The Glass Bowl was originally called University Stadium, an 8,000 seat stadium built as part of the Works Progress Administration, an agency from FDR’s presidency, as part of the New Deal to counter the Depression that had overtaken America in the 1930’s. The stadium gained its Glass Bowl name after WWII, when the stadium had been left to fall into disrepair. In 1946, an engineer from a local glass company conceived the idea to rebuild the stadium using glass as a major element so the stadium was renamed to reflect its new era.
Over time, expansions have brought a full set of bleacher seating to the horseshoe-shaped lower bowl, an upper deck was added to the east sideline in the 70’s and the giant, 1,050-capacity press tower replaced a small wooden press box in the early ‘90s. Now with a current capacity north of 26,000, the Glass Bowl has grown into an intimate and incredibly original place to watch a college football game.
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".
Well, it's stadium food. Not great, not terrible. The good thing is nothing is expensive so if you're hungry, go for it. The "main" offerings like hot dogs, nachos, 32-ounce sodas, etc. are all in the $3-$4 range. I never go into a stadium expecting much as far as the food in concerned, so if it's warm and edible, and doesn't cost too much, I'm in. Toledo's selections fill these requirements.
As we approached the Glass Bowl from the east, driving down Dorr Street, I became apprehensive about what environment we were going to arrive at. Not that the stadium is in a dangerous area or anything, rather, I didn't see anything that let you know people were excited for a football game, I wondered if fans were going to show up. Luckily, as we hit the campus and found a place to park, you could see the lights of the Glass Bowl & could easily hear the roar of the growing audience.
The tailgate culture appears to be somewhat small, as relatively confined to the lots right around the stadium. Since the stadium is on campus, it looks like students will usually party at their homes, either in the dorms or the just off-campus residential areas and walk over at game time.
In fairness, it was a dreary day on this particular visit, so the rain and chilly temperature most likely kept some inside.
As you approach the stadium, you can't help but notice the stonework that creates the south wall and the stone towers on the north end. It's a really cool feature of the structure that gives the stadium a feel more like a castle or a fort. I hope some wealthy donor will one day donate to fully enclose the stadium in stone. It's odd that the east side of the stadium is framed in by chain link fencing, a stone wall would look great and further add to the environment of the stadium.
For a stadium of this size, it holds noise incredibly well. I would assume the massive press box structure helps to amplify the sound of the crowd. The fans are great, students are engaged, but it appears that the sellout crowd I experienced is the exception, not the norm. That is a shame, because it's always nice to see people care about a team that represents their school or city, regardless of the level of competition.
There are plenty of pre and post-game food and drink options about 6 or 7 blocks west of the Toledo campus down Dorr Street. Everything from chain places like Subway and Jimmy Johns to independent places like the highly rated Chinese food restaurant called Ipoh or places like Arnies Toledo or The Oasis. You could make the walk, but a drive may be more appropriate.
A great place to visit before the game is the Toledo Museum of Art. The museum is highly rated for its collection of art pieces and features the Frank Gehry - designed Center for the Visual Arts. This center contains some University of Toledo facilities including UT's Art Department. In addition, since Toledo is known as the "Glass City", the buildings all heavily feature glass as a major design element and, in 2006, the museum added The Glass Pavilion, an award winning structure.
We sat amoungst some very nice, polite and intelligent fans (I promised them I'd say that) on the press box side, who were still nice to us even after finding out we were actually fans of Toledo's opposition on this occasion, the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati was ranked coming into this game and Rockets fans sold the place out, creating an impressively hostile atmosphere for UC even with just a 26,000 capacity.
Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case all season, fans will turn up for marquee opponents and rivalry games, but the games outside of those scenarios have ranged in the 18,000-19,000 range.
The stadium is on the southern end of the Toledo campus, close to the other athletic buildings like Savage Arena and university buildings like dorms and the recreation center. The campus is about 10 minutes west of I-75 and it's fairly easy to navigate your way there. There are a number of parking lots and garages scattered around the campus.
Inside the stadium, there is one concourse that connects the two sidelines and south endzone in a horseshoe. The concourses are fairly wide and were easy to get through at halftime, even with lines backing up for the concession stands.
Toledo football is a great value, with adult tickets ranging from $24 or $34 (for marquee opponents) and kid's tickets are $12 or $17 (marquee). It costs $5 to park in the garage. Food costs are relatively modest and you can feed a few people at a game for around $30-$35.
One point for the stone walls and turrets, they're such a unique feature and are the signature of the Glass Bowl's construction. This helps to further exemplify the "fortress" imagery common to sports venues.
One point for the age of the venue. In modern American sports it's growing ever more unusual for venues to reach even 30 years of use before becoming obsolete, so it's nice to see a venue/location expand and renovate a long-standing structure, especially one connected to 1930's Depression-era history, via the Works Progress Administration.
One point for "MACtion". Yes, MACtion. While the schools in this mid-major conference are far from ever being able/allowed to contend for a National Championship, Toledo and its brethren can produce some exciting and competitive football, and at times, can disrupt the bowl prospects of the BCS schools.
I really enjoy small stadiums like these. The sightlines are almost always great and it's interesting to see a football culture that often gets overlooked by sports media outside of the immediate era. The Glass Bowl is a place with a unique history that has fed into its design, creating a really cool football experience. In reading up on the history of the stadium, fans used to pack this place to the point people would climb and sit atop the stone walls. It would be great to see Toledo Rockets football get back to that point someday.
In 1946, University Stadium, on the campus of the University of Toledo, was renamed The Glass Bowl, both for the city's glass producing industry, and for the glass components that were a part of the stadium's first renovations. Today, if you were unaware of the name, you might assume it to be "The Castle Wall Bowl," or "The Jagged Rock Bowl."
The capacity sits at just over 26,000, and it can be a very noisy venue when full. The stadium itself is surrounded by a stone wall that seems straight out of The Shawshank Redemption, but gives the exterior a great deal of charm.
My visit to the Glass Bowl came on 10/24/09 when Toledo hosted Temple. Attendance that day was 16,334 for the 7pm game. I parked on campus for $5 about a 1/2 mile from the stadium. I was able to get a free ticket from a nice booster outside who had extra complimentary tickets from the school.
The ticket was for a seat in General Admission section, which is on the Toledo side of the field on the open end of the stadium. This made it hard to see the scoreboard, but I'm not complaining for the price.
The atmosphere was fairly good, although as the game went on and Temple pulled away, there were some groans in the stands. About 15 miles away I ate at a place called Ralphies and it was not good. Nice place inside with tons of TV's to watch games but the food was bad. I didn't eat much of it at all. Some of the tailgating I saw was quite intense for such a small crowd.
At the stadium, I had a hot dog and a soda. The hot dog was the worst I have ever eaten. It was not a good food day for someone who does food for a living.
Overall my experience at the Glass Bowl was a 3-3.5 out of 5. Everyone was extremely nice to me, and the stadium was is good shape for its age, but it is aged. The band was also small and the rocket mascot did not interact with the fans at all. He spent almost the entire game talking to two girls on the sideline, not doing anything to inspire the crowd.
3332 W Central Ave
Toledo, OH 43606
3154 Navarre Ave
Oregon, OH 43616