Ross-Ade Stadium has been bringing crowds to central Indiana to cheer on the Purdue Boilermakers since 1924. Located in West Lafayette, just across the Wabash River from its sister city of Lafayette, Ross-Ade Stadium provides quality Big Ten football in a classic college town. The stadium was originally built into the earth as a three-sided bowl, but expansions over the years have kept this venue very modern. The most recent renovation was completed in 2003 and resulted in a capacity of 62,500. This renovation gave the Ross-Ade Stadium a very imposing 4-level club and press box, which is now the focal point of many fan photos taken at a Purdue game. There has been talk over the last decade of adding upper decks to the east and north sides of the stadium, but these plans are still in the discussion stage.
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Ross-Ade Stadium provides mostly classic game-day favorites. Fans can enjoy a cheeseburger or chicken tenders for $6 or a hot dog or bratwurst for $5. The $4 snack selections include a box of popcorn, waffle fries, a soft pretzel, or nachos with cheese. For deluxe classics, there is a $7 pork tenderloin sandwich or an $8 Big Boiler Burger.
Coke products are $4 for a cup, but many fans choose to go with the $8 souvenir bottomless cup, which provides free refills. Later in the football season, the $3 hot chocolate is sure to see a spike in sales as central Indiana is known for its relatively harsh winters. Alcohol is not served or permitted inside the stadium.
Ross-Ade Stadium does provide a few unique items, such as personal cheese or pepperoni pizzas from Marco's Pizza, ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery, and Dippin' Dots. For those in need, there is even a gluten free stand behind Section 111.
The atmosphere surrounding a Purdue football game begins long before the opening kickoff. In a uniquely Purdue fashion, many students hit the bars at 7 am on game-days in a campus tradition known as "Breakfast Club". However, there is one additional detail: they dress up in costumes. This explains why you may see groups of students in crazy outfits, sometimes stumbling, on the walk to Ross-Ade Stadium.
New for the 2013 season is the "211 Session", a pep rally involving the Purdue All-American Marching Band that goes down in Mackey Arena, the home of Boilermaker basketball which is located on the southeast corner of Ross-Ade Stadium. The head coach and football team also pass through this event on their way to their locker room in hope of gaining energy and motivation from the crowd.
Another new moniker for the 2013 season is the nicknaming of Ross-Ade Stadium as "The Furnace". This begins to point to the origin of the "211 Session" name; 211º F is one degree below the boiling point of water and Purdue uses this pep rally as a way to prepare the players and fans for the game to follow in "The Furnace". Appropriately, the "211 Session" takes place 2 hours and 11 minutes before kickoff.
As Ross-Ade Stadium does not have permanent lights, night games are few and far between, and only when a television station provides them for a big game. The Purdue All-American Marching Band keeps fans entertained after almost every play and is fun to watch with their version of the World's Largest Bass Drum. The on-field mascot, "Purdue Pete", keeps up the Boilermaker theme as he parades around the stadium carrying his railroad hammer, urging fans to cheer "Boiler Up" and "Hammer Down". You may also be lucky enough to see the "Boilermaker Special", a replica train locomotive, of which there is a miniature version and an official mascot version, driving around West Lafayette on game day.
Unfortunately, the stadium speaker system is subpar, resulting in the public address announcer being discernible only on the south side of the stadium, as the speakers appear to be near the video board above the south end zone bleachers. Since the seating is all a single-level sloping bowl, no single seat is very far from the game action, even though there are more than 70 rows from the field level to the top of the stadium.
While the area immediately around Ross-Ade Stadium is lacking in food choices, the area known as Chauncey Hill is just over a mile to the southeast of the stadium and is a quintessential college town commercial district. The restaurants in this area can either be visited during your drive to or from the stadium, but since the large campus lies between the bars and stadium, this is a great chance to take a self-guided tour of the Purdue campus. As you enter campus from the north end by the stadium, you will pass the statue of Neil Armstrong, arguably the most famous Purdue alum. Continuing south, you can enjoy the uniform red brick buildings, distinctive bell tower, and fountains that grace the central part of campus.
Chauncey Hill is the area from which Breakfast Club participants will be walking, so when you see the costumes, you know you are in the right place. The local favorites for bars are Harry's Chocolate Shop, Brother's Bar & Grill, and Jake's Roadhouse. These are all located in or near Chauncey Village, found at the top of the hill. Despite the name, Harry's Chocolate Shop does not serve any desserts.
For a non-alcoholic drink, stop in the nearby Discount Den for a Den Pop, a Purdue staple of a 32 ounce fountain drink for only 60 cents. For a more relaxed experience, check out Nine Irish Brothers, a traditional Irish pub down the hill near the levee. There is also a Buffalo Wild Wings for those fans looking to catch other football action before or after a Purdue game. If you are looking for a quicker bite to eat, there is Chipotle, Qdoba, Noodles & Company, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, and School House of Chili. For a sweet treat after the game, check out Insomnia Cookies, which is located on Stadium Avenue and serves fresh-baked cookies in-house until midnight every night.
The in-game atmosphere for marquee games at Ross-Ade Stadium is definitely a rewarding experience. The Ross-Ade Brigade is the nickname for the large student section, which takes up most of the northeast corner of seating, and they are an impressive group. The students stand the whole game and participate in cheers for Purdue first downs, opponent's third and fourth downs, and sing the fight song after Purdue scores.
Before every kickoff, the students take out their keys and jingle them in the air. For those students without keys, the consolation action is to wave up a shoe. This mixture of raised objects is truly a unique sight. Midway through the second half, the song "Shout" comes on over the speakers and the entire student section performs a uniform raising and waving of the arms for several minutes. The fans outside of the student section typically do their part in attending games at Ross-Ade, but the remainder of the stadium is not nearly as vocal in support of their Boilermakers.
After the renovation of 2003, there are plenty of bathrooms to accommodate the fans in Ross-Ade Stadium, assuming you don't try to go at the start of halftime. Season ticket holders park in lots to the north and west of the stadium with parking passes, but visitors almost have a better deal. The large parking garages on the right of both Grant Street (just north of State Street) and Northwestern Avenue (just north of where Route 231 joins Northwestern Avenue) have their exit gates raised on the weekends, which means free parking! These will put you a mile or less from the stadium. If you wish to park closer, families charge various fees to park in the driveways and parking lots on and around Stadium Drive east of Northwestern Avenue.
Fans can get into a game at Ross-Ade Stadium with a $20 end zone bleacher ticket, a price that is hard to beat in a major conference like the Big Ten. Inside the main bowl, tickets range from $25 to $65 for smaller games, and $32 to $75 for bigger games such as Notre Dame or Ohio State. As you really have the ability to pick your price and will experience all the traditions and pride discussed above, attending a Purdue football game at Ross-Ade Stadium is worth the expenses.
One bonus point for the total college atmosphere. From the college bars, to the unique mascots, to the lively student section, even if you don't arrive to West Lafayette wearing Old Gold and Black, Purdue and it's Boilermaker pride will make an impression on you before you leave.
One bonus point for the modernized club and press box, which, even without providing seats for the majority of the fans in the stadium, gives the whole stadium the feel of a big time college football venue. Without this press box, the bowl resembles an early-1900s Ivy League stadium. With it, Ross-Ade Stadium is a dominating and beautiful sight on the Purdue campus.
It's a perfect early autumn day, as you enter the town of West Lafayette, with the Wabash River running by your side. As you drive past the iconic Harry's Chocolate Shop, you see students dressed in Purdue gear, or odd costumes lined up around the block. It's 9am.
Next you'll drive past the lovely Purdue campus, turning north on University Street, on your way to a parking garage or the tailgating spot of your choice. You just know it is going to be a great day.
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