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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Originally built as a baseball facility, Memorial Stadium was the home to minor league baseball in Terre Haute up until 1956. The Terre Haute Huts, a Detroit Tigers affiliate, were unable to finish the season and ceased operations before July 4 that year citing competition from television and air-conditioning, ending a long history of professional baseball that dated back to the late 19th century.
In 1967, Indiana State University took over the facility and changed much of the aesthetics that included razing most of the seating, demolishing a majority of the original structure, and installing synthetic playing surface, thus becoming the first university to install an artificial turf. The only remnants of its 1924 construction is the original arched entrance that pays homage to the men who fought in World War I, and the curved wall at the eastern end of the stadium.
In 1996, the visiting bleacher section was razed in favor of a landscaped knoll which serves as the general admission section. Also removed was the artificial turf in favor of the updated field turf in 2009. Portions of the original artificial turf now reside at the Indiana High School Hall of Fame in Richmond, Indiana.
The Sycamores’ football program has seen limited success on the field and their tenure at Memorial Stadium may be coming to a close in the near future. The university and the city hope to construct a new football stadium downtown with various sites having been reported. One of the major blemishes about the stadium has been its distance from campus (1.6 miles). However, football at Memorial Stadium continues to be played every Saturday between September and November, at least for now.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are three concession areas underneath the grandstand that serve a small array of food. Depending on crowds, there may only be one that is open for service. There is not a lot to choose from at the game, but there is enough to keep your stomach satisfied until it is time to leave. King size candy bars, nachos, hot dogs and popcorn sell for $3. The brat and chili cheese dogs are $4, and the sycamore nachos are $6. Pepsi products are sold inside the stadium.
There is not a bad seat in the house at Memorial Stadium and the school provides a spark from their mascot Sycamore Sam, cheerleaders, marching band, and the dance troop, the Sparkettes. However, the atmosphere is rather tame for college football. There does not seem to be any traditions, except for "The Walk", where students, locals, and alumni walk over a mile from downtown and stop at every bar or watering hole along the way to Memorial Field during homecoming ceremonies. Terre Haute is filled with classy joints and it is too bad this type of revelry is not spread out throughout the season.
However, one can find multiple tents from numerous Greek and non-Greek organizations during the warmer months and there will always be the collection of die hards at the game. An interesting part of the stadium is the general admission section which consists of a grassy knoll where fans are invited to bring out blankets and lawn chairs to watch the game. It is a unique vantage point in comparison to the metal bleachers at the main grandstand. Underneath the grandstand are hollow hallways and spaces that would be ideal to house a few more concession and souvenir stands (the current souvenir stand is a couple of tables and racks outside of the main entrance).
The grandiose feature is the original arched entrance that has been left intact since 1924. It is a work of art, and one should take a couple looks around the base and rows of the structure. It houses two small ticket windows and displays the names of service men who fought in the First World War. So revered is the entrance, that if the Sycamores were to relocate downtown, the entrance would be saved from demolition.
Memorial Stadium is situated between a commercial and residential area of town. There is a multitude of establishments to choose from after the game for dining choices. Rick's Smokehouse and Grill is within footsteps of the stadium's lot, along with a few fast food chain restaurants. A little further down Wabash Avenue are a few local places worth checking out after the game.
Sonka's Irish Pub and Grill has a wonderful selection of craft beer on draft and even better food. Across the street at Ambrosini's one can enjoy thin crust pizza and chicken wings, and J.Gumbo's offers affordable Cajun and Creole dishes by the bowl or plate.
My hands down favorite place for pizza is at the Pizza King located next to The Bally (a favorite among the college crowd for more than 40 years). The thin crust pepperoni and barbecue pizza makes me pass on the fact that it is not New Jersey pizza, just do not tell anyone.
If you are looking for fancier establishments, M. Moggers and Stables across the street from one another on Poplar Street are your likely destinations. A few great places for a drink later on in the night are the Copper Club, The Verve, The Terminal, and 7th and Elm Bar and Grille. Another hidden treat is the square shaped donuts from Square Donuts, a great place for a sweet treat and a cup of coffee.
A little further south near the interstate of I-70 is a smorgasbord of familiar chain restaurants, hotels, and retail box shops. This could satisfy the traveler with his or her family and would be the best place to find a great rate on a hotel or motel. It's a safe, friendly, and convenient area to spend a night in the Wabash Valley.
The fans in Terre Haute at times are fickle about the university's sports teams. It is hard to imagine witnessing a football game with a near capacity crowd. Then again, there has not been a lot to cheer about since 1984 when the Sycamores last appeared in the NCAA Division I Championship playoff. There have a been a few spots of winning seasons, but I sometimes wonder where the fans are, since the town could easily support consistent crowds during the warmer parts of the season.
It is rather simple to enter and exit Memorial Stadium. It is situated less than two miles away from campus and parking is ample around the facility. There are friendly parking vendors to help direct you to the perfect angle for parking in the grass lot and you are never far away from the entrance to the stadium. The best part about attending a game is that the parking is free.
The stadium is also a few miles away from I-70 and there are two options for arriving depending if you are visiting from east or west of town. In this day and age, trust the GPS system will get you there on time.
The tickets are inexpensive at $10, four dollars more for homecoming games, and only $4 for children (2-18). It is a very plausible way for a sports fan to spend the afternoon without setting your wallet back a few paychecks.
There are a lot of great places to eat after the game that are in close proximity. You do not have to travel very far to enjoy friendly establishments along the main drag of Wabash Avenue.
I have attended a few football games at Memorial Stadium the last 15 years and I would recommend anyone to take part in homecoming festivities. However, and speaking as an alumnus, it is time for Indiana State University to put its football program on the map with a brand new stadium. That may happen sooner than later. Here is to progress in the Wabash Valley.
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