Nestled in the southwest Virginia mountains rests one of the better-known football schools in the region and the country. Virginia Tech has risen to national prominence over the last two decades, primarily due to the leadership of Frank Beamer. The school had made just six bowl appearances in almost a century of football before Beamer's arrival, and it has since made a number of appearances on national television pre-game shows and prime-time games. Tech's place in the national conversation is now firmly cemented.
The Hokies' home has earned its share of fame, as well. Lane Stadium opened for business in 1965, and the nearly five decades since have brought accolades covering the beauty of the stadium's surroundings and the incredible home-field advantage the Hokies enjoy. The stadium is the centerpiece of the school's athletic complex, including basketball arena Cassell Coliseum and other intercollegiate sports facilities. Blacksburg may not be a "destination" city, but it is home to one of the more interesting places in college football.
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There is certainly nothing to complain about with the food and drink offerings at Lane Stadium. There are a number of central concession stands around both levels of the concourse, and the offerings are essentially the same throughout. The school offers cheese or pepperoni pizza ($6), the Hokie chili dog ($5), burgers and barbecue chicken sandwiches (both $5), super nachos (chili or chicken for $5), and either a regular hot dog or nachos for $4. Soft pretzels, peanuts from the landmark Virginia Diner, popcorn, Cracker Jacks and candy are all $3. Coffee or hot chocolate are available - and necessary, on many days - for $2. Coca-Cola is the campus bottler, with bottled water for $3 and fountain drinks for $2, $3.50 or $5, depending on size.
A number of ancillary stands are also available around the concourses for everything from candy to restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings, with some taking on a carnival-like atmosphere. One stand, for instance, sells funnel cakes ($6) and "Texas corndogs" ($5). The main item to purchase from one of these stands, though, is the giant smoked turkey leg. This is a standard at Hokie games, and despite the expense ($10 for a turkey leg, plus a listed 20% "service charge" that is added in), it is popular with the locals.
The scenic backdrop of the Virginia Tech campus is the star attraction in many of the seats at Lane Stadium. The open end zone allows for visibility toward the campus and Cassell Coliseum. This is a nice added touch, as Blacksburg is loaded with natural beauty. If you choose not to look around outside the campus, just about every fixed seat offers a great view of the action. There are also standing areas in the end zones, should you tire of the mostly metal bleacher seats. Virginia Tech, like their fellow ACC competitor Clemson, offers seatbacks for rent for $6 per game. Some of the end zone standing room areas, however, are partially obstructed by the seating bowls.
The primary scoreboard resides in the open end zone. The scoreboard shows video of the game as it takes place, along with pre-game content, lineup introductions and in-game content and commercials. More and more fans pay attention to statistics these days, and Virginia Tech adds a nice touch in this regard. A running total of rushing, passing and total yards is kept on the scoreboard throughout the game, adding some function to the aesthetics of the board. Unfortunately, though, if you are in the seats in this end zone, you are mainly left with the "ribbon" scoreboard on the seating deck opposite you, as the scoreboard is behind you.
Two bands grace Hokie fans with music through the course of the game. The Marching Virginians call the open end zone their home, near where the Hokies enter and exit the field. The Virginia Tech Regimental Band (also known as the Highty Tighties) is seated in the opposite end zone through the game after leading the team in the Hokie Walk. The Marching Virginians lead the Hokey Pokey (or, considering the school's mascot, the Hokie Pokey) before the start of the fourth quarter of each game.
It is also well-documented that that the Hokies make their way to the field to the sounds of Metallica's "Enter Sandman". This takes place just after an alternating cheer of "Let's Go!" and "Hokies!" between each side of the stadium. Once "Enter Sandman" begins, the fans begin to jump up and down in time with the music, known to many as the "Blacksburg Bounce". This entrance was a bit muted on the day I attended, but it was extremely cold in the stands, and many fans were still outside waiting to get into the stadium.
Virginia Tech is a gorgeous campus on which to take a fall stroll (and in most cases, you'll have to do a LOT of strolling - more on that in a bit, though). The buildings on the campus are constructed using "Hokie stone", which is a locally-mined greyish stone. This stone, the drill field in the center of the campus and many other unique features give the university a distinct look.
It has been mentioned that Blacksburg is a relatively small town, and this limits your options for post-game activities quite a bit. Most of the dining options are along Main Street, around a mile or so from the campus. Bull & Bones Brewhaus & Grill is a popular choice with locals, and they feature steaks, pulled pork, pasta and numerous other choices at decent prices. They also have a brewery on site, along with the "Growler", a two-liter glass jar with a handle that allows you to take home some of your favorite beer or root beer. Macado's, Big Al's, The Cellar and Boudreaux's are additional varied options within a mile or so.
Hokie fans have a well-earned reputation of being among the best in their conference, if not the nation. Though some may find Lane Stadium a bit small for an "elite" program (it seats just over 66,000), the atmosphere is usually quite rowdy, particularly for prime-time games. Fans across the Commonwealth love their Hokies, and if you look around you on the drive along Interstate 81 or US 460, you will see Tech flags EVERYWHERE. Much like other states with two major schools, most Virginians grow up as Hokies or Cavaliers, and the two-plus decades of winning under Frank Beamer helped make that decision for many fans.
The crowd on the day I attended seemed to have a little less "zip" to it than those to which we have grown accustomed at Lane Stadium. There could be a number of factors in play with that - the ridiculously cold weather, the fact that the Hokies and their in-state opponent, the Virginia Cavaliers, were both struggling to the end of down seasons or the Thanksgiving weekend are all possible - but something just seemed to be a bit "off". I am more than willing to give the Hokie faithful a well-deserved pass on this, but it did not seem to be as loud as years past.
Virginia Tech's beauty is aided by its location. Its accessibility is hindered by that same location. Blacksburg is approximately 45 minutes from Roanoke (VA) Regional Airport, assuming traffic on Virginia Interstate 81 is not experiencing its typical problems. There is a somewhat convoluted exit from 81 (there are actually three exits on the one main exit - follow the signs for Virginia Tech) onto US Highway 460, which leads to the university. The main points of access for the university are Southgate Drive, Prices Fork Road (Virginia Highway 412) and Toms Creek Road. US 460 Business (Main Street) is also an option, should you choose to avoid the bypass. All of these routes experience considerable backups before and after games, so expect long traffic delays - even on 81.
Once you arrive on campus, parking is a bit of a hassle. There are no free parking options anywhere, unless you know someone in the area. If you do not have a campus parking permit or a pass for one of the 20-plus lots limited to "contributors", your parking options essentially include paying $20 to park on a local resident's lawn, $8-$13 to park in an offsite lot at a local school (plus $5 to ride a Blacksburg Transit shuttle to the game) or $15 at the Perry Street commuter garage on campus. The Perry Street garage offers plenty of parking - and annoyed attendants, at least on the day I visited - and several tailgates going on around the garage. It may be a good idea to stop off for a snack or a beverage at one of these tailgates to get some energy, because your walk to Lane Stadium is just over a mile. The scenery along the way is nice, but the walk wears on you a bit.
The stadium concourse winds around the facility and under the seating bowl on both sides. Though there are plenty of concession stands, the lines at these stands can grow long enough to almost completely block the flow of traffic, forcing pedestrians to try to sneak between patrons or wait as two-way foot traffic tries to work through a narrow opening. There are stores for Hokie gear on both sides of the stadium, but the crowds inside the store and just outside its doors can also slow things down quite a bit. The bathrooms are clean and fairly well-appointed. It should also be noted that they are a great place to stand and briefly warm up on the extremely cold days Blacksburg is known to experience.
Finally, the lines at the entry gates can get extremely long at times. I saw what appeared to be hundreds of people stuck in line outside the gates waiting to get in and get to their seats even after the game I attended had begun. For a school with such great pre-game traditions, the concerns with crowd control were a bit disappointing.
Tickets at Virginia Tech are rather expensive, though they are on par with a lot of their ACC counterparts (Clemson, for example). An upper-deck ticket costs $50, though I heard several people walking by me stating they had gotten their tickets for below face value. I passed a number of people selling tickets outside the stadium, so this may knock off some of your cost. The school also offers a StubHub link on its ticketing page, so that may also help.
The excessive cost of parking really takes a bite out of a fan's wallet. Let's say, for instance, that you get one of those $50 tickets, park in the Perry Street Garage and walk, then buy a hot dog and a soda, this will total at least $71 (assuming you get a regular hot dog and a small soda). If you get a larger hot dog or beverage, this will obviously add to the cost. These upgrades and a game program will likely push your total over $75. The mile-plus walk and half-hour each way from the garage should also be counted here, as time is money.
We previously mentioned that there are multiple shops around the stadium from which Hokie gear can be purchased. A solid selection of t-shirts, hats, jackets and other items is available at each location. There are usually deals and reduced-price memorabilia available at these stands, so nearly any fan's budget can be accommodated.
Virginia Tech's football history is clearly on display inside Lane Stadium. Banners are hung at field level to commemorate the Hokies' four ACC championships, while several retired jersey banners hang above the stands in the open end zone. Some of the retired jerseys include former NFL offensive lineman Jim Pyne's number 73, star defensive lineman Bruce Smith's number 78 and Michael Vick's number 7. Former Raider and Dolphin lineman Jake Grove's number 64 also hangs above the stadium, and he was honored on the field during the game I attended.
Signs hang around the stadium to honor Hokies Respect. This is a school-sponsored program designed to promote fan sportsmanship. The signs indicate that Hokies respect the moment, the opponent, the game, themselves and the competition. This creed is also read on the field before each game. In an era of increasingly questionable fan behavior, this is a nice touch.
Another quite prominent part of any Hokie home game is the sound of Skipper. Skipper is a cannon fired by cadets on the field before the game and outside the stadium during the course of the game. The cannon is fired to complete the singing of the national anthem, and is also fired to signal scoring plays during the course of the game. Though many schools have cannons, Skipper holds a special place in Hokie lore, dating back fifty-plus years.
If you hear the sound of clanging metal on third down, you're not going crazy. Virginia Tech fans rattle their keys on third downs, as these are "key" plays. This creates quite the interesting sight and sound throughout the stadium.
Finally, it should also be noted that Virginia Tech radio crew of Bill Roth and Mike Burnop celebrated their 25th year together in the booth in 2012. The trademark opening call of "From the blue waters of the Chesapeake Bay to the hills of Tennessee, the Virginia Tech Hokies are on the air!" is known throughout the Commonwealth. The Tech Radio Network's flagship station is WBRW (105.3 FM) in Blacksburg, and there are almost 40 affiliates across Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Many people would be hard-pressed to find a reason to come to Blacksburg, Virginia that did not include something having to do with Virginia Tech. Though Blacksburg may not be a world-renowned city center, Lane Stadium certainly holds its own as a sporting destination. Whether you know Virginia Tech for "Enter Sandman", Michael Vick, Frank Beamer or even Lee Corso's rental car being fried during a particularly strong thunderstorm, it is all that and more. If you seek tradition and a must-see gameday experience, point your GPS to this hidden southwest Virginia town and enjoy the ride - even the stop-and-go portions.
This has to be one of the best places in the world to see a college football game!
Seats are close to the field with great sightlines - unless you decide to sitdown for the game. Warm, friendly, football-knowledgable Hokies make you feel welcome on campus as well as in the stadium. Be ready to make some - no - lots of noise: intense fan particaption is premium and required once "Enter Sandman" is heard. Night games are particularly magical in atmosphere. Fall day games with the surrounding trees in Orange and Maroon are beautiful. Two bands, 'Skipper,' the Corps, doing the Hokie Pokie, etc. and a hard hitting football team provide plenty of fun.
You know your in Lane Stadium when " The Sandman does anything but put you to sleep; forgetting your keys for the game is a capital crime; and there are 66,233 screaming fans around you, yet every seat is empty."
Though Southgate Road may be narrow, i'll enjoy my retina engraved image and all the great moments until i get to return the next time!
Food is lacking. Poor variety, prices high, look of "carney" atmosphere. Cold drinks were warm, warm drinks were cool. Pizza is of poor quality.
Only thing going is turkey legs. Ambeience does not lend it's to the fan experience.
1470 South Main St #120
Blacksburg, VA 24060
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Blacksburg, VA 24060
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900 Prices Fork Rd
Blacksburg, VA 24060