Cowell Stadium sits just east of the main campus at the University of New Hampshire (around 17,000 total students) located in the traditional New England town of Durham. The stadium, which services football games as well as track meets, is just a couple minutes on foot from the well known Whittemore Center where the men’s and women’s hockey games take place.
The stadium was dedicated in 1936 and was known as “Alumni Field” as the construction of the stadium was funded by alumni contributions and was the first big project by the Alumni Fund in the history of the University.
Cowell Stadium is named after former UNH athletic director and football coach William “Butch” Cowell.
The UNH Wildcats are a part of the Colonial Athletic Association and took a share of the conference championship for the 2012 season. The Wildcats have made the FCS playoffs nine consecutive times through 2012 and are frequently contenders for the conference title. On a campus where hockey is the backbone of school athletics, the football program is sometimes a second thought, despite their consistent successes.
UNH alum Sean McDonnell is the head coach of the Wildcats, a position he assumed in 1999. McDonnell runs a tight program with a strong coaching staff consisting of several young and bright football minds. The football games are always exciting, especially at Cowell Stadium where home field advantage certainly comes into play.
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If you enter through the "Sweet Oval" entrance, you will walk down a hallway lined with old team photos of all the athletic teams going back as far as 1936. When you reach the end of the hall, you step outside and are now at the very top of the main stands. Look to your left and you will see several tents lined up with UNH football memorabilia as well as food vendors. The concessions are what one would expect at any college football game and the prices are pretty fair.
Cheeseburgers ($4) and hot dogs, drinks, candy and cotton candy are all $3. Hot pretzels are also $3 and coffee and chips are $2 and $1, respectively.
The quality is also pretty average. There is also a stand down on field level by the west entrance that sells Italian sausages. All the proceeds for the concessions go to the UNH athletic programs.
With it being a college venue, no alcohol is allowed in the stadium, but the tailgating scene before the game is pretty large and provides a fun pregame activity. When entering the tailgating area, ID's are checked and if you are of legal age, you are given a bracelet. You can freely drink alcohol in the tailgating area.
Nicknamed "The Dungeon", Cowell Stadium feels like an old, historic place. This can be viewed negatively if you are looking for a state-of-the-art venue, or it can be embraced for its strong sense of tradition. The players truly value this aspect of the stadium and are very often successful in their home games.
Here is the layout of the stadium: the main stands face southwest, the student section, known as the 'Cat Pack - which also holds the pep band - is in the end zone facing northwest. There is a small set of bleachers in the opposite end zone and then a bigger set of bleachers on the visiting sideline where the visiting fans mostly sit. Most of the middle section of the main stands is chairback seats while the rest of the seating is bleachers.
The overall atmosphere of the stadium on game day is very positive, but there are some areas that need to improve. The main stands usually will usually fill up mostly with families and alumni. The student section should be the most packed and loudest section of the stadium, but unfortunately, it is hardly ever very full. This is one my bigger concerns with the atmosphere. It is the lacking attendance of students. Even on the last game of the season in 2012, where the Wildcats had a shot at winning the CAA championship outright (they lost to Towson 64-35) the student section was not close to full.
On the other hand, the main stands are usually packed and the crowd gets very into the game. The stands erupt with cheers on every positive play, not just a scoring one.
I cannot forget to mention the cannon that is fired every time the Wildcats put up six points. Prepared and fired by a couple of gentlemen in old time colonial attire, the cannon lets loose a thunderous boom that even shook my seat up on press row. This cannon definitely adds to the positive atmosphere of the stadium.
The scoreboard sits in the northwest end of the field. It was renovated this year and looks brand new. The scoreboard displays the score, time, timeouts remaining, down, yards to go, and yard line where the ball lies. It also displays the list of playoff appearance for the Wildcats. Unfortunately, there is no sort of video display for the fans to look towards for replays.
The UNH marching band enters at the start of each game and puts on a pretty impressive show. There are two sets of cheerleaders / dance team that stand on the track which wraps around the field.
Yes, there is a track that circles the field and separates the stands from the field with a pretty large gap. Because of this, the game action can feel somewhat distant for fans.
At a game on Veteran's Day weekend, a double-amputee veteran parachuted in and landed right at midfield with a magnificently large U.S. flag tied to him and being pulled in tow. This was quite a sight to see and had the entire stadium in awe.
For kid's entertainment, there is a bounce house located on the north end of the stadium. There is also some sort of contest taking place on the field during each halftime.
Finally, I want to commend the staff at the stadium. All the ushers I interacted with were very polite and helpful. I went to the information booth during the game to get some information on the stadium and the staff there was very polite and helpful. If you find yourself at Cowell and need help being pointed in the right direction, don't be afraid to approach an event staff member.
The town of Durham is a very traditional New England town, save for the big college campus at the center of it. At UNH, you absolutely get the feel of a rural setting, but the downtown is not something to look past. Although it is very small, downtown Durham offers several places to grab a bite to eat before or after the game.
There are also four bars and a Chinese restaurant, if you are looking to get a drink with your friends after the game. Libby's Bar and Grill is a great place to go after the game (which usually start around noon). The food is great and there is a nice bar as well.
If you want to get some breakfast or lunch before the game, I would recommend Young's Restaurant on Main Street. Young's offers great breakfast and lunch items in a restaurant that has been there for years.
If you want to pick up something quick and not sit in a restaurant setting, check out Franz's Food or grab a slice of pizza at the Durham House of Pizza. Mama Mac and More is another good place to get food if you are looking for a sandwich or want to try a unique style of macaroni and cheese.
For fans who are looking to pick up some UNH apparel and memorabilia, I would first recommend a store called "Town and Campus" located on the east end of Main Street next to The Knot Irish Pub. Town and Campus offers a wide array of UNH apparel and keepsakes. Also check out Hayden Sports if T&C does not have what you are looking for.
The campus feels very active as you walk around the main campus as well as downtown. The surrounding area has students who are always out and about. It is has a very nice "college town" feel, but also a nice community in the town itself.
If you have some more time to check out the area, head east towards the historic city of Portsmouth, NH where there are several more restaurants and shops to explore.
I give the fans a good rating purely based on the ones that fill the main stands. As I said before, the student section is below average as far as attendance and spirit, but the fans that are at the game are very involved and pay close attention to what is going on in the game. At the end of the Towson game, the team received a standing ovation from the fans for the strong and hard fought regular season despite the unfortunate final game.
Parking is easily accessible and there is hardly a traffic jam when you go to a game at Cowell Stadium. I walked to the stadium, so I am not sure what the price of parking is for tailgating, but the main lots are open to the public on the weekends, so there should be no charge.
UNH is about 10-15 minutes off of I-95 and it is not very difficult to navigate (there are signs everywhere pointing you in the right direction). The campus is about one hour and fifteen minutes north of Boston and it is just about entirely interstate highway travel all the way.
If you are coming from I-93, UNH is about 45 minutes east of Concord, NH. Just take route 4 the whole way from Concord.
Cowell Stadium seems to be about in the same price range as other stadiums similar to it, if not slightly cheaper.
A reserved seat with a chairback is $19, a reserved seat with no chairback is $17, and then general admission (steel bleacher seats) is broken down by age group. An adult general admission ticket is $15 and youth (age 3-12), senior (age 60+) and "special public" (UNH faculty/staff, alumni, graduate students, UNH Manchester students, UNH School of Law students, and military professionals) are all $7 for a ticket. I would highly recommend buying your tickets ahead of time because all the prices are bumped up by $3 on game day.
Overall, with the price of food included, I would say going to a game is worth the price. Based on the exciting atmosphere and what will usually be a very exciting game, it is worth what you will pay.
The bounce house is a big plus, giving the kids some more entertainment besides what is going on the field.
Inside the building behind the stands, take a walk through the halls and look at all the old team photos going all the way back to the 1930's.
The old feel of the stadium can be seen negatively because it may seem like it needs a facelift (I would say it could use a renovation), but the players feed off of that. From speaking with them, they truly embrace the history of the venue.
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47 Main St
Durham, NH 03824
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Durham, NH 03824
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