Delaware can often be the forgotten state of the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. It is unfortunately most known as being just a toll stop on the massively popular I-95 highway. But many people do not realize that college football is played at a high level mere miles from those infamous toll booths.
The University of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens have won six national championships in their over 100-year history. These victories occurred in 1946, 1963 1971, 1972, 1979, and 2003. The 2003 championship happened in Division I-AA, the forerunner to the current Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
The Blue Hens currently play in the FCS’ Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). The CAA began football play in 2007 and has seen member schools play in the FCS championship game five times (Delaware 2007 and 2010, Richmond 2008, Villanova 2009 and Towson 2013), with Richmond and Villanova winning during their appearances. If you also consider Delaware’s I-AA championship in 2003 and CAA member James Madison's victory at that same level in 2004, the quality of play in this conference is at an extremely high caliber.
Delaware Stadium opened in 1952 and currently holds 22,000. That is in stark contrast to the 9,000 it had during its 1952 opening season. The stadium is part of the David M. Nelson Athletic Complex, which includes the Bob Carpenter Center, Bob Hannah Stadium, Fred P. Rullo Stadium, the Fred Rust Ice Arena and the Delaware Field House. The stadium's field is known as Tubby Raymond Field.
There is occasional talk of the Fightin' Blue Hens moving up to the FBS level. Part of those discussions include the possibility of renovations to increase the capacity of the seating and add new press facilities and club suites.
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 are quite a few food stands scattered around the stadium. Regular hot dogs are $2.75, with foot-long versions a bit more for $4. Popcorn is $2.75 and $4. Philly cheesesteaks ($8.25), Italian sausage ($5.50), soft pretzels ($2), and chicken sandwiches ($4) are some of the other options.
Chick-fil-A sandwiches are for sale at certain stands for $4.75. Another stand in the northwest corner sells fries and chicken fingers for prices ranging from $4.50 to $7.
Grotto Pizza is a local icon. It is not one of this reviewer's favorite pizza options, but they offer a good deal at Delaware Stadium, with $3.25 for pepperoni and $3.00 for cheese.
My favorite food stands here are the ones in the northeast corner. The staff there seems to be generally older than the college-aged employees of some of the other stands, and are extremely friendly. Stop in here for most available items, but most especially for the $4 funnel cake.
A small, quick-service location under the west stands called the Vegetable Garden sells more nutritious items, such as pear and walnut salads.
There are four sets of grandstands. The east and west stands are considered the main stands, with the west stand serving as the home set. A small general admission section is near the north end zone, with a slightly larger section near the south end zone that houses the student section and band. The general admission seats will have a hard time in seeing the scoreboard, as it sits askew behind those seats.
Once inside, you will notice how close to the field you will feel. Game action is very close, as there is no track and the sidelines are very close to the stands. Sitting in the general admission seats even allows you to celebrate with players after scoring plays.
Pretty much all seats in the stadium are bleacher-style. So prepare to be uncomfortable, unless you rent a seat cushion from the school or bring your own.
Newark (pronounced here as New-Ark) is a great college town. There are numerous food options on East Main Street that will fill you up before or after a game. Melt Down Grilled Cheese offers simple but delicious meals at a reasonable value. The small-batch, local New Hope sodas offered here are also worth a trip. Other popular options, if you do want more than grilled cheese, are Catherine Rooney's Irish Pub and Grotto Pizza.
Parking on East Main Street is always a bit of a problem. There are many public lots, but note that they may be behind buildings and hard to find. Many restaurants offer validation for the public lots.
If you do not want to fight for parking, head the opposite way from downtown Newark and towards the gigantic Christiana Mall area. Right before getting there is Border Cafe, designated only with a large "EAT" sign. Their large and varied menu offers great Tex-Mex & Cajun options at a pretty cheap price. Try the catfish fajitas with a side of jambalaya.
Numerous dining and lodging options are prevalent around the Christiana Mall area, although if in search of lodging, one should look at the Embassy Suites located across from the baseball stadium.
Around the corner from the stadium, behind Rust Arena, is the campus-run UDairy Creamery. Stopping for a pre or postgame ice cream cone is a must.
The fans at Delaware Stadium know their football and expect big things out of their program. The two main grandstands are generally filled to just under capacity for most games, especially Parents & Family Weekend, Band Day and Homecoming.
The student section in the south end zone can be noisy, due to the band sitting there. But unfortunately, the students do not always show up in large numbers. They get into the games for free, but still don't always attend. The stadium is far from most student housing, so attending a game must not be top of mind for most students.
The band keeps the crowd entertained throughout the game and even enters many seating sections for fan interactions. The crowd will also chant "BLUE!" "HENS!" at various parts of the game.
Delaware Stadium is easy to reach, and is only a couple miles off of Interstate 95. You may have to pay some tolls, although locals will know how to avoid them as much as possible. Coming from points south on I-95 getting off at Maryland Route 279 will avoid the toll pretty easily, and it is a short drive to the stadium.
Parking is $15, and there are plenty of options. The best option may be the large lot right off of Chestnut Hill Road near the track and field throwing pits. Use 190 E Chestnut Hill Rd in your GPS for reference.
Tailgating is a big-time event at Delaware. Up to four hours before games, you can expect to see the grills and cooking options spread out in all parking lots. The amount of tailgaters is more in line with much larger and recognized programs around the country. It is serious business here in Newark.
Tickets start at $15 for general admission in the small north stands. $20 to $42 is what you will pay for sideline seats.
These are pretty expensive tickets to a lower-level football program. But then again, it is a championship-level program at that FCS level. So this is a tough call. The pretty expensive parking prices make it even more difficult. I am giving some credit because of the caliber of play you will see.
The north section's general admission seats are the best value. Because of the closeness of the field, you will almost feel like you are part of the action during end zone plays. Just watch out for errant throws coming your way. It can be an intense environment for fans.
Former University of Michigan halfback David M. Nelson came to Delaware in 1950 as head coach. Nelson brought along the winged helmet design made famous by the Wolverines to every place he coached. The unique design is still in place today and is quite a sight, although it can be easy to confuse it with Michigan. In 15 years at Delaware, Nelson had a 84-42-2 record, with one National Championship in 1963 and a bowl win over Kent State in the Refrigerator Bowl.
The southwest corner of the stadium has three busts depicting Nelson, William "Bill" Murray, and Harold "Tubby" Raymond, three of the most iconic and famous coaches the program has ever had.
If you enter the stadium through the west entrances, be sure to look at the banners highlighting some of the famous professional players to have played at Delaware, most notably 2000 NFL MVP Rich Gannon and Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco.
The University of Delaware Marching Band is one of the most engaging college bands around. Do not be surprised to see the tuba section running through your section, or the cymbals crew dancing around various parts of the field and stadium area.
Men may also experience a truly unique and bizarre "attraction" in a few of the bathrooms, especially the one in the southeast corner of the stadium. Instead of urinals, men do their business against a large marble slabbed wall. Well, it certainly is convenient. or horrifying. I'm not sure which
The level of play on display at Delaware Stadium is very good. So a stop off of I-95 into the First State and the home of the Fightin' Blue Hens is a good investment for the college football fan.
If you’re in Maryland driving on Interstate 95 and take the first exit after you cross the Delaware state border, you’ll be minutes away from the marquee football stadium in the Blue Hen State: Delaware Stadium in Newark (pronounced new-ARK, and not like neighboring New Jersey's largest city, NEW-irk). At 22,000 seating capacity, the home of the University of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens is the third-biggest stadium in the Colonial Athletic Association, having undergone seating renovations in 1964, 1970, 1972, and 1975. The university itself, a school with a very high academic standard, is about middle of the pack in the CAA in student enrollment with about 16,000 undergrads and 3,500 graduate students. When it was erected in November 1952, Delaware Stadium on South College Avenue had a capacity of just 9,000. Today "The Tub," as it is nicknamed locally, is one-fifth of the David M. Nelson Athletic Complex and home also of the University of Delaware Men’s Lacrosse team since 2010, and the Women’s Lacrosse team since 2011.
Known for having one of the strongest fan bases in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Delaware Stadium on game days can often become the fourth-largest city in the state behind Wilmington, Dover, and Newark itself. Between 1999 and 2010, Delaware averaged more than 20,000 per regular season game, the only FCS program to do so. A very consistent contender, the Delaware Blue Hens have won six national titles, the last victory being in 2003. All in all, Delaware football has won a little over 60% of all their football games since starting play in 1889.
While the football played in Newark may not be considered "top tier," the experience at Delaware Stadium certainly is. The venue is right on campus in a safe city, and it is the most popular place to watch football for Delawareans without crossing state lines. While there may be some issues with the seating and prices, you will enjoy a day in Newark when you spend at least part of it watching the Fightin’ Blue Hens at Delaware Stadium.
145 E Main St
Newark, DE 19711
102 E Main St
Newark, DE 19711
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654 S College Ave
Newark, DE 19713