When you think football in Michigan, you usually think of The Big House. Over 110 thousand fans routing on their beloved Wolverines, one of the biggest, most highly decorated, traditionally powerful programs in the entire NCAA. The Michigan Wolverines cast a huge shadow … and right in the middle of that shadow are the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
The Eagles have been around since 1891 under various monikers, in various conferences. The majority of their duration they were the Eastern Michigan Hurons, which was eventually changed as part of the rash of name changes in the NCAA away from aboriginal team names. Since becoming the Eagles, Eastern Michigan has struggled mightily both on and off the field. The Eagles call Rynearson Stadium home and from door to door it is a mere 6 miles to Michigan Stadium. To say that Michigan controls the attention of the narrative would be an understatement. Eastern Michigan University has approximately 23,000 students and the city of Ypsilanti is around 20,000 people. Both statistics do not bode well for filling a 30,000 seat stadium.
Rynearson Stadium is named after former football coach Elton Rynearson who was coach for 26 seasons in the heyday of EMU, back in the twenties and thirties. Eastern Michigan does have a strong football tradition, however recent memory of Eastern Michigan football is flooded with futility. They have had numerous winless seasons and one or two wins is the norm for this squad. Since joining the Mid-American Conference in 1971, Eastern Michigan boasts only 1 MAC Championship, in 1987, which led to the school’s greatest victory, a shocking defeat of San Jose State in the 1987 California Bowl.
The reality is that the Eastern Michigan Eagles are doing just about everything right. The team has worked hard to put together the best possible football experience. They are in the right division. The biggest detractors are that there is nobody at the game and the product on the field is pretty bad. The Wolverine shadow is difficult to overcome, but the powers that be at EMU are continuing to do what they can to bring the fans to Rynearson.
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There are a couple of concession options at Rynearson Stadium. Options are surprising both in variety and value.
Underneath the grandstand there are a couple of concession stands. The main concession stand, Assembly Line Concessions, offers your typical stadium fare at pretty reasonable prices. Hot dogs ($3.25), bratwurst ($4), nachos and cheese ($3.50), pretzels ($3) and popcorn ($2.50) are all available at this stand. There is also a chicken nuggets combo for $8 at this stand which features cornbread and your choice of coleslaw or mac & cheese. There is a Domino's Pizza concession also which offers a few interesting items including pizza slices ($3.25), oven baked sandwiches ($7), and boneless chicken wings ($8).
The concession stands at Rynearson Stadium offer Pepsi products for beverages at $3 each. Bottled water and Gatorade is also available for $3. On those fall days, however, the best choice just might be one of the varieties of coffee or hot chocolate that are offered at the Biggby Coffee table. There are no alcohol sales at Rynearson Stadium.
If you need a little help deciding, go with a specialty Biggby Coffee and the Chicken Nuggets Combo, especially on one of those crisp, autumn, afternoons.
Atmosphere at Rynearson Stadium is very difficult to assess. As an outside observer, you can see the efforts that the organization is making to provide a great college football atmosphere, however it is difficult to escape how that is falling on deaf ears.
It may surprise you, but Rynearson Stadium is physically as good or better than any other stadium in the conference. Eastern Michigan is attempting to walk the tightrope between traditional college football and thinking outside the box. Rynearson has been rebranded "The Factory" in recent years, with a focus on the blue collar nature of Michigan area near Detroit. This theme permeates throughout the physical stadium and the in-game presentation. The Factory is a north-south configured stadium with two main east and west grandstands. The stadium is built into a hill so both of the open ended north and south endzones feature some nice berm areas. EMU has worked hard on adding color to what was once a drab concrete structure. Green and grey can be found throughout the stadium. The east grandstand, which is designated for visiting fans, has most of the seating tarped off with bold green tarps trumpeting The Factory. The top of bigby coffee the east grandstand offers the Eastern Michigan Football Ring of Honor which includes EMU and NFL alumni like T.J. Lang, Ron Rice, Chris Roberson and Charlie Batch. These players and more appear on the mural over the opening of the south tunnel which leads right to the Convocation Center. The most obvious feature of Rynearson Stadium would be the steel grey color of the turf. College football traditionalists scorn EMU for this move, however it is a way that the program is attempting to have something unique and step out of the shadows. The grey meshes well with the green in the endzones and is much more muted than the obnoxious red turf of Eastern Washington or even the Smurf Turf of Boise State.
The in-game entertainment atmosphere also has a great deal of thought put into it. It begins with the pep rally where the Pride of the Peninsula band plays outside of Rynearson Stadium. This is not far from the kids area which features inflatable play areas. The Pride of the Peninsula is quite a good band and definitely adds to the gameday experience. The band then marches towards the Convocation Center in preparation for their role in the game. Inside the stadium, the band works its way back to the stadium through the south tunnel at the end of warm-ups. After their on-field presentation, the ROTC brings in the flags and the national anthem is played. The finale of the anthem is the flight of the live bald eagle from the top of the Factory down to the field. Another new aspect of the pregame that the national media has panned has been the entrance of the players. Select EMU players brandish sledgehammers and break down a temporary block wall that is erected in front of the north tunnel entrance where the players enter. It's another unique aspect that for some reason traditionalists take delight in panning. The band makes their way to the northwest grandstand area where they continue to play throughout the game much as any other college football band would. Upon scoring, the ROTC cadets fire a cannon. Unfortunately, the worst aspect of the gameday atmosphere is often the product on the field itself. Often, Eastern Michigan is horrible, and therefore it is difficult to get excited about the game once the opening kickoff occurs.
As far as seating goes, the east grandstand is generally kept for visiting fans. The west grandstand features aluminum benches throughout, with one small section with seats that comes at a price. Unfortunately, the students and community have not latched on to Eastern Michigan football and you can pretty much choose to sit wherever you like. The field does feature an 8 lane track around it, so proximity to the field may be a consideration for you.
The campus of Eastern Michigan University does have a couple of areas near it that are decent for pre and post game fare.
Rynearson Stadium is located at the northwest end of the campus. There is not too much in the way of options at that end of the campus. You will probably want to head south to Washtenaw Ave where you will find a number of options. Most are fast food or chain restaurants. Probably the most unique option near campus would be The Wurst Bar, which is located right beside the EMU bookstore. The offer a huge selection of beer and some unique food items. Otherwise, you may want to head east to Depot Town and try the Sidekick Bar and Grill or Aubree's Pizzeria and Tavern.
There are a number of other sporting options in the area. Eastern Michigan fields a strong complement of athletic teams, including the basketball team which plays in the Convocation Center. As mentioned, Ypsilanti is only a couple of miles away from Ann Arbor and Michigan Wolverine athletics including football at Michigan Stadium, basketball at Crisler Center and hockey at Yost Ice Arena. You are also not too far from Detroit and their sporting options. Other local possibilities would include the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum or the Michigan Firehouse Museum.
There are a couple of accommodation options in Ypsilanti. You may want to consider the Marriott Ann Arbor Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest or the Comfort Inn Ypsilanti.
So much of the struggles of Eastern Michigan have to do with the fans.
Eastern Michigan football typically averages less than 5,000 fans per season. The 2015 Eagles drew less than 5,000 fans per game, which is dead last in the FBS of NCAA. They are also about half as many fans as the second last team. The 2014 season was a bit of a blip with the Eagles drawing more than 10,000 fans, but a 2-6 record seems to have sent their attendance back down to the basement. A huge chunk of their atmosphere woes is due to a lack of fan support. It has become one of those chicken vs. egg situations where one wonders if more fan support would entice better recruits or if a better product on the field would bring more fans. Either way, EMU is struggling to engage the student body to come out and support their team.
The fans in attendance do what they can to support their team, but with so many empty seats, so few students and so little to cheer about on the field, the noise level is not significant at all.
Getting in and around Rynearson Stadium is no problem at all.
Rynearson Stadium is located at the northwest corner of campus, quite a significant distance from major highways. With I-94 a significant distance to the south and Highway 23 to the west and the Huron River to the north, you will have to travel through town a bit to get to the stadium. This is not a big deal as the town is pretty quiet and the low attendance at Eagles games means not a ton of traffic.
If you are interested in public transit, the number 3 bus travels N Huron River Drive a quick walk from the stadium. Check the Ann Arbor transit website for maps and schedules. There are also student shuttles offered which are outlined on the EMU athletics website under gameday experience.
There is a ton of parking surrounding The Factory. The cost of parking is $5 and mere steps from the stadium. Most of the parking is to the west of the stadium and there is plenty of space for those interested in tailgating. Parking can be pre-purchased through the Eagles website.
There are ticket windows at the west gate for those who want to walk-up and buy tickets. Other ticket windows are located inside the Convocation Center, including will-call. There is plenty of space in both spots to easily accommodate the gameday crowd.
Getting around Rynearson Stadium is pretty simple and straightforward. As with most college stadiums, stairs are the norm and should be considered if stairs are an issue for you. There is a ton of space under the grandstand and between the Convocation Center and the stadium so bumping into other fans will not be an issue. The washroom facilities are also more than ample to handle the crowd in attendance.
The investment for Eastern Michigan football is very low, however the return is not as good as patrons would like.
Tickets for Eagles games go for $20 for adults. There are also heavy discounts for youth and EMU students are free. Season tickets go for $75 which is a steal. A more than affordable $5 for parking and solid concession prices means that there is some family entertainment out there that won't force you to take out a second mortgage. The problems arise when looking at the returns. The product on the field has been pretty lackluster to say the least. This has kept fans away and created a pretty stale environment for college football. The program is doing what they can, but until better teams show up in The Factory, I fear that the return on investment will remain average at best.
An extra mark for the continued efforts to make EMU football a great experience.
An extra mark for the steel grey turf at The Factory.
If you step back and think about it, Rynearson Stadium is a great MAC facility. Eastern Michigan has done a good job of bringing it up to standard with the rest of the conference. All of the other elements to make it a great experience are there with the exception of a great team on the field. The long shadow of The Big House doesn't help matters at all. Hopefully, improvements met off the field will be met with improvements on the field and the Eagles will capture the attention of the student body and reclaim some of that tradition from a previous era.
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.
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.
Good stuff: food, Awesome PA Announcer Dan York
Not so good stuff: the cannon blasting, speaker system fades in and out
Rynearson Stadium is actually an okay facility. It is size comparable to other Mid-American Conference stadiums. The lack of a modern scoreboard and gray turf take away from it a little.
Food choices are standard issue and prices are decent. No problem with getting a good seat as attendance is low. There is a small student section but the atmosphere is stale but family friendly. The addition of banners to cover empty seats is disheartening.
There is easy access to the stadium and ample parking are positives. There is a EMU merchandise shop located in the stadium.
Overall, an EMU game is a good way to take your kid to a college football game and not spend much money but the fun atmosphere is lacking. A winning program would cure some of the lack of atmosphere.
705 W. Cross St.
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
39 E. Cross St.
Ypsilanti, MI 48198
100 E. Cross ST.
Ypsilanti, MI 48198