Cowell Stadium, affectionately called “The Dungeon,” is located on the campus of the University of New Hampshire in suburban Durham. It has been the site of 15 Colonial Athletic Association conference titles and an incredible current streak of 10 straight BCS playoff appearances dating back to 2004. Originally named Alumni Field, the stadium was renamed in honor of former football coach and athletic director William H. “Butch” Cowell in 1952. The UNH Wildcats have been playing football on this site since 1936.
Beginning in 2014, the university began a $25 million renovation to the stadium designed to modernize and upgrade the venue. Construction is slated to take place in two stages. Prior to the 2014 season, lights were installed, enabling the university to host night games for the first time in their history. Also, the grandstand adjacent to the field house was renovated, with the old metal bleachers torn down and replaced with a new grandstand, creating one large seating area on the northeast side of the field.
In 2015 the west (visiting) bleachers will be torn down and replaced with a new grandstand with room for 3,500 seats. Along with the new grandstand will come new restrooms, concession stands, and a new student section. Construction is scheduled to be completed late in 2015.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concessions at Cowell Stadium cover the basics, and little more. There is a grill located on the walkway that runs along the top of the main grandstand, which offers pizza slices ($3), hot dogs ($3), hamburgers ($4), and sausages ($7). Pretzels ($4), cotton candy ($3), and assorted candy bars ($3) can also be found here. Bottles of Coca-Cola products are available for $3.
Additional stands are located in either end zone, with basically the same menu offerings. The major exceptions are Cody's Delicious Fries ($4), which are sold out of food trucks in either end zone, and an ice cream truck located in the northwest end zone. While ice cream in the chilly New Hampshire fall may not sound very appealing to most fans, there was a long line of children here throughout the game.
There is a souvenir trailer located in the northwest end zone with a decent variety of Wildcat gear, along with a smaller tent atop the main grandstand.
First time visitors to Durham will be surprised at what they find here. The first thing that will catch your attention as you make your way up Main Street through the center of campus is the amount of students making their way towards Cowell Stadium. Then you will see the parking lots. There aren't many of them, but what you will find there is totally unexpected for this part of the country. As any veteran visitor to FCS football schools in New England will tell you, the tailgating scene in this region can't compete with other parts of the country. It's generally laid back, reserved, almost scholarly in nature. While the tailgating scene in Durham isn't the SEC, it's pretty good for a crowd of this size. The parking lots are packed, and filled with grills, music, and footballs. It's much more big-time than you might expect, especially in laid-back New Hampshire.
If you enter Cowell Stadium by passing through the Field House, you will walk down a hallway filled with pictures of every varsity team in the history of the University of New Hampshire. Not just pictures of the football team, but of EVERY varsity team. Ever. It's pretty impressive. While you enter the Field House at ground level, you exit on the third floor, atop the newly renovated grandstand. To your right will be the press box, and to the left will be the grill. Entering the stands to the smell of grilling sausages and burgers is a pretty good way to be introduced to Cowell Stadium.
Cowell Stadium seats 8,000 fans, and virtually every seat in the place is taken. The stands are packed with locals and alumni decked out in the Wildcats' blue and white. The student section is located in the southeast end zone, and is packed beyond capacity with students and the marching band. The overflow students are forced to stand, as the small bleachers located here cannot contain everyone. Despite their distance from the rest of the crowd, they make their presence known throughout the game with chants, songs, and general noisy behavior. Also adding to the noise at Cowell Stadium is the cannon which is shot off after every Wildcat score.
The University of New Hampshire dominates the small town of Durham, New Hampshire. The university is located just west of downtown on Main Street. The downtown area is well within walking distance of the stadium, and is filled with college students most of the time. Durham has a nice, traditional small town college feel to it, and there are several places worth checking out for a bite to eat if you are visiting here from out of town. Students regularly pack Libby's Bar and Grill or Durham House of Pizza for a pre or postgame meal.
Fans visiting UNH from out of town will often head east to Portsmouth, located just 11 miles from Cowell Stadium. Portsmouth is quickly cultivating a reputation as one of the top small cities on the east coast for visitors, and as an outstanding destination for foodies.
The UNH Wildcats have enjoyed a great deal of success recently, having made the FCS playoffs in each of the past 10 seasons (2004-2013). They enjoy strong support from their local fans, with Cowell Stadium filled beyond capacity for every home game thus far in 2014. Although the stadium's listed capacity is 8,000, UNH is averaging close to 13,000 fans halfway through the 2014 season, including an unbelievable attendance figure of over 18,000 for a Columbus Day matchup against William & Mary.
Walk throughout Cowell Stadium on any given game day and you will find countless alumni mingled in with the locals. Most impressive is the student body representation, which would make many FBS teams jealous. Students pack the student section, spilling over into standing room all around the field. The noise and energy generated by the crowd creates a tremendous home field advantage for the Wildcats.
Cowell Stadium and the University of New Hampshire is easy to get to by car or train. The Amtrak train station is located across the street from Cowell Stadium, and trains depart from here to Portsmouth, Boston, and the rest of the eastern corridor.
Fans driving to Durham will travel on Interstate 95 to Portsmouth, where they will exit the highway at Exit 4 (Spaulding Highway/Route 4). Durham is located 11 miles from Portsmouth, and signs will direct you easily to the UNH campus. Cowell Stadium is located on the western edge of the campus, easily found from either direction on Main Street.
Parking around Cowell Stadium can be tricky due to the large crowds that come to Wildcat games and the relative scarcity of parking lots in the immediate area. Many fans choose to park on campus and take the short walk to the stadium.
There are two ways to enter the stadium. Fans arriving from the western parking lots will walk into the stadium via sidewalks leading to Cowell Stadium's northwest end zone. Fans arriving from Lot A across the street will enter through the Field House, where the ticket booths are located, and be deposited at the top of the main grandstand.
The majority of the seating at Cowell Stadium consists of metal bleachers without seat backs. Part one of the stadium renovations saw the demolition of two large sets of freestanding bleachers on the northwest sideline. These bleachers were replaced with larger bleachers which were connected to the existing central grandstand. This renovation increased capacity and modernized this side of the field. The center sections of the main grandstand consist of individual seats and are sold as reserved seating. Smaller bleachers are located beyond each end zone, and a larger metal bleacher set is located on the southeast side of the field. These bleachers are primarily used as visitors seating.
One large negative to Cowell Stadium's physical set up is the presence of UNH's track, which surrounds the football field. The track pushes the seating farther from the field than it would otherwise be, and putting the fans further from the action. The distance of the field to the stands and the old look of the field house hovering over the action add to the mystique of "the Dungeon," giving the Wildcats one of the best home field advantages in the conference.
Tickets for University of New Hampshire football games start at $18 for general admission, with reserved tickets ranging from $20-$24. Seniors (over 60) and youths (under 13) can purchase tickets for $10. Waiting until game day to buy your tickets will cost you an additional $3.
Parking your car in Lot A will cost you an additional $10, or $15 for homecoming. Fans parking their car in Boulder Field will pay $15 for the privilege ($20 on homecoming day). Food prices are also a bit on the high side, while not out of line with other area venues. While these prices are not exorbitant by Division One standards, they are much higher than other FCS schools in the area.
An extra point is awarded for the sense of history all around Cowell Stadium. Take a minute to go into the Field House (why doesn't this have a better name?), and check out the photos of all the varsity teams in New Hampshire's history. It's great that all sports are included here, both men's and women's. Hockey fans in particular will find several pros among the archives. Also located in the Field House is the UNH Hall of Fame. Wildcat playoff and conference champion teams are honored on the façade of the Field House and on the scoreboard.
An additional extra point is awarded for the outstanding fan support enjoyed by the Wildcats. When a team can draw 10,000 fans over capacity, they are doing something right. These crowds aren't an aberration, as crowds of this size have been reported in every season since 2011.
Cowell Stadium is currently in a state of transition. Whether the renovations taking place are a good or bad thing depends entirely on who you ask. While some fans are bemoaning the end of the Wildcats' unique home field advantage, others are looking forward to the modernization of the stadium and the improvement in amenities that are sure to come along with it. With New Hampshire consistently ranked in the top 20 nationwide and a fixture in the postseason tournament, the improvements to Cowell Stadium are long overdue and very welcome. Until their completion, Cowell Stadium remains a bare bones facility, although a most beloved one.
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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