Ames, Iowa is like many other college towns across America on football Saturdays. Fans from across the state flock to the centrally located city to cheer on their beloved Cyclones.
Unfortunately for those fans, Iowa State has never been a juggernaut in football, hovering around mediocrity for the past few decades. Fair or not, that lack of success has a direct impact on the Jack Trice Stadium experience.
Jack Trice is easy on the eyes, but empty seats are visible for nearly every game (unless Iowa State is taking on rival Iowa). There is only one word to describe the stadium experience, and it is one that the football team has been accustomed to hearing over the years – average.
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".
Jack Trice Stadium had a number of accessible concession stands to limit the waiting time in line, which is a huge plus at any sporting event. However, the concessions lacked variety. They had your basic salty snacks, candy, hot dogs and soda.
Like most college stadiums, the sale of alcohol is prohibited. But a souvenir soda is the best way to quench your thirst. For $5, you get a jumbo-sized, Cyclone-themed cup, and you have access to free refills for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, there are designated lines for refills at a limited number of concession stands, so the wait time increases for refills. But hey, it's free.
The best deal I came across was a foot-long corndog at a kiosk below the student section. It cost $6, and it was Iowa State Fair good.
When you think college football atmosphere, Iowa State probably resides at the back of your mind in the middle of the pack somewhere. And it should, with plenty of empty seats visible in the upper decks even in a conference game.
But even without a sold-out crowd, Jack Trice Stadium and the dedicated Iowa State faithful are strong supporters who get loud. The seating was comfortable, and visibility is great from almost any vantage point in the stadium.
Jack Trice gets extra points for its hillside seating, giving fans the opportunity to watch the game for a cheap admission price. Spectators from that section bring blankets and towels to sit on, and in warm weather, it kind of reminds you of a spring training atmosphere. There's nothing wrong with taking in the sun and watching some college football for $10 - that is, until the warm weather disappears.
Ames is a vibrant college town with plenty to offer in terms of bars, restaurants, tailgating and night life. Fans begin tailgating outside of Jack Trice all the way to Hilton Coliseum (home of Cyclones basketball) in the early hours of the morning, and the party lasts until the game begins.
There is plenty of parking available in the area, and nearly everything around the Iowa State campus is available via walking. But wear some comfortable shoes, because chances are you will be walking at least a mile if you plan on parking for free in the surrounding subdivisions or if you're going to Welch Avenue to check out the college bars after the game.
Speaking of Welch Avenue, it is the hot spot for Iowa State students and alumni alike on any weekend night. It is a little more than a mile from the stadium, and it has a wide range of bars and pubs.
If you're looking for some good eats on the way out of town, try Hickory Park Restaurant Co., which is just less than two miles away from the stadium. It is in the direction of Interstate 35, and it features some of the best barbecue in the state.
Iowa State may not have the biggest fan base in terms of numbers, but the quality of knowledgeable football fans and diehard spectators is noticeable. But the fans are nothing out of the ordinary; you have your crazy college fans, diehard alumni who start tailgating at 8 a.m., and casual Cyclone supporters decked out in maroon and gold - typical for any college stadium in the country.
For the most part, Iowa State fans are pretty knowledgeable, considering they know what to expect from their mediocre team. They will excitedly root for the Cyclones until the final whistle, but most fans I encountered were down to earth about their team's chances of making a splash on the national scene.
In general, Cyclone fans are enjoyable to watch a game with. There are plenty of quality fans who won't go looking for a fight if you root for the other team, and they know that Iowa State won't be competing for a BCS bowl any time soon. They are just there to enjoy the game and cheer on their squad.
Jack Trice is located fairly close to US Highway 69, the route that most visitors take to get to Ames. However, you have to show up early to get a parking spot near the stadium before the lots fill up with tailgaters.
If you're lucky enough to snag one of these spots, it will cost $20, but it will save you plenty of time and energy from parking away from the stadium. Plenty of street spots are available in surrounding neighborhoods, but it will take at least a half an hour to get to the stadium after parking.
Leaving the stadium is a nut house. There are only a few exits for the lots right by the stadium, and it took me 40 minutes just to get out of the parking lot. Then you have to deal with all the stadium traffic in a town that isn't used to handling many drivers for most of the week. If you're planning on leaving Ames after a game, it will take a good hour to get anywhere outside of the area.
Jack Trice Stadium doesn't have much uniqueness to it, and it definitely does not host one of the better teams in college football. But if you're stuck in the middle of Iowa with not much to do on a Saturday afternoon, a Cyclone game would be worth checking out, especially for the price.
Hey, there isn't much else to do. Not only are the tickets fairly priced, but they are readily available. You can wait until game day to decide if you want to go see the contest or not.
Iowa State also offers terrific season and student ticket deals. You can get hillside seats for the entire season for $99, and there are opportunities throughout the season to attend games for as little as $5 if you are a college student from any school, as long as you show a valid student ID card.
At the end of the day, there are some positives and some negatives to Jack Trice Stadium. Most of these characteristics cancel each other out, and you are left with an average, Division I college football experience.
The scoreboard, installed before the 2011 season really helps the game day experience. The picture is clear and is the sound in the stadium is easy to hear, worth an extra point here.
The staff at Jack Trice Stadium are very friendly and helpful, showing their commitment to the school and trying to provide a positive gameday experience.
In Iowa, football is king and Jack Trice Stadium is one of its palaces. For most of Iowa outside of Ames and the Des Moines area, the Iowa State Cyclones are the state's second team, with most of the state embracing the Iowa Hawkeyes and Kinnick Stadium for their football of choice. And Kinnick is awesome, don't get me wrong, but Jack Trice Stadium, the home of Iowa State Cyclone football, has a certain attitude about it that makes it very hard not to like, especially if you're a football fan. If you're a college football fan, I caution you not to dismiss Jack Trice Stadium, because Cyclone fans are among the most close-knit and loyal around, and it all starts inside the walls of Jack Trice Stadium.
Went for a UNI VS Iowa State game. A lot of fun.
2816 West St
Ames, IA 50014
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