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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Stony Brook is a relative newcomer to the college football landscape as the program began play in 1983. Starting at the Division III level, the school has quickly worked its way up the ranks as they now compete in the FCS portion of Division I. In order to properly fit in with this division, a new stadium was completed in 2002 and named in honor of the state senator who pushed for the funding of the facility. LaValle Stadium is a decent place to take in a game, as the intimate seating set-up is combined with a growing fan base and student participation. The current school administration has grand visions for even more program growth, including controversial stadium expansions. At the moment, Stony Brook football is a nice fit for both FCS and their conference, the CAA as the stadium experience is generally good.
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".
For a relatively new stadium that looks to have a lot of room for concessions, there are surprisingly few options. Only two permanent stands exist and they offer the same general assortment of typical blah items including Soft Pretzels ($4), Nachos ($4.75) and Cheeseburgers ($6). Only the Wolfie Dog tries to spice things up with some Chili and Jalapeńos on the hot dog. There are a pair of side carts that offer a little something different, one of them selling Oreo Churros, while the other features Mac & Cheese with a meat topping. Water, Gatorade and Bottled Soda is offered for close to $4. Fans are better off eating before or after the game.
The event starts with a new feature in 2015: Seawolves Town. A section of the main parking lot is cornered off to create a carnival-like setting geared towards families. Activities include games, mini-golf, food trucks and inflatables. The set-up is a nice attempt to engage and welcome fans before the game. A typical amount of footballs can be seen flying around the parking lot during tailgates, while inside, the game day atmosphere is decent. The Stony Brook Marching Band kicks things off with a pre-game concert and then players rush out of the tunnel with fireworks set off behind the north end zone. The full band is quite good and it is worth remaining in place for the halftime show. Wolfie, the Seawolves' mascot, keeps fans entertained as well and the furry animal is popular with the students too.
LaValle Stadium has a seating set-up that offers excellent sightlines, enhanced by the absence of a track, which enables seats to be closer to the field. Three sides of the stadium feature a set of bleachers only 8-10 rows deep and then much of the seating can be found in the upper deck located on the east side of the stadium. It is up here where the view of the game is best and I recommend setting up shop in this area. There are some red reserved chairbacks towards the middle, though the majority of seating is metal bleacher. Students sit on the opposite sideline and if there is any overflow, they are placed behind the south end. On the opposite end is a terrific scoreboard that features a screen with very high quality video.
The school does a good job displaying team colors, noted by the splashes of red on and around the field. However, there is some missing character as the lack of a Stony Brook feel is notable in the concourse and by the total absence of recognition for conference championships, NCAA appearances and former players.
Though Stony Brook is marketed as being close to New York City, it is actually a good distance away, about an hour to the east on Long Island. The small hamlet's location on the North Shore is somewhat rural and while Stony Brook may not offer a quaint heart of town, there is a decent section to check out. Located a few minutes northwest of campus and the centrally located football stadium, the Long Island Museum features a multi-building arrangement displaying local history, art and a huge collection of carriages.
For a pre-game meal, head a bit further down the road to the Stony Brook Village Center, an idyllic shopping center built in the 1940s that looks much newer. Fratelli's offers a quick bite with decent deli sandwiches, while Latitude 121 provides a sit-down option in a nautical-themed restaurant. Finally, before heading to the game, walk down to the marshy, tidal harbor. Just a short walk around this area that leads into the Long Island Sound will explain why the university is so heavily invested in marine research.
The Seawolves are capable of drawing a sellout crowd, but it requires a big event like homecoming or a playoff game. Otherwise, LaValle Stadium typically features a game where the stands are 50-75% full. The crowd is engaged quite well as the noise and vocal nature of the cheering is more evident than what is seen at a lot of other Northeastern FCS schools. "Let's Go Seawolves" is a popular chant and home team touchdowns are met with enthusiasm. An encouraging sign is both increased student interest and yearly rises in attendance figures. It will be worth monitoring the progress to see if Stony Brook can achieve more of a consistent interest as they strive towards their major campaign of further growing the program.
Once on Long Island, which can be a chore to drive to as it involves crossing an NYC bridge, the university is pretty easy to get to. By using I-495 (better known as the LIE), commuters can get off at Exit 62 and take Route 92 North. After about 10 minutes on this pseudo highway, the campus entrance will show up on the left. Parking for those without a season pass can be found next to the basketball arena, however, this lot can fill up quickly. Alternative options include the elongated parking area along Circle Road, which is actually a better option for less traffic when leaving. A path then leads to the athletic facilities and the football stadium. This parking area is also used for those that ride the Long Island Rail Road. The Stony Brook station is on the Port Jefferson line and the train option provides a good means of public transportation. From midtown Manhattan, it is nearly a 2 hour ride with train transfers.
Movement around the stadium is excellent as open corners and 360 degree walkways make all seating areas easily accessible. The only shelter from weather is on the east side of the stadium as the upper deck provides some cover from the elements. While stadium access is great, the bathroom situation is surprisingly poor as the few restrooms available have little room inside.
Tickets generally average around $15, with the chairbacks costing a little bit more. While Stony Brook promotes buying tickets early by offering a $3 discount, that is cancelled by $4 in online fees. Check the type of game and if you are not a local, it is best to just get a ticket at the stadium. For the 2015 season opener, parking was free and if that remains the case through the entire season, it would be a nice deal for fans as it cost $10 for cars the previous season. Overall, the price is right for FCS and CAA Football.
Explicitly written near the entrance gate are items not allowed and one of those items is an umbrella. My feelings are mixed on this policy, but when it is abundantly obvious that the stadium is not close to full, they should be allowed. That is why I applaud security for this event in letting fans bring in their umbrellas on what became a very rainy night. It never caused an issue for other fans being able to see and it was much appreciated in an attempt to stay relatively dry.
Another point goes to the Stony Brook Marching Band. For a school that lacks a long history of tradition, the band ignores that and makes it seem like they have been here forever. The sound is terrific and their performance is quite enjoyable.
What Stony Brook has built over the last few decades is impressive and their LaValle Stadium home is a decent one. Though the university looks to get even bigger, fans should take advantage of the program that they have now.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium and Arena Visits.
Member Review by Tom Uddo on Oct 15, 2012
When it comes to success in collegiate sports, Long Island is not usually a place that comes to mind. Over the years, many residents have been searching for a school that offers an exciting team and atmosphere that rivals teams of the south, where college sports, mainly football, are a way of life.
When Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, home of the Stony Brook Seawolves, opened in 2002 as the largest outdoor sports facility in Suffolk County, tallying up a bill of $22 million to construct, the expectations were set at a very high level. After four conference championships in Division I FCS, three conference tournament championships brought home by the men's lacrosse team, and three appearances in the NCAA tournament in men's soccer, as well as success by the Stony Brook men's basketball team, the search is officially over.
Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, along with a serene campus, offers an atmosphere that is one of a kind for residents who are not used to the collegiate experience that a majority of the country is accustomed to.
77 Main St.
Stony Brook, NY 11790
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