Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill is home to the North Carolina Tar Heels football team.
The Tar Heels’ football stadium opened in 1927 and holds nearly 63,000 people. Previously, North Carolina football had hosted games at Emerson Field, which is now the site to the Davis Library. Kenan Stadium cost $303,000 to build back in its day, and was largely funded by a businessman named William R. Kenan Jr. from New York, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina in 1894. Kenan later convinced the school to build the stadium as a memorial for his parents.
If you’re in need of a Saturday afternoon family friendly event, find your way to Franklin Street for great food, rich history, and a great sporting event at Kenan Memorial Stadium.
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Kenan Memorial Stadium offers the typical stadium fare as well as a few extras.
Hot dogs ($4), pretzels ($4), popcorn ($5), and nachos ($5) can be found around almost every corner of the stadium. Papa John's pizza ($5), Chick-fil-A sandwiches ($6), Brookwood Barbecue sandwiches ($7), and Firehouse Subs ($7) are other alternatives.
A delicious feature to Kenan Stadium is a mini donut stand that offers crackerjacks ($4), churros with an Oreo coating ($4), mini donuts ($5), cotton candy ($6), and frozen lemonade ($5). Maui Wowi Hawaiian's offer some of the tastiest frozen smoothies ($6) in flavors like strawberry, pina colada, and mango.
Bottled water and soda drinks ($4) are easily accessible, and ice cream and frozen yogurt ($6) are also available.
Kenan Stadium has an incredibly family friendly environment that is evident when you walk in the gate. There are young children, and even a few adults, throwing around little footballs around the stadium pre and post game. Fans are incredibly dedicated to looking the part. Rarely will you find an individual walking the stadium grounds without wearing a Carolina jersey.
The stadium itself has a beautiful architectural design that makes getting around the stadium enjoyable. The walkway to the restrooms is a winding staircase that is aesthetically pleasing to look at, but tough to find your way around come halftime. The stairs to the restrooms lead into the upper section of seats. The upper section looks over the entire stadium. The steep and sleek architecture of the stadium allows fans an aesthetically pleasing experience, and plenty of room to fit nearly 63,000 seats. The seating arrangements are a bit tight, in terms of leg room. It is not easy to squeeze in and out of rows due to the condensed seating layout.
The Tar Heels band plays during the beginning of halftime in the shape of the word "Carolina." The band is electric during games, and the crowd typically joins in when they begin "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond at the end of the first quarter.
Outside of Kenan Memorial Stadium's gates, the surrounding neighborhood is very quaint. After Tar Heel football games, the fans can be seen lining the streets returning to their homes nearby, or their cars to find the excitement and nightlife. About a mile away is Franklin Street, where most of the students and fans accumulate after games.
If you're looking to hear some music after the game, The Cave and Local 506 have gained a reputation for hosting great musical acts and alcoholic drinks to match. Great drinks can be found all over Franklin Street, but one place with an exceptional overlook and place to hang out with friends is Top of the Hill. Friends, family, and parties can gather together and have a good time, and enjoy their upstairs view of the town.
The 411 West Italian Café is a favorite among locals and students alike. They have a famous artichoke and cheese pizza that is to die for. Cholanad Restaurant & Bar also has a reputation for delivering great Indian food, with vegetarian dishes available.
North Carolina Tar Heels fans are fun, friendly, and cheer loudly for their team. Tar Heel fans cheer loudest when beating rivals Duke and North Carolina State, but they do a great job of getting in the game and making sure their team knows they're behind them all season long. The Tar Pit of students is loud and involved throughout the game. Tar Heels fans are fanatic and bring a lot to their program by being involved and confident in their team. Carolina-blue jerseys cover the stands, and music and dancing can be heard and seen after first downs, touchdowns, and leaving the stadium after a win.
Outside the stadium, cars and Tar Heel busses cover Franklin Street and Stadium Drive. Neighboring roads can be seen covered with flags, signs, and support for their Tar Heel team beginning hours before the game until well after it concludes. Carolina fans are passionate and take their team winning very seriously by showing support for their team by wearing apparel, sporting signs, and cataloging cars with stickers and decals like "UNC Fan," "Tar Heel Fan," or "Go Heels."
Kenan Memorial Stadium is located off of Stadium Drive in downtown Chapel Hill. I-40 travels along either NC-54 or US 15/501 if you're coming from the interstate. There are a few exits (3) that will help you get off close to the stadium, and arriving earlier is almost a must if you're intending to find a place to park with reasonable proximity to the stadium. If you do end up driving to the game, plan on bringing cash ($10) for parking. There are plenty of places that accept cash around the stadium for parking. Parking is also available at the Cardinal Deck which has reasonable proximity and accessibility.
Tar Heel Express is an alternative to parking close to the stadium. This is an express shuttle that costs $3 for a one-way ride, and $5 for a round-trip, that allows stadium goers easy access to transportation and alleviates the stress of difficult parking when you might be cutting it close to game time, or get backed up in heavy traffic. Most of the streets around the stadium are booked with busses and some blocked off with cones, leaving parking difficult to find, especially if you show up late to the event. The Tar Heel Express is a highly reputable shuttle that has designated spots for free parking. The shuttle saves an incredible amount of time compared to how long it can take if you park relatively close to the stadium and are moving your car post game.
If you're looking to tailgate before the game, there are places to park near Friday Center that are close in proximity to the stadium (only a few miles) and it's close to the Courtyard Marriott, which can be nice to come home to after a long day of cheering for your favorite team.
Kenan Stadium is a remarkable place to visit and can often deliver on a great experience in and outside of the stadium. For more significant games or games against rival opponents, tickets can be found for roughly $50-$70 for higher up seats, and as expensive as $425+ for lower level seating. The view from almost any seat in the stadium is nice, and there is great value in even the higher up seating, that offers a great experience and view of the field.
The cheapest cost for a full experience for a family of four (a cheap ticket $50, parking $10, hot dog and drink $8, program $5) could add up to nearly $250+. An experience at a Tar Heel football game can add up to a hefty price, but North Carolina's program has upped its game the past few years and seen dramatically better results, and thus higher numbers in attendance at games.
Kenan Stadium offers souvenirs at several locations of the stadium, where Tar Heel jerseys, hats, stickers and decals can be purchased. The scenery of downtown Chapel Hill is iconic for North Carolina sports. Greats like Michael Jordan, Julius Peppers, Marion Jones, Mia Hamm, and many more came out of the University of North Carolina, which adds to its rich history. Not to mention, Chapel Hill is covered with beautiful scenery, great people, and mom and pop shops that you should check out if you can help it.
Sugarland Cupcakes is in downtown Chapel Hill, close in relation to the stadium and the campus as well, and it's definitely worth a visit for a nice treat.
Kenan Memorial Stadium brings with it, adventure, rich history, and beautiful architectural design that makes it a great visit for a sporting event. Football games bring passionate fans, great excitement, and an experience that is well worth the cost. Watching the Tar Heels play rivals Duke or North Carolina State is also something any football fan could appreciate. The Tar Heels and fans alike bring their passion to every sporting event, and the experience of Kenan Memorial Stadium is hard to replicate.
They've had their highs and they've had their lows, but one thing that has eluded the North Carolina Tar Heels is consistency. The Tar Heels have a mediocre 56% winning percentage and have an under .500 record in bowl games. But don't let that fool you; they always carry upset potential.
The Tar Heels play their home games at Kenan Memorial Stadium, a stadium that is quickly becoming an antique despite many renovations over the years. With the Tar Heels' latest renovations this year, they can currently seat just below 63,000 fans, though not very comfortably; I will get into that later.
Poor food is reason why I won't go back.
This was a bad experience. The football stadium, like the Dean Dome, is a venue built for the rich and old. Tickets are expensive and the team is not even very good. The only good part about this venue is the neighborhood. There is no parking for the stadium, you have to walk a long way to your car from the stadium.
What a disappointment! I'm sure it was a really good place for football in the 40's and 50's but this place is horrible now. Creature comfort is abysmal. Although the school has some nice looking buildings on campus, nothing about my experience here makes me think of great football. The fans seem to care very little about the game of football and it shows with many empty seats. I sat on row 4 and I could not see the game. I moved to an empty seat much higher up after the first quarter. Those seats are tight and very uncomfortable. Next time I think about going there, I hope the game is on TV!
The moniker "basketball school" is a blessing and a curse. Being dubbed a basketball school indicates that you have reached the elite level in the sport, but it can also have a negative connotation. Some fans immediately hear the term and get the impression that this is the only sport in which a school enjoys success.
This is clearly not the case at North Carolina, however. The Tar Heels have a number of ACC titles in their school's history, and some of the NFL's all-time greats and current stars have taken the field in Chapel Hill. Lawrence Taylor, Hakeem Nicks, Julius Peppers, Jeff Saturday and Greg Ellis are just some of the names to have worn the Carolina blue as collegiate standouts.
The one constant among all of these individuals is the stadium in which they played, Kenan Memorial Stadium. Opened in 1927, the stadium is one of the more instantly recognizable structures on this scenic and historic campus. Though numerous renovations and expansions have taken the stadium from its original seating capacity of 24,000 fans to the current configuration that holds 63,000, much of what was likely the original "soul" of the facility remains.
I'm going to try to be nice to this review because I don't think Kenan Stadium is incredibly bad, but it is just lacking all around. Maybe it is the fact UNC hasn't been competitive in a while or the area is more into basketball, but the place just doesn't have much character. And the one thing it does (a nice landscape in the background) is pretty much blocked by end zone expansions over the years. A buddy of mine thought this place was neat-o, but I don't really see how it is.
FOOD: They had barbecue, chicken, pizza, and Kona ice/ice cream so they had a good variety, but nothing really sticking out.
ATMOSPHERE: Strangely it adds characteristics to an SEC stadium with hedges along the side, the padded wall with the color and the block namesake (like Alabama), press box (like Ole Miss), and, well, that's it. Too bad it feels nothing like an SEC stadium.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Well, you can hit Franklin Street a few blocks away and have great options for foods (my suggestion is hit the Time Out cafe-great). The stadium is located in the heart of the campus and you are in a nice, country area as well.
FANS: They are fine overall. They are into the game, but some of the fans lose their minds, but that is to be expected.
ACCESS: Locals around say it is really bad and honestly it is. You don't have a major highway around from the interstate to help you and it creates major issues before and after the game. Parking is a disaster too, though you can find a good parking deck about a half-mile away from the stadium, but for $10.
ROI: For a team that is pretty much not a power and not really drawing great, prices were a bit on the high side. Most foods hit $6-8 and the souvenirs were about normal, but tickets were $20 or more for upper level. I think the Heels can cut back a bit with prices and you could make the place a problem for other teams, not for fans.
EXTRAS: I digged the Carolina blues, and the fact they are really pushing to go "green" with the way they do things, but overall this place fell flat. Overall this was a major disappointment and just doesn't distinguish themsleves from other stadiums.
UNC is not terrible at football, but is not great either. The town of Chapel Hill is nice if you like quaint, and the stadium really fits that vibe (smallish and closed-in). You can't see the field from the concessions, but the stands themselves have nice sight lines. If you sit near the student section you might have issues b/c no one sits in their assigned seats so you may get crowded out. Parking is a pain, though.
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