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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
In 1962, Ann Arbor Pioneer High School renamed their football field, opened six years earlier, in honor of Lou Hollway, the school’s first Athletic Director and founder of the city’s rec & ed program. The school has a distinguished football history, winning nine Michigan state championships, dating as far back as 1899.
The Pioneers compete in the Southeastern Conference, in the Red division along with rival Ann Arbor schools Huron and Skyline. Saline and Ypsilanti are also considered rivals of Ann Arbor Pioneer.
Famous former players include Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh. Other football alumni include Keith Bostic, who went on to play with the Houston Oilers, and George Jewett who was the first African-American football player to play in the Big Ten in 1890. Other notable names who are alumni of Ann Arbor Pioneer include musicians Iggy Pop and Bob Seger, and documentarian Ken Burns.
Hollway Field is located kitty corner to The Big House, Michigan Stadium. In fact, the Ann Arbor Pioneer High School parking lot is a main tailgating destination of Michigan Wolverine game days. The stadium seats 5,000 fans in bleachers that line each sideline.
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".
The Pioneer Football Booster Club runs the two concession stands (one on each sideline, near the entrance). The menu is modest, but the prices are reasonable. There's enough to sustain you through the fall evening game on a Friday night.
The menu includes beef sausage ($3), hot dogs and pizza ($2), chips and popcorn ($1). Beverages include cans of pop for $1 (Coke products) and Gatorade ($2). Several candy selections are available for $1.50.
There's just something special about a crisp fall Friday night, sitting in the stands or walking around the field speaking with friends and members of the community. You know you'll almost always run into someone you know. Adults have flashbacks to their youth, kids dream of the future, and teenagers generally let their hormones rule the day.
Some fans choose to stand along the fence on the north end of the seating areas toward the concessions and restrooms. The majority of fans sit on the long metal bleachers that stretch along each sideline. There is no end zone seating at Hollway Field. Fans of Pioneer sit on the west side with the sun on their back. Fans of the visiting team sit along the east side of the stadium with the sun setting in their faces.
If you sit in the back row of the bleachers you can use the chain link fence as a back rest. In either case, the metal bleachers will likely necessitate that you bring a cushion, blanket, or something else to sit on if you want to be comfortable.
There is one scoreboard at Hollway Field and it sits in the southeast corner of the stadium. It provides all of the basic information that you need to follow along with the game.
The marching band performs before the game and at halftime. They are a solid squad, but don't take themselves too seriously. They are definitely good enough to remain in your seats for halftime.
The PA announcer is an interesting fellow. His vocabulary is more advanced than most PA announcers (think phrases like Hank Stram's "matriculate the ball down the field").
Ann Arbor is one of the great mid-sized college towns in the Midwest, and perhaps the country. From Pioneer High School, you are just a little over a mile from downtown Ann Arbor, where you'll find a plethora of great bars and restaurants. If you're coming in from out of town and following your team on the road, it is worth it to arrive early enough to have some dinner before you head to the game.
Some of my favorites include Mani Osteria (Italian), Slurping Turtle (Japanese comfort food), Blue Tractor (BBQ), Vellum (new American fine dining), and Ashley's (beer lover's paradise). Choose any ethnicity and there is likely a great restaurant in Ann Arbor to go with it.
The band and the student section are located right on the 50 yard line in the stands, helping them to have a large impact on the game, and on the team's morale as they are standing right in front of them. These two groups do a wonderful job of generating energy and adding to the overall atmosphere of a game at Hollway Field.
The remainder of the fans will mostly have an invested interest in the game, especially family members of the players, but you'll also find other gaggles of teenagers who are there for the social aspect of what high school football is all about.
Because many of the conference games are against opponents that come from within a close proximity of Ann Arbor, you can expect the east bleachers to be mostly full as well, which adds to the overall experience.
If you drive in from out of town, you may be nervous when you see $50 parking signs near the entrance to the parking lot. You can ignore those as they are set up for the next Michigan Wolverines football game. Ann Arbor Pioneer derives a lot of their budget from the parking fees they take in during college football season. Instead, feel free to pull in and find a spot at no charge for the high school football game you're attending.
As you walk up to the stadium, you'll have to choose which side you want to sit on. The east side and west side are not connected once you get inside, so make sure you know what side you want to sit on. The east side (on your left upon entry) is for visiting fans, and the west side (on your right) is for supporters of the home squad.
Parking is free, concessions are reasonable, and admission is $5 for all ages. If I were to gripe, I would say there should be deals for kids, veterans, and seniors, but overall $5 is still a fair price (cheaper than a movie). You can expect a fun night, and a good level of quality for high school football.
One extra point for the history of this school and their football program. With more than 100 years of tradition, and nine state championships, it's hard not to think of all the people who have played for this school over the years. I wish they had some banners evident at the stadium to mark those past accomplishments.
Another extra point for the gear on sale near the main entrance. The two women working the stand on the night I attended most recently were friendly and engaging, exactly what you expect from a high school football game.
One final extra point for the victory bell located in the northwest corner of the end zone. It sits above a plaque dedicated to the stadium's namesake, Lou Hollway.
If the stars align, consider planning a triple header football weekend where you see a high school game at Pioneer, a Michigan game in the Big House on Saturday, and Detroit Lions game at Ford Field on Sunday. They will all be vastly different experiences, but you'll likely enjoy every one for their own merits.
Member Review by REVIEWS101 on May 15, 2015
Intro: if you haven't been, please go; you'll be glad you did. Plus I am the PA or Public Address Announcer for a number of teams that play there.
Good Things: the sound system, the staff, other fans you meet, clean turf(no trash), unobstructed views, great food; no rowdy people.
not so good thing: there's only one, the press box is not in great shape
Closing: so come and enjoy yourselves at Hollway Field.
Member Review by REVIEWS101 on Jul 08, 2015
I Currently PA announce the following sports:
1)JV/Varsity girls Field Hockey
2)JV/Varsity Girls Lacrosse
3)JV Girls Soccer
4)Freshman/JV Boys Basketball
5)JV Girls Basketball
6)Varsity events(fill in/sub)
7)JV Baseball(just started last season(did their remaining games)
8)Varsity Softball(a few games)
9)Boys freshman/JV soccer.
341 E Liberty St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
608 E Liberty St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
207 E Washington St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
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