The University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks are likely not at the top of anyone’s college football stadiums bucket list and it’s unlikely that they are even first on your list of the University of Tennessee campuses to visit. However, if you are looking for a small town get-away and catching a college football game played for the love of the sport, Hardy M. Graham Stadium might be an option for you. Graham Stadium was built in 1930 and received its current name in 2001. The stadium has a capacity of 7,500 and UT-Martin has a student body of about 8,400 (as of 2011).
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It doesn't get any more basic than what Hardy M. Graham Stadium offers through the concession stand. The one somewhat unique item you can expect (and the pleasant smell will definitely catch your attention as you enter the main gate) is kettle popcorn which you can score for $4 for a small and $8 for a large.
Your other options are: cheeseburger ($3), hot dog ($2.50), popcorn ($1.50), chips/candy ($1.50), nachos ($3.50), 20oz fountain drink ($2, Pepsi products), Gatorade ($2.50), and water ($1.50).
Two bonuses here are that the all of the items are very fairly priced and the fountain drinks come with a lid. As to be expected at most collegiate venues, don't expect any alcoholic beverages of any kind.
The main concession stand is located under the west side bleachers and directly below the 50 yard line. The east side also has a concession stand but is not utilized for all games. The kettle popcorn option (when available) is located just inside the main gate on the west side. The lines at each station are relatively short and though traffic is a bit pinched at the main concession stand, traffic still flows pretty smoothly. My recommendation is to go for the kettle popcorn if available. If not, I would recommend popcorn and fountain drink to hold you over until you find a larger bite to eat after the game.
Landscape and Stadium Layout:
Hardy M. Graham Stadium is located just next to the University of Tennessee-Martin campus and also near historic downtown Martin, Tennessee. The landscape surrounding the stadium is pretty nice with large trees wrapped all the way around the stadium.
Just behind the north endzone is the Bob Carroll Football Building (field house) and the Ned McWherter Ag Complex lies just behind the south endzone. The most visually appealing view is in the southeast corner, which includes the scoreboard and nice grouping of trees.
The two major seating areas are the west/east side bleachers. The west side bleachers are a single deck and stretch from about three yards deep in each endzone. This side is where the premium 50 yard line seats are, where the band is located (about the 25 yard line on the SW side), and holds the press box. Chairback seating is available inside the 35 yard lines and bleacher seating (with no backrest) is available in the remaining west side sections.
The east side bleachers are also a single deck and stretch from the 25 yard lines. Oddly enough, some of the most comfortable seats are on this side with chairback seats dominating all sections except for a small sliver of seats inside the 45 yard lines. If you are attending an afternoon game, beware of the sun setting behind the west side bleachers. This will have you in direct sunlight until it falls behind the bleachers.
Many fans also choose to sit on the grass berm in the north endzone in front of the field house, on a small berm in the south endzone, and next to the fence which separates the ground concourse from the field. The fence is only about ten yards off the playing surface on the west side and maybe only five yards on the east side. This puts fans who watch next to the fence literally right on top of the game.
The ground concourses are very spacious, but the aisles in the bleachers are very tight, with only room for one person at a time. The concourse under the west side stadium (leading to restrooms and the concession stand) is rather dingy and dark, but is spacious enough to move around without too much trouble. The playing surface at Hardy M. Graham Stadium is field turf and the scoreboard (small text scroll, no instant replay screen) is located in the southeast corner (no other score displays around the stadium).
My recommendation for seating is the upper portion of the 50 yard line on the west side. This will give you the best view of the field with the logo facing you. If you are heading to the game with small children, another option is the grass berm on the north side. This won't give you the best view, but will still allow you to watch the game in peace with your children playing on the grass berm (don't be surprised if a youth football game breaks out just behind the berm). Visiting fans are likely to find friendlies located on the east side bleachers. Very few home team fans make their way over to the east side. My recommendation here, if this is an afternoon game, is to watch from the shaded north endzone berm until the sun sets behind the west bleachers and then head over to the east bleachers (if the crowd isn't near capacity, which it usually isn't).
Spirit Groups, PA, and Etc:
The band is located on about the 25 yard line in the SW corner of the west side bleachers. The band is not very large and doesn't have any obvious traditional songs other than the fight song on first downs and scoring plays. The cheerleaders try their best, constantly attempting to engage the hometown crowd, but are usually unsuccessful. They move from the NW and SW corners of the west side. The UT-Martin mascot is the "Skyhawk" and there isn't a dance team. The PA is clear and professional and the music system is rarely used but also comes through clearly. The student section is located southwest of the band, but is very difficult to make out. Since the stadium rarely gets to capacity and general admission seating can be found on both the NW and SW corners, students find their way to seats in either section and many of them actually choose to sit along the fence or in the south endzone open grass. With that said, don't expect a coordinated and rowdy student section.
Growing up in a small town myself, I felt comfortable in Martin, Tennessee. Now that I live in a large city, I am also able to notice how small towns aren't fun for everyone. If you are looking for a place to get away and enjoy simple life, you'll love Martin. There are two lakes within 45 minutes of Martin that offer outdoor activities. Since it's likely that most visiting fans will be looking for a little more, Martin is definitely not a destination city. If you are looking for a quick bite to eat upon arrival, a local favorite is the K & W Root Beer drive in. Don't be afraid at how quaint the outside looks, the burgers and root beer floats are actually pretty good.
If you are staying in Martin after the game, I definitely recommend Tony's Sports Bar and Grill. Sit at the bar, order a Yuengling (America's oldest beer) on tap, and try the Buffalo wings.
There was never a second I felt unsettled in Martin, so feel free to make the hike from the stadium over to Tony's or anywhere else. Overall, if you're heading to Martin for a UTM game, you have to do some serious homework to find a good time in the immediate area. My first attempt at finding things to do online returned "no results found" and the second listed a local playground as the top attraction.
You'll be even less excited about the sleepy nature of the crowd than you are about the town. You'll likely notice times where an incoming cell phone will register the highest decibels in the stadium. There wasn't an active student section, third down stands came and went without much excitement, and the only time fans really got into the action was on a scoring play.
Immediately after that is when the band plays the fight song and a few fans clap along. The first down chant was "U...T...UTM!" but the band members will likely be the only participants.
You also don't have to worry about any hostility as a visiting team fan. Small town folks are usually cordial and Martin is no exception. All of this is usually par for the course for small programs like UTM. However, the overall feel may remind you of the average high school football atmosphere.
Getting to the Stadium:
Located in northwest Tennessee close to the Kentucky border, Martin is about 130 miles northeast of Memphis and 150 miles northwest of Nashville and has a population 11,461 (2010 census) . If you're flying in for the visit, I recommend doing so via Memphis (where you can visit Graceland and grab some great BBQ) and then making the two and half hour drive up to Martin.
Many of the UT-Martin games have evening kickoffs which make it unlikely that you'll get back to Memphis (or Nashville) at a decent time, so if you decide to stay in Martin, I recommend doing so at the Hampton Inn close to campus. As you head towards Hardy M. Graham Stadium, there will be plenty of free parking in the lots just outside the stadium.
Access Inside the Stadium:
As you approach the stadium from the parking lot, make your way to the one operating gate located at the NW corner. You'll have no issues at all picking up or purchasing tickets and then making your way through the entrance. The ground level concourses are in front of the seating areas and are separated from the sidelines by a fence (which allows you to get up close and personal with the teams). These concourses are very spacious and easy to navigate. The restrooms on the west side are located in the NW corner under the stadium. On the east side, they are located under the stadium and accessible at the 50 yard line. Both sets are large, clean and without lines. The only concourse without a view of the game is the one under the west side bleachers. The stadium is handicap accessible on the west side.
The best seat in the house at any college football game usually belongs to a long time season ticket holder and/or major donor. The same likely goes for UTM, however you can find similar seats in the chairback area between the 35s on the west side for $18. Reserved bleacher seating is $16, general admission is $10 and student admission is $5.
Concessions are very affordable and you won't have to pay for merchandise because there isn't any available for purchase. Considering that you can catch a Division I football game with all the extras for under $20 per person, it's hard to say it's a bad return on your investment. The rule of thumb about getting what you pay for definitely applies here though. It's a fair price for what you get.
The one major point that the overall experience deserves is a plus for staff friendliness. Also, I'm a huge fan of grassy berm seating, and though this isn't the Taj Mahal of berms, it's still a nice seat.
So is it worth it? Well, if your team is playing UT-Martin at their place and you're a rabid fan, following your team anywhere is worth it. You can find a good time in Memphis or Nashville (depending on from which direction you are coming) which makes a decent time. Although, if you have a bucket list for college football stadiums, Hardy M. Graham Stadium probably shouldn't crack the top 250.
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112 Lovelace Ave
Martin, TN 38237
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