San Jose State has fielded a football team since 1893 and won 16 conference championships in that time. Though they may be the third program you think of when thinking of Bay Area college football, the Spartans have a rich player and coach history that includes Bill Walsh, Dick Vermeil, Jeff Garcia, Joe Nedney, Steve DeBerg and perhaps most famous, Glenn “Pop” Warner.
Spartan Stadium opened in 1933 and it has primarily been used for San Jose State football. Aside from the Spartans, the stadium has hosted various other minor and professional sports such as lacrosse and men’s and women’s soccer. Most recently, they hosted the San Jose Earthquakes of the original NASL (1974-84) and for their first stint in MLS (1996-2005). When the Earthquakes returned in 2008 they were unable to reach an agreement with the university and now play their home games at Buck Shaw Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University. The stadium also hosted the Silicon Valley Football Classic from 2000-04 which was a bowl game that pitted schools from the WAC and the then Pac-10.
2013 turned out to be a transitional year for the Spartans. First, San Jose State moved into the Mountain West Conference. This creates greater television coverage and they play tougher competition, fit for a team looking to be nationally-relevant. In addition, their coach Mike MacIntyre left the school to take the job at the University of Colorado. MacIntyre had a very successful tenure at SJSU going 1-10 in 2010 and finishing 11-2 with a Military Bowl victory in 2012. Coach Ron Caragher has taken the reigns for the new phase of Spartans football.
To continue this progression to the upper-echelon of Division I football, the university has approved the privately-financed “Vermeil-Walsh Athletic Complex.” This facility will house new locker rooms, coaches offices, meeting rooms, a hall of fame and athletic training facilities. It will be accessible from outside and inside Spartan Stadium. Here’s what the façade will look like from within the stadium.
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The food at Spartan Stadium has been much improved in recent years. They now have a more extensive menu to match their bigger crowds.
At the main concession stands the offerings include tri-tip sandwiches ($8), nachos ($4.50) supreme ($6.50), chicken tenders ($8), Polish and Italian sausages ($6), linguica ($6), hot links and jumbo hot dogs ($6). Snacks ($4.50) include Craker Jacks, peanuts, sunflower seeds and soft pretzels. Candy ($3), churros ($3.50) and frozen lemonade ($4.50) are also available.
Local Mexican chain Una Mas has a permanent stand near the south end zone and there are two local food trucks parked on the east side of the stadium.
Bottled soda and water ($4) and coffee and hot chocolate ($3.50, $5) are the beverage options. Alcohol is not served at Spartan Stadium.
A small change has greatly upgraded the atmosphere at Spartan Stadium. A lot of the gray or taupe accents around the stadium have been painted the vibrant blue that the team uses in its uniforms. This has made a huge difference and makes it the stadium more identifiable with team that plays there.
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.
A unique aspect of the stadium layout is that the west stands are a traditional boxed-off two deck layout while the east side has a gradual rounded façade. The bleachers, particularly the end zone ones, are certainly showing their age as the seating is bolted into the cement-covered hillside.
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.
The immediate neighborhood is mostly industrial, pretty vacant for a college football Saturday. The only crowd you'll find is in the parking lot at the rambunctious tailgates.
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 pedestrian pregame environment suffers.
Driving to good bars and restaurants is a viable option, just ten minutes away.
There are a good amount of diehard fans that attend Spartan football games. They are coupled with a resurgence of casual fans have returned to the fray with the successful program. It seems that the upward trend in attendance will continue once the North End Zone project and athletic complex is completed.
The one unfortunate aspect is there are about 10,000 seats that are rarely filled on the second deck of the west side of the stadium. Perhaps they will begin to fill out on a consistent basis once SJSU is established in the MWC.
In the Bay Area there are two NFL teams and two Pac-12 football schools so San Jose State can sometimes feel like a fifth wheel. However, playing in the Mountain West Conference and the school being a part of the CSU system, it has the chance to carve out its own identity in an area that has been dominated by the other four teams.
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.
Getting around inside the stadium is easy as there is plenty of room to walk around most of the stadium. The one exception to this is the narrow walkway that goes up the gradual hill on the east side of the stadium. If your seats are in the middle of those stands, I'd recommend going around the backside and climb the steep stairs to the middle of the section.
$20 gets you a general admission ticket and you can sit near either end zone (I've found secondary market tickets for $2). $5 more gets you a reserved seat and a seat back. Chair seating is available in the center section on the west side and are mostly occupied by season ticket holders.
Food, though expensive, has improved and you can now get a decent meal at Spartan Stadium.
If you're up for walking (the neighborhood is plenty safe) you can park a few blocks away to avoid the $20 parking charge. On a nice day, I'd actually recommend the walk that way you can stop in the student tailgating areas, complete with two DJs and games.
The great football players from the program are honored at the top of the second level on the west side while the bowl wins are acknowledged at the top of the first level. It seems that there has been more acknowledgment of the history of the program in the last few years. I believe that those acknowledgments help to cultivate fan passion.
Near where the Vermeil-Walsh Athletic Complex will be there is the Jeff Garcia Hall of Champions. On its website it says it opens 3 hours before kickoff and closes 1 hour before. Unfortunately, on my most recent trip it was closed at least 90 minutes before kickoff.
I have really enjoyed how much the stadium and fan base have improved over the last few years and look to continue attending games here and see the final product when the new athletic complex is completed.
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.
1500 S 10th St
San Jose, CA 95112
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