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Official Review by Samuel Watkins, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Dix Stadium is home to a classic college football experience, a revitalized downtown and a historic campus. Only 30 miles from the birthplace of football in Canton and 45 miles southeast of downtown Cleveland, Kent State University and Dix Stadium are worth a visit for any college football fan.
Built in 1969 and housing a current capacity of 25,513, Dix Stadium has the look and feel from sports venues built during the era, but adds enough individual style to make it a memorable experience. The facility is located on the far east end of Kent State University, away from the main buildings and activity of campus life.
In 2013, the school launched the “Building Champions” campaign aimed at improving the sports facilities for the school. Dix Stadium will benefit with upgrades first focused towards the student-athletes, such as a new player’s lounge and upgraded locker room and facilities. Improvements on the agenda to enhance fan experience include the upgrading of bleacher seats, luxury suites, and covered seating areas adjacent to the student sections.
While the Golden Flashes may have taken a step backward on the field after peaking with a berth in the 2013 GoDaddy.com Bowl, this is no reason to overlook the warmth and charm of downtown Kent, Ohio and the home of a football experience rich in value and potential.
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 two primary concession stands on either side of the main (west) entrance and a large concession area at the foot of the south end zone in the Hall of Fame Plaza. What Dix Stadium may lack in variety and originality, they more than make up for in value. The finite menu of standard fare ranges from $2 (hot chocolate and soft drinks) to $6 (chicken tenders). The bevy of eight different Heinz toppings/sauce options and Chick-fil-A sandwiches at the Hall of Fame Plaza stand are an added bonus. Unfortunately, the 'KSU Chef's Special,' advertised on the standard menu, was not available during my most recent visit, and no explanation as to why was given.
An auxiliary food and beverage stand is located on the east side of the stadium, but the fare options are abbreviated as most of the traffic is limited to students.
Kent State University is one of only 21 schools to sell beer at a college football game. This requires a wristband and customers are limited to two at a time. Budweiser or Bud Light tall cans are the stadium options and are sold from mobile trucks on the west side of the concourse.
With a struggling team, a Tuesday night matchup in the gusting rain, and a kickoff temperature of 42 degrees, lines were short and fast moving, and other concession areas may have been closed due these factors during my visit. However, customer service was beyond friendly and was always asking to help or give directions.
Being a little more than two miles from the heart of campus, Dix Stadium does not carry over the excitement and buzz a student body can create on game day. The only noticeable backdrop is the main library, and this is only visible from the top of Dix Stadium when looking west towards campus. Like any football game, the rightful priority here is football.
The new FieldTurf stadium surface is highlighted by a beautiful brick façade in the south end zone, which also acts as home to the Hall of Fame Plaza. Acknowledgement of past bowl appearances, including the 1954 Refrigerator Bowl, don the north end zone fence.
With a capacity just over 25,000, there is not a bad seat in the house. All seating options are bleachers except for a bright yellow section near midfield on the large side of the concourse. Appointed under the scoreboard near midfield, these seats have individual chair backs and offer the best view of the game.
The area around the stadium is flat and no seat is safe from the elements. None of the seats are covered and the concourse does not provide shelter from rain or snow so come prepared when attending games later in the season. When the wind is gusting, the outer concourse can offer a temporary barrier.
Located in the south end zone of Dix Stadium, the George Jenkins and Jim Phelan Hall of Fame Plaza recognizes Kent State football players who have retired jerseys, have played in the NFL, or been inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. This list includes Jack Lambert, Josh Cribbs, and James Harrison. The plaza is an open area with an elevated sight line overlooking the end zone. A nice added touch is the inclusion of a small plaque with names of honored football players on each of the tabletops in the section.
Dix Stadium has one primary entrance on the west side of the stadium. This is also home to the primary parking lot ($5) and shuttle bus drop off for the complimentary parking lots down the road. Immediately inside this entrance is an official school merchandise stand that was featuring 10% off all winter merchandise. Like many stadiums built in its era, Dix Stadium has wide concourses and easy access to all sections. Even in highly attended games, it is hard to imagine not being able to comfortably park, get in the gate, grab something to eat, and find your seat. With all necessary amenities and optimal seating on this side, there is no reason to head over to use the west side entrance as it is home to the student section.
The only scoreboard is more than sufficient and rises just above the Hall of Fame Plaza. It is bright, offers high definition video feedback, and is a good compliment to the game's action.
The school's mascot, Flash the Golden Eagle, seems to be everywhere before, during, and after the game. Flash is either posing for pictures in the stands with kids and fans or pumping up the crowd with the cheerleaders.
If meeting Flash the Golden Eagle is not enough excitement for the kids, Kent State has the Family Fun Zone in the south end zone near the Hall of Fame Plaza. There are games, inflatables, and other diversions for the young fans.
While Dix Stadium is not within walking distance from any restaurants, bars, or points of interest, downtown Kent more than makes up for it with a combination of long standing watering holes and hip new restaurants. A six minute drive from the stadium, the Acorn Alley area of downtown Kent is littered with great places to eat. Long gone is the Taco Bell with the telephone drive-thru system across the street from the school being passed off as 'off-campus dining.'
Stop at Bar 145 for a fun mix of specialty burgers, craft beers, and a happy hour that features half-off appetizers and too many drink specials to name. Kent State alum Drew Carey still swears by Ray's Place, a campus dive bar favorite since 1937. Also in Acorn Alley are traditional chain sports bars, like Panini's and Buffalo Wild Wings in addition to plenty of other sit down dining options.
If you are looking for merchandise, stop at Universitees, a store also in Acorn Alley with an unbeatable 2 for $22 t-shirt deal, as well as other officially licensed sweatshirts, hats, and more. Driving from downtown to the stadium is well marked with signs at almost every intersection pointing you to the stadium. Once parked, plenty of law enforcement officers are around to ensure a safe walk to and from the gate.
Any trip to Kent State would not be complete without a trip to the May 4 Visitors Center, a tribute to the events that shaped a generation on this date in 1970. Here you will find details on the walking tour and can checkout an iPod for added narration.
Fans of Kent State University epitomize loyalty. Regardless of being in the cellar of the MAC, the almost freezing temperatures by halftime, and non-stop whipping rain, fans came out to support their team during my visit in November, 2014. The school boasts a strong alumni network in Northeast Ohio and is known for an animated student body. These groups are welcoming of visitors and guests of all ages so everyone should feel safe cheering on the Golden Flashes, unless you are there to support the Zips, then they may offer some good-natured razzing.
The northeast corner of the stadium is home to a special group of fans, the Varsity "K" Room. This club is only accessible to past student-athletes of the school and features access and complimentary food at the Varsity "K" Room and a special seating section in front of the room to watch the game. I recommend taking a peek inside from the outer concourse as you never know who may be inside.
Located 5-10 minutes outside of downtown Kent (depending on traffic) and 2.2 miles from the center of campus, Dix Stadium anchors the Kent community. Whether you take I-76, I-80, or Ohio 8, the school is easily accessible and will require some kind of rural driving. The school is less than one hour southeast of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and downtown Cleveland, and only 30 minutes from downtown Akron and the Canton/Akron International Airport.
At $5, parking off of Summit Road is affordable and adjacent to the main entrance of the stadium. Since parking here is limited, the school offers free parking and shuttle rides to the stadium (maps and shuttle stops are available online). Once entering the stadium, have your bag ready to be searched by the pleasant security staff.
While football continues to be the most popular sport in our country, there is something extra special about attending a game in Northeast Ohio during the fall. When the leaves are on the ground, the air is brisk, and an extra layer of warmth is required, a college football game at Dix Stadium is the perfect backdrop. Kent State football is an easy add-on to any sports fan's journey through Cleveland and Akron. Start a Saturday afternoon by experiencing the hidden charm of downtown Kent. After attending a game at Dix Stadium, take the 30 minute drive to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Kent State University employs a variable ticket pricing model. A ticket for a seat with a chair back in the bright yellow section at midfield is a steal. Priced at $15 or $20 (if purchased in advance), ticket prices vary depending on the opponent. General Admission seats are $10 or $20 with the same qualifiers. Ticket prices rise to $20 or $25 when purchased on game day, but still remain a deal as general admission tickets purchased at this time are all $25. There is added value to attending a game as promotions through the season include post game fireworks, parents and family day, and a post game movie on scout night.
Dix Stadium earns an extra point for the diverse tailgate promotions aimed at getting fans out to the game early. Each home game has a different theme for tailgaters, including a chili cook off, best burger and best tailgate competitions, cornhole tournament, and a 'gold out' initiative.
Another point is awarded for the classy way the school has honored one of their players, Jason Bitsko, who passed away in August, 2014. Not only is his number placed on the south side 30 yard line, but his number 54 is prominently featured in the entire right side of their helmet.
The school has an active social media and technology presence. Links for radio, video, and live blogs are tweeted by @KentStAthletics before the game. Live audio is broadcast on WHLO 640 and also on the iHeartRadio app.
The final extra point is awarded to the Hall of Fame Plaza. Do yourself a favor and grab something to eat out in the end zone and take a peek at the names on the plaques affixed to each of the tabletops. Any football game is guaranteed to have an 'Oh, I didn't know he went here' moment.
MAC football has taken its talent on the field to a higher level over the past decade and now the facilities used by these teams need to follow. With planned upgrades to the fan experience through the Building Champions campaign, Dix Stadium has an opportunity to take center stage as the top sports venue in Kent, pushing Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center and Schoonover Stadium to the side.
Regardless of any changes, Dix Stadium is a great add to any Northeast Ohio sports or football fan's bucket list. The charm and energy of downtown Kent along with the political and cultural history of the school make Kent State football a welcome addition to any stadium journey.
Member Review by collegiatestdms
Kent State starting playing in Dix Stadium in 1969. Dix Stadium is similar to just about every Mid-American Conference Stadium; nothing flashy, just a basic football stadium that seats 20,500 fans.
Member Review by paul on Nov 07, 2011
This is one of my favorite football stadiums in the MAC (visited 6 so far). Enjoyed my time in downtown Kent as well, and the student section is better than most of what I have seen in the MAC, along with Northern Illinois. Worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood, and they are off campus so they serve beer (always a plus for the above 21 crowd)
Member Review by Aaron S. Terry on Nov 04, 2015
Decent stadium, just not a lot of fans, especially for weeknight games. And very cold in October/November so dress warmly.
132 S Water St
Kent, OH 44240
106 W Main St
Kent, OH 44240
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