In July 2014, Eastern Michigan University replaced the turf for its football field. The previous surface was nine years old, and the administration decided that it was time for a change. This would not have been unusual except that EMU made the decision to place down the first ever gray surface in football history. This put Rynearson Stadium in the company of other non-traditional colored fields such as Albertsons Stadium (Boise State), Roos Field (Eastern Washington), and Estes Stadium (Central Arkansas) in Division I football.
The idea behind the choice of gray was to portray a toughness about the Eastern Michigan football program, a working class put-your-hard-hats on kind of vibe. You’ll find a sign dubbing Rynearson Stadium as “The Factory.”
The gray turf field is more appealing than you may expect. You almost feel like you’re watching an old black and white movie, where some of the colors have been touched up.
The Eastern Michigan Eagles have played at Rynearson Stadium since 1969. The stadium has a capacity of just over 30,000. The stadium has never reached that capacity, with its largest crowd coming in at 26,188 when Central Michigan visited in 2008. The Olds-Marshall track encircles the field and stands with bleacher seating run parallel to each sideline. This creates a little bit of distance which hurts the viewing experience slightly, but it’s also a reminder of the strong track & field program in Ypsilanti.
The Eagles compete in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The team has won only one MAC football championship, back in 1987.
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There is a bit of a carnival feel to the concession area below the west grand stand. You can find elephant ears ($6) as the most exciting item. Italian or Polish sausages are available ($6), with corn dogs ($4) or a chili cheese dog ($3) as consolation prizes. Barbecue beef brisket and barbecue pork sandwiches are also available for $5.
Pepsi is the soda vendor at Rynearson Stadium. Choose from two sizes priced from $2.50-$3. Bottled water is also available for $3.
Domino's Pizza is available by the slice ($3.25) or as a whole pie ($15). Boneless chicken ($8), oven-baked sandwiches ($7), and nachos ($3.50) can be found. On colder days, cups of coffee or cocoa would be a wise decision ($2 each). Overall, the food selection is pretty good, and quality is better than average.
There is little to make Rynearson Stadium feel warm or unique. Concrete stands with aluminum bleachers are the primary aesthetic. The stadium is named for long-time EMU football coach Elton J. Rynearson, who has 114 wins as head football coach, but also served as the basketball coach for 18 seasons. There is little to honor this legendary leader within the football grounds other than the name itself.
Below the press box, on the west side of the stadium, there are 12 rows of plastic chairs, in case you're looking for back support. Otherwise, your options are limited to the cold metal bleachers found throughout. In either case, the leg room is about average, and the typically small crowds will allow plenty of room for you to stretch out if you would like.
The small marching band does its best to liven up the atmosphere, as does the small student section, but overall, neither make a noticeable impact on your game day experience. Swoop the Eagle is seen along the sideline and in the stands. A cannon in the northeast corner of the stadium is utilized when the Eagles score and at kickoff, so be aware it you startle easily. The scoreboard is found beyond the north uprights with all of the very basic information displayed, and a small video replay screen.
Head a couple of miles from Rynearson Stadium toward Depot Town to find your pregame or post game meal or drink. Try Aubree's Pizzeria & Tavern. They have an outstanding selection of draft beers, including several local options. They have plenty of activities to keep you entertained including a pool table and trivia game. The food is decent, but nothing special. Their pizza has a buttery crust and a comforting greasy quality. This is the place to go if you are looking for some fun either before or after the game.
Across the street is Sidetrack Bar & Grill. This place is known for its outstanding burgers, and was once named as one of the top 20 burgers by GQ Magazine. The burgers are very good, as well as their deep-fried pickles, a huge basket of beer-battered spears. The beer selection offers 16 interesting beers on tap, including some good local options. This place is a little less sports-focused than Aubree's, but the food is better.
You may also want to check out the Hudson Automobile Museum or the Michigan Firehouse Museum, both located in Depot Town.
Attendance continues to be the biggest problem with the overall game experience at Rynearson Stadium. If you sit in the center of the home side of the stands, you might be able to fool yourself into feeling like the crowd atmosphere is better than it really is. The visiting side will be nearly empty, depending on the opponent, and how well their fans travel. The student section is too small to make much of an impact on the atmosphere. You'll find a few passionate fans standing and cheering, but overall the crowd falls flat.
Parking was free just a few years ago, but has increased to $5. It's a small fee, and one that shouldn't detract from going to the game, but when you're struggling to attract fans, sometimes it's the little things that affect whether or not the fans come out. Still, it is a reasonable price, right across the street from Rynearson Stadium.
Once you're inside the stadium, it is easy to move around. There's a good standing room area on the south side of the stadium in front of the basketball arena, the Convocation Center. Restrooms are adequate, and you shouldn't expect to have to wait in any lines. The men's restrooms utilize a urinal trough, rather than individual urinals.
Ticket prices have increased in recent years, but this is still an affordable place to see FBS Division I college football. If you want one of the precious seat back chairs tickets will cost you $20 for an adult, or $10 for a youth ticket. Most seating is general admission and will cost $15, or $7 for youth seats. Concessions are reasonable, and parking is inexpensive. Overall, everything is priced about right, but it won't feel like a bargain either.
The mural above the tunnel in the south end zone, which displays former EMU players to make it to the NFL is a nice touch. EMU may not be a football powerhouse, but they have produced some NFL-caliber talent over the years.
Another extra point for the bold move to install gray turf. It's an odd look to be sure, but helps to draw some attention to the Eastern Michigan football program, and differentiate their game day experience from every other stadium in the country.
Rynearson Stadium is located a mere six miles from the Big House, home of the University Michigan Wolverines. Occasionally, you may even be able to do a doubleheader when there is a night game in Ann Arbor. On its own, Rynearson Stadium is not a destination that most football fans or stadium travelers would seek out, but if you do choose to attend an Eastern Michigan football game, you'll find a unique field and overall pleasant experience.
Heading to a football game at Eastern Michigan University feels a little like making a visit to the little brother of the University of Michigan. Located just over 6 miles from the Big House, Rynearson Stadium has been the home of the EMU Eagles since 1969.
The stadium has a capacity of just over 30,000. The Olds-Marshall track encircles the field and concrete stands run parallel to each sideline. There's little to make this a memorable experience, but the good news is that there are plenty of good seats available for this program with the team's struggles to rise to the top of the Mid-American Conference.
Spent $40 all day with 2 kids and the wife. Great value
EMU football games are fun to go to if you go with your family, friends, alumni, students etc. The stadium is a little outdated but still a great looking venue. The tickets are cheap and everything is easy to access.
-Team store to buy from under the bleachers
-Promotions usually going on throughout the season.
-Fun games to watch, quality teams playing.
-Big tail-gating lot, very fun lot with lot's of fans having fun
-You can go inside the convocation center and still watch the game out the windows if it's to cold outside.
-Location of the stadium is nice, near some cities, near a lot of restaurants, near highways.
-Most fans you sit by are really into the games.
-Field turf looks great
-You always have a good view. There isn't really a bad seat.
-Depending on the game you go to, depends on crowd size. I suggest going on a rivalry game day.
-Bring a seat cushion. You get an average bench seat.
-No special scoreboard
-There's a track that goes around the field.
Good stuff: food, Awesome PA Announcer Dan York
Not so good stuff: the cannon blasting, speaker system fades in and out
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