Gerald J. Ford Stadium is the new home of the SMU Mustangs, since their first game played on September 2nd, 2000. Incorporating the horseshoe shape, Ford Stadium now holds 32,000, with 24 luxurious suites, and even a child's eye can see where even more modifications and seating capacity improvements can happen. Before the renovations that took place between June 1997 and August 2000, the same site was home to Ownby Stadium. Ownby housed the Mustangs since 1926, and the school did have a couple of stints playing home games at the Cotton Bowl and Texas Stadium. Now the Mustang faithful have a state-of-the-art facility to call home.
Since the Death Penalty in 1987-88, Mustang football has been searching for an identity. Partly due to the renovations, thanks in part from major donations from the Ford and Hunt families (amongst many others), and in part due to the recent success that June Jones has brought back to the metroplex, SMU football is back.
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 is nothing to really make you jump out of your seat and make you run down to Ownby Drive, but the concessions at Ford Stadium are fairly average. I do give a little bit of a lean toward three stars as one employee of the stadium told me that there are plans to bring some local hot spots as vendors inside the stadium, but we shall see.
Burgers, hot dogs, popcorn, pizza, Tex-Mex, and some deli-style sandwiches with a decent amount of drink selections, the concessions are normal, but well priced. A couple could easily keep their food bill under $20, and a family of four under $35 (unless the kids are garbage disposals).
I will toot the horn just a tad, because whether it's traditional football concessions or something with a little more kick, when in Texas the quality is always going to be good. Pro, college, or high school, a hamburger, dog, and a coke is a comforting way to watch football in Texas, and Ford Stadium is no exception.
When you think of football in Texas and the many stadiums and traditions, most won't mention SMU. Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, and TCU are the names that come to mind. But this is Texas, and whether it's Pee-Wee football or college, Texans know football. I was fortunate enough to see the Mustang faithful all over the place for Homecoming Game, as the festivities began early in the week and lasted, seemingly, until kickoff. Student-made parade floats begin the day off on the right foot, and there is a strong mix of renewing old connections and forging new ones amongst the thousands of alumni and students.
The SMU band, or better known as the "Hub of SMU Spirit" has been a staple just as long as football and keeps the aura very fresh with an entertaining mix of jazz and swing music. And if you don't respect Mustang football, then you might get a quick-kick from Peruna Tonic. The Mustang mascot, a black stallion Shetland pony, was named after a patented medicine known well for its "kick."
SMU football may not have the atmospheric draw of its more prominent brothers, but don't tell that to the students and alumni. The Mustang fans are just as loud as any other stadium, just as passionate about their football team, and just as proud to call the Pony Express their own.
Talking about putting a Division- I stadium in the middle of a major city doesn't necessarily sound like an ideal situation, however SMU is a huge exception. Only a few miles north of downtown Dallas and placed perfectly in the middle of the Park Cities area, one of DFW's nicest and safest areas, Ford Stadium is a great blend of Texas-style football and big city amenities.
Walking around the campus, the experience feels more like an older, East Coast campus. Older, large homes in the general area, enough trees to lose count, and there is a consistent look up and down the campus' many streets. However don't be fooled, this is Texas, and this is football country. As I stated in the Atmosphere section, Texans do football and Ford Stadium quickly reminds you of that fact.
Outside the stadium there is plenty to do. If non-mainstream movies and theater are your thing, then I highly recommend the Angelika Film Center & Cafe, or the Pocket Sandwich Theatre. The Angelika is DFW's best known film hot spot, though you won't catch the latest teenie-bopper movie or make-a-quick-dime comedy or horror flick, the Angelika will hit you with award-winning films. It is like a trip to the theatre, but don't want to get dressed-up?
Like a quick meal during the show and to interact with the actors? Then after the game, be sure to checkout the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, you won't be disappointed. Both places are less than a mile east of campus on Mockingbird Lane.
Looking for a place to eat before or after the game, then around Ford Stadium, just north of downtown Dallas is your place. If you need something close to campus and the stadium, then grab dinner at a Dallas-must La Madeleine. Or just grab a postgame sweet at Pokey O's Cookies & Ice Cream.
If you don't mind traveling just a little further, but still less than a mile from the stadium, then I highly recommend grabbing a bite at either Urban Taco or Cafe Express, both off Mockingbird Lane. But if pizza is on the brain, then you can't miss the best pizza in all of DFW, also on Mockingbird and about a mile east of the stadium, Campisi's.
Like I stated when talking about the atmosphere, when you think of college football fans in Texas, SMU usually isn't topping the list. Texas, Texas A&M, and TCU, that's what people think about. Well don't tell these Mustang fans, because inside Ford Stadium they are just as loud and proud as Longhorn and Aggie fans. True, they don't have quite the same numbers and recent heritage, but SMU is full of tradition and passion. On this particular night the Mustang students, local fans, and alumni were all one loud additional player supporting their team to another whopping victory.
Call it the size of the stadium, or that SMU football is still growing in the DFW Metroplex, or whatever you wish, as loud and proud as the fans were the aura wasn't quite the same as other Texas stadiums. Like I stated above, the fans are passionate about their team and rich in their own traditions, but something was missing. The feel walking around, during the game, talking with fans, it just isn't the same as the top dogs.
Kudos to the fans though. They were loud, but they still have room to grow. And subsequently, potentially so does Ford Stadium.
Anyone who has ever been to a college football game, especially in a major city, knows that parking is never a fun experience. But with that said, it's not too bad at Ford Stadium. I've been to games before, and as long as you don't arrive 15 minutes before kickoff, finding a parking spot is not too terrible.
Plus the facility offers many alternatives to parking at the stadium. There is a shuttle bus that picks up guests who park on the east side of HWY 75 (about a half mile east of Ford Stadium), reducing the traffic around the stadium by a good chunk. However on this evening I took a different approach and rode the DART Rail Red line down to Mockingbird station. This way, I was able to park far from the stadium, at no cost, spend a couple bucks for a DART Rail ticket, ride down to within a half mile of the stadium, and stroll into the stadium at my own leisure. If you live in the area and can quickly access a Rail line or you are visiting from out of town and your hotel isn't that close to the stadium, I highly recommend using the DART Rail.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Ford Stadium experience is getting your "pennies-worth." Whether you're a local just wanting to take in a college football game and not spend a lot of money, or an alumnus looking for a more relaxed, quiet environment to watch football and speak with friends, then you will find what you seek. The experience at Ford Stadium has both, and many others in-between.
Surviving the death penalty "" I know that it took 20 years, but the SMU football program has survived the death penalty laid down on them in 1989. Not arguing that they should or shouldn't have received it, just commenting that many programs would have just folded up shop. Prestigious football program to death penalty and now back to a winning program "" that's a star in my book.
Texas football "" I'm a proud Texan, and this is Texas football"¦Bonus Star!
I was very excited to attend this game and once again see an SMU Mustang home football game, the last time I did this was in the mid-90s, at the Cotton Bowl, and that was simply to watch the Longhorns play"¦win! I've be fortunate enough to watch and help coach in Ford Stadium for high school football games, but never a Mustang performance. And I was very satisfied with what I saw, the entire experience and would recommend those in the DFW area or visiting to attend a Mustang home game at Ford Stadium.
**Photos courtesy of SMU Athletics.
SMU is in a beautiful area of Dallas but parking is not great, and there is nothing in the immediate area of the stadium.
Nothing super special but a decent stadium with a good view no matter where you sit. Getting to the stadium and parking is a pain but ticket prices are relatively cheap.
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