Construction of the new Stadium Stadium started just moments after the last game of the 2005 football season, with spectators still in the stands to watch the demolition of the playing surface. This new renovation reduced the seating capacity from 85,000 to 50,000 when many seats with obstructed views were removed.
Stanford Stadium now features a two tier seating structure with luxury boxes along one of the sidelines. Seating has filled the space where a track would have been in the old stadium, creating a closer view and more intimate environment.
Surrounded by the gargantuan redwoods of the Stanford campus, there may not be a more beautiful scene in which to tailgate. The stadium isn't even visible from some main roads because these trees will act like a shield, safely keeping the stadium within it's natural walls.
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".
The food inside the venue is nothing to write home about. Sure they have the typical "big dog" ($6), nachos ($5), peanuts ($4) and jumbo soft pretzels ($4). Sodas are available for $6 and bottled water for a whopping $5. The quality wasn't anything exciting either, you just knew what you were getting.
What really swayed this score to the higher end of the spectrum were the popular gourmet food trucks parked in the fan center, outside the gates, before the game. I'd highly recommend (particularly if you aren't tailgating already) to check out the party in the adjacent field. All the Bay Area staples were there; "An the Go", "Wow" and "Twisted".
They also had hot dogs, tri-tip sandwiches and beer ($5 for Bud/Bud Light and $6 for any of the Gordon Biersch varieties) in this kid-friendly pregame party, outfitted with bounce houses and tailgate style games.
On a beautiful Northern California day there are few places more appealing than on Stanford's immpressive campus. I support Andrew Luck's decision to slum there for another year. Why not? The stadium is packed, the weather is perfect and the team is ranked in the top 10.
Adding to the delightful day is the rambunctious Stanford band. They put on quite the halftime show (complete with narration) and make their presence known throughout the game near the student section known as the "Red Zone". They can also be seen at the pregame festivities aforementioned at the fan center.
Typically it's baseball parks that tend to pull on one's aesthetic heartstrings with their quirkiness and majesty. I must say however that Stanford Stadium is quite the visually appealing sight to behold. It sits in a grove of redwoods and is built into the ground with a hillside all along the backside of the seating. Once inside, the sight is of the great green expanse, contrasting with the red seats, all cupped together by the white pillars and palm trees that stand high above the field, looking down on the action.
The university covers a lot of land and two zip codes and is separated from downtown Palo Alto by the El Camino Real. The downtown area is an affluent area with beautiful, safe streets. There is a bunch of shopping, bars and restaurants that are sure to meet anyone's fancy.
Right on the other side of El Camino Real is the Town and Country shopping center which includes a couple cafes, restaurants, a bookstore and a Trader Joe's. The Trader Joe's was particularly useful for those picking up last minute items before their tailgate event.
Emerson Street and University Avenue is where most of the restaurants and hangouts are along. Surprisingly it wasn't too football centric, even though it was the first game of the season. My choice would be Rudy's Pub (corner of Alma and University) for a beer before the game, perhaps on my way from the Caltrain Station, which is right across the street.
My recommendation would be to go to the downtown area after the game. Pregame festivities aren't too extensive and there are plenty of great dinner options after a day in the heat. If you're looking for something unique and healthy be sure to check out Garden Fresh, serving delicious vegan Chinese cuisine.
Most appealing may be the natural beauty you find yourself in. Seeing as most of the games are held during the day, a walk through campus may be the perfect way to start your college football gameday.
By my eye, the stadium was around 95% full for this out of conference game against San Jose State. The proximity of the two schools to each other did add a bit of pizazz to the fan relations. Though their team was severely overmatched on the field, the Spartan fans traveled well and added to the already loud spectators.
The Stanford fans were very supportive of their team and displayed their colors proudly. Many of the seats along the sidelines are reserved for season ticketholders and they were all full. It's clear they back their commitment with some monetary force.
Undoubtedly, Stanford fans tend to carry the white collar label, particularly in comparison to their neighbors in San Jose and Berkeley. Unrelated to the fans' passion and support for the Cardinal was my "I'm not in Kansas anymore" moment when I came upon wine and cheese tailgates, complete with real glass stemware. There were certainly plenty of the traditional tailgates but that was something that certainly surprised me.
The Cardinal fans showed up in a big way against their Northern California rivals and have been much of the last few years. Prior to that, and even with a brand new stadium with all the bells and whistles, they failed to turn out for a sub .500 football team.
Though Stanford sits conveniently on the San Francisco Bay peninsula between the major 280 and 101 freeways, the surface roads leading toward the stadium can be a nightmare. Every street leading to parking areas are one lane roads and busy intersections can take several minutes to queue through.
When entering the venue be sure to check signs as there are as many entrances you can't you use as there are that you can. Many gates are reserved for students, season ticket holders and special sections.
Once through the gates there are plenty of tunnels into the nucleus of the stadium nearby each section.
The biggest issue was navigating around the enclosed promenade during halftime. Concession stands and restrooms were extremely difficult to get to with so many people up and about at the same time. Further frustrating issues is that the concession stands only accepted cash as a form of payment and ATM lines wound through the herd like impatient snakes.
My advice, take Caltrain if possible. Train stations are scattered along the peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose and the Palo Alto station is just a ten minute walk away.
General admission tickets in the upper deck start at only $9 for out of conference games like the one against San Jose State. They increase steadily as you move closer to the 50 yard line. Tickets can be pretty hard to come by for games versus Pac-12 rivals Cal and USC and ticket prices are on a sliding scale.
Many of the seats are only available for alumni or season ticketholders so attaining seats may be more difficult than paying for them. The affordable ticket prices are balanced out by expensive parking lots. Off-site parking at Palo Alto High School was $20 and parking at the stadium started at $30 and went higher, depending on the size of the vehicle or the lot in question.
A cheap seat, a (higher quality/unique) meal and a beer at the fan center before the game, a snack during the game and a round trip train ticket to San Francisco comes in south of $40.
Setting, aesthetic and level of play all positively enhance the experience. The band and student section remind one of the beauty of college sports and specifically, of the culture of Stanford and the Bay Area as a whole. The grassy areas high above both endzones allow room for kids to play and throw the ball around, creating a fun environment for those families with children.
One drawback in my eyes was a lack or historical significance. I'm a sucker for memorabilia or insignia representing important moments in the school's football history. Specifically I was expecting more hoopla over last year's Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech.
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