Cut out of a windswept hillside in a region known as the Palouse sits a small football stadium with a bright red field. The tenant of that stadium happens to be one of the most powerful and successful college football programs in the United States. Roos Field is the home of the Eastern Washington Eagles.
The one sided stadium, originally known as Woodward Field, was built in 1967 when Eastern was an NAIA program. The facility includes a 10 lane track around the football field that serves as the home of Eastern’s track and field programs.
The stadium changed very little in appearance even as Eastern Washington State College became Eastern Washington University (EWU) and moved from the NAIA to NCAA Division II and finally to NCAA Division IAA (now known as the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS). EWU has been an NCAA DI member since 1983 and a member of the Big Sky Conference since 1987.
Because of Woodward Field’s limitations EWU held many home games at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane. In the early 2000’s bleachers were installed in the north end zone and along the east sideline adjacent to Washington Street and all home games have since been played at the campus venue. Prior to the 2010 season, with the help of a $500,000 donation from EWU alum and NFL offensive lineman Michael Roos, the famous (or is it infamous?) red turf was installed along with a greatly expanded press box with luxury suites and other improvements. The facility was renamed Roos Field and nicknamed The Inferno.
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Concession stands are located above the main grandstand and behind the south end zone scoreboard. There's nothing extraordinary offered, but the brat is pretty good, of decent size and is tasty, plus it comes with some onions and coleslaw. The main meal items: pulled pork, Philly chicken, bratwurst, teriyaki chicken and rice, and nachos are $6.50. Other items available include kettle corn, popcorn, candy, and various beverages (Pepsi products in bottles for $3.00). A beer garden is located above the main grandstand, but beer as with most campus venues, is not sold at the regular stands and not allowed in the seating areas. EWU is developing a robust tailgating scene outside the stadium with the delicious smells of barbeques and other delicacies wafting about. Fans can leave the stadium and re-enter at halftime to partake.
Most FCS and FBS football programs have made multi-million dollar improvements to their stadiums and other facilities in recent years to help entice recruits. EWU on the other hand, possibly to the befuddlement of their rivals, has come to dominate the Big Sky Conference and won a recent national championship despite having an undersized and somewhat out-of-date facility.
The seating in the new luxury suites looks comfy, but the seating in the main grandstand below is cramped. The students have the lower sections across the entire main grandstand. The uncomfortable seating doesn't bother the students of course as they stand the entire time. The student's standing requires everyone, including the boosters higher up with chair back seats, to stand to watch the action as well. Nobody I saw seemed to mind though, as the crowd was into the game and excited to cheer for their Eagles.
The band is located in the end zone bleachers away from their fellow students and with the openness of the venue, struggle to be heard above the piped in music and PA announcer.
Visiting fans are accommodated in a small bleacher section along the east sideline. These bleachers would be more appropriate at a junior high school field than a D-1 football stadium.
The south end zone contains no seating sections, but a new video board behind the goal posts looms over the field and provides crystal clear graphics and replays.
The atmosphere of the venue is most hampered by the 10 lane track surrounding the football field that puts all the fans a relatively long ways from the action.
Despite several drawbacks, the red field in concert with all Eagle fans wearing red makes quite a sight for the visiting team and fans across the way giving the home team a psychological advantage.
The EWU campus is located between the stadium and the town of Cheney. It's a pleasant place for a stroll before or after the game.
Cheney, with a population of approximately 11,000, is a very quiet kind of place that seems unlikely to have a large university attached to it. But that is how they do it in the Palouse. The other major state universities in the area, The University of Idaho in Moscow and Washington State University in Pullman, are small town settings. Cheney is the kind of place where you might want your kids to go to school, because there's not a lot going on to distract from studying. There are some bars restaurants along 1st street, the main drag in Cheney, such as Lenny's American & Italian, Zips Drive Inn, and New Boundary Brewing. The north entrance of town has some newer shopping centers, chain restaurants, and a Holiday Inn Express Motel.
Add a point because Spokane is only 20 miles away from Cheney and is the largest city in the region with lots of hotels, motels, bars, restaurants, and shopping. I suspect that most fans at EWU games, except the students, come from Spokane. Spokane is also where most visiting teams and fans stay before and after the game. When in downtown Spokane, check out the Riverfront Park. The nearby Northern Quest Resort and Casino is a popular entertainment and hotel option in the region.
The EWU football program has been a success on the field since it became a DI program in 1983. Under the coaching tenures of Dick Zornes, Mike Kramer, and Paul Wulff, the Eagles won many conference titles and made deep playoff runs. But the university had a hard time winning the hearts and souls of their fan base in the shadow of the Pac-12's Washington State Cougars and Washington Huskies. Then along came head coach Beau Baldwin with his high powered aerial attack, the red turf, and an FCS National Championship run. The local fan base is taking notice now and Roos Field is bursting at the seams on game days.
Eagle fans show up early, set up their tailgate parties, and come into Roos Field to cheer on their Eagles with enthusiasm. The student section is huge for such a small stadium and they are in to the game from start to finish. The 8,600 listed capacity is stretched well beyond 10,000 with hillside seating and standing room only areas for the biggest games.
Depending on the exit you take, Cheney is located 5-10 miles off of I-90 west of Spokane. There are signs directing to the EWU campus. Washington Street runs right by the stadium and provides access to many of the parking areas. There is some free on-street parking along Washington Street, but these spots fill up very early. There are numerous lots scattered around for parking. The student attendants are very helpful in guiding me to the nearest available lot. Handicapped accessible parking is available behind the press box with plenty of signage to guide you. EWU's game day parking webpage is a useful guide for where to park and should be consulted before making the trip to campus. General parking is $10 for normal vehicles and $50 for motor homes.
Once parked, or for those whose trip originates in Cheney, the town and campus are very walkable and bikeable. Use caution when crossing Washington Street which runs between the stadium and the rest of campus. This busy thoroughfare carries most of the traffic coming and going from the game. There are ample crosswalks and sidewalks are along both sides of the street.
For those a little more adventurous, or traveling without a car, the Amtrak Empire Builder stops in downtown Spokane, and bus No. 66 runs hourly between the downtown bus plaza and the EWU Pence Union Building (PUB) on campus.
There can be long line to get into the stadium through the main gate off of Washington Street, but the line moves quickly. Just make sure not to get in the student entry line. Helpful staff are always around to show the way.
Restrooms are located behind the scoreboard and behind the press box. There typically are not any significant lines and the restrooms are clean and functional. Port-a-johns are scattered around the parking areas to accommodate tailgaters. One advantage to having such a small and open venue is there are no crowded concourses to negotiate. Moving around the stadium outside the seating areas is quite easy.
For most EWU football games, ticket prices are pretty reasonable at $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 3-17. However, with the seating areas being fairly tight many didn't try to get to their seat. Instead they resorted to standing along the fences surrounding the field and watching the game from there.
If you're a fan of the Montana Grizzlies or Montana State Bobcats, or happen to come to a game featuring one of the Montana schools, expect your wallet to be made a lot lighter. Due to extreme seat scarcity, EWU charges much more for these high attendance games. Tickets in the small bleacher section behind the visitors sideline can run as high as $50. The cramped, low profile metal bleachers are a considerable distance from the field due to the ten lane track. The view is also obstructed by the personnel standing along the sideline. On some plays it may be better to just watch the video board. Add in another $10 for parking and the price is getting pretty steep.
Concessions are not unreasonably expensive for a college football game, but choices are fairly limited. If you are feeding a family it might be a better idea to take a cooler in the car and access it at halftime instead.
Despite a few picky issues, watching a football game at Roos Field is a great experience and well worth the money and effort to get there. The EWU Eagles put on a great show.
Roos Field gets a couple extra bonus points:
One bonus point for the red turf. I've never met an EWU fan who didn't love it, or an opposing fan who didn't hate it. I've heard many who have watched EWU games on TV complain about the red burning out their eye sockets. Fortunately, the field is much easier on the eyes in person. Whether it is considered famous or infamous, the unique turf has gotten EWU some much needed publicity around the region and even the nation. And that's what it was designed to do.
One bonus point for being the baddest dudes on the Palouse when it comes to college football. Year-in and year-out the Eagles are Big Sky Conference and FCS national title contenders. I doubt their FBS neighbors to the south, the Idaho Vandals and Washington State Cougars, would want to tangle with the Eagles these days.
The EWU administration is well aware of Roos Field's limitations and they are working to fix it. A plan, called the Gateway Project was announced that would completely transform Roos Field and the entire EWU athletic plant. Latest reports are that feasibility planning is ongoing, and I'm sure big $$$ donors are actively being sought. In the meantime the EWU Eagles will keep playing in their small stadium carved out of the hillside on the Palouse and just keep winning anyway.
This little stadium needs some love on this website-so here goes:
Roos Field, formerly known as Woodward Field is on the campus of Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. Cheney is a small farming town in the rolling hills region known as the Palouse. But it's not as rural as you might imagine with Spokane only 15 miles away. When it was know as Woodward Field there was only one stand built into a hillside with a view of the field and the campus parking lot beyond. EWU played their bigger games at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane. Over the years EWU kept more games in Cheney with the addition of some erector set bleachers in one end zone and along the visitors sideline. The stadium is still quite tiny by D-1 football standards. The facility was renamed in honor of EWU and NFL offensive lineman Michael Roos in appreciation for a large donation that installed a new red artificial playing surface. Don't adjust your TV sets-that field is RED! And famously or infamously known, depending on your allegiances, as the inferno.
The concession stand is located just beyond the end zone near the stadium entrance-with all the typical ball park offerings. Lines moved pretty fast-even at halftime.
It's a unique atmosphere with the rolling Palouse hills just beyond. The red field certainly adds a certain je ne sais quoi. The running track around the field detracts from what could be a more intimate environment.
Cheney is a small unassuming town that happens to have a large university attached to it. Add a star or two if Spokane, 15 miles away, is considered part of the neighborhood. That's where most visiting fans stay, eat, and socialize pre and post game.
EWU won a FCS national title in 2010 and they have been an FCS powerhouse for many years with some of the most exiting offenses in all of college football. Their profile has definitely risen in the Spokane area over the years as you now see the occasional EWU logo on a car or sweatshirt. But they still toil in the considerable shadow of the Washington State Cougars who live 80 miles south in Pullman. But the EWU fans who do show up make their presence known.
The stadium is easy to get to and parking is plentiful. The parking lots are an easy walk to the stadium. The drive to and from I-90 and Spokane was busy-mostly with the visiting teams fans.
EWU football is a bargain compared to the far more expensive Pac-10 school to the south, and there's a good chance you'll see an Eagles win-not so much with the Cougars. It's a good place to spend a fall afternoon.
One star for the red turf. It definitely gives an otherwise unassuming facility some identity. And it doesn't look nearly as bad in person as it does on TV.
Cheney is the chode of the universe. This is a crappy high school football field with bright red grass. What more needs to be said?
1204 1st St
Cheney, WA 99004
911 1st St
Cheney, WA 99004
507 N Howard St
Spokane, WA 99201
111 Betz Rd
Cheney, WA 99004