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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Kermit Tipton Stadium is a high school football stadium in Johnson City, TN, and is usually home to the Science Hill Hilltoppers. The venue is currently being borrowed by East Tennessee State University while the Buccanneers' new stadium is being built - it will be located on ETSU's campus, and will open in 2017. The field itself at Kermit Tipton Stadium is named after Steve Spurrier (yes, that Steve Spurrier), former Florida and current South Carolina head football coach. Spurrier graduated from Science Hill School back in the 60s. 2015 was ETSU's first season of football following a 12-year hiatus.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concession options at Kermit Tipton Stadium are a lot more than you would expect from a high school venue, and the prices are very low. The main stands on each side of the field offer peanuts, popcorn, candy, bottled water, Powerade, and Coke products in bottles for $2 each, as well as hot dogs for $3. However, you will also find Chick-fil-A stands that have chicken sandwiches for $4, or waffle potato chips and cookies for $2. There are also stands selling Rita's Italian ice for $3-$6 depending on size, and Little Caesars pizza slices for $2 (cheese or pepperoni). Lastly, there are a few stands that only sell beverages if all you want is to quench your thirst.
Because Kermit Tipton Stadium is on a high school campus, no alcohol is allowed (or sold) on site. Also, note that the concessions stands only take cash.
Kermit Tipton Stadium is probably the smallest stadium you will ever see a college football game in, so the experience will not be over the top, but it is still a lot of fun to see a game here - since ETSU is playing football for the first time in over a dozen years, the fans are hungry for the experience.
There are two main stands, one on the east (visitor side) and one on the west (ETSU side, the press box is located there). There is also a very small set of bleachers on the north which has overflow for ETSU students, and another on the south for the band. The center section on the west side has seats with full chair backs, but is reserved for season ticket holders. However, a couple of sections offer metal bleachers with chair back rails (sections C, D, F, and G on the east, and section M on the west) - everywhere else has just regular metal bleachers without chair rails or backs. Like a lot of high school stadiums, the football field is located inside the running track.
ETSU has a pretty large band, and they perform at halftime and throughout the game. There are also cheerleaders who help rev up the crowd, who perform in front of the east and west stands, as well as a mascot and Chick-fil-A cow throwing out stuffed animals to the crowd.
The stadium is so small that neither section (east vs. west) is bad, but the west side does have slightly better amenities, and is a little easier to move around.
Kermit Tipton Stadium is located about five miles from ETSU, and there isn't much in the immediate vicinity of the stadium except the high school, which has a pretty sprawling campus.
About a mile or two north of the stadium, however, there are a slew of restaurants (near exit 20 on I-26); for example, a Smokey Bones, Hooters, Longhorn Steakhouse, or Outback Steakhouse, any of which would make a fine hangout for before or after the game.
There are not a ton of attractions in Johnson City, but there are a few - the main one is the Great Smoky Mountains with plenty of trails and scenery, as well as a couple of local museums, such as the George L. Carter Railroad Museum and the Museum of Ancient Brick. There are also a couple of local breweries, including Johnson City Brewery and Yee-haw Brewery, if you are into that kind of thing.
There are plenty of hotels within five miles of the field, either at exit 20 or exit 23 on I-26. Options range from Doubletree to Motel 6, so you should easily be able to find something to fit your budget.
Kermit Tipton Stadium only holds 6,600, but is almost full for ETSU games. The fans are pretty excited to have football again, and they really enjoy rooting for their team. The Buccaneers' new on-campus stadium will hold 10,000, so the fact they can draw so many off-campus is a good sign.
Getting to the stadium is easy enough, although if you can avoid coming through the mountains, you might find the drive a little less stressful, since you could skip some of the switchbacks and one-lane roads.
Once you get to Kermit Tipton Stadium, parking is a little tricky, in part because there are several fields (including baseball and softball diamonds) right next to it, so most of the parking is on the east and south, and can be a bit of a walk. Also, there aren't very many signs pointing the way, and the staff are not much help.
Parking is only $5, but if you have season tickets, you can get a season parking pass, which allows you to park in the lots closer to the stadium - the rest of us have to park a little further to the east, near John Exum Parkway.
There are two entrances into Kermit Tipton Stadium, one on the east and one on the west, but you can enter on either side (depending on where you park) and walk around the oval track to get to the other side, if you need to. Note, however, that there are also two separate will call booths; one for ETSU (west side) and one for visitors (east side) - so if you didn't bring your ticket with you, just make sure you go to the right one.
On the east side, the concourse is below the grandstand, while on the west it is above it. But there is plenty of room on each side, and there are more than enough bathrooms to accommodate everyone.
Tickets cost $25 for chair back rails and $20 for everything else, which feels a little high, since this is a high school stadium. However, the concessions are as low as you will ever find, and parking is only $5, so that may make up for it.
The experience is a lot of fun, since the fans are so excited to have football again. Getting in and out is a bit of a hassle with the parking situation, though - perhaps the new ETSU stadium can better address that issue.
One point for Steve Spurrier - Heisman winner, Hall of Famer, coach of a National Championship team, with roots in several southeastern states, including TN, NC, and FL. Remember, though, that the field is only named after him; since the stadium is relatively new, he didn't actually play here.
A second point for the high school connection - a lot of fans don't attend high school games much, if at all. Seeing an ETSU game here gives you an excuse to indulge in that high school experience, at least in some measure, and that has a charm all its own.
Congratulations to ETSU for getting football back!
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