Tulsa, Oklahoma might just be one of the most underrated cities in the United States. The University of Tulsa's football stadium, H.A. Chapman Stadium, fits in nicely with that perception.
Built in 1930 as Skelly Field, the stadium originally held a capacity of 14,500 and was named for William Skelly, an Oklahoma oil man. Along with being a college football stadium, it has also been home for a USFL team (Oklahoma Outlaws) and a North American Soccer league team (Tulsa Roughnecks). Since 2007, the official name of the stadium has been Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Its current capacity is 30,000, making it the smallest stadium in Conference USA.
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Chapman Stadium offers a surprising variety of food stuffs. Along with more common items such as hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, and soft drinks, the stadium also offers things like bratwurst, barbecue sandwiches and kettle corn. There are only four concession stands in the stadium itself which does lead to very long lines. However, there are a few vendors within the grounds of the stadium that offer a quicker alternative for certain foods like kettle corn and soft drinks. A particularly interesting feature was the row of concession stands outside the stadium but within the grounds. They are built into an apartment complex that forms one of the borders of the stadium grounds. Unfortunately, many of those stands were running out of merchandise by the mid-3rd quarter of the game.
The atmosphere in the stadium was nothing to write home about. Nothing particularly exciting happened as far as off the field activities, and when the teams weren't on the field things tended to get pretty boring. Little is done to rally fan support, and most fans didn't seem to mind. However, the atmosphere was still better than expected for such a small venue. Chapman is a great place for families with small children who want to take their little ones to a game but are uneasy about the effects of a rowdy college environment. The atmosphere does have a homey, comfortable feel to it.
The campus seems nice, but I didn't notice anything that the average fan could interact with. The surrounding area is made up of residential areas and small businesses. There aren't any great restaurants nearby to recommend. In fact, I only saw fast food joints. I'm sure that there is more to do if you're a student, but the average fan will find this particular facet pretty bare.
The fans were into the game. On third downs, they got loud just like all college football crowds do, and they rooted hard for their team and against the other. They lack the neat traditions that many bigger programs will have, and the few, small traditions they do participate in are just ripped off versions of those of nearby universities. All in all, the crowd is better than advertised, especially considering how small it is, but it is still below average.
The parking at Chapman Stadium is awful. As always, season ticket holders are well taken care of, but when it comes to the average fan that is only coming to one or two games a year, parking is difficult. I ended up having to park in a residential area really far away from the stadium. Part of this gets back to the neighborhood bit, as many of the surrounding businesses wouldn't allow game parking in their lots, even for a price.
The grounds around the stadium are pretty wide open, which helps anyone who is trying to get around. The long lines at concessions block the entire walkway around the stadium, forcing people out from under the stadium in order to get by. There are never any long lines at the bathrooms. According to my cohort, the women's bathrooms were fairly nice. However, the men's left much to be desired. Someone needs to let the University of Tulsa know that community urinals, dirty floors and broken soap dispensers are not desirable stadium bathroom amenities.
As an avid college football fan, I did have fun at H.A. Chapman Stadium. However, I'm not sure that the occasional fan would have as good a time. Tickets are reasonably priced though, which greatly helps the return on the investment. Those that run the stadium seem to do a pretty good job given its size. It is better than most venues that are that small. Overall, the experience was decent, but it should be better for this level of college football.
I have to give one extra point to this venue for how family friendly it really is. Kids will like the wide open spaces around the stadium, but still within the stadium grounds, and the vendors that sell kettle corn and other treats around the walls. I got the opportunity to sit next to three small boys during the game. I enjoyed listening to their take on the game, which included making fun of the last names of the players on the opposing team and commenting on the lack of sportsmanship of a group of fans that were sitting below us. If anything, H.A. Chapman Stadium provides a great place for family to have a fun, affordable time at a sporting event.
Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium is not an elite college football venue. However, it does provide a nice, smaller environment for those who just want to go out and watch some college football. It's an even better experience for families and children. If you fall into one of those two categories, spend a Saturday afternoon at Chapman Stadium and see it for yourself.
Beautiful campus, huge digital Hi-Def board, classy sandstone architecture, sharp acoustics. Tailgate on 8th Street right on the campus for an intimate time on a clean campus with fans that are truly the salt of the earth. Fireworks, sirens, and marching band add to it all. Stroll down 8th Street and check out activities, tents, and fans on Chapman Commons. Stroll along the stadium to 11th Street and visit a number of college bars. Laid back with no excessive rules and regulations. Wonderful time to be had here!
Though certainly not the largest stadium in Division I, Skelly is very unique and blends in with the campus about as well as any college football stadium does.
I live in Tulsa and attend 2-3 home games per year. I think that TU games are great for an afternoon of just watching college football with a group of friends or family. While not a hostile atmosphere to visitors, the home crowd does do a great job of supporting the home team.
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