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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Princeton Tigers played in the first ever college football game back in 1869, thus making them and their opponents (Rutgers) the oldest football teams in the land. Between then and 1950, Princeton won 28 national titles, but after the Ivy League formed in 1955, the program faded from national attention.
These days, the Tigers play on Powers Field at Princeton University Stadium, which opened in 1998 to replace Palmer Stadium, an iconic venue that had hosted the team since 1914 and held 42,000 spectators.
Powers Field is named for William C. Powers, a former All-Ivy punter for the Tigers who donated $10 million, the largest in school history, to Princeton's football program in 2007. The stadium has a capacity of 27,773 and its exterior shell mirrors the layout of the Tigers' former home.
Located just 60 miles southwest of New York City and 40 miles northeast of Philadelphia, Princeton University Stadium is a good spot for a day trip for sports travelers in those two metropolises.
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".
There is a good variety of eats here beyond the usual. Right next to the main entrance is a food truck offering Mexican dishes including Tex-Mex fried mac'n'cheese bundles, tacos, and quesadillas costing $8. The Tiger Paws are the most intriguing item on its menu.
If you prefer burgers and the like, a grill in the southwest corner of the concourse provides freshly cooked hamburgers ($5.50), cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches ($6), and chicken tenders ($5 for 3 large chunks). They are cooked to order and served fresh, so there is a line before the game and at halftime.
If neither of these options are appealing, you can still choose from typical stadium fare such as hot dogs ($3.50), pretzels ($3), and nachos ($4). The most expensive item is the sausage and peppers at $7. Coke products are the only beverage option going for $3 and $4.50. Of course, no alcohol is provided, as this is a campus venue.
Bags are not searched upon entering, so you can try to bring in some of your own chow if you so desire, but forgo the booze, as you will be immediately ejected if discovered.
As you approach the stadium over a small pedestrian bridge from the west side of campus, you will see a large wall with the seats visible through many openings in the structure. The wall is a horseshoe-shaped building, housing several rooms, and is used throughout the year. The main gate is on the north side of the stadium, where the ticket office is located.
There are two levels of seating on three sides of the stadium, with the fourth side currently closed due to construction. The Tigers sideline is on the west side, which is shaded even during afternoon games while visiting fans are forced to stare into the sunshine.
There are two sets of stairs at every breezeway with a landing right next to the exterior wall to separate them and additional restrooms.There is an interior concourse around the entire seating bowl that has a few giveaway booths, a portable team shop, and a bounce house for the kids.
The band occupies the southwest corner of the Princeton sideline and keep things lively during timeouts, while cheerleaders rotate between the northwest and southwest corners on the home sideline.
No ushers are available so you can generally sit where you want as long as it is not down low at midfield. All seats here are of the metal bleacher variety so moving around is encouraged to remedy any sore bums.
There is a single scoreboard with a video replay above the south stands and the PA announcer keeps things professional.
The Princeton campus is quite beautiful and worth a tour in itself. Art aficionados should check out the Princeton Art Museum, which boasts many classic works and is free of charge.
Triumph Brewery is a short walk on the main drag of Nassau Street. The brewpub offers craft beer and tasty pub food. Hoagie Haven is one of the state's best spots for mouthwatering sub sandwiches-hoagies in this part of the state. You'll definitely get taste at a value, but this is a take-out only option. Hot and cold sandwiches range from $3.75-$4.75 for a half, or $6.75-$8.50 for a whole.
Palmer Square boasts a collection of shopping and dining right in the heart of downtown. Visitors will find apparel, shoes, jewelry, beauty, gifts, home furnishings, specialty food and drink options. The Agricola Eatery, Winberie's, and the Alchemist & Barrister are just a few of the many establishments to enjoy a drink or meal during a visit.
The home team turnout is quite disappointing considering the Tigers were playing for the Ivy League title on a beautiful fall afternoon during our visit. A little over a third of those in attendance were cheering for the opposition, a poor showing for the Princeton faithful. Those in attendance do show great support for the Tigers, cheering at the right times and enjoying themselves throughout the contest on the field.
Located in the middle of campus, NJ Transit offers the simplest way to get there without a car. Disembarking at Princeton Junction, you switch to the Dinky train, which is a 5-minute ride to campus and one of the shortest and least frequent commuter lines in the country.
It would be wise to plan ahead to make sure you are not waiting at the station. The ride costs $3 if you buy on board, but you can reduce this charge slightly by ensuring that your tickets are to and from Princeton (not Princeton Junction). The stadium is a short walk east over the Streicker Bridge that spans above Washington Road.
If you drive, general parking is limited to three lots on the south side of the stadium and costs $10.
The venue holds 27,773, but rarely sees even half that number; concourses are not that crowded, though at halftime it can get a bit busy at washrooms and at concessions.
If you want a specific seat, buy it online in advance because at the window you will be handed the next ticket on the roll, which will cost $12 ($8 for youth). With food reasonably priced, a single fan can enjoy the afternoon for less than $25, and a family of four for less than $75.
Make sure to pick up a free program before entering; it is one of the best I have seen with a lot of useful game day information.
The cheerleaders do push-ups for the total number of points after every score, which can be fun to watch when the team scores a lot of touchdowns in a short time.
Princeton University Stadium is relatively sterile considering the team's place in gridiron lore; there is no history on display anywhere in the stadium. The Tigers have won 28 National Championships (including 22 of the first 40), 10 Ivy League titles, and a Heisman Trophy (Dick Kazmaier '51).
Football here is not what it used to be, but a few banners honoring the past would be appreciated by sports travelers, and the local fans as well. Still, if you are in New York or Philadelphia and looking to get away for a day, consider a game here for its affordability and surrounding neighborhood.
Member Review by pwdonaldson on Oct 16, 2012
Upon planning your trip to Princeton Stadium, you might be surprised to learn that Princeton participated in the very first college football game in 1869 versus Rutgers. In addition to being tied to the birth of collegiate football, Princeton is also one of the earliest universities chartered in America (1746). Though undoubtedly both the American university system and college football are much different today when compared to their roots, a visit to Princeton University is about as close as you can get to what was originally intended for both the university and college football. There are few other places across the nation where a banner hanging in the campus football stadium claiming “Education through Athletics” could be taken so seriously.
Though almost everything you see at Princeton seems to be a blast from the past, Princeton Stadium is relatively new, having been constructed in 1997 with a present day capacity of 27,800. Prior to the newly constructed stadium, Princeton previously called Palmer Stadium home from 1914 until 1996.
Member Review by noahmazzeo on Sep 24, 2014
Princeton University is known as one of the few Ivy League schools. The history is Princeton Football is very interesting. Princeton played is the very first college football game at Rutgers where they lost. The stadium is historic, but is well structured and renovated. It is by far one of the nicest stadiums in the FCS Football division.
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