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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
By attending a sparsely attended non-rivalry, modern day game at Spartan Stadium you may be surprised to know that San Jose State enjoys a rich history on the west coast and was at one point, quite relevant.
Unfortunately for me, I attended one of those aforementioned games, this one against the Idaho Vandals. The gloomy day fit perfectly with the mass of empty seats.
San Jose State is located in the heart of San Jose, the third most populous city in California (behind Los Angeles and San Diego). Unlike those places, San Jose isn't too much of a college town and support for the Spartans has been trailing behind that of the San Jose Sharks, the city's only major professional franchise.
Sporting two tiers on one sideline and and one on the other, Spartan Stadium was opened in 1933 and has primarily been used for Spartan football since. Aside from football, the stadium has hosted professional lacrosse and soccer over the years. The San Jose Earthquakes played at Spartan Stadium during their time in the NASL and their first stint in MLS, prior to moving to Buck Shaw Stadium.
Among the notable events having taken place at Spartan Stadium was the now defunct, Silicon Valley Bowl and as a host stadium during the 1999 Women's World Cup.
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".
There wasn't anything exciting about the options here. $6 will get you a polish dog or italian sausage, while $4.50 lands you nachos or peanuts. Most surprising was the price on sunflower seeds, $4.50, which is one way of keeping shells off the bleachers.
$4 for bottled soda or $3.50 for bottled water are your beverage options at the concession stand. There is a beer garden behind the one tier side of the stadium, serving adult refreshment.
The fact that the entire upper level was empty certainly took much of the life out of the atmosphere. All along the very top of the seating are honorees from Spartans teams gone by. Names like Bill Walsh, Pop Warner, Jack Elway and Jeff Garcia highlight this list that were joined by nearly zero fans in the section.
Perhaps the most attractive part of the stadium is the trees that enclose the stadium, peeking out above the bloodiest of nose bleeds.
Another quirky quality of Spartan Stadium is the column-like structure separating the fans from the field. I like the distinct railing as that is how I determined whether the Earthquakes were home or away when watching on TV as a kid.
Prior to the game there are a few tailgates that take place on what looks to be a practice field adjacent to the stadium. Proximity wise it's great because it's only a few steps from the entrance.Â
One particular party was very student-centric with a DJ and dance floor. Red Bulls and Coors Lights played a prominent role at this loud party. And I mean loud. This had no effect on the game atmosphere until gametime when the game was starting and the party hadn't ended. The DJ in the tailgate area was much, much louder than the PA during introductions and kickoff.
Just two blocks away from San Jose Municipal Stadium, it has a decidedly more residential feel than industrial. The residential neighborhood is fine. Safe, clean, but nothing exciting.Â
Unlike the Spartans basketball team that benefits from being on campus and near downtown, Spartan Stadium needs to be a destination for students. Since they aren't on campus and aren't near the bustling downtown area, its pregame environment suffers.
Driving to good bars and restaurants is a viable option, just ten minutes away.
There is certainly a truly diehard contingent of fans who support San Jose State week in and week out but there just isn't a lot of them. Admittedly the crowd size varies each week but the game in question was nearly laughable.
The Bay Area has two professional football teams and two teams in the PAC 12. Stanford has a recently renovated stadium and California will get one next year. Perhaps San Jose State gets lost in the shuffle. It almost seems like they play in a market and city that's too big.
Where in some regions the school becomes part of the community, it seems that the fans of San Jose State are almost exclusively alumnus.
Spartan Stadium is easily accessible from either 101 or 280 as exits are only a few blocks away. Parking lots are available on both sides of the stadium for a $20 fee.
Once inside, perhaps because the sparse crowd, getting around was no problem. Getting to bathrooms, concession stands and seats is incredibly easy.
Unfortunately, the nearest train station is beyond a walk away. It would greatly benefit fans to have a viable public transportation option nearby.
Tickets start at $25 for adult general admission. This seems a bit high when staring at a plethora of empty seats. What is nice however is how quickly you can turn your "cheap" seat into a great seat. For most of the game I sat in row 1, at about the 5 yard line. When you purchase the general admission ticket there are only a few sections where you can't sit.
Concessions are a bit high for the quality you receive. I recommend eating prior to going to the game.
Parking at $20 seems about the going rate so the major plus for return on investment lies in the ability to be close to the action for some good WAC football.
There is nothing in the way of "feel" that is particularly impressive or noteworthy. I did however appreciate the quick video recaps honoring teams for 20, 30, and 50 years ago.
Along with the retired numbers they do have banners acknowledging conference championships from years gone by.
I'd love to go back another time when the Spartans are playing Fresno State, Cal, or Stanford in front of full crowd. I'd imagine it would have a decidedly different feel. Their history warrants a better vibe but I feel it has little to with their facility. It's nothing special but isn't preventing people from coming out.
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