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Official Review by Tom Uddo, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
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.
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".
The usual suspects in terms of food are offered at the stadium at a fair price; hot dogs, burgers, nachos, pretzels, and fries. With only half of the stadium catering to those in attendance (the other half is seating for the away team) there are not many options if you are hungry. Small food stands offer some variation with BBQ pulled-pork sandwiches and burritos, which are both at a fair price of $4.75.
You may be better off meeting up with some friends to tailgate in the parking lot to save a few bucks on food and beverages, since you can practically find the same foods outside and inside. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted inside the stadium, and security does an effective job of searching through bags to make sure of it.
Where LaValle Stadium excels is the atmosphere that is generated by the fans, team mascot and band. The Seawolf student section, also known as the "Red Zone", has fans dressed in a sea of red to support their team and they can certainly get loud. One student, who painted his body with the team's colors, stood in the blistering cold, and took the responsibility of riling up the crowd.
The team mascot, "Wolfie", gets the entire crowd pumped up and engaged. Whether by running across the sidelines with team flags or holding up signs that ignite chants, the atmosphere is one of kind for the area. One giant LCD screen at the north side of the stadium allows those in attendance to become engaged by starting chants, the occasional wave, or by submitting pictures to social media outlets that will be displayed.
The PA system, however, only broadcasts plays during the game and never really interacts with the crowd. Along with the cheerleaders who can't compare to the student section or mascot, the PA system along with the pom-poms, are forgettable.
If you are planning your day around a Stony Brook game, make sure it's done in advance. Aside from the stadium, there is not much in terms of entertainment around campus or the nearby towns. Walking around campus is not really an option; during the weekends, there is not much happening besides athletics and in a majority of the cases, the walking distance is just too far. You have the option of driving a short distance to the local mall or heading out east if you have enough time to experience all of the island. Your best bet is to drive a couple of miles to Port Jefferson, the waterfront town just 10 minutes away that offers several bars, restaurants and a scenic view of the Long Island Sound.
There is no question that school spirit is present at Stony Brook. Almost every fan in attendance was donning some sort of "SBU" or "Seawolves" attire. From jerseys, hats, sweatshirts and jackets; the support was definitely present. For a conference game, the stadium was jammed packed and the crowd was very responsive to the action on the field. I was told from several alumni to arrive at the stadium early, because the seats fill quickly and their advice was certainly accurate. Halfway through the first quarter, the only seats left available were those at the top of the stands.
For an FCS team that is unknown to many, the Stony Brook faithful characterize themselves as a legitimate college football team, as the tailgating is in full effect hours before the game. From grills, footballs being thrown, loud music and chants; the fans are what make LaValle Stadium an experience on Long Island that everyone should be a part of.
One of the advantages of the Stony Brook campus is that there are several entrances available, making traffic, nonexistent. Located off of several main roads, entering the campus is stress-free and the signage located at almost every corner makes it easy to find the stadium. Those familiar with the area can route their travels to avoid the main roads and still find the campus with side streets.
However, when traveling to LaValle Stadium, arrive early because the parking lots nearby fill up very quickly. The main lot is difficult to maneuver with a large vehicle; there are several areas to park nearby, but make tailgating impossible since you aren't close enough to the stadium to enjoy the atmosphere. The plus side? All parking is free on the weekends, so if you see a spot close, grab it.
One of the things you won't be complaining about will be the price of tickets at LaValle Stadium. Game day tickets for general admission will cost only $14 for adults, while youth and senior tickets are only $10. Adult tickets can be purchased online for $12 if you are looking to save a couple of bucks. With free parking and the standard price of food and beverages, you can enjoy a college football game for under $20 with ease.
Enter the stadium early and stick around for the halftime show because the Stony Brook marching band is sure to impress. The distinguished group of students have participated in the Columbus Day parade in New York City as well as winning several awards over the years. They are considered one of the best marching bands in the country and they do not disappoint. Other small extras offered at the stadium include prize-wheels, raffles, and vendors selling team merchandise.
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