They have been playing football at the University of Alabama for over 118 years, but it was almost four decades before Alabama began playing their football at what is now known as Bryant-Denny Stadium. In the beginning Alabama did not have a home football field so some of the Crimson Tide's first football games were held at locations like Rickwood Field in Birmingham. After that, but before Denny Stadium, the University of Alabama played its football games at a location called Denny Field which was located just a couple of blocks east of the present day site of today's Bryant-Denny Stadium.
When Bryant-Denny Stadium was completed in 1929 it could only accommodate about 12,000 fans, but now the University of Alabama is home to one of the the finest football stadiums in the nation, bar none. Over the decades Bryant-Denny was expanded and improved over eight different times, in fact the University of Alabama has just completed a 80.6 million dollar expansion just in time for the 2010 season. That expansion added an additional 9462 seats and 36 new skyboxes which brings the total of skyboxes at Bryant-Denny to 159 and its seating capacity to 101,812.
My visit to Tuscaloosa and Bryant-Denny took place at the first game ever held in front of over 101,000 screaming Alabama fans. It was quite an impressive sight, I must say.
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Bryant-Denny is a huge stadium, but it seemed like there was a concession stand or food or drink vendor every 50 feet. There are over 50 concession stands at Bryant-Denny, but then you have to consider they are serving over 100,000 hungry and thirsty fans.
The prices were reasonable with a hot dog going for $4 and a hamburger with fries selling for $8. The selection was plentiful and you could choose anything from chicken tenders, Dreamland Ribs, BBQ Nachos to fresh made funnel cakes or hot pretzels. Soft Drinks started at $4 and adult beverages are not sold at Bryant-Denny, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars just off campus that do. The biggest sellers seemed to be the Stadium Hotdogs and the BBQ Nachos because they were selling faster than they could make them.
There was a huge line at the concession stands at half time, but that is true wherever you go in the SEC. That being the case, I would suggest not waiting until halftime to purchase a snack or a drink. There were also dozens of vendors selling drinks and snacks walking through the stands which was really handy during the game itself.
Wow, all I can say is wow! Over 100,000 fanatic Alabama fans scattered all over campus, all tailgating, tossing footballs and enjoying a surprisingly mild day in Tuscaloosa. Motor homes as far as the eye could see all set up with everything you could ask for in conveniences including big screen televisions connected to portable satellite receivers to keep up with the other ongoing college games.
Beautiful girls by the bushel and tens of thousands of fans all dressed in crimson and white. The "Quad" is the heart of the campus, it covers an area the size of at least six football fields and is located just north and east of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Most of the fans had been there since early morning and this game wasn't even scheduled to start until 6:00 pm. Alabama fans wait for the opening game for months and months and make the most of the day.
The team finally arrives at the stadium a couple of hours before the game and begins their walk through the "Walk Of Champions" which is now lined with cheering fans. The Walk of Champions is located at the north entrance to Bryant-Denny where the statues of all the coaches that have won Alabama's 14 National Championships are located. After the team and coaches enter the stadium, everyone starts funneling into Bryant-Denny stadium and the cheerleaders start whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The team comes out of the tunnel and I swear the stadium shakes! The crowd roars through the entire game even if the game is well in hand by the second quarter. They love their football in Alabama and they love their team at the University of Alabama.
Bryant-Denny Stadium is located between downtown Tuscaloosa and Alabama's campus. Just north and west of Bryant-Denny is what is locally called "The Strip". The Strip stretches a few blocks west of Bryant-Denny on University Blvd and is loaded with restaurants, bars, shops, and convenience stores. You might say that you have the best of both worlds because you can wander to the east of the stadium and enjoy the campus and take in the whole college game day experience, or you can head west and have a nice meal or visit one of the local hangouts and have a cold beer.
Some of the more popular spots on "The Strip" are The Houndstooth, Buffalo Phil's or Jimmy John's. Take your pick or visit from a variety of typical college eateries that serve anything from sub sandwiches to Thai, Chinese or Mexican food. Just to the south of Bryant-Denny is another popular spot called Rama Jama's that serves great burgers and many other delectables.
If you decide to head east you will not be disappointed because the campus of the University of Alabama is full of old southern charm. Get on University Blvd which is located on the north side of the stadium and start walking east. The first thing you will come upon is a large open area called "The Quad". Right away you will notice Denny Chimes towering over Alabama's Walk of Fame. The Walk of Fame that surrounds Denny Chimes is where many of the Alabama's legendary players have been honored over the decades. There you will find the hand and foot prints of many of those legends including players like Joe Namath, Leroy Jordan and Ozzie Newsome.
On the eastern edge of "The Quad" you will find several vendor tents selling everything from Ribeye sandwiches to fresh lemonade. Leave there and head a couple of blocks southeast and you will come upon the Paul W Bryant Museum. This museum may be one of the finest examples of college football history as well as a tribute to what many consider the greatest coach in college football history. If you love college football and its history you could easily get lost in the Paul W Bryant Museum for hours.
There are many places to stay in Tuscaloosa, but there is only one hotel that is located right on campus. The Hotel Capstone is located adjacent to the Paul W Museum at 320 Paul W Bryant Drive. It would be a wonderful place to stay for a game, but it is always booked solid far in advance so call well in advance of your visit.
Alabama fans may be the most loyal college football fans in America. How else can anyone explain having over 90,000 fans show up at Alabama's annual spring practice game? The reason Bryant-Denny keeps expanding is due to tremendous demand for season tickets. The waiting list for Alabama season tickets is over 5 years long and continues to grow.
Crimson Tide fans always arrive early and when they do arrive the campus is already covered with hundreds of motor homes that arrived even earlier. The smell of charcoal and the noise of everyone laughing and talking fills the air. These fans know college football and are not only into the game, they are part of the game. The noise that is generated by over 100,000 screaming fans when Alabama runs out of the tunnel can be deafening, especially since the south end zone was closed off with the new expansion. Visiting with some of these great fans was an unforgettable experience and I really appreciate their input.
There are only two approaches to Bryant-Denny Stadium, they are from the east and from the west. The Black Warrior River borders the north end of the campus and there is little or no parking available if you approach from the south. Since Bryant-Denny was built on campus in 1929 there is very little room for parking near the stadium today. The city of Tuscaloosa does a good job with traffic and they keep things moving by making all the access roads one way coming in prior to the game and then one way going out after the game is over. Most of the parking lots closer to the stadium are reserved for people with parking passes and VIPs. The University has put a lot of work and effort into trying to improve game day parking and traffic, but there is only so much you can do when you are trying to squeeze 102,000 people into a town the size of Tuscaloosa.
If you arrive early you might be lucky enough to find a free spot in the downtown area (west of campus) that is close enough to walk to the stadium. Approaching from the east you will most likely be directed into one of the pay parking lots located on campus. Some choose the option of parking in one of the free lots at the mall or downtown and catching one of the many shuttle buses that run to and from the stadium. That is a easy way to get to Bryant-Denny, but can prove to be difficult when leaving due to the long lines at the shuttle bus stops. My advice would be to come early and try to park close enough to walk if possible. Parking can run as high as $20.00, but the shuttle buses only charge $1.00 for a one way ticket, but you must buy your ticket on the way in. The university provides many services for handicapped or disabled fans by way of free shuttles and golf carts that run throughout the campus and stadium during the game. Closer to the stadium the crowd gets pretty congested, so Bryant-Denny Stadium has positioned people around the stadium on tall lifeguard chairs painted with question marks to help confused fans find their way.
The University of Alabama also has a great website called Alabama Football GameDay that is really helpful for first time visitors.
Going to a game at Bryant-Denny can be an expensive proposition, tickets can run from $40 to as high as $250 if you go the internet or scalper route. I bought my ticket at the regular price of $40, so I felt good about that. Season tickets come by way of Alabama's Tide Pride Program which requires patrons to contribute to the University's Athletic Department for the privilege of ordering season tickets. Going to an Alabama football game is an experience you will never forget, so from that point of view it is money well spent. Bryant-Denny Stadium is one of the finest college venues in the country. If you choose to visit Bryant-Denny Stadium you will not only enjoy the stadium itself, you will enjoy the entire college football game experience, so arrive early and make plans to see everything there is to see. The stadium food was very affordable and the quality was excellent. I parked for free and took the $1.00 shuttle bus so I left Bryant-Denny feeling pretty darn good about the whole experience.
There are just too many extras to list here. Bryant-Denny Stadium is in a class by itself and is surrounded by so many interesting and fun things to do and see. For some college football fans going to Bryant-Denny is more of a pilgrimage than just going to a football game. From the Walk of Champions located on the north side of the stadium to the Paul W Bryant Museum located a few blocks east it would be hard to name a college football stadium that has more to offer. Alabama fans are knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. If you have the time and energy be sure to take a long walk around Alabama's beautiful campus and do a little sight seeing. Visiting Bryant-Denny and the University of Alabama was a wonderful experience and one I would highly recommend.
My visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the game against Penn State was my favorite college football experience of all time out of 41 stadiums I have been to. Despite the fact that the stadium was built in 1929 it is wonderfully maintained and is nicer than a lot of NFL stadiums.
Food & Beverage:
The food inside the stadium is fairly high priced like most stadium food, $4 for a hotdog, $8 for a hamburger and fries. The unique items included BBQ Nachos and Dreamland BBQ. I filled up while tailgating so I didn't eat any of the stadium food to be honest.
Dreamland BBQ is the big BBQ place that everyone will tell you about. It is where all of the tourists go. I tried it, it is very good, but in my opinion the best BBQ in the country is at Archibald's BBQ right up the street. Just make sure you have a good GPS or directions because it is run right out of a shack behind the guys house and was a bit difficult to find. Besides, Andy Staples from SI swears by the place and even if you don't like his writing, he certainly knows a ton about BBQ.
I've been to some high profile games in my life. The 2005 Ohio State at Penn State game will probably forever be the best atmosphere I have ever seen. However, the atmosphere at Alabama and Bryant-Denny Stadium ranks second on my all-time experience list.
I'm not sure I can exactly describe it, just that it was electric. The stadium was packed and rocking a good 40 minutes before kickoff. Then when the team came in to Sweet Home Alabama the fans took it to a whole other level literally shaking the upper deck. The excitement stayed throughout the game as Alabama built a huge lead and dominated the game.
We arrived in town around 3pm for an 8pm kickoff. We were probably some of the last people to get into town as it was absolutely packed with people, all wearing crimson and houndstooth.
Street parking for game day was free and easy to find. Sidewalks were wide and the town was clean and well maintained. You could take a trolley to and from the stadium for just $1 each way, which was really cheap but you have to buy the return ticket on your way in.
The fans were amazing to us. Not a single bad comment or death wish toward JoePa which was unusual. I heard enough Roll Tide that I think it will permanently be stuck in my head. Not saying that is bad, just that the school spirit is very high and shown everywhere.
As I mentioned above, access is pretty easy if you come into town and get the free parking. I have been told that there is some pay parking lots on the other side of the stadium (East side) but we avoided those on purpose.
Getting into the stadium was easy, and the concourses were fairly wide. Our seats were in the visitors section in the upper deck, fairly far from the field but still a good view. I do have to say that those seats would not be recommended for anyone with a bad heart or difficulty walking as I saw a few people who had to stop part way up to catch their breath.
Return on Investment:
A trip to Tuscaloosa can be expensive but you can save a good bit by flying into Huntsville instead of Birmingham and driving an extra 75 minutes. Also, there are plenty of hotels in Birmingham, so staying there instead of Tuscaloosa can also help save money.
Tickets can cost up to a few hundred dollars per seat for big games, but this falls into line with the going rate at most high profile programs these days.
I always try to avoid heavy tourist areas on gamedays, so we skipped the Bear Bryant Museum and a few other points of interest. I thought the polite fans who welcomed us, wished us luck, then thanked us for coming really made our trip highly enjoyable. Couple that was outstanding BBQ, an absolutely beautiful stadium and free parking and you can see why I loved our visit. I honestly recommend a visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium for any college football fan who wants an amazing gameday experience.
Food & Beverage:
Food is pretty decent compared to most college stadiums. On top of the standard concession stands, there are several places that serve "real food". My personal favorite is the Dreamland Stand (there is one located in every wing of the stadium). They do not serve their world-famous ribs at BDS b/c security feared their potential use as weapons, but their BBQ sandwiches and BBQ nachos are great. There is also Papa John's, Dippin Dots, a Burrito place and several other food court style restaurants.
Possibly the best college football experience in the country. Make sure you arrive 45 minutes early to watch the pregame video which highlights the greatest plays in Alabama history. It's epic.
BDS is located on the edge of campus, which makes it close to off campus restaurants. If you are looking at the front of the stadium (the side with all the statues), turn left and go down about two blocks. There you will find "the Strip" which features several bars and restaurants. Probably the best bar is called the Houndstooth. The restaurants include Moe's, Cold Stone Creamery, Subway, two chinese places, and Buffalo Phil's which has great chicken wings.
Alabama fans vary from high 90s to toddlers. Fans are extremely welcoming and knowledgeable and not abnoxious like most SEC fans. Alabama fans love sharing their superior history and tradition with visitors.
Traffic can be frusterating, but it's really not that bad considering over 200,000 people are trying to leave campus at the same time. The easiest place to park is on Paul W. Bryant Drive across from DCH Hospital. The Boy Scouts offer parking there for around $20. The stadium is just a small walk down Bryant Drive. Also, traffic on Bryant does not get too bad. Also, when leaving, try to avoid McFarland Boulevard. A nice shortcut is to follow Hackberry Lane which runs directly onto Hargrove Road. Follow Hargrove for about three miles until you reach Skyland Boulevard. Turn Left and it will take you right to Interstate 20.
Return on Invesment:
I have attended every Alabama game since Nick Saban got there. Over four, almost five, seasons, I have spent about $15,000. But to be there and witness college football in its finest is priceless.
Try to find Archibald's BBQ. It is tiny (there aren't any tables inside) and it's in a sketchy area, but it is without a doubt the best BBQ in Tuscaloosa. Keep in mind, though, they only accept cash. If you can't find it, go to Dreamland
Drove from Ft. Knox, Kentucky to watch a game. Everything about the Trip was a 5 star trip
Attended the Auburn v Bama game and was impressed with Bama's traditions, fan loyalty, and crowd involvement.
The drive into Tuscaloosa, the Campus, the Tailgating, The Strip, the fans, the town....the list goes on for all of the things about a Bama game that make it a 5-star college football experience.
The only thing I didn't like about the experience was the ambience. A great football program like Alabama deserves a lot of hype and a celebrated history, but all of this took away from the actual game being played- a lot of flashing marquees, jock jam noise, and disconnected fans. The stadium seemed too commercialized- more like an NFL game than a college game.
The fact that they were playing a non-conference team of North Texas most likely contributed to the sub-par atmosphere, but it was a disappointment after what I had experienced the entire day leading up to the 6pm game.
I'm probably biased on this since I am an Alabama fan, but this is where Saturdays in fall is about. Before the game you have a lot of things going on campus that you can't really miss anything such as the Quad where most of the tailgating is happening as well as the Millon Dollar Band playing. You can go to the Bear Bryant Museum for relatively cheap or go around to one of the local eats or standing out for the Walk of Champions
The stadium has a professional football feel to it somewhat, but given how Alabama plays it fits the scheme. The place is spacious but nice, clean, and wide. The history itself gives it a mystique with all the national championships they've won as well as the atmosphere ranking second to none. The only complaint is access on gameday is rough. Besides that, this is one of the best places to watch a college football game.
Recent makeovers to the stadium contribute to a "new" feel. The Bama fans are classy for the most part but loud when it comes to supporting their team. Great food and beverage option and reasonable when compared to other similar venues. A perfect 10.
1300 University Boulevard
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401