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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
On Saturday nights in Nacogdoches, the town bleeds purple and white for the SFA Lumberjacks. Homer Bryce Stadium is not only home for Lumberjacks football, but seems to also be home field for the historic Nacogdoches community.
Constructed in 1973, Homer Bryce Stadium has hosted the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin State University for more than 35 years. The Jacks are a member of the Southland Conference and play at the NCAA DI-FCS level. The stadium features a capacity of 14,575 with plenty of room for overflow crowds on the spacious grass berms surrounding the field.
If you find yourself traveling to east Texas in the Piney Woods region, be sure to book some time in historic Nacogdoches and grab a seat in Homer Bryce Stadium for an SFA Lumberjacks 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".
Homer Bryce Stadium offers the expected stadium classics along with a few extra items.
Concession stands are located along the main concourse on both sides of each grandstand. On the east side, only one stand may be in operation depending on crowd size. The stands offer concession staples including popcorn ($2), hot dogs ($3), and nachos ($5, $6 with chili and cheese), along with a few other snacks.
Be sure to take a walk over to the northwest corner of the stadium near the restrooms for a few additional items. Here, you'll find a Great American Cookies stand offering ice cream and cookie cake and also a pop-up tent managed by SFA Dining which sells items from the grill. Be sure to check out the turkey leg ($9) and sausage on a stick ($5).
Drink options are headlined by bottled Coca-Cola products for $3. Lemon Chills are $5 and coffee (seasonal) is available for $2. Alcohol is not sold at Homer Bryce Stadium.
The main concession stands accept both cash and debit/credit cards. The two pop-up stands on the northwest corner are cash only.
Homer Bryce Stadium offers a solid small college football experience headlined by a unique stadium design and top notch spirit programs.
There are two main grandstands at Homer Bryce Stadium, on both the east and west side, that are built into massive mounds which wrap around the playing surface. From the exterior, the only concrete you'll see is the top of the press box on the west side. Outside of that, the remaining exterior is covered in grass. With a track complex surrounding the football field, the seats are a little further away from the playing surface than at other stadiums without a track. A section of chair backs is located on the upper west side between the 40s. The remaining seats are bleachers. For overflow crowds (and sometimes to find shade), some fans will sit on the grass berm seating which wraps around both end zones.
Visiting fans typically sit in the east grandstand. Keep in mind that the SFA student section (nicknamed the Purple Haze) will take up the lower section seating around the 50 yard line and the band will be located in the remaining seats north of the student section. Visiting fans usually congregate in the upper section of the east side. For day games, the sun can be brutal both in providing infamous Texas heat and a blinding glare off the aluminum seats. If you choose to sit here, be sure to bring along some sunglasses.
A real strength of the overall atmosphere is the performance by SFA's marching band and spirit squads. The Lumberjack Marching Band is one of the largest in the Southland Conference and has performed in the 2012 London New Year's Eve Parade and will perform in the 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Be sure to stay in your seats for a great halftime performance. Joining the band are the dance team, pom squad, and Twirl-O-Jacks (baton twirlers). The mascot at SFA is the "Lumberjack," which is real-life student dressed up as a lumberjack with a purple ax. When the Jacks score, the SFA ROTC fires a canon in the southeast corner of the end zone.
The playing surface at Homer Bryce Stadium is artificial Hellas Matrix Turf. The scoreboard on the south side offers video-replay board. There's an older scoreboard on the north side with basic elements only.
Homer Bryce Stadium is located on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Nacogdoches is the oldest settlement in Texas dating back to 1779. While Nacogdoches isn't a large city full of attractions, there are a few must-stop restaurants in town, great stops for Texas history, and plenty of opportunities to relax in the piney woods.
One of the favorite places in town is undoubtedly The Liberty Bell. If you're traveling in with family, you'll want to stop in for brunch. If you're not traveling with kids, this is a great place for a nightcap after a Jacks football game for drinks, food and live music. Be sure to try the shrimp and grits, plus the $2 Sunday brunch mimosas. The Jalapeno Tree is a nice stop for Tex-Mex. Butcher Boys makes a great cheeseburger.
The #1 attraction in Nacogdoches is definitely Zip Nac. If you're looking for a thrill along with some time out in the piney woods, Zip Nac serves up both with hours of fun on their zip lines. You can get a discount if you stay at their Zip Inn while in town. Texas history buffs will enjoy a tour of the Sterne Moya House which dates back to the 1830s. The SFA campus has plenty to offer including the SFA Gardens which consist of the Arboretum, Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, the Pineywoods Native Plant Center and the Gayla Mize Garden. The SFA Observatory offers public guided star gazing on select Friday nights.
Check out a bed and breakfast for lodging during your stay (like the Jones House B&B). A very affordable Super 8 is located just outside of town on South Street. The three story hotel is brand new and not your typical Super 8.
Fans for the Jacks have a lot of spirit and pride. They are quick to draw their Ax 'Em hand signal when the Jacks score. Considering that Nacogdoches is miles away from any other competing university or sports program, it's safe to say Nacogdoches bleeds purple and white for their Lumberjacks.
Attendance for SFA football can be a real strength of the overall experience when SFA is winning. When the Jacks are having a down year, however, support can certainly wane (though this is typical for a lot of college football programs). Expect attendance to fluctuate between 6,000 and 9,000 for most games. The student section can either be a rowdy force for opposing teams to deal with or completely MIA. To their credit, the students almost always show up, but don't always make their way from their tailgating area just outside the south end zone. Students sitting at the bottom of the section make noise by banging ax handles on a metal "Purple Haze" sign along the grandstand wall.
Though attendance can fluctuate, average crowd sizes are typically in the top half of programs in the Southland Conference. SFA's biggest rival is the Sam Houston State Bearkats. Each year, these two teams meet up in what is known as the "Battle of the Piney Woods." The on-going rivalry is one of the longest in the nation (the 2015 game was the 90th on record). In years past, this has been one of the best attended games of the season, however, the series has been held in Houston at NRG Stadium as of late and is scheduled to do so through 2017. SFA also has a strong rivalry with Northwestern State where the two teams battle for Chief Caddo, the largest trophy in college football standing 7 feet 6 inches and weighing over 320 pounds. Games with McNeese State and Lamar are also usually well attended.
Homer Bryce Stadium is very accessible once you've made it to the stadium. The rural location of Nacogdoches, however, means you'll need to plan to take a lengthy drive through the piney woods to get to the stadium.
If you're planning to fly in for the game, you'll likely want to do so either via Houston or Dallas. It's about a 2 hour drive on I-69/Hwy 59 from Houston and about 30 minutes longer from Dallas via Hwy 175. Once you get into town, traffic can be a little congested for at-capacity crowds, but usually you'll get to the stadium without much of a headache.
Unless you have a parking pass, it's recommended that you check out one of the on-campus parking garages (Aikman or Wilson Garages, see below).
Ticket booths are located on both the southeast and southwest corners of the grandstands. Lines typically move pretty quick here. Fans of the opponent and students usually use the southeast gate and ticket booth.
A square concourse wraps around the entire stadium and cuts through the seating areas in the grand stand. There's also a concourse that runs along the top of both hills to the top of the grandstands. You usually don't run into much of a problem with congestion. The aisles up and down the seating areas are spacious. An elevator is located on the north side of the west grandstand. If you are crossing over from the west to east side inside the stadium, be aware that the touchdown canon is located in the southeast corner and you may have to wait to cross if the Jacks are within scoring range (because taking a shot from the canon is not recommended). Restroom facilities are located in the far northwest and northeast corners. While they are not conveniently located, you shouldn't expect any lines.
Attending a Lumberjack football game at Homer Bryce Stadium is a great overall value in terms of return on investment.
General admission tickets are available for just $12. Reserved seating is $15 while chair backs are $22.
Parking is free in both garages as well. The game day program is $3 (a price that has held steady since the early 1990s). Concessions are fairly affordable and apparel is sold at a small booth in the southwest corner at typical campus bookstore prices.
Overall, it's hard to beat $12 for strong NCAA DI-FCS football action.
Homer Bryce Stadium features a few "extra" components which enhance the overall game day experience:
SFA has a pretty strong tradition of tailgating around Homer Bryce Stadium. Specifically, the student tailgating lot just beyond the fence behind the south end zone is typically packed and picturesque with a pond and fountain just behind it. Some students pack in sofas and line them next to the gate behind the end zone to watch from the tailgate.
The Jacks honor past accomplishments with banners on both sides of the press box that list post season appearances and conference championships.
The band and spirit squads deserve an extra mention. For a smaller football program, the performance is something you'd expect from a top-tier FBS program.
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