In 1963 the first of the locally famous "West Virginian Fab Four" settled at what was then known as Waterloo Lutheran University. Fred Nichols, the longtime Dean of Students, then summoned the rest of the group who built what was to become the athletic department of Wilfrid Laurier University. Dave "Tuffy" Knight, Rich Newbrough, and Don Smith answered the call from their West Virginia homes, and came to Waterloo to build champions. Almost fifty years later, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks continue to make their mark in CIS football.
In 1992, Wilfrid Laurier University bought what was then known as Seagram Stadium from the City of Waterloo. The stadium was renamed University Stadium and underwent renovations. In 2007, amidst another renovation, the field was renamed after Tuffy and Newbrough, who were legendary Golden Hawks football coaches.
On a Saturday afternoon at Knight-Newbrough Field, you will most definitely hear John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" as a nod to the Fab Four. The Hawks have won 7 Yates Cups as Ontario champions, and in 1991 and 2005 were crowned Vanier Cup Champions, as the National Champions in Canada.
At Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, when the Hawks won their second Vanier Cup, the PA system did not play the classic "We Are the Champions." Instead, they played John Denver, to the delight of all of the Golden Hawks supporters in attendance.
What is FANFARE?
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
- Food & Beverage
- Return on Investment
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food & Beverage
Concessions at University Stadium are fairly basic. There is one main concession underneath the grandstand. You will find all of the basics including coffee and hot chocolate, popcorn, pizza, and chips. They have recently started taking debit cards at concession stands, and are continuing to make improvements. At either end zone, you will usually find a BBQ where you can be served some excellent burgers, hot dogs, and sausages. For most games there is also a licensed area in which you can buy and consume canned beer. Overall, there is nothing that will put you over the moon, but you also won't starve. Prices are reasonable and the quality is good as well.
University Stadium is a classic football stadium. It is nothing fancy, and amidst numerous renovations, has retained its charm. The wooden planks that make up the majority of the stadium remain. The stadium features one grandstand, and the view across the field is dominated by huge, mature trees.
Seating is always general admission, and there is not really a bad seat in the place. Stadium seating is wooden benches, covered with vinyl. Bringing something to sit on, like a blanket, or a stadium chair would be a good idea.
The scoreclock at the stadium is very basic, and features signage honouring the 1991 and 2005 Vanier Cup Champion teams. Underneath the grandstand there are also some huge posters which capture key moments in Golden Hawks history. These include pictures from the Vanier Cup teams, and one of Tuffy Knight and Rich Newbrough; without whom none of this would be possible.
The production at a Golden Hawks game is fairly simple, but the product is never lost in the production. A staple at Hawks games is the playing of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and on a good day, the crowd will join in the singing. The recent 2012 Homecoming game featured fireworks, the game ball delivered by skydivers, a flyover by a vintage bomber, and a soccer-style confetti bomb. All added to a great atmosphere for the day.
Being on campus at a university, and right by another university, the neighbourhood around Knight-Newbrough Field is top notch. There are tons of options for you to get either a pre or post game meal. Some options you might consider would include the Raintree Cafe, the Mongolian Grill, Benny's Family Restaurant, or McGuiness Front Row.
The on-campus bar is Wilf's, and it is pretty good, but a challenge to get to. Your best choices would include Benny's Family Restaurant, which has fantastic food with huge portions, or Morty's Pub. Morty's is a big supporter of the Golden Hawks, and boasts the best chicken wings in town. There are also a variety of chain restaurants in the area as well. You will definitely find something that interests you!
It's difficult to gauge the fans for Laurier football. With only four home games per year, attendance is all over the map. The first game of the year is a night game that coincides with Orientation Week of "Frosh" Week, as it's commonly referred to. Their major fundraising event, Shinerama, wraps up at the end of the day and there are thousands of students in attendance for the game. The Homecoming game, which was the game that is being reviewed, can pack in over 10,000 fans. Other games will depend on the opponent and the weather. It is not totally unheard of to have a game with under 1,000.
There is generally not a strong student following, and numbers have dropped since students are now asked to purchase a ticket, whereas a few years ago their entry was included with their student fees. There is no true student section at the game either. Homecoming can be an issue for those who do not want to sit with rowdy students or rowdy recent graduates.
Fans in attendance are typical Southern Ontario fans. They are fairly quiet and usually require prodding for noise from the public address announcer.
University Stadium can be found on Seagram Drive, which is basically the bridge between Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo. Seagram Drive is easily accessible from either University Ave or Albert St, but it is not near the closest Highway, 85.
There is a bit of parking in the Granite Club parking lot, and parking on campus is free on weekends. Patrons need to be conscious of parking in spots they shouldn't as parking tickets from the City of Waterloo during the game are not uncommon. Parking in the stadium parking lot is reserved for media and those who have purchased a football parking pass.
Washroom facilities at the stadium can be a challenge, especially on those big crowd days. There is one set of washrooms under the grandstand and there are a few portable toilets by the end zones.
Return on Investment
Although the price of tickets has increased over time, Laurier football still offers a significant bang for your buck. The football is pure and if you love the game, then it is for you. Concessions are reasonably priced and parking can be found for no charge. Golden Hawks football is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon or evening with the family.
An extra mark for the great tradition of Laurier football.
An extra mark for honouring Tuffy Knight and Rich Newbrough for all they have brought to the program over the years.
An extra mark for the unique Golden Hawk mascot, which has an interesting history.
Checking out a Laurier Golden Hawks football game is a great way to spend a fall afternoon or evening. With only 4 home games per year, it is a good idea to make your plans early and get out to a game. Make sure you find the corner of Seagram Drive and Country Roads Way, and follow the sounds of John Denver to some great football action.
Follow all of Dave Cottenie's journeys on twitter @profan9.