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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Sacred Heart is a school with 6,023 students located in Fairfield, Connecticut. Over the past 20 years the school has made the transition from a small 12-sport Division II program into a full-fledged Division I school with 31 varsity sports. The latest move the school has made in an attempt to catapult into the national spotlight was the hiring of ex-big league manager Bobby Valentine to serve as their athletic director.
Sacred Heart boasts several new, clean, impressive facilities for their sports teams located on campus. Campus Field serves as the home to several varsity teams, including the men’s football team as well as the men’s and women’s soccer, lacrosse, and track and field teams. The stadium features bleachers without seatbacks along both sidelines with two central sections featuring bucket style seats with backs. The football field, which is located directly adjacent to the William H. Pitt Center, has a newly installed SprinTurf field and is encircled by the university’s track.
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".
There is one tent set up for concessions during football games. The menu is basic, with hot dogs ($3), hamburgers ($4), and sausage and pepper sandwiches ($6.50) as the featured items. A selection of snacks are available as well, with pretzels ($3), candy ($2), and chips ($2) for sale. There is only one register, but for the most part, this is more than adequate to handle the small crowds at Campus Field. The only time you can expect any line is at halftime, and the line may only consist of about six people.
For those fans wishing for a souvenir of their trip to SHU, a table is set up with a selection of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and novelties available for purchase. Game programs can also be had for a mere dollar.
Sacred Heart football plays in the Northeast Conference along with several other small universities located in New Jersey, New York, and New England. Being at a game at Campus Field, however, one clearly gets the message that Sacred Heart aspires to much bigger things. The band, which is a pretty good size for a small school, plays throughout the game. The Pioneers boast a large cheerleading squad as well as a dance squad, which performs during many play stoppages. The public address announcer is much more vocal than one would expect, and may be considered intrusive by some. Announcements for various Sacred Heart teams are made throughout the game, with their recent successes noted whenever possible. During my 2013 visit, fans were frequently informed that the Sacred Heart dance team was ranked number three in the country, and that the school boasts several conference champions in various sports.
The student section is labeled as the "Heart Attack" section. Unfortunately, this section could have been labeled the "Angina" section on this day, as it was largely empty. Also, beware the central sections of the grandstand, which boast seat backs rather than bleacher seating. It sounds good in theory, until you try to sit in one of these seats. They are possibly the most uncomfortable seats I have ever sat in, ever. Judging by the amount of people sitting in this section, this may just be my problem. Or perhaps there is a wealthy alumnus who happens to be a chiropractor and is trying to drum up business.
Fairfield is located on the "Gold Coast" of Connecticut, and boasts a population of close to 60,000 residents. The city was named by Money Magazine as the ninth best place to live in the United States, and the best place to live in the northeast. While Fairfield may be a great place to live, it's not a place you plan a vacation around. There are not many "must see" destinations in the area. With New York City one hour to the west and the Connecticut casinos one hour to the east, travelers are more likely to be passing through the area rather than stopping here.
For those football fans looking for something to do in the area, Red's Pub is located in the Linda McMahon Commons on campus. Red's opens for fans during all SHU athletic events. It is a popular gathering place for students and alums on game day. Outside of campus, there are no destination restaurants within walking distance of Campus Field. Fans wishing to drive off campus can find several fine places to eat in Fairfield and beyond.
Sacred Heart set a new attendance record in 2013, as 4,288 fans packed Campus Field for a game. Fans at Campus Field are into the game and louder than expected for a Northeast Conference game. The tailgating scene is subdued and mellow, as one would expect for a college of this size.
A disappointing aspect of the crowd is the relative lack of student support. Sacred Heart University prides itself on the level of participation of the student body in the college's activities. On this day, despite beautiful weather and a local rival, only a few hundred students were noticed in the stands.
Sacred Heart University is located in suburban Fairfield, CT, just across the Bridgeport city line. Located right off of the Merritt Parkway, the location of the school is ideal for the many commuters who attend the University, not to mention travelling football fans. Once on campus, a winding road takes you to all points on campus and past the numerous parking lots that dot the landscape. No matter where you park on campus, the football field is only a short walk away.
Fairfield is located on the southern coast of Connecticut, with easy access to I-95 and the Amtrak's northeastern corridor. There are train stations nearby in both Fairfield and Bridgeport. New York City is 60 miles to the southwest, Hartford is one hour to the north, and New Haven is 30 minutes to the northeast. Beware, this section of Connecticut is notorious for its heavy traffic, and delays are common on the local highways.
Restrooms are located in the adjacent Pitt Center, and are accessible via a tunnel under the grandstand. The restrooms are modern, spacious, and clean. There is no doubt as to the home team's colors, as tiles and fixtures throughout the facility are Pioneer Red.
Tickets to a Sacred Heart University Pioneers game will cost you a mere $10, and parking is free. Sacred Heart extends student discounts to visiting fans, as any fan with a valid college ID can get into Campus Field for $5. Couple these cheap ticket prices with inexpensive food and souvenirs and a game at Campus Field is truly a bargain.
Extra points are given for the very new, very clean, and very red facilities.
The Sacred Heart statue in the end zone also earns a bonus point. It's no touchdown Jesus, but it makes perfect sense at this facility.
Sacred Heart is a picturesque campus located in one of the most populous and busy areas of New England. The setting of Campus Field can make you forget about the hustle and bustle going on a few short miles away. Even though one gets the feeling that Sacred Heart University's athletic program longs for bigger and better pastures, it is clear that they are not there at the present time. For those fans looking for big-time football, don't come looking here. For those out to enjoy talented student-athletes competing in a comfortable setting, Campus Field is worth the trip.
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5151 Park Ave
Fairfield, CT 06825
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