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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
For years, the McMaster Marauders football program was a perennial doormat in the OUA. Almost always near the bottom of the league standings, there was nothing much to look forward to each season at Mac. The coaching tenures of Greg Marshall and Stefan Ptaszek changed all of that. In 2000, the Marauders would win their first ever Yates Cup as conference champions. It would be their first of four straight. The Marauders would go on to win seven Yates Cups between 2000 and 2015, the most in the conference. McMaster would also earn the ultimate prize, the Vanier Cup as National Champions, in 2011, their only one to date. The Marauders have gone from the bottom of the barrel to one of the elite programs in the country. The Marauders have appeared in the Vanier Cup four times and produced seven Hec Crighton Award winners as the most outstanding player in the league. McMaster has even taken it to the next level with a high profile Athletic Director. Their current AD is former Toronto Raptors General Manager, Glen Grunwald.
Going hand in hand with their transcendence, McMaster built a quality facility for their fans and football team. Les Prince Field at Ron Joyce Stadium has been home for the Marauders since 2008. During construction on campus, the Marauders would travel across town and share facilities with the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Les Prince Field also aided the Tiger-Cats and became their temporary home when Tim Hortons Field was behind in their construction. The 6,000 seat stadium is named after Tim Hortons co-founder Ron Joyce, who made a large donation to McMaster. The field remains named after McMaster Athletics Hall of Fame member Les Prince, former coach and Director of Athletics whose imprint on Mac Athletics is undeniable. The facilities at Ron Joyce Stadium have helped draw in top notch recruits, attract fans and helped take the McMaster program to the next level.
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 concessions at Ron Joyce Stadium are about what you would expect from an OUA football venue. There are three main concessions at Ron Joyce, with two in the concourse beneath the grandstand and one in the south square just south of the grandstand. Concessions are pretty basic, with a couple of options that are kind of interesting. Concessions available include hot dogs ($4.50), veggie dogs, sausage, chili dogs, hot beef sandwiches, nachos, pepperettes, popcorn ($2), chips and chocolate bars. Coca-Cola products are available at the regular concession areas ($2.50). The David Braley Athletic Centre, which is south of the stadium, is accessible and a Tim Hortons can be found there also. There is a licensed area where alcoholic beverages can be purchased in the square behind the stadium at field level. Concessions are run by McMaster University.
McMaster has put together a solid atmosphere for CIS football. Ron Joyce Stadium is located on the campus of McMaster University surrounded by student residences and other athletic facilities. The field is surrounded by wrought-iron fence and the grandstand itself is a smart looking grey siding. The field is a north-south configuration with the grandstand on the eastern side of the field. If the game is in the evening, the western exposure can be a bit uncomfortable for the fans as they will be staring right into the setting sun. At the north side of the field is a simple scoreboard, which at one point had a video board, but at the time of this review just featured one large advertisement. At the top of the grandstand is the press box and on the stairwell tower to the right, is a large sign commemorating the 2011 Vanier Cup Championship team.
As with most other OUA venues, there is no signage honouring the multiple Yates Cup championship teams visible from the grandstand. The seating area features three sections in the centre of the grandstand that have reserved seating and standard stadium seating. The sections to both the left and right of the reserved seating are general admission and feature benches with back support. The field is an artificial surface, pretty much standard for the OUA. The seats are pretty comfortable, especially if you sit in the reserved seating, and the slope of the grandstand is quite steep, so the sightlines are very good.
The game production is about what you would expect for an OUA facility. The majority of the production is student run. McMaster has traditional university cheerleaders, who perform stunts and encourage the crowd to support the Marauders. The national anthem during the game reviewed was performed by the McMaster Marching Band. Considering that the game reviewed was before classes began on campus, the band had a pretty small showing. However, it is much larger when school is going full tilt. When the Marauders score, fireworks are shot from the roof of the student residence. A major detractor from the game experience however, is the very poor sound system. The sound system at Ron Joyce Stadium has a significant echo to it which, at best, is a bit distracting. Music played over the sound system is terrible.
McMaster is located in the Cootes Paradise neighbourhood of Central Hamilton, west of downtown. There are a couple of options in the immediate walking distance from Ron Joyce Stadium, but for the most part, you are going to have to hop in your car and head elsewhere. On campus you will find the TwelvEighty Bar & Grill which is owned and run by the McMaster Student Union. If you head just east of the university, to the Westdale neighbourhood, you will find a couple of interesting spots. Along King St W, you may want to try Basilique, The Snooty Fox or Grapes & Hops.
If you are looking for other entertainment options in Hamilton, you will have to head closer to downtown. The Lincoln Alexander Centre and Hamilton Place offer a variety of concerts and shows. For something more family oriented, head just out of town to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, near the Hamilton Airport, just south of the city. There are also other sporting options available. McMaster fields a number of other athletic teams, including a strong basketball program that plays at the Burridge Gymnasium at the David Braley Athletic Centre. CFL football is king in Hamilton, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats play east of downtown at Tim Hortons Field. You can also catch some OHL junior hockey at the FirstOntario Centre, home of the Hamilton Bulldogs.
If you are looking for a place to stay in the Hammer, then the Visitors Inn or Admiral Inn are options that are close to the McMaster campus.
With McMaster pushing their program to the next level, fan support has followed along. The 2016 season has seen the Marauders with a very strong attendance, averaging over 5,600 fans per game. This puts them second in the OUA and sixth in the entire CIS. This is a significant increase from previous years. In 2015, the Marauders averaged under 3,000 fans and in 2014 they averaged just under 4,000 fans per game. This put the Marauders in fifth and third respectively in the conference. In full disclosure, this review was written before the cool autumn temperatures hit, which often affect football attendance in Ontario.
The fans that are in the stands are loyal, intelligent and fully supportive of the maroon. They are not over the top crazy, but have a solid reaction when the time is right. The number of students that are in attendance will definitely have an effect on the crowd reactions.
Getting in and around Ron Joyce Stadium is not too difficult. McMaster is located west of highway 403 and north of Main St W. It is close to the highway for those who are coming out of town.
If you are looking for public transit to the stadium, HSR buses travel right into the campus at McMaster. Check out the HSR website for maps, fares and schedules.
There are a number of surface lots on campus that fans may park. There is a cost and most lots require a ticket exit. However, the price is not way over the top and parking can be paid for in the stadium.
Tickets may be purchased at the mobile booth to the south of Les Prince Field. If you are planning on purchasing tickets on game day, make sure that you bring cash as there are no credit card services at Ron Joyce Stadium.
There is plenty of room under the grandstands for fans to move around without hindrance. The washroom facilities at Ron Joyce Stadium are also adequate.
Tickets for Marauders football will run $20 for reserved seating and $15 for General Admission. These prices are pretty good for the OUA. Concession prices at Ron Joyce are decent and parking prices are not terrible. Combine that with the ability to see a top notch program and some exciting football and you have a pretty good recipe for success. To keep the value for your dollar at its peak, consider a matchup with another top OUA team like Western or Guelph and avoid those blowouts.
An extra mark for bringing the McMaster program up to become a top notch CIS program.
An extra mark for going big with AD Glen Grunwald.
The McMaster Marauders have become a strong CIS football program with Vanier Cup aspirations each year. Not only have they created a program that, each year, recruits flock to, but they have created a program that has caught the attention of fans in Hamilton. It is clear that the Marauders have taken their program to the next level, and you should check it out.
Member Review by profan9 on Oct 17, 2013
For a program that has been around since 1901, at a university that was established in 1887, the McMaster Marauders have not garnered a great deal of success. For decades, the Marauders were the whipping boys of OUA football. However, the last 15 years have been a different story. Under former head coach Greg Marshall, who made the improbable jump to the same position with the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats before returning to the OUA and the Western Mustangs, and current head coach Stefan Ptaszek, the Marauders have become one of the elite programs in the OUA. They have won 6 Yates Cups as champions of OUA football since 2000, including a streak of 4 straight and the 2011 and 2012 championships. Finally in 2011, the Marauders broke their streak and won the Vanier Cup for the first time as Canadian National Champions.
Part of their success must be attributed to the building of their football facility at Ron Joyce Stadium. This was made possible by a massive (by Canadian standards) donation by Tim Horton's founder Ron Joyce. The field was named after Les Prince, a pioneer in McMaster athletics. The facilities have proven to be in the top echelon in Ontario, and must help with recruiting top talent. Any way you slice it, Mac has made themselves one of the top programs in the country, with no signs of turning back.
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