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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Harvard Stadium is the oldest stadium still in use in the nation. Built in 1903, it pioneered the use of reinforced concrete in the building of large structures. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark due to its influence on the design of later stadia. Over the course of its history, Harvard Stadium has served as host to not only Harvard University teams, but the Boston Patriots, concerts by the likes of Bob Marley and Janis Joplin (her last concert ever), ice hockey games, and Olympic soccer matches. In 2007 Major League Lacrosse’s Boston Cannons moved into Harvard Stadium.
The Boston Cannons are one of the original teams of Major League Lacrosse, in operation since 2001. Over their short history, the Cannons have played in Cawley Memorial Stadium in Lowell and Nickerson Field at Boston University before settling in Allston. The Cannons have won one league championship, in 2011.
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 two permanent concession stands located underneath the stands at Harvard Stadium. The menu here consists of the basics, with hot dogs ($4), nachos ($6), pretzels ($4), popcorn ($5), and chips ($2) featured. Assorted candies ($4), churros ($4), cotton candy ($5), and cookies ($5) are sold here for fans looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, and bottles of Coca-Cola products ($4) are available for thirsty lax fans.
Cannons fans looking for a little more variety will be pleased to learn that several portable carts are lined up along the concourse selling their wares. Carts sell Italian sausages ($8), pizza slices ($4.50), gyros ($8), fried dough ($6), chicken tenders ($9), French fries ($5), hamburgers ($5.), and frozen lemonade ($5). Fans looking for an adult beverage will undoubtedly find one of two small beer stands selling bottles of Budweiser products for $7. These are major league prices, to be sure.
Fans looking for some Cannons souvenirs will find a table selling a variety of t-shirts, jerseys, and novelties at the near end of the concourse.
The party atmosphere at Harvard Stadium begins four hours before opening faceoff, when the gates open to the parking lots. Tailgating is encouraged, and while the party scene isn't what it is at a football game, many fans partake in some pregame festivities. Two hours before game time the Cannons open up their fan fest, which features several sponsors giving out samples, playing games, and getting the fans ready for the action.
Once inside Harvard Stadium, the electricity continues, as everywhere you look, there are kids carrying lacrosse sticks playing catch, running around, mugging for the camera, and generally having a great time. I'm sure that the people who built Harvard Stadium over a century ago never envisioned groups of boys running around with their shirts off bouncing lacrosse balls off of every concrete surface in the building.
To add to the atmosphere, the team holds several contests during play stoppages, during which they invite young fans down onto the field. There is a lacrosse game at halftime featuring local youth teams, and there is a dance team present to get the crowd fired up. They certainly are able to get the attention of the many adolescent boys in attendance.
Harvard Stadium is not located in Cambridge with most of the university's buildings, but across the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston. Fans wishing to take in the legendary Harvard experience can simply cross the Anderson Memorial Bridge into Cambridge. Harvard Square and Harvard Yard is only a 10 minute walk away. Boston is a city with a great many first-rate tourist destinations, and Harvard Square ranks right up there among the most popular destinations in the city. The area has a multitude of great restaurants, sites to visit, and people to watch. Although school is out for a large portion of the lacrosse season, it does not diminish Cambridge's appeal at all.
The neighborhood of Allston is often overlooked, but Cannon fans wishing to venture off the beaten path will be rewarded with several fine restaurants and pubs close to Harvard Stadium.
Don't forget, the entire city of Boston is just a few short miles from Harvard Stadium. The Boston subway system, known as the "T" in these parts, has a stop at Harvard Square, just a short walk from the stadium, and allows fans to access all corners of the city. It's a trip well worth taking for visitors from out of town.
Fans looking for lodging in the area won't be disappointed, as there are many fine options to be found. Be warned, however, that prices may be a little higher than you may expect. Hotels in the suburbs may be a cheaper alternative for many fans.
The Cannons lead MLL in attendance, averaging almost 8,000 fans per game. A good portion of the fan base is made up of youth lacrosse players. Lacrosse is a sport that is quickly gaining popularity in the northeast and beyond, and the Cannons are doing a great job of tapping into this market. Families and youth leagues make up the vast majority of the crowd, and the game day experience targets these demographics, with great success.
Even on its best days, the city of Boston is a difficult city to drive in. Depending on which direction you are coming from, you will be navigating some of the most difficult city streets you will ever encounter. If approaching from the north or south, I-93 will drop you off approximately five miles from the stadium, and you will take Storrow Drive to the stadium complex. If travelling from the west, you will take the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) to Allston, and travel one mile through the city to the stadium. If you are foolish enough to drive to Harvard Stadium, give yourself some extra time, as there is always a traffic jam or construction project somewhere to gum up the works, or have someone with you who knows the crooked streets of Boston well.
A much more efficient method of transportation in Boston is the subway, or "T," as it is called locally. The Harvard Station MBTA stop is a 10 minute walk from Harvard Stadium across the Charles River. Several bus routes also stop at Harvard Station. In addition, the 66 and 86 bus routes stop on North Harvard Street, directly in front of the stadium.
For Cannons games, only the stands on the western sideline are utilized. This cuts the capacity dramatically, but has the effect of pushing the 8,000 or so lacrosse fans into closer proximity, creating a livelier atmosphere at the games. Remember, Harvard Stadium is well over 100 years old, and not the most handicapped-accessible venue you will come across. There is seating in the far end zone for fans requiring such accommodations. All the seats are concrete bleachers, so remember your seat cushions. Bathrooms are small and cramped, but adequate for a typical Cannons crowd. Other than at halftime, you are unlikely to come across a line.
Parking can be an issue around Harvard Stadium. There are spaces located throughout the Harvard athletic complex, tucked in and around the many athletic fields and buildings located here. The Cannons often share the complex with various community groups, so open spots may be located quite a distance away from the stadium. Likewise, exiting the parking lots may be quite a lengthy process.
The Cannons sell tickets in three tiers; $16, $21, and $26. If you purchase your tickets on game day, add an additional two dollars to the purchase price. Parking is free in the lots near the stadium. Factor in concessions that are a bit on the high side, and a night at a Cannons game will not come cheaply. The Cannons offer several group plans and family packs to help fans save some money.
The sense of history at Harvard Stadium is worth the price of admission all by itself. While Harvard Stadium is hardly comfortable, it's certainly unique. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. Throw in a non-traditional sport in a traditional venue, and you have the makings for a great sporting event.
If you are bringing the kids, you will want to arrive a little early for the fanfest. It's not the largest you will come across, but the kids will be happy while filling their pockets with free stuff.
A third extra point is awarded for the great lacrosse atmosphere here at Harvard Stadium. It's one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and that fact is in evidence all around at a Cannons game.
Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. While the attendance numbers across Major League Lacrosse won't impress anyone from the bigger sports, the sport is thriving at the youth level. The Cannons know their target audience, and market their game day experience accordingly. While a game at Harvard Stadium may be a little more pricey than you may expect, you won't feel cheated leaving Cambridge afterwards.
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