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Official Review by Eric Taylor, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Roy Stewart Stadium, built in 1973 and named for the former long-time football coach and athletics director, is affectionately known as “The Track” to long-time fans and alumni.
The Track holds a respectable 16,800 people. The largest crowd to see a game since 2000 is 11,276 on October 28, 2000 versus Tennessee Tech. The largest crowd to see a game at The Track is 16,600 on Halloween versus Eastern Kentucky in 1981 (Frank Beamer was Murray's head coach).
A couple of high-profile coaches have paced the sidelines of Roy Stewart Stadium before becoming the household names we know today. Houston Nutt was head coach at Murray State from 1993 through the 1996 season before leaving for Boise State for one year and heading to Arkansas in 1998. Frank Beamer began coaching the Racers in 1981 and left Murray State after the 1986 season to take over at his alma mater, Virginia Tech. In other words, Frank Beamer’s last job before taking over at Tech was Murray State. Sure, that was 26 years ago, but you see me working over here.
The playing surface was AstroTurf from 1996 through the 2006 season. FieldTurf was installed in 2007, and continues to be the artificial grass of choice for the Racers. 2007 also brought a new surface for the track that surrounds the field, new play clocks, and new goal posts.
The first year of football at Murray State was 1924 and the first game was played on September 15th of that year, with the Races eking out a 27-25 win over Western Carolina.
The Racers have won eight OVC titles to go along with five NCAA playoff appearances.
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".
Concession prices are very affordable. Don't expect to pay any less for concessions at The Track than you would at your local high school game. On the other hand, don't expect to find a selection any greater than a high school game. I still say the low cost outweighs the lack of snacking options.
• Soda: $2.50 (Regular) $3.00 (Large)
• Hot Cocoa/Coffee: $2.00
• Water/Gatorade: $2.00
• Chips: $1.00
• Candy: $1.50
• Popcorn: $2.00
• Nachos: $3.00
• Racer Dog: $3.00
• Hamburger: $4.00
Considering the skyline from your seats consists of breathtaking views of Cracker Barrel, Goody's, Home Depot, Qdoba, Subway, Radio Shack, Big Lots, among other great American franchises, the atmosphere still has the charm of a small college football town.
Racer One, the official horse of Murray State football, running around the track after each Racers touchdown is unique and adds a great amount of pageantry to the afternoon.
Another plus -- some may call it a minus -- is there is no replay board and/or Jumbotron anywhere in sight. Some may say it would resemble a high school atmosphere. In my opinion, it resembles what college football was 15 years ago, at even the highest level. There was no need for huge high-tech ribbon boards, high-def screens the size of a city block. The only thing needed for a great college atmosphere was a cloudless blue sky, colorful leaves falling on crunchy grass, and an air temperature that is neither too cold nor too hot.
Speaking of beautiful leaves, I give yet another nod to Murray State for the path of trees along the back of one end zone that provides an autumn backdrop that assures you that the pageantry of college football is served well in Murray, Kentucky.
You won't be deciding on where to eat with much excitement, but you won't be relegated to just fast food, either. The Cracker Barrel across the street is probably not the worst place in the world to eat, but if you're in the mood for something unique, you will have to drive about 40 miles to Paducah.
If you are looking for the standard fare of chain restaurants, you are within walking distance to most. Qdoba, Captain D's, Subway and Burger King are also available for a quick bite before or after the game.
Murray State's campus is safe, welcoming, and a nice place to take in a college football game. Again, you won't be blown away by any hipster coffee shops or a strip brimming with nightlife, but you will find a college campus full of proud students and alumni who are ready to welcome you to a college football Saturday at The Track.
The Track is far from a sold-out house, but the fans that come out to watch a game are there to actually watch the game, not to be seen. Nothing stands out as far as gameday traditions -- not counting the horse, but this is about the fans and I don't believe I'm allowed to count the horse -- or mass amounts of tailgating, but the fans in attendance don't let the surrounding empty seats keep them from cheering for their Racers.
The Track is right in the heart of Murray, Kentucky. Driving in the from the east, the stadium comes into view to the right at about the exact same time Kroger and Burger King become visible on your left. There's a good chance you could watch the Racers in action on the field from one of the Hinkle Chair rocking chairs on the front porch of Cracker Barrel, as the only set of seats stands behind the north sideline.
If buying from Ticketmaster, the most expensive ticket is $25.50, with the cheapest ticket being $12.50. If you are traveling to see your team play at Murray, or if you are in the area and looking for a game to attend on a fall Saturday, you can do so without spending an arm and a leg. This isn't an SEC Saturday atmosphere, but it does football Saturdays justice.
I think the lack of extras give Murray State a few bonus points. Some people want the creature comforts of a modern stadium like the Jerry Dome in Dallas, while some people are Wrigley Field/Fenway Park types. Both types of stadiums are great in their own way, so long as you know what you're getting into before you arrive at your venue of choice. It's no different if you are visiting The Track on a given autumn Saturday.
If you are looking for the theme park shopping mall feel of a Cowboys Stadium, a Murray State game will leave you very disappointed at the end of the day. On the other hand, if you go to Murray, Kentucky expecting a campus and stadium overflowing with a throwback charm that has recently faded from the college game, you will be very pleased with your visit.
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