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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
A few years ago, FIU football was on the path to being the next Boise State. Then a bad season led to the firing of Mario Cristobal and once again the Golden Panthers find themselves mired in mediocrity. Despite jumping from the lowly Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA, FIU’s college football experience still seems forced, much like many of their other athletics events.
Fans show up more because they may have friends who go to FIU and they want to hang out instead of seeing D-I football on the field. When the fans show up, FIU football can be exciting and energetic. Unfortunately, as with most sports teams in South Florida, they don’t show up, especially when the team only wins a handful of games and isn’t bowl eligible on a yearly basis.
FIU Stadium opened in 1995 and was gradually renovated, most recently in 2012 which included new concession stands, the enclosure of the north side of the bleachers, and an upper bowl of seats. The current capacity is just 20,000 and is officially known as Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium.
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".
FIU is in the middle of a flavorful area of Miami, with great food on every corner. The fare at FIU reflects that. Prices are average and affordable, and the food is varied. From the burgers and hot dogs that are standard to the arepas vendors that set up on the upper concourse of the stadium there is no shortage of choices for food.
Atmosphere at FIU isn't exactly top notch. The fans, when they do show up, are not exactly hardcore fans. Many are seen arriving wearing Miami, Florida State, or Florida Gators colors. The fraternities are the biggest FIU supporters, but they only comprise of so many fans. While tailgating may be decent outside, some people have been known to arrive to games to set up camp outside, and then stay down in the parking lot to watch a bigger game on their portable TV's while FIU is playing just steps away.
With improved performance comes improved attendance and bigger teams to play, but ultimately FIU is a show that lacks. When a high school rivalry game packs more fans into the stadium and leads to bigger roars to be heard than the college that plays there on a regular basis, it's hard to take the team seriously as an entertaining buy.
FIU's athletic fields are on campus, which makes it convenient. Unlike stadiums in the middle of a city, there is a sense of security on campus as you are seemingly separated from the rest of the neighborhood around it. However, there still remains the issue of how that surrounding neighborhood looks, and it isn't exactly the best in Miami.
Sweetwater is a town known for political corruption and severe street flooding during hurricanes, and not much else. Put a college campus in the middle of it, and you have FIU.
Fans, when they show up, are energetic. It is college after all. However, getting them to show up is another big ask for a results-driven city fan base. FIU has seen very few packed-to-the-gills games since it began playing in its current home. Perhaps that says something about the fan base, or lack of, at its games.
Getting to the stadium at FIU isn't too hard, but traffic can sometimes be problematic. As is typical in Miami, traffic backs up right around the exits nearest FIU's campus on a daily basis. If you find yourself hoping to get to a game and rush hour happens to have lasted a little longer on that day, you may be in for a late arrival.
As far as FIU's entertainment value goes, the team's performance doesn't help its case. The campus is growing and bustling, but their games aren't. With a road-weary commuter school student body, getting students to games isn't their strongest suit. When you want to see college football, you want a rowdy student section and passionate fans. At FIU, you may get a free t-shirt for going and the ability to see "D-I" football played, but that's about it.
For students, FIU has a program called Panther Points, rewarding students for attending athletic events throughout the year. At certain points, fans with the most points are rewarded with computers, scholarships, and other prizes.
For fans, a t-shirt giveaway may be at random games.
From their continued effort to force a rivalry with UM where none exists to their lack of fans at home games, FIU is a team with some work to do. Despite this, there remains potential for growth, and if all goes well the Golden Panthers have the ability to become a huge draw down south once again.
Member Review by luisakalefty
Florida International University is a very large public university in Miami, just about 15 minutes west of the University of Miami. With over 40,000 students, and one of the largest alumni bases in the state of Florida, one would figure it's only a matter of time before the football program caught up with the rest of the academic institution. Step one in that process was the construction of FIU Stadium on campus. A small venue as it stands right now, with capacity for about 19,000 fans, the stadium will undergo a drastic expansion beginning immediately after this season ends. New concession stands, the enclosure of the north side of the bleachers, and an upper bowl of seats are all part of the renovation.
I was at a Tuesday night game between FIU and Troy, not exactly a heated rivalry, but a matchup of the past two Sun Belt Conference champions. And with the game being televised nationally on ESPN, I counted on a bit more support than I encountered. Nonetheless, it's an intimate stadium, and FIU is
building a passionate core of fans.
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