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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Sacramento State has fielded a football team since 1954 and they have played in Hornet Stadium since 1969. They compete in the FCS subdivision of Division I college football as members of the Big Sky Conference.
Sac State is part of the California State University (CSU) system and because the schools are public and the expensive nature of football, only 6 of the 23 schools still field a football team. They are: Sacramento (FCS), Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (FCS), San Diego (FBS), San Jose (FBS), Fresno (FBS) and Humboldt (Division II). The Hornets biggest rival is UC Davis whom they play yearly in the Causeway Classic.
Hornet Stadium sits within the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex between the Broad Fieldhouse (home to the track and football teams) and The WELL (campus recreation center). The complex is named after the same Alex Spanos who owns the San Diego Chargers and has funded the Spanos Center in Stockton and Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo.
In addition to college football, Hornet Stadium also played host to the Sacramento Surge of the World Football League, the Sacramento Gold Miners of the CFL during their American expansion in the 1990s, and the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL.
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".
All of the food options are located beyond the track and the north end zone. Rather than have fixed concession stands that sell everything, there is a row of several different food tents, each selling a few different items.
Some tents sold hot dogs, some sausages, some burgers, some popcorn, some lemonade. Whatever you needed, you lined up in the appropriate line. Many of the stands had bottled water and soda available as well. One stand sold "freedom fries" which are French fries for childish people.
The one unique stand was a food trailer called Simply Southern Foods that took care of patrons' fried chicken and cornbread needs.
Where the atmosphere suffers most at Hornet Stadium is in the unique layout. The first and most glaring oddity is the track that surrounds the playing surface. This isn't something you see as much anymore but is necessary for schools where they need to use a facility for dual purposes. Unfortunately, that puts the fans farther from the field.
of the things I like about stadiums with open ends is that you can watch from field level. Unfortunately, because of the expansive track, these areas to watch from are just too far away from the action.
Another oddity is that all the general admission seating is in the east stands while every reserved seat is on the west side. What ends up happening is that many of the visiting fans buy general admission tickets and turn the entire east stands into their own home field side.
On this east side (now, the visiting side), there is a partition about halfway up preventing fans from sitting any higher up the stands. On the positive side, this sits fans closer together. On the negative side they used this space to display large banners for sponsors (Pepsi, Adidas, etc). They do this at The Nest too in what looks like banners of recognition for the team but are actually sponsorships.
The Hornets enter the field from the Broad Fieldhouse from the south side of the stadium. The video board is also at this end of the stadium which is of good quality and displays the necessary stats. The only issue is that it is indecipherable from many angles and is the only place in the stadium that displays the score, down, etc.
It is mostly college residential units for the first few blocks around the stadium. Still there are plenty of places to eat as well downtown being a short drive or a long, but doable walk away.
There are plenty of spots near the school to grab a bite nearby. Cafe 601 is on University Avenue and a popular destination for college students serving sandwiches and other to-go items.
Hoppy Brewing Company is one of the more popular breweries in Sacramento and serves regular pub food. Their beer can be found at retailers all around Northern California.
Though you can imbibe nearby the venue, if you have time, a trip downtown might be in order. You can visit the California State Capital, just five miles from the university as well as enjoy the rest of the downtown Sacramento area.
The Pilothouse and Moxie are good downtown restaurants if you're looking for a sit-down restaurant while the Firehouse and Biba are upscale restaurants in Old Sacramento near the waterfront.
As the sixth-largest city in California, Sacramento has nearly half a million residents so it follows that there will be historical and social value in your surroundings.
The Hornets fans are quality fans. They know their football and are engaged in the game throughout.
There are many fans at Hornet Stadium. Though they compete only in the FCS, it is the only quality football program around. If you want FBS football you must travel east to Reno, west to Berkeley or south to Fresno. If you want NFL football you head to the Bay Area. All of these trips are at least an hour, some much more.
The student section is pretty good but the space allotted to them is too big. They don't look as menacing with a sparsely covered space.
The university is easily accessible from highway 50 and just a few miles from the I-5 and 99 junctions. The exit from 50 is Howe Ave. From there, take a left on College Town Ave and you'll run into the parking lot. Though there are pay stations, there is no fee during Saturday football games.
There is one box office and three entrances. The box office is in the southeastern corner of the stadium near the scoreboard and across from Broad Fieldhouse. In fact Broad Fieldhouse stands in the way to the left of the main entrance so fans cannot travel to their seats in the west stands without traveling around the entire stadium. This is made even more frustrating when you enter the concession area at the north end where lines for stands back into the walkway and folks at sponsors tents try to sell you stuff.
You cannot access the west stands without a reserved seat. There is a student at every entrance on the backside of those stands checking tickets. There is nobody on the east side as that entire side of the field is general admission.
You enter the stands from behind them. A green tarp covers the series of bleachers and poles that support the seating area. When you enter the walkway underneath the stands it is rather surreal to see poles as far as you can see. The metal bleachers have a decidedly high school feel.
The only restrooms available are portable units that are either behind the stands or are shoved underneath them. The ones underneath are easily accessible if you successfully navigate the maze that is beneath the stands. Though they are sometime hard to spot, the restroom lines are never too long once you get there.
The value here is really in the free parking, a rarity in today's college football landscape. A general admission ticket is $20 but I'd recommend spending the couple extra bucks to get a reserved seat, particularly on hot days. $20 seems a bit expensive for an FCS experience.
Concession prices aren't beyond the norm and the play in the Big Sky Conference is fast-paced and exciting to watch.
This is a bare bones college football experience. It's not a particularly great setting inside or outside the stadium but it gets the job done.
They have military personnel on the field beyond the north end zone where a canon is set up. The canon is shot off after every score for a reason I wasn't able to determine. I mean, there are military bases near Sacramento but it's not a huge military town I'd say.
It seems to me that Hornet Stadium has the opposite problem to The Nest. Hornet Stadium is a tad too big and The Nest is a tad too small. Considering it is a CSU school it's understandable that funds haven't been used to renovate or replace either of them.
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