Perched at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and on the campus of the Air Force Academy, Falcon Stadium is truly a one of a kind experience for visiting sports fans. Not only is the experience unique due to being on the campus of a military academy, but Falcon Stadium is also the third highest Division I college football stadium in elevation (second in the FBS behind only Wyoming and Northern Arizona in FCS), sitting on high at 6,621 feet above sea level. The stadium was constructed in 1962 with a total cost of $3.5 million and the Air Force Falcons played their first game in the same year on September 22nd knocking off their in-state rival Colorado State Rams 24-0 in front of a sold-out crowd of 41,350.
The stadium has experienced little change since 1962. Some of the major upgrades include the addition of stadium lighting in 2002, a video instant replay scoreboard in 2004, and installation of a FieldTurf playing surface in 2006. Nine skyboxes were added in 1992 bringing the total indoor seating capacity at the stadium to 450.
Though the Academy has served as members of WAC and Mountain West Conference which consists of institutions located in the western half of the U.S., there’s little doubt that their closest rivals are more than 1,500 miles away at the Naval Academy (Navy) and United States Military Academy (Army). The Commander-in-Chief Trophy is awarded to the service academy with the best season record among these three schools and dates back to 1972. There’s simply no atmosphere in college football similar to a Commander-in-Chief Trophy game and the experience in Falcon Stadium is incomplete against other opponents.
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".
For a college football venue of its size, Falcon Stadium offers a large variety of concession options. In the west grandstands and under the east grandstands you'll find your traditional options embedded within the concourse. In the open endzone areas, however, concession booths litter the walkways. Not only is there a large variety but the price is definitely right.
For an upper tier FBS venue, concessions are very affordable. In the main concession stands, you can score a hot dog for $3, spicy sausage and nachos for $4, and additional items like Cracker Jacks ($3), candy ($2.50), pastries ($2), popcorn ($3), snack pretzels ($2), and cookies ($2). Your beverage items include Pepsi products at $3 each and coffee, hot cider, and hot chocolate at $2 (alcohol is prohibited in Falcon Stadium). In the endzones you'll find booths ranging from El Padrino Mexicano, Pizza Hut, Short Stop Deluxe Burgers, Chick-fil-A, Pig Out BBQ, Fazoli's Italian, and other booths featuring kettle corn, turkey legs, funnel cakes, Polish sausage cheesesteak and more.
If you find yourself in Falcon Stadium on a cold Colorado night, I recommend looking for the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory trailer (check in the north endzone) for some hot chocolate and a candied apple. Another great stand on a cold night is the Jenni's Mini Donuts trailer for some frosted mini donuts ($5) and a coffee ($2).
It's hit or miss with booths that accept credit cards. All of the traditional stands run by the stadium accept major credit cards and many of the booths in the endzones do as well, but some do not so you may want to have some cash on hand just in case.
Falcon Stadium is located on the Air Force Academy campus southeast of the cadet area and north of the airfield. The stadium is a bowl style venue with one tier of seating wrapping around the field enclosing the playing area. The east grandstands have a second tier which stretches from endzone to endzone and the west grandstands have a second tier which stretches from just behind each endzone and third tier which is approximately five yards shorter than the second.
Nine skyboxes were added in 1992 and sit on top of the third tier on the west side along with the pressbox. The total capacity of Falcon Stadium is 46,692. The current playing surface was installed in 2006 and is synthetic FieldTurf.
The seating area on the third tier of the west grandstand spells out AIR FORCE in white from one side of the tier to the next. The word FALCONS used to be spelled out in the same manner on the second tier of the east grandstand but has since been removed.
A large video replay scoreboard is located in the south endzone.
Air Force does a great job of honoring past accomplishments throughout the stadium. On the main concourse which separates the first and second tiers of the west grandstands you'll find the "Falcon Football Legacy Wall", labeled as such, and recognizing the team leaders, records, and results for each season of play. The wall separating the second and third tiers lists each bowl game appearance and conference championship.
If you are a fan of the visiting team, you'll likely find friendlies on the first tier in the southeast corner of the stadium. The student section will certainly be easy to spot. The Air Force Academy Cadets will usually be dressed in camouflage and located on the first tier in the northeast corner of the stadium.
There are some pretty unique traditions during Air Force games. Just before the game begins, the Wings of Blue parachute into the stadium and onto the field. At halftime, one of the few live performing mascots in the nation, The Falcon, soars throughout the stadium. After each touchdown, cadets come out of the stands and into the empty area just behind the stadium to do pushups.
Air Force also has two full cheer and dance teams. Both teams consist only of Academy cadets. In addition to a live falcon, there is also a suited blue falcon simply known as the bird. Another great part of the Air Force tradition is the playing of the U.S. Air Force Song, especially during halftime.
You'll definitely be on a Rocky Mountain high during your stay in the Colorado Springs area. Whether it's touring the Air Force Academy campus, hiking in the mountain area, or drinking a home brew at one of the many area brew pubs, the neighborhood surrounding the campus is one of the best parts of the overall experience.
Just across the campus on the other side of I-25 is the Colorado Mountain Brewery. This micro-brewery is home to several different brews and if you're in town long enough, you just might want to try them all. My personal favorite is the 7258 Blonde Ale. The brewery not only has great beer, but also has one of the best slab of ribs I've personally ever had (this is coming from a Texan). Order the Brew House Ribs and ask for the goat cheese whipped potatoes on the side (trust me on this one).
Another great brew pub can be found a few miles south of campus in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs. Grab a table at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company and order a glass of Queens Blonde Ale to go along with their amazing Pork Green Chili. The club sandwich with bacon potato salad is another great option.
This is assuming you'll even find time to eat with all the area attractions you'll try to pile into your schedule. No matter how long you're in town, you have to make time to tour the Air Force Academy campus. While you're there, be sure to visit the Cadet Chapel and B-52 Bomber "Diamond Lil".
Head south on I-25 for two outdoor nature trips. The amazing sights in both the Garden of the Gods and Seven Falls will definitely take your breath away. You can also take a ride up to the top of Pike's Peak via the Pike's Peak Cog Railway.
The entire area is truly beautiful and I can guarantee you'll never want to go home. For the best place to stay during the weekend check out the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Since the best comes with a lofty price tag, another more affordable option is Hampton Inn and Suites Air Force.
While many college football fans are passionate about their university's football team through having spent four or more years on campus earning a bachelor's degree, the passion Air Force fans feel is quite different. In this close knit community, many fans either served in the Air Force or are related to those who did. Not only did they spend some of the best years of their life on campus, but they also served their country on battlefields around the globe. That makes for a pretty special atmosphere, especially when the National Anthem and U.S. Air Force Song are played.
Outside of the passion fans feel for the Air Force, the involvement by the fans throughout the game isn't quite at the same level of many other major football venues. You're most interactive crowds will be found during a Commander-In-Chief matchup. If it's not a service academy or Colorado State, the atmosphere just isn't the same. The one chant that most fans participate in is the yelling of "first down."
If you are flying in for the game, be sure to check out options to fly into Colorado Springs as this will save you the trouble of driving down from Denver. However, your cheapest flights will likely be into Denver where you'll have to drive an hour and a half south to get to Air Force.
Just looking at a map, it seems that access to Falcon Stadium will be a breeze. Sitting just off I-25 to the west, there are only two ways into Falcon Stadium and therefore only two ways out. When the stadium is at capacity, trying to get 40,000+ out at the same time on only two roads not built for heavy traffic and onto a single interstate with no alternative routes isn't the easiest of tasks. Be prepared for quite a headache sitting in slow moving traffic. Once you get to I-25, hold off on the premature celebration because you'll likely be in another bogged-down mess. Arriving on to campus isn't that much of a struggle since folks come in at different times. There's usually plenty of parking around the stadium and it's free!
Once you've made it up to the stadium, you'll likely encounter a small line where your bags will be checked and tickets scanned. If you have tickets on the west side, be prepared for what seems like a hike up a mountain side to get there from the east side parking lot. The lower bowl connects around the stadium and is spacious enough to get by without any issues. There are plenty of restrooms and they are without lines.
Overall, the return on investment for an Air Force game at Falcon Stadium is amazing. Ticket prices are as low as $15. As mentioned, concession prices are very reasonable and parking is free. For $15 plus maybe $8 per person for concessions, you get the opportunity to see Air Force battle Army or Navy for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy and all the pageantry that goes into such an event. Honestly, few events compare.
Your ROI dips a little when Air Force isn't playing a fellow service academy.....Air Force vs. Hawaii doesn't sound quite as entertaining. If you can't get in for a service academy matchup, Air Force has a pretty good in-state rivalry with Colorado State which is located about three hours drive north on I-25.
Though there are still quite a few live mascots around the country, very few actually perform at the game. It's pretty neat to catch a glimpse of the The Falcon screeching overhead at speeds up to 200 miles per hour. Maybe it's just something in that cold Colorado water (see Ralphie the Buffalo at Colorado and CAM the Ram at Colorado State).
The micro-brew pubs in the area make you want to buy a house and stay long term. The home-brewed beer and food was absolutely amazing.
What compliments a high flying football game at Air Force? What about a high rising train that ascends to the top of Pike's Peak (Pike's Peak Cog Railway). Don't forget the amazing sights at Seven Falls and the Garden of the Gods.
Other college football programs pay homage to our servicemen just before kickoff with the playing of the national anthem. Air Force pays homage to our servicemen throughout the entire game. It's really hard to explain the feeling you'll get as the goosebumps pop up on your arms listening to the U.S. Air Force Song and the National Anthem. If you get the chance to go, stop at least one cadet and thank him or her for their service to our country and your family.
Last but not least is Diamond Lil, the B-52 bomber that greets you as you enter via the north gate. Diamond Lil may have retired, but before she did she was recorded as one of the few B-52 bombers to have actually shot down a mig in combat. It's a truly unique sight on a college campus.
So is it worth it? YES!! If you aren't from around the area and are simply traveling to experience Air Force football, make sure you choose a matchup with Army or Navy. If that's not an option for you, look for the in-state battle between Air Force and Colorado State. For only a few bucks out of your pocket you get to experience one of the most unique atmospheres in college football and an area full of great food, beer, and attractions. I recommend taking the family (if that pertains to you) and making the whole weekend a tribute to our U.S. armed forces. These folks sacrifice so much so we can all drink our $4 Starbucks in the morning without worry. They deserve a thank you (and so much more).
Air Force's Falcon Stadium is unique in many ways.
Nestled near to the Rocky Mountains, Falcon Stadium's backdrop to the west is second to none. It's truly a beautiful sight to behold.
But juxtaposed to that is the fact that the stadium sits on the US Air Force Academy campus, where cadets are trained to learn how to fight for their country.
It's unique because when you pull up to the boundaries of the campus, many soldiers stand where parking lot attendants usually would, and they usher you through the entrance. It's unique because massive planes decorate the campus, and greet you as you come and go. It's unique because of how desolate the land around the main road seems to be""there's not much to see other than nature, which is a bit weird to say considering you find yourself on a military base.
Attending a game at Falcon Stadium is special because of the thousands of cadets that call it home, and it's interesting to see the servicemen and women on their phones, talking with friends, and lounging around. This is their leisure time, a time to get away from all the rigors of training to be in the Air Force, and you can see them having fun and being relaxed.
Built in 1962, the stadium holds 46,692 fans and at 6,620 feet above sea level, it's the second highest stadium in Division-1A college football.
Throughout the years, Air Force has added many interesting decorations. There's a massive falcon statue outside the east stands, along with five large statues that commemorate when the stadium was built, and numerous flags of all the Mountain West Conference teams.
The stadium has gone through multiple renovations, including permanent lighting in 2002, a video screen jumbotron above the south stands that was added in 2004, and in 2006 the school installed field turf to take over for their previous natural grass surface.
Yes, Air Force's Falcon Stadium is a fun place to take in a game, and because of its uniqueness, it's a must-see for any sports fan.
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