendance on this day, despite a free t-shirt giveaway. I heard more than one student state that once they got their t-shirt, they were leaving. With Brown holding a more than comfortable 31-0 halftime lead, the majority of the students that were at the game departed.
The majority of the fans at Brown Stadium on this day were a mix of alumni and locals enjoying a beautiful fall day at the game. The low-key atmosphere at Brown Stadium makes it a nice place for both families and seniors to enjoy some Division I football without the pressure and crowd that goes along with the bigger programs.
Brown Stadium is located a mile away from the main university campus on the East Side of Providence. Like most stadiums built before the highway craze, no thought was made about access to and from the stadium. Simply put, there is no direct way to get to or from Brown Stadium. If driving, one must navigate neighborhood streets before arriving at the stadium. Luckily, traffic is not usually a problem on Saturday afternoons. Shuttles are available from the main campus, and RIPTA busses run regularly to Hope Street, which is a short walk to the stadium. Parking is plentiful in the area around the stadium, with lots located directly adjacent to the stadium as well as behind a junior high school across the street. Adventurous fans should have no difficulty on most days finding on street parking within a mile of the stadium.
Tickets for Brown University football games can be had for $15, which is a middle of the pack price for New England college games. There is a parking lot next to the stadium offering spots for $20. Resourceful fans can easily find free parking in the area around the stadium without walking more than a few blocks, so avoid the large parking price tag and keep looking.
Concessions are reasonably priced, and while not incredibly varied, are well worth the money.
Anyone in need of an aerobic workout can do worse than to climb the stairs at Brown Stadium, which consist of a lung-shattering 72 rows at the apex of its unique trapezoidal grandstand. While most fans congregate on the lower levels of the grandstand, some hardy souls climb the stairs to get a bird's eye view of the action.
Brown is proud of their history as part of the Ivy League, with photos and flags commemorating their various championship teams present throughout. Players who have received League MVP honors as well as those who have continued on to professional careers are conspicuous as well.
Bonus points for the old bell in the end zone that is rung after every Bears score.
Anyone looking for big-time college athletics should not venture to Providence to see the Brown Bears. In fact, with a few exceptions, there are no schools anywhere in New England that meet (or desire to meet) this criteria. For those looking to spend a fall afternoon at a historic old-school stadium with tradition everywhere and a low-key atmosphere in which to enjoy a good football game, Brown Stadium is the place for you.
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11 Dorrance St
Providence, RI 02903
1 Orms St
Providence, RI 02904