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Official Review by Steven Burke, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Northwestern men’s soccer team plays at Lakeside Field, a facility they share with the women’s soccer team and women’s lacrosse team, and the facility is also periodically used for football practice. Lakeside Field hosted its first game in 2007.
As evident in the name of the facility it is along the shores of Lake Michigan. The facility features permanent stands for 2,000 which are all general admission and located on the west side of the field leaving the east side with a great view of Lake Michigan. Also visible to the south is the easily recognizable Chicago skyline. Another distinctive feature of Lakeside Field is the FieldTurf, which according to Northwestern Athletics has received a FIFA 2-Star Certification.
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 standard concessions are available from one small trailer located near the entrance. Variety is reasonable with hot dogs, Polish sausages, hamburgers, and cheeseburgers with all of these items priced between $3.50 and $5.50. Also available are concession stand staples such as nachos, soft pretzels, peanuts, popcorn, and candy all available for $4 or $4.50.
Beverages available are Coca-Cola products including bottled water for $4, and as necessary on most Chicago September nights hot chocolate is available for $3. Lines are surprisingly short given the large crowd, but not due to a lack of business as freshly grilled items are constantly moving out the window. The smell of the freshly grilled items hit you as soon as you enter the facility and seem to cause quite a few spectators to stop at the concession stand prior to looking for a seat.
There is only one gate to enter the facility, which is located on the north end of the field. This entrance features a very wide gate which on a normal day would surely allow for good crowd flow. However on this specific evening, with a standing room only crowd, the entrance and small concourse it narrows into leading to the stands became very congested. As can be expected with the location right on Lake Michigan the wind can be gusty and on a cool day can make the difference in needing a jacket.
All of the seats are metal bench style which are reasonably comfortable with ample legroom. However, there are not any cup holders so all beverages have to be placed on the ground by your feet.
The stands are located close to the action, only separated by the sideline and a small walking path about six feet wide. The benches for both teams are located on the east side of the field leaving an unobstructed view of the field for all spectators.
The scoreboard is located on the northeast corner of the field and is rather basic without any type of video board, but it has all of the necessary information in big bright lights, which makes it easily visible from any portion of the facility.
The Northwestern mascot Willie the Wildcat is very visible, performing on the sideline and also interacting with fans in the stands. The Northwestern cheerleaders are also very visible on the sideline and in leading the crowd in cheers throughout the game.
The neighborhood surrounding Lakeside Field is a mix of campus and downtown Evanston. It is easily accessible to all of the parking garages and restaurants in downtown Evanston and just a short 15-20 minute walk from the heart of Evanston. There are plenty of places to park in Evanston and an ever-changing array of restaurants.
Smylie Brothers Brewing Company offers a great barbeque inspired menu to go with their in house brews and Temperance Beer Company is another local brewery with a taproom to try all of their unique brews. Downtown Evanston is most easily accessible to the CTA Purple Line via the Davis stop while Lakeside Field is a quick walk from the Noyes Purple Line stop. Walking through Evanston is very comfortable and safe and can be very scenic, especially if you take the lakefront path through campus.
The game I attended had a standing room only crowd with an announced attendance of 2,151 cheering and chanting for the entirety of the game. A few event staff I spoke to indicated that this is not a normal crowd as usually the crowd consists of family and friends of the players. I was informed that the usual crowd, while smaller, is just as boisterous and into the game.
Access to Northwestern falls under a Jekyll and Hyde classification depending on your desired form of transportation. Driving to Northwestern can be a long traffic-filled process. With no interstates leading directly into Evanston you must navigate surface streets from all directions. The closest interstate is I-94, also known as the Eden's Expressway, and the Dempster exit is the closest to campus. The main problem with I-94 is that it is usually bumper-to-bumper traffic during peak driving times, which usually coincide with sporting events. If you are traveling from downtown Chicago, the easiest route is to take Lakeshore Drive north.
If you choose mass transit, you will have a much easier commute. The neighborhood surrounding Lakeside Field is a mix of campus and downtown Evanston; easily accessible to all of the parking garages and restaurants in downtown Evanston.
Downtown Evanston is most easily accessible to the CTA Purple Line via the Davis stop while Lakeside Field is a quick walk from the Noyes Purple Line stop. Walking through Evanston is very comfortable and safe and can be very scenic especially if you take the lakefront path through campus. All in all a visit to Lakeside Field is a great experience for a college soccer game or any of the other activities that take place there.
Tickets are just $3 for adults and parking is free. Students are able to attend free of charge by showing their wildcat card student ID. All seats are general admission bleacher style seats.
The picturesque view of Lake Michigan just beyond the action and the Chicago skyline off in the distance provide a setting that is unique to college athletics.
The overall experience at Lakeside Field is top quality, from student attendance and interaction to the venue and its location along Lake Michigan. This facility is something for the University and the Big Ten to be proud of.
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1615 Oak Ave
Evanston, IL 60201
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