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Official Review by Martin Rickman, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
East Carolina University football owns the coast of North Carolina. Pirate Nation is a big one; purple and yellow are everywhere, and the closer you get to Greenville, the more evident that is. Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium embodies this mentality. It has a clean, no-frills design; modern improvements with a classic feel; and is packed on Saturdays.
Originally opened in 1963, the venue has been built up through a variety of drives and initiatives, including a new video board, a large press box and a better-than-average playing surface.
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 were a lot of options at relatively-good prices; I was pleasantly surprised. The gate I entered had the typical hot dog, pizza, popcorn, and soda I was expecting, but as I traveled around the venue, I was taken aback with the variety of food.
Between Chick-fil-A, gyros, chicken, and BBQ sandwiches "" among other alternatives "" this was some of the better top-to-bottom stadium food I've had at a college game.
The tailgate was fun, albeit a bit close-minded and cliquey. The fans were passionate, and while some were clearly there more because it was the thing to do rather than being diehards, I couldn't complain in the slightest. The place was packed against Central Florida, and the stadium erupted on big plays. For a C-USA team, this had the feel of a major conference bout.
Greenville in general leaves a lot to be desired. There are a lot of burned-out buildings, strip malls and an overall gray atmosphere that reminded me of being in the Midwest. It's not the shining jewel of the Carolinas, to say the least. That said, downtown boasts quite a few bars and clubs (with far too many of them asking for covers on weekends "" step your game up, Greenville. Making college kids pay $5-10 to get into your bar to hear some Drake songs is bad karma).
Aside from the usual Pita Pit, pizza places and dives, Sup Dogs was a neat place to grab a late night dog. They had this pretty unique sauce that seemed like it would be good on anything, some decent cheesy tots, and served food up through closing time.
I also enjoyed Parker's Barbeque. On one of the main highway drags, Parker's is a classic BBQ joint "" checkered paper in plastic trays, cash only, and huge portions at dirt-cheap prices. It wasn't as great as some of the Lexington BBQ I've had in the state, but the sides were solid, and at under $10, it is definitely tough to top the value.
I'll expound on the tailgate experience a bit here. For the most part, a lot of ECU fans are good people, but there is a really cold opinion of outsiders. I was wearing non-descript clothing (mostly just trying to dress warmly), but frats dominated the lot I was in, parking was kind of based on some kind of elitist status, and there was a lot less cooking going on than just drinking and chanting. Inside the gate, fans were active and excitable; a night game always brings out the rowdiest in bunches.
Maybe it was more about the lot I was in, so I'm giving the fanbase a pass as whole, but honestly, it was hard to believe "" based on gameday experience "" that the Big East wouldn't want ECU's passion for football over a few of the other selections they've made as they have started to rebuild their conference.
Parking was a mess. A lot of the lots were a long trek away, and unless you were in the know about where to find the shuttles, you were a little out of luck. Fortunately, I had a group to direct me where I was going. Getting out wasn't tough. Leaving Greenville and finding major highways, on the other hand "" whether you're headed to Wilmington, Raleigh, or otherwise "" is an adventure.
Student guest tickets were $5. That's a little unbelievable. Concessions were cheap. We parked for free, so the walk was worth it. It was a very student-friendly experience. It's not 'Bama-LSU, but for the price, the spectacle was well worth the cost.
ECU gets a point for the video board, a point for the playing surface, a point for the music selections throughout the game "" which are leaps and bounds better than a few of the other stadiums I have been to "" and another point is awarded for the stadium itself, which seems to have made the right upgrades without pouring exorbitant amounts of money into unnecessary additions. The place seats 50,000 people, and fills it. That's impressive.
While ECU didn't have the best of seasons in 2011, fans take their Pirate football seriously. Boasting one of the nicest stadiums in Conference USA, and one of the best in North Carolina, East Carolina is a terrific place to see a game in an otherwise unassuming town.
Member Review by Pirateman on Feb 16, 2013
mid major school with big time atmosphere.
213 E 5th St
Greenville, NC 27858
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