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Official Review by Josh Oakes, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Originally opened in 1929 as home of the University of Richmond football team, City Stadium has played host to the city’s USL team, the Richmond Kickers, since 1993. The Kickers shared the stadium with the Richmond Spiders until 2010, when the Kickers became the sole tenants and the Spiders built their own stadium on campus. In 2008, the wildly successful U.S. Women’s National Team visited City Stadium and defeated South Korea 3-1. 2014 saw Crystal Palace of the EPL defeat the hometown Kickers 3-0 in front of 7,851 fans. This event was considered so successful that West Bromwich Albion agreed to play in Richmond in 2015. The capacity is about 9,000 for Kickers games, including standing room.
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Two words: food trucks. These mobile restaurants can be found around the city of Richmond serving up delicious local fare at ridiculously low prices. A list of the RVA food trucks can be found at RVA Street Foodies, and each truck has its own website with their menu and prices. The Kickers have a rotating menu from game to game, and you can find out what food trucks will be at what game on the Kickers' website. If a taco truck happens to be at the same game you are, get in line early. I was able to purchase a huge burrito and three amazing tacos al pastor for $12 total. There are also a couple of concession stands at midfield that have the standard stadium fare: hot dogs ($3), chili or cheese hot dog ($4), and cheeseburger ($4). Lemonade is $5 with unlimited refills and a Papa John's 8-inch pizza is $7.
League games are almost always on a Saturday, with U.S. Open Cup games typically falling on Wednesdays. Beer tickets are $5 and the typical line up consists of Bud Light, Modelo, and Kick It Hunny, which is the official beer of the Richmond Kickers. For every Wednesday game, you can pick up a free beer ticket at the will call gate outside the stadium with each game ticket. This ticket is good for one free beer of your choice.
Local pride and passion run deep here. The gates open an hour before kickoff, and pregame activities always include live music, great food, and games for the kids. Being that the Kickers are USL and not MLS, you do not get the typical tourist crowd you see at MLS games. Instead, what you get is a crowd with deep ties to the city and team. The design of the stadium just adds to all of this.
The architects built the west stands into the natural hill that creates a semi-circle around the field, making it the perfect place to take the family or a date to watch a game. The sense of community and family here is one that can only be found at old, semi-pro parks like this. You can choose to sit in the family section while the kids play on the hill under the scoreboard, sit at mid-field with the majority of the crowd, or even make your way into the supporters' section. Regardless of where you choose to sit, you will be welcomed (unless you are wearing an Orlando City jersey in the supporters section). If you feel like stretching your legs a bit, you can hang out with the crowd standing behind the bleachers and watch the game from there.
About a half-mile from the stadium is West Cary Street also known as Carytown. Along this one-mile stretch of road, you can find everything from all-American burgers to Italian and Japanese restaurants. Getting to Carytown is relatively easy, and there is plenty of parking in the surrounding area. Gus' Sports Bar and Grill is about two miles from the stadium, and is the official sports bar of the Richmond Kickers. This place is a local favorite and a great place to go before the game if you are in Richmond all day. If you are just in to see the game, eat at the stadium, you will not be disappointed, and neither will your wallet.
Just south of the stadium is Maymont Park, a 100-acre, 19th-century estate complete with gardens, waterfalls, petting zoo, and a hands-on nature center. Admission is good to the gardens and stable, and there is a small fee of $3 for the nature center. This place is particularly beautiful during the spring and summer months which, conveniently, are during the USL season. Here's what a day in Richmond should look like: picnic lunch at Maymont before the game, live music with beer and food at the game, and more beer and food in Carytown after the game.
The fans are passionate but not obnoxious, which is becoming harder and harder to find these days. This passion is not just a one-time deal; the fans keep coming back for league play, U.S. Open Cup play, and even international exhibitions. While all but a few rows at midfield are general admission, if you go to enough games, you will start to see that the same fans sit in the same place for just about every game, and they are always happy to talk about their team with anyone and welcome newcomers with open arms. The eastern corner of the bleachers is designated as a family zone where no alcohol is allowed, and there is a hill next to this section where the kids can play during the game. The western corner of the stadium, Section O, is home to the River City Red Army, which is the Kickers' official supporter group. Night in and night out, they will be there with drums, flags, songs, and chants, and they are a spectacle that should not be missed.
City Stadium is located right off I-195 and there are plenty of signs that point you in the right direction, so finding the stadium should not be an issue. The parking lot amasses to nothing more than a medium-sized gravel pit, half of which is off limits to anyone without a VIP parking pass. However, there is a secondary lot a bit further down the road. Signs that read, "residential parking only," line Freeman Road, but there is plenty of parking along the many side streets across from the stadium. If you park in one of the lots, getting out can be a bit of a mess, but parking on the road typically makes for a relatively easy exit.
Overall, this is a terrific place to catch a game. About 90% of the seating is general admission, so you can sit as close to or far from the field as you want. Tickets are $12 for USL matches, as well as for the second and third rounds of U.S. Open Cup. Fourth round tickets against MLS teams cost $15, and international exhibitions run $30-$35. The bleachers wrap around the field and there is not a bad seat in the house. You also don't have to worry about missing the game while waiting for food, as you can see the game from the concourse behind the stands. Food and restrooms are easy to access.
While you are walking around before the game, be sure to check out the Kickers' mural behind Section O. Lineup cards are passed out as you enter the stadium, and they tell you who is playing and what team they last played for. Being that the Kickers are the USL affiliate of DC United, there are usually a few MLS players on the roster.
The River City Red Army is also worth mentioning again. They really keep the stadium rocking, and all of their jeers are in good fun. The team goes over to Section O after each game to thank the fans and sign autographs. I have even seen players from opposing teams walk over and thank the Red Army for keeping the intensity up.
One final thing to look for is Kickaroo, the Kickers' kangaroo mascot (not a real kangaroo, but a person in a kangaroo suit). He spends his time walking up and down the sideline in front of the bleachers, pumping up the crowd, throwing various giveaways into the stands and occasionally climbing into the stands to wave flags with the Red Army or take pictures with the younger fans. Needless to say, he is a fan favorite.
Member Review by Joakes on Sep 13, 2013
Originally opened in 1929 as home of the Richmond University football team, City Stadium is a local landmark and one that should not be missed. The USL Pro team Richmond Kickers began playing here in 1993 and have been the sole tenants of City Stadium since the Richmond Spiders built their own stadium, E. Claiborne Robins Stadium, in 2010. The U.S. Women’s National Team made a stop at City Stadium during their 2008 Achieve Your Gold tour when they defeated South Korea by a score of 3-1. The capacity is about 9,000 for Kickers games.
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