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Official Review by Eric Taylor, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Situated in Huntsville in the Mountain Lakes region of North Alabama and just off Memorial Parkway sits the gorgeous campus of Alabama A&M, better known to students and alumni as “The Hill.” While on campus, you will be surrounded by a mountainous backdrop of autumn leaves painted gold and red -- if visiting in late October and November.
Louis Crews Stadium, named for legendary head coach Louis “Sugar Bear” Crews, provides a heaping spoonful of pageantry that will please any college football appetite. The Marching Maroon & White band will practically drop back and throw percussive beats and brass melodies to your receiving ears as the bass vocals of the public address announcer gently guides you through the game.
Louis Crews Stadium opened in 1996, and is one of the largest FCS stadiums, with its ability to seat 21,000 fans. There are 19 skyboxes above the spacious two-level press box that can accommodate 30 sportswriters.
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 menu is not overly diverse, but there's enough to be a legit concession stand.
Bottled Beverages (Coke products): $3.00
Hot Dog: $3.00
Louis Crews Stadium is perhaps the nicest FCS stadium in the Southeast. The fans, the band and the colors of autumn are all on display in the dual-sided stadium's backdrop.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have a tendency to feature a great band or 20. In other words, you may just catch a football game on either side of the halftime show. It wouldn't be a bad idea to practice your "Whys" before heading to the game -- it's the word you will repeat to yourself and anyone who will listen to you, as both schools will more than likely trot a large and illustrious band on the field at the half. This is only after both bands rip through great beats and tunes at any available moment between plays during that aforementioned game. No one seems to be too worried about it, though. Halftime is 25 minutes, which is only a few minutes less than the Super Bowl.
The teams look good running around on the Astro Turf so realistic that you have to treat it like Santa and give it a tug to prove it's turf and not grass.
The convenience of the stadium being right off the major highway is good for spacious parking lots and access, but the flavor of the area is pretty dull until you drive just a little further down Memorial Parkway. You can be surrounded by a vast selection of local or chain restaurants, as well as newer shopping venues (Bridge Street and Parkway Place) in less than 10 minutes.
The fans are knowledgeable and supportive. Most fans will be knowledgeable because football history, tradition and team preference in this region are uploaded to every baby's brain at birth. The most fun is to witness the football cheers transition to an all-out party with the concert atmosphere of the Marching Maroon & White.
Getting to the stadium is very easy. Once you turn into the huge parking lot, there is an attendant every few hundred feet so you never feel like you may be parking in the wrong area. Parking is $10, but it is well worth the cost to be parked in a lot that you know is officiated by someone at all times, so that you are never blocked in. It's also right next to the stadium.
After entering the gate to get inside, you are immediately met with a very large and spacious concourse. The stairs can be tall and lengthy, so be sure to ask for seats in a section that does not require much climbing up or walking down to get to your seats. The primary entrance for each section filters you to the middle of the stadium, so a ticket in the front row will require a long walk down a large number of stairs, and a ticket in the top row will require equal steps with an uphill climb. Otherwise, if you are in good health, this should not be an issue for you.
Getting out of your seat and to the stairs/aisle is not impossible, like it can be at many stadiums. The bleachers don't trap and lock you in once you sit down, so you don't have to avoid that third soda with your nachos. Trust me. You'll make it to the restroom easily.
Speaking of restrooms, they are easily accessible, as well. There is only one concourse on each end of the stadium, and it's plenty wide enough to keep you from rubbing elbows with people you don't know or with whom you would not want to rub said elbows.
Tickets are $25 General Admission and $35 Reserved Seating (box seat with chair back).
Admission is not the cheapest in the FCS, but with affordable concessions, great college football Saturday setting and phenomenal marching band, the ROI is on par with a less expensive ticket at another school.
In the north end zone is a grass berm that, for the most part, is not utilized for seating. It does provide a nice aesthetic addition to the already visual presence of the stadium. There is an "A&M" decorated in painted maroon rocks and contrasted with white rock in the center of the hillside.
George H. Hobson Athletic Field House in the south end zone gives the entire stadium a finished appearance. The staircase that leads to the player locker rooms has a small statue of the bulldog mascot at the first landing of the two-flight trip up to the locker room.
As the seventh-largest stadium in the state of Alabama, Louis Crews Stadium is as top notch a football venue as you will find that is not under part of a perennial super-conference money-printing machine like the SEC. It is worth your time to make an autumn trip to Huntsville to take in the sights and sounds of a stadium that can provide a great seat to both a great football and halftime experience.
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