You may know the late Merlin Olsen for his Hall-of-Fame-caliber NFL career or perhaps his post-football acting career. Those in Logan, Utah, consider him a favorite son. The Logan-born Olsen is easily the most notable athletic alumnus of Utah State University, as evidenced by the school's decision to add his name to its football stadium in late 2009. Prior to its homecoming game in 2010, USU unveiled a majestic, larger-than-life statue of Olsen that now adorns the stadium's South entrance.
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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".
Your basic concessions can be found at the South entrance, along the West concourse and on the East side "high rise." All of these stands feature hot dogs ($3), popcorn ($3 small, $4 large), nachos ($4), churros ($3), pretzels ($3) candy/licorice ($3.25) and potato chips ($1). The stands by the South entrance also offer burgers and chicken sandwiches with chips ($6). Drinks include Coke products ($3 regular, $4 large), bottled water ($3), Vitamin Water/Smart Water ($4), Powerade ($3) and Monster ($4).
More specialty fare is available from the tents along the Southwest corner promenade. Here you'll find meatball or turkey subs ($8 six-inch, $12 footlong, $20 two-foot), smoked sausage ($5.50), Angus burgers ($8.50), BBQ pork or chicken sandwiches ($6), Polishes ($4), brats ($5), Mexican fare from local favorite Costa Vida ($8.50 for a salad or burrito), and Hawaiian BBQ from Pauni Catering ($5 for a meat bowl an$d multi-meat plates ranging from $10-$15).
This promenade also offers sweet treats: Cold Stone Ice Cream ($4-$6), kettle corn ($4-6), What-a-Nut mixed nuts (bags from $5-$15), Snowie sno-cones ($3-5) and hot chocolate ($4 regular, $5 large). I was surprised that I couldn't find the school's renowned Aggie Ice Cream for sale.
In terms of natural beauty surrounding a stadium, few settings can match the Logan foothills in early autumn. The fall colors, combined with a pure blue sky and crispness in the air, made the perfect setting for the season.
The serenity of the surroundings is reflected in the easy-going interior. Everyone goes at their own pace, and no one seems to be in any rush. A tight-knit fan base, clad almost entirely in Aggie blue, is reflective of the closeness of the community. You get a complete spectrum of fans here: elderly longtime supporters, students, young families, and most everything else in between. All are pleasant to be around and hope for a good time.
There is a distinct mix of old and new. The West concourse and seats, including the press box, are noticeably old. Meanwhile, the recently updated street-level South entrance is a convenient, wide open place to congregate -- not to mention a chance to get your picture taken with the fabulous Merlin Olsen statue.
Logan is an isolated town, and the location of the stadium within Logan is a reflection of that. Bordered by the rest of the university, the Logan Cemetery, and residential areas, there isn't room for many restaurants nearby. Most of your dining choices will require a 1.5-mile trip to bustling Main Street.
One of the best things about a college town is the international flair of its restaurants, and Logan is no different. One of the most unique restaurants on Main Street is a Chilean place called Yah Poh (1433 N Main; 1.5 miles from stadium). I recommend one of the many empanadas and sopapillas available""besides traditional cheese and meat offerings, you can order a "Desayuno" (sausage, egg and cheese) or a "Moe and Cheese" (all-beef hot dog and cheese). They also specialize in "loaded" hot dogs and fries, including the restaurant's namesake, the Yah Poh dog (topped with sauteed onions, lettuce, tomato, yellow chili peppers and melted cheese).
The restaurant closest to the stadium also has foreign fare, but shares its space with a gas station. Tandoori Oven (720 E 1000 N, 0.4 miles from stadium) calls itself "The Soul of India in Cache Valley" and its chef/owner, Sham Singh, is somewhat of a local institution. You'll find plenty of vegetarian/vegan choices if that's your preference, but I recommend the Lamb Saag (lamb cooked with spinach, onions, garlic, ginger and cream).
As should be the case in any collegiate stadium setting, the USU student section, "The HURD," provides the most constant stream of support. It helps that they have the best seats in the house: stretched across midfield on the stadium's East side. It appeared to me, however, that there were few if any organized cheers the HURD performed during the course of the game. One defensive third down even featured two sections of the HURD cheering different things. Perhaps some additional coordination would be beneficial.
The vast majority of the rest of the crowd is loyal, as evidenced by the dominance of Aggie blue in the stands. In most of the stadium, however, they are spread out too thin to develop an intimidating wall of noise""a stark contrast from their notoriously loud basketball crowds. It's easy to blame the relative lack of recent football success for this situation. However, the fact that USU students voted in 2009 to significantly raise student fees to better fund Aggie sports appears to be the start of a brighter football future.
There didn't appear to be restrictions on parking except in the lots immediately surrounding the stadium, reserved for boosters, etc. I saw a handful of free on-campus parking areas, just so long as you obey the posted instructions.
If you need to use the bathroom here, avoid those along the West concourse and its two small bathroom "shacks." The men's room here had only four urinals and three stalls and was incredibly cramped. Meanwhile, the newer restrooms on the east side "high rise" and the Southeast corner are downright palatial. Dozens of fixtures and lots of space make these facilities top-notch.
The concourses are fairly easy to navigate and there is ample space for handicapped seating, particularly in the Northwest and Southwest corners (some of the best views in the house). Compared to other stadiums I've seen, Romney is also stroller-friendly with various parking nooks and crannies.
Even though USU is not as appealing nationally as its in-state FBS counterparts, nor is it the easiest place to access, it is perhaps the best value in the state - so long as your gas costs to get to Logan aren't excessive. If you have a stadium chair or can otherwise pad yourself on the GA stone bleachers in the South end zone, it's an even better value.
One point for The Aggieshack souvenir stand and its creative sales pitch. Located at the South entrance, The Aggieshack offers discounts based on USU touchdowns: 4 TD's = 20% off, 5 TD's = 25% off, 6 TD's = 30% off.
One point for USU's "bonus" fight song. After the official song "Hail The Utah Aggies" plays, the HURD begins singing the arguably more popular "The Scotsman." The HURD sings the short ditty twice through, each time featuring a different arm gesture: one with arms waved back and forth intermittently, and the other with arms alternating up and down - "milking the cow." Get the full Scotsman experience here.
Finally, one point for the scenic drive. Getting to Logan from Salt Lake City or beyond requires getting off I-15 in Brigham City and passing through the beautiful Sardine Canyon. Its switchbacks can be somewhat treacherous in poor weather, but on a clear fall day, you'll enjoy some of the most beautiful colors in the state along this stretch thanks to miles of red Utah Maple leaves.
Utah State offers a rural, small-town, old-fashioned, family-friendly college football experience. Though the surrounding beauty and charm of Logan has historically been more of an attraction than the on-field product, recent evidence suggests the two are closer in quality than they have been in some time.
Romney Stadium is gradually becoming one of the best atmospheres in the State of Utah! Still not the best but it is getting pretty dang exciting!!
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