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Official Review by Chad Minton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
At the ripe age of 15 years old, Finley Stadium offers a modest college football experience for fans of the Chattanooga Mocs. You’re certainly not going to be blown away by Finley Stadium, but it is a solid venue for a team from the FCS subdivision. The stadium sits a capacity of over 20,000, but had a crowd of over 22,000 for its debut against Tennessee State in 1997.
Finley Stadium actually serves a lot of purposes outside of college football. The school’s soccer teams call Finley Stadium home, as well as a semi-pro soccer team based out of Chattanooga. Even teams from Mexico’s top soccer league played a game at Finley Stadium in July the 2012 season.
As for college football, the stadium definitely offers a good stage for viewing a game that would be at the magnitude of a game between two teams from the FCS. This experience maybe wasn’t one that would be remembered for years to come, but it was a pleasant place to experience a college football game on a crisp day in November.
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".
Even though the menu is pretty ordinary, the prices were hard to beat. Nothing was more than $5, with the BBQ sandwich having the $5 price tag. Nachos, popcorn, and pretzels ranged from $3 to $4. There was also Coke products, Powerade, and even coffee offered for beverages. Not sure how many people are having a cup of coffee at a football game, but it's still a nice option to offer.
There was a Polish sausage stand that stood out to me as a nice food option. They were also just $5, and it was certainly the popular choice of the fans as the line was twice as long as any line at the normal concession stands.
You instantly get the feel of a being at a much smaller program's home field at Finley Stadium. The scoreboard is pretty basic, and the video screen is too small to view even with perfect eye sight. You're not going to get blown away by the noise like you would at Neyland Stadium, and that was to be expected.
However, there were things that made Finley Stadium a much better experience than it would appear to be at first glance. First off, there is a brick pavilion located behind one of the endzones that offers a great viewing experience if you don't mind standing. Anyone with a ticket can stand there, and I made sure to take advantage of that great view of the game. The PA announcer was also very animated in his calling of the game, and that seemed to help energize the stadium. Since it was Military Appreciation Day, a large cannon was fired every time the Mocs scored. It was loud enough to give you a pretty big jolt if you weren't expecting it. That added some flavor to the game.
There is very little to do within close distance of Finley Stadium. It's mainly surrounded by abandoned buildings with the windows broken out. It didn't seem to be the "happening" part of Chattanooga by any means. With the exception of a few bars, like T-bones Sports Café, nothing is within short walking distance to Finley Stadium.
A short drive will put you into the part of downtown Chattanooga where you can really have a good time. The Tennessee Aquarium is something you have to experience during a trip to Chattanooga. There are also some nice restaurants and bars in this immediate area that are worth checking out.
It's also highly recommended that you make the drive outside of downtown Chattanooga to Lookout Mountain. This is where you can see seven states, or so they say. Four states might be a little more realistic, but I'll leave you to figuring out which ones on a map. Either way, the view atop Lookout Mountain is very worth the short trip out there.
What hurts this score is lack of really anything surrounding Finley Stadium. I was pretty disappointed that there wasn't more going on in this part of downtown Chattanooga.
The reported attendance of just fewer than 9,000 made for a pretty empty stadium. Certain parts of the stadium were completely empty, mainly on the visitor's side of the field. It's never a good thing when your stadium is less than half-full, which was the case here. There was also no student section anywhere in the stands, and it appeared that there were very few students in any part of the stands. Although, there appeared to be a healthy support from alumni.
The fans that did show up were very much into the game. They made their fair share of noise when big things happened, like a blocked punt that really shifted the momentum of the game.
With that being said, there were drawn out moments where you felt like you could hear conversations going on two or three sections down from you. This perception would change in a big way if there was more support from the student body. There was virtually none in this game that I saw.
Getting to Finley Stadium should be very simple for even someone not familiar with Chattanooga. It's located less than a mile off of Interstate 24. The parking was extremely unorganized for a game that had such a small crowd. We were directed to park in a grassy area that was muddy and full of holes. On top of that, there was just one tiny exit to get out of this grassy area full of parked cars after the game. This would've been a nightmare to get out of if not for it being such a small turnout. At least it was right across the street from the main gate.
There may be plenty of bathrooms to handle the small crowds that frequent Finley Stadium, but they were poorly kept. First off, the metal trough that served as the urinal wasn't even flushing properly. It was also very dim and cramped.
The tickets were a little steep in my opinion for a smaller program like Tennessee-Chattanooga. General admission tickets were $15, which will put you anywhere in the stadium that has metal bleachers. For $25, you can sit in the reserved seats at the middle of the field. The concession stands were a great bargain, with nothing being more than $5. The previously mentioned parking was $5, and there were other lots charging $10 that were actually further from the stadium. I'm still scratching my head on that one.
When you combine all of those totals, you could easily spend around $40 for just yourself when attending a Chattanooga Mocs game. Keep in mind these guys aren't playing the Tennessee Volunteers at home anytime soon. Unless you're a diehard Chattanooga Mocs fan, I'm not so sure that the investment is worth the vanilla experience you're going to get at Finley Stadium.
It was Military Appreciation Day for this game against the Elon Phoenix, and you're always going to get extra points from me when you honor our service men and women. Prior to the game, three people parachuted from helicopter carrying the American flag and landed on the field.
An extra goes to the brick pavilion that serves as a great option to view the game. That is if you can find a spot, because it was pretty popular among the fans.
Finally, an extra goes to the halftime festivities that included a bagpipe ceremony that honored the United States of America. The Tennessee-Chattanooga band joined them and made for a great halftime experience.
You could call this a very vanilla experience that cost more than it probably should. Nothing is going to really "wow" you at Finley Stadium. There are loyal alumni that will continue to support this program, but something has to change to get current students into Finley Stadium. That means getting more dining and entertainment options within the immediate surrounding area of Finley Stadium. Seeing abandoned buildings was very shocking to me around a college football stadium. Until things drastically change, there's no reason to make a special trip to Chattanooga for the college football that's currently being presented.
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