As one of college football's newest independents, Brigham Young University, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is making a concerted effort to stand out from the crowd. The football program is guided by three principles touted by head coach Bronco Mendenhall since his hiring: Tradition, Spirit and Honor.
Just how much do these principles matter to BYU? Not only will you find them posted throughout LaVell Edwards Stadium, you will find them emblazoned on the field in lieu of a conference logo.
For a school with aspirations of becoming a globally recognized brand, it helps to have a nice stadium to show off. Does LES fit the bill?
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Much like its basketball counterpart, the Marriott Center, LES has a vast array of offerings. There are plenty of stands featuring stadium staples: "Cougar" Dogs ($3.50), Polishes ($4.50), popcorn ($4), nachos ($4), candy ($3.50), peanuts (3.50), burgers ($6 w/ chips), and chicken sandwiches ($7 w/ chips). "Cougar" Dogs are hardly different from your typical bratwurst, however.
Drinks include Coke products ($4 for 32 oz., $6.50 for souvenir cup with unlimited in-game refills), bottled water ($3) and hot chocolate ($3 regular foam cup, $7 souvenir cup). Note that all beverages on BYU's campus are served caffeine-free.
LES's more unique offerings include a pulled pork sandwich from on-campus favorite Legends Grille ($7.50 with chips), Freschetta personal pizzas ($7) and calzones ($8), burritos and salads from local fresh-mex hotspot Costa Vida ($10.50 each) and the Brat-Tail, a maple bar stuffed with a brat ($7.50; $4.50 for a brat-less Cougar Tail).
BYU has a great reputation for its Creamery and Dining Services. Here, you can try a pint of BYU Creamery Ice Cream for $3.50 or a BYU mint brownie for $2. More savory choices from BYU Dining Services include $7.50 "signature" sandwiches (a Philly cheesesteak is the specialty), and $6 Italian sausages.
Independent kiosks along the concourse feature Sticky's Rice Bowl ($8.50), Garlic Fries ($6.50), Churros ($4 for "Double Twisted," $2.50 for a 16-inch "Cali"), and kettle corn ($5-$7).
In an early-2013 season upset of nationally-ranked Texas, Cougar fans were thrilled. Season-ticket holders 20 rows up along the 20-yard line stood for passes exceeding 10 yards. Any first down was boisterous. Now that BYU is playing more high-rate opponents in its third season of independence, fans may have more reason to rise and shout like they did against the Longhorns.
Other elements there for a great college experience are a vibrant band ("The Power of the Wasatch"), an engaged, active mascot (Cosmo the Cougar) and an array of cheerleaders.
The heavy Mormon population/influence makes Provo an atypical college town. In other words, sports bars and the like are non-existent.
There are still some quality nearby eateries, though. For the burger-and-fries crowd, there's Burgers Supreme (1796 N University Parkway; 0.7 miles away). Their motto? "Something for everyone's taste." Whether you crave a burger, a gyro, pastrami, kabobs, salads, fish and chips, or any other nice and juicy creation, you can find it here. For my taste, I prefer the Bleu Bacon Burger.
If you enjoy the ever-growing concept of fast-casual Fresh-Mex, then Cafe Rio (2250 N University Parkway; 1.4 miles away) is the place for you. The restaurant, now renowned throughout the West, has its roots in Utah. You'll have plenty of time in line most days to choose what you want, but be ready to order when you get to the counter, as those building your dish prefer you to move and answer their questions quickly. Their signature item is the pork burrito, which I prefer enchilada style (topped with sauce and melted cheese for a little extra).
Another reason the fans are impressive: they actually sing their fight song. They actively belt out the refrain "Rise & Shout, the Cougars Are Out!" more often than other fans sing their melody.
There isn't much more to motivate fans beyond the on-field action, however. School policies discouraging tailgating lessen the incentive for fans to come early and get pumped up pre-game. There is an official, sponsored tailgate in the west parking lot adjacent to LES, but it appears to be more focused on giveaways and classic rock than fight songs or pep rallies.
The band marches down Canyon Road before entering the stadium, but there isn't much else with regards to pregame "Rah-Rah" (rival Utah, however, has a pregame "Ute Walk"). The result is a significant portion of the fan base being staid and content with arriving just before (or after) kickoff.
As recently as 2011, BYU spread their students throughout the end zones and portions of the east side stands, making unified chants and cheers essentially impossible.
Now, however, students have been moved to the south end zone and formed into THE ABYSS (Almighty Brigham Young Student Section). The unity has boosted the in-game experience-though it was a copy of their rival Utah and its MUSS (Mighty Utah Student Section).
The sizeable lots that surround the stadium - normally reserved for media, boosters and season ticket holders - are opened to the public shortly before kickoff, provided there are spaces remaining. If you prefer not to press your luck, free on-campus parking is plentiful, particularly at the nearby Marriott Center.
Many of the bathrooms are in areas that butt right up against the stands, so expect low ceilings and tight spaces. The best bathrooms are on the stadium's recently refurbished east side, largely because they are in their own little structure, separated from the bleachers.
Concourses along the upper bowl can be a bit tight at times, but you'll have almost no trouble navigating though the lower bowl, particularly behind the end zones. The same goes for the aisles that divide the upper bowl, lower bowl, and field-side seats.
My ticket ($18 face value) gave me a great view for a good price: not quite halfway up the upper bowl at the 20-yard line. The wide variety of food items mean something for most any budget and taste, helping add to the value here.
Renovations, including widescreen HD videoboards, have helped LES approach to the stadiums played in by many of BYU's powerhouse opponents. Some Cougar fans put more weight on these features than others, but a program seeking recognition the world over should make every effort to put its best (looking) foot forward.
One point for meaningful pregame rituals. Those who make the effort to arrive well before kickoff participate in a pregame prayer, the band's traditional "Cougar Spell" (forming the word COUGARS before playing the fight song and marching off the field). The most unique of these is when a notable alumnus (usually not affiliated with athletics) is honored on-field and is given the charge to "Light The Y", a ceremonial beginning to the day's action. In olden days, an actual "Y" atop the south scoreboard lit up and remained so throughout the game. It has been replaced with a CGI "Y" that appears only briefly next to a shot of the honored alum.
Looking toward LES's east side makes one feel as if the Wasatch Mountains are right next to the field. The result is breathtakingly beautiful, highlighted by the renowned "Y Mountain, with its student-constructed block "Y," and an alluring, white Latter-day Saint temple.
LES is not what many would call a beautiful structure, especially with a largely gray exterior. That's why the sudden appearance of a crane and blue paint near the west side elevators shocked the community. The result is a nice dash of color and a more collegial feel, especially seeing the towers from inside LES, where the stretch "Y" logo is visible.
LaVell Edwards Stadium is a fine facility, and with the right opponents, provides a high-charged game day experience. Many long-rumored renovations have come to fruition as BYU is attracting more quality opponents to Provo. Now, the private school is positioning itself to leave a greater impact on those being regularly exposed to the program for the first time.
As college football's newest independent, BYU is making a concerted effort to stand out from the crowd. The football program is guided by three principles touted by head coach Bronco Mendenhall since his hiring: Tradition, Spirit, and Honor.
Just how much do these principles matter to BYU? Not only will you find them littered throughout LaVell Edwards Stadium, you'll find them emblazoned on the fields in lieu of a conference logo.
For a school with aspirations of becoming a globally recognized brand, it helps to have a nice stadium to show off. Does LES fit the bill? Let's explore.
The loudest cheer in the stadium occurs in the second quarter when the missionaries stand up and leave. The fact that there is ZERO about Jim McMahon anywhere show the hypocrisy surrounding the entire university.
I think the problem starts from the student section. Since seating is first come first serve students rush in to reserve LARGE sections of student seating near the front for their ward members who regularly show up late and are more interested in socializing than paying attention to the game. The majority of the fans who aren't students are older couples who have been coming for a very long time. The combination of older fans and a drab student section makes the atmosphere very dull.
One of the first thing I noticed when entering the stadium is that it is very small for a stadium that seats over 63000. I soon realized as the stadium filled up this is because the seats are very very cramped. Since everyone was sitting down I was stuck between two people constantly pressing on me. I eventually ended up sitting crooked to create more space but it wasn't very comfortable at all.
It wasn't all bad. The food was decent and the views are very pretty. The mountains surrounding the stadium are gorgeous. It is unfortunate there isn't more easily accessible parking seeing as how far it is from anywhere; the airport is a good hour away.
BYU fans can be among the most passionate around. While that lends itself to enthusiastic cheering, it can also lead to a lot of complaining. BYU's taken great steps to improve the gameday experience for 2013 by consolidating the students, introducing a pre-game "Cougar Walk" and loosening tailgating rules. 2012 saw light ribbons added to the top of both endzones to go with large, state of the art video boards. This place gets better every year!
I live in Orem, which is just right outside of Provo. I have been in this stadium more than any other, but I have definitely traveled to enough stadiums to know what's good and what's not. This stadium has one of the most scenic views that you'll find as it's settled right in the valley.
Lavell Edwards Stadium, also known as LES, is a family friendly environment. You won't find caffeinated drinks in the stadium and there's definitely no alcohol sales. The "no caffeine" is different than any other stadium you'll visit. Even with that, there's a great variety of food and drinks.
The atmosphere is great, but home fans here struggle with the concept of fanatics. You'll often find fans that aren't wearing the right colors. Students often do homework at games and the band is so far removed from the game that it's like they're at a concert. There's definitely work to do, but you'll find some of the most die hard football fans here as well.
Lavell Edwards Stadium is home to football greats like Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Austin Collie, Dennis Pitta, Lavell Edwards, as well as many others that have made an impact in the NFL.
1796 N University Pkwy
Provo, UT 84604
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