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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Elon University's men's soccer program began in 1972, and has enjoyed great success since the arrival of their current coach, Darren Powell, in 2005. Coach Powell led the Phoenix to their first conference championship in 2008, and then to 4 more conference titles in the past 5 years. Elon's current soccer pitch, Rudd Field, opened in 2002, and was renovated in 2014 to include new dugouts and a new press box. The pitch has an official seating capacity of 625, but has hosted crowds of over 3,000 for tournament games. The field is shared with Elon's women's soccer and lacrosse teams.
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A limited number of food and beverage options are available from a snack cart next to the grandstand. Options include hot dogs, peanuts, candy, nachos, popcorn, Cracker Jack, chips, sunflower seeds, and bottled water, soda, and PowerAde. All items are $3 or less, and there is no alcohol available, as the pitch is located on campus.
Elon University is a small, private, liberal-arts school with only about 6,000 students enrolled, but is arguably second-tier ivy league. As such, tuition is on the high side, and the university has a pretty sizable endowment, so the athletic facilities here are much nicer than you might expect from a school this size, and this carries over to the soccer pitch. The grandstand, for example, while small, is fronted with beautiful brickwork, as are the press box, dugouts, and the campus buildings visible in the distance; these buildings are practically brand new, but offer a quaint, Victorian feel. There is also a lake nearby, and the pitch is mostly surrounded by trees, so the scenery here is actually quite breathtaking.
The seats in the grandstand are actually quite comfortable - the bleachers are metal, but they have a contour which makes for a better fit. Also the stands usually aren't too crowded, so you should have room to spread out, and the sections are not very wide, so you won't have to walk by very many people to get to the aisle. And if you prefer, you can either stand along the fence, or bring a chair and sit on the grass at the top of the pitch - fans at Rudd Field have their choice of multiple vantage points from which to watch the action.
While there aren't any sideline activities taking place to keep fans occupied, soccer doesn't really have too many breaks in the action, so they aren't really needed. The practice fields next to the pitch are open, however, so if you bring children there is a place for them to play if they get bored.
Rudd Field is surrounded by Elon's softball field, baseball field, track, and football stadium, in addition to other campus buildings, so there are no restaurants or other amenities in the immediate vicinity. There are numerous restaurants within a few miles, however, including some dive-bar types that are common at universities all over the country, as well as several upscale eateries, such as Fat Frogg or Buffalo Wild Wings.
Fat Frogg Bar & Grill is within half a mile of campus, and is a popular local hang-out which serves unique items such as frog's legs, and even has a science cafe once a month on Tuesday nights, so you needn't worry about it being just for students. Buffalo Wild Wings is a little further away at Alamance Crossing, an upscale shopping center a mile or two from campus, which you will probably drive by on your way to Rudd Field. Located just off exit 140 on I-40, Alamance Crossing features numerous restaurants and stores, as well as a movie theater with 16 screens.
Alamance Crossing is probably the only really solid attraction, besides Elon itself, that is within an easy drive from Rudd Field, so if you plan to come for the day this will be your best bet as a place to visit. Most of the nice hotels in the area, such as Courtyard and Holiday Inn, are located near Alamance Crossing, but if you are looking for something on the cheaper side, try heading a few miles east to exit 145, where you will find such chains as Microtel and Motel 6.
The fans at Rudd Field are decent, and tend to pay attention to the action, but most of them do not wear team gear, and even at full capacity there aren't very many of them, so it doesn't get too loud. However, you are close enough to the action to actually hear the shouts and grunts from the players, so that is a plus.
Fans can park in a lot right across Phoenix Drive from the pitch, and parking is free (there are signs saying the lot is for students/faculty only, but they won't tow you during games). There is also a sidewalk that connects to handicap ramps on either end of the grandstand, so getting in and out of the stands is easy for all. The only potential downside is that the parking lot only holds 100 cars, which is usually way more than enough, but for big games you may have to park further away, and parking on Elon's campus is usually tricky.
Attending a soccer match at Elon is free, as is parking, so the only thing you might have to pay for is concessions. While the small crowd may not provide much energy, it is worthwhile to see the pitch and its surrounding scenery. Also, there are very few stadiums of any sport that allow you to get this close to the action.
The best thing about Rudd Field is being close enough to hear the shouts and grunts from the players, and you can't beat free admission. The multiple vantage points from which to watch the game are also a nice touch, as is the beautiful brickwork.
If you are in the area, take time to see a soccer match at Rudd Field. The campus is worth seeing, and you can enjoy a low-key evening at a small-town stadium, with a pleasant atmosphere and no crowds to fight.
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