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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Old Dominion University (ODU) has only had a football team since 2009 but has shown that theirs is a program on the rise.
For the first two seasons the Monarchs were an independent in the Football Championship Subdivision and then moved to the Colonial Athletic Association in 2011. In 2013 they jumped up to the Football Bowl Subdivision as a once again independent team. Finally in 2014 the team joined up with Conference USA.
The Monarch's stadium, Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium, is far older than the football team. Opened in 1936 it was the home to the Norfolk Division of William & Mary University, the original name for ODU. The team only lasted a few years under the name Braves and ended up being cancelled in 1941.
Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium served as the home stadium for the Norfolk State University football program throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Foreman Field hosted the annual Oyster Bowl game from 1946 to 1995, featuring numerous major college football teams. The Virginia Ambassadors of the World Football League were to play their games at Foreman Field in 1974 before the franchise was sold and moved to Orlando.
To get ready for the return of major college football the stadium underwent a $24.8 million renovation.
ODU’s Monarchs and Lady Monarchs sports teams compete as members of Conference USA in most sports.
The university has plans to drastically expand and renovate Foreman Field at S. B. Ballard Stadium after the 2018 season. The stadium will be virtually demolished and rebuilt to be ready for the 2019 season. This $55-million rebuild will add capacity and change many of the seats to better, chair back styles.
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 are many great food options at ODU football games. There are the normal permanent concession stands located on the east and west sides of the stadium. The usual food offerings of hot dogs, hamburgers and nachos are found in abundance here, and at decent prices.
But these food stands do not tell the whole story. There are food trucks and tent based vendors on the outside of each set of grandstand. They offer a large variety of high quality food options. Pizza, tacos, gelato and gourmet burgers are seen around the stadium.
Monarch football games are quite the party. It starts with the impressive tailgating around the parking areas. The fan base at ODU does not seem like one that has only had a team for such a short time. There are schools that have existed for over a century that wish they had the atmosphere seen here in Norfolk.
The party doesn't end at game time. The fans fill the stadium and are engaged throughout the game. This is a highly knowledgeable crowd.
The most distinctive parts of the stadium are the curved, circular, oyster shaped tops to the grandstands seen above the west and east side seating. They are quite distinctive and give a unique feel to the stadium. The 2019 plans do seem to eliminate these features because of space concerns.
The massive south end zone structure was built for the 2009 rebirth of the football program. This is where party suites and other high end seating options are located. I did notice that fans in this area were less involved with the overall game action.
There is a good marching band and cheerleaders that add to the atmosphere. Students sit in sections 110-112 in the north end zone.
The field is very close to the seating areas. This provides a better view for the fans and makes the stadium quite loud.
Old Dominion University is located in the northern part of Norfolk. This means it is far from the downtown area of town. Luckily there many newer food stores and restaurants that are popping up east of the university. Mojo Bones, Raising Cane and the Borjo Coffeehouse are a few of the good options in that area.
There is a SpringHill Suites by Marriott on Hampton Boulevard also near the campus. That would be an ideal location if staying for the game.
The Hampton Roads area is also a large and interesting "neighborhood." Virginia Beach to the east is a major tourist and beach destination, while Williamsburg to the west is full of colonial history, as well as the Busch Garden amusement park. Fans will find the area is larger and more populated than it is widely known. Since it is made up of numerous medium size cities the overall size is less recognized.
Not enough can be said about the Old Dominion University fans. They sell out every game and it is hard to tell this is a relatively new program.
Once again, the tailgate atmosphere is pretty amazing. The ODU fans have to be an envy to the college football world.
Since the university is located way from downtown the access is fairly good. There are no major highways too close to the university, but travel to games seems to be fairly easy.
Parking is generally free unless you pay for premium parking or are member of the athletic foundation. The garage on the corner of Hampton Boulevard and 43rd Street as well as another garage between 45th and 46th off of Hampton Boulevard are a couple of good options.
Every game is sold out so fans should plan ahead. The prices, when available, are of a good value. The price levels do depend on the opponent. Expect Conference USA teams to cost more and be much harder to gain access.
After market tickets are expensive. There just are not too many sellers. People go to the games.
With the free parking, Monarchs football is a great value.
The fans are the best extra. They create a lively atmosphere that makes it fun to be a part of.
Although there is not a large amount of history with the Old Dominion football program, the stadium itself holds quite bit of history. Banners and signs displaying the great players who played games in this stadium are located on the back of the grandstands. The many Oyster Bowls means that some of the greatest players in college football history played on this field.
Foreman Field at S. B. Ballard Stadium is a lively college football stadium that provides for a great place to watch an up-and-coming mid-major program.
Member Review by bullock0404 on Nov 17, 2013
For a program that has played less than ten years of college football, Old Dominion University has set the bar high for the schools in the Hampton Roads area. Playing their home games at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium, the Monarchs have become the hot ticket in town in a short amount of time.
Playing in a stadium that opened in 1936 as the home to the Norfolk Division of William & Mary (ODU’s original name) football team for six years, the stadium underwent a $25 million renovation in order to open for the inaugural season of the ODU Monarchs in 2009. Playing as an independent in the FCS for two seasons, the Monarchs moved to the CAA in 2011 and recently moved up to the FBS for the 2013 season. Again an independent, ODU will play in C-USA beginning in 2014.
Selling out every home game during their existence, Old Dominion was in the top ten of attendance in the FCS every year. Even though the stadium went through a major renovation recently, it is still somewhat antiquated and not up to par with most FBS stadiums. Plans are in the works to build a new stadium across campus with modern amenities and a larger capacity, which no doubt will please those that have a hard time getting a ticket to Norfolk’s most popular team.
Member Review by Aaron S. Terry on Nov 25, 2015
When Old Dominion made the leap to the FBS, they became bowl-eligible a year early, thanks to a special vote by their conference. After attending a game here, this is not surprising - the fans are out in force, and games tend to sell out. Even more impressive is that I didn't even see any scalpers at the game, which is almost unheard of - amazing that fans want to be there so much they won't even sell their seats.
The town is also a great place to visit, with lots to do. Getting in and out is a little tricky b/c you have to park a little far away. The stadium has a very interesting look, though - curved across the top of each sideline, inside of the traditional rectangular look.
4100 Monarch Way
Norfolk, VA 23508
4416 Monarch Way
Norfolk, VA 23508
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4500 Hampton Blvd
Norfolk, VA 23508