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Official Review by Jason Bullock, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
E. Claiborne Robins Stadium is home to the University of Richmond Spiders, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association in the Football Championship Subdivision. "U of R" is a private university located in the capital city of Virginia with an enrollment of approximately 4500 students. For over 80 years, the Spiders played their home games off campus at City Stadium. An aging stadium and a desire to have an on-campus home for the Spiders led to relocating to Robins Stadium in 2010. Through a major expansion, it was transformed from a small stadium that was known simply as the Soccer/Track complex to its present day status as home to the Spiders.
Total construction cost was approximately $28 million and brought current capacity to 8700, which is about 40% of the capacity of the previous home to the Spiders. Robins Stadium also is home to the soccer, lacrosse, and track teams for the university and is a building that all of them can be proud to call home.
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".
All of the typical stadium offerings are available here, so nothing really stood out to me from a variety standpoint. However, the quality is good and the prices are very fair for stadium food. Hot dogs ($3), hamburgers ($4), and Papa Johns 8" pizza ($7) are some of the main course items available. French fries and popcorn are $3 each, while nachos with cheese and salsa are $5. There are two combo meals available for $7: Pork BBQ sandwich with slaw or roasted chicken sandwich, each served with fries. I tried the roasted chicken, and it was quite tasty and much better than what I typically find at stadiums. Warning: lines are tremendously long at halftime. Go before or wait until the end of the 3rd quarter.
Coca-Cola products are served and are $3 for a medium, $4 for a large (which includes a souvenir cup, always a plus in my book). Bottled water is $3, and coffee/hot chocolate are available for $2. No alcohol is served or allowed to be brought into the stadium.
If you are looking for something sweet to top off your meal, head over to the eastern side of the stadium behind the student section and try some Bruster's Ice Cream. They sell dishes and cones and have a good variety of flavors. My large cone was $6, a good value for a stadium offering. All of the main concessions accept credit cards, but the majority of the stand alone vendors do not. There is an ATM in the west concourse if you find yourself without cash.
I was surprised to find that a stadium that was renovated in the last three years would not have more of a capacity than Robins Stadium, but I believe that is part of the charm and creates an intimate atmosphere at football games. You will find the majority of the seats on the west and east sides of the stadium, with visiting team fans appearing to be seated toward the end zones on both sides. The majority of students sit in the south end zone - "The Web" - and keep a pretty energetic charge through the game. The north end zone is a very small seating section and appeared to be mostly fans of the visiting team. There is a small pep band that sits in the north end zone; if you are looking for a marching band during pregame or halftime, you will be disappointed. The stadium actually sits diagonally, so sitting in the north end zone in the late afternoon on a sunny day will result in you missing some of the game, as it is very hard to see until the sun goes behind the trees.
The home team sits on the west side of the stadium, which is where you will find the cheerleaders throughout the game along with same view as if you were watching on television. If you want to get close to the players as they come on and off the field, head over to the west side of the north end zone and you will get some great photos and possibly a wave from your favorite Spider.
There is a large video scoreboard in the north end zone that gives you all the pertinent information along with live action during the game, which is appreciated if you aren't sitting close to game action. A smaller scoreboard with just the basics is located in the south end zone. The PA announcer does a good job of providing information, however depending on where I was in the stadium, his voice was either muffled or not loud enough. Either way, there were times I was unsure of what promotion or activity was going on during time-outs. During halftime, there was a contest with some fans, but I couldn't tell what the objective or the prize was based on the lack of clarity from the PA system.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of stadiums that have tracks in between the seating area and the field. To me, it separates the fans further from the game. It's not a deal-breaker for me, but takes away a little bit from the stadium experience as a fan.
Lastly, one area of improvement is the attitude and attentiveness of the ushers. They are easily identifiable by their bright yellow shirts, but I found most that I came into contact with not very personable. I had to interrupt the personal conversation the usher in my section was having to ensure I was sitting in the right seat. He motioned with his hand and then returned his attention to what he was doing. I had similar experiences with a couple of other ushers in other sections as I asked for directions to different areas of the stadium. I'm sure this doesn't speak for all, but I was disappointed in my experience as a fan from a customer service standpoint.
Robins Stadium is located in the northern part of campus. While there is not much to do in the immediate area, take some time to walk around campus before or after the game. While U of R is located in the capital of the Commonwealth, the scenic view is beautiful and makes you feel like you are far removed from the big city. After the game, you are not far from shopping, dining, and entertainment options. A ten-minute drive south takes you to Stony Point Fashion Park where you will find Champps Americana, a decent sports bar where you can catch the evening games. Fifteen minutes northeast will take you to the Short Pump area where you will find Bar Louie, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Funny Bone Comedy Club. If you have an extended stay in Richmond, there are plenty of sights to see. The Capitol building, Science Museum, and canal walk are all great options, and don't miss a trip to Carytown for an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants.
Spider fans are into their team! The game I most recently attended was against James Madison, an in-state rival, and the home team fans were a part of the game from opening kickoff until the final gun. I sat in a few different areas of the stadium during the game and found a consistent level of support throughout. Red was a dominant color in the stands, and it was great to see that the home team fans kept their tickets and didn't allow the visiting team dominate their turf. While it was an intense game, fans of both teams were able to be respectful of the other, creating an enjoyable atmosphere that keeps it both fan and family friendly.
One thing I always look for in a crowd is that signature chant or rallying cry. Sadly, I couldn't find one here. This crowd doesn't really get into attempts of the PA announcer (supported by scoreboard graphics) to get the crowd pumped up. Most attempts fizzled out after a few rounds and never really found any traction, so don't feel out of place if you don't know or don't participate - no one else seemed to either.
Parking can be a bit of an adventure when attending a Spiders game. The school website has a great map that details out where all of the available parking on campus is located. However, if you've never been before it easy to get confused. There is signage that directs you to the parking lots, but not all of the parking lots are clearly marked as acceptable for game-day parking. I recommend printing out the map (I didn't) and allow yourself plenty of time to locate parking so you don't miss any of the game action. Free shuttle buses will transport you from any of the remote parking lots to a location that is a very short walk to the stadium. Although, if you have the time and energy, take the walk to enjoy the scenic campus.
Getting in the stadium is easy with a friendly gate staff. If you are picking up tickets, you will need to stop by the Robins Center, which is located across the street from the main gate on the southwest corner of the stadium.
Restrooms are clean and well-maintained, but smaller than I expected for a newly renovated stadium. Avoid them during halftime, as the lines were well out the door during the break. The concourse was roomy and the only time I really noticed it to be crowded was at the half.
While I appreciate the efforts to make gameday a kid-friendly atmosphere (which it definitely is!), one drawback to me as a fan is the amount of children playing unsupervised in the main concourse. Having to dodge running children, tossed balls, and other fans trying to avoid the same during various trips back and forth to my seat was an annoyance. Some policing of this by staff would keep these areas safer for all in my opinion.
One could argue that $30 (for an end zone seat) being the cheapest ticket at a FCS game could be considered a little pricey. However, demand seems to outweigh supply when it comes to Spiders home football games, as they sold out every game this year, no matter the level of competition. Tickets on the secondary market are scarce and costly, so if you are planning on attending a game, buy them early! Considering the free parking and shuttle service, fair food prices, great atmosphere, and quality play on the field, I believe a day at Robins Stadium is a great investment for a football fan.
A few extra points here for Robins Stadium -
- Behind the north end zone is a "Family Fun Zone" that not only has a variety of activities for the younger ones, but it's all included with the price of admission. Face painting, balloon animals, moon bounce, and speed pitch are just a few of the activities to keep the kids busy.
- There is an open plaza area behind the south end zone that is a nice area to get away from the game for a moment without having to leave the stadium. There are stand-alone vendors located here along with some picnic tables to sit and get a bite to eat or just relax.
- Seeing brick everywhere you look gives the stadium an old-time, but modern feel. The visual walking up to the stadium and inside the gates is a welcome relief to the typical concrete that you see in many stadiums.
If you live or are going to be anywhere near Richmond, enjoy football, and have never taken in a game at Robins Stadium, make plans for next season to get to one. You'll be glad you did; just remember to get your tickets early!
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