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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
When you talk about the state of Utah and its college football programs, one usually thinks of Brigham Young University, the University of Utah or Utah State. All three teams have had some successful years recently and appeared in many bowls. Whether it is the high altitude or the worldwide Mormon recruiting base, the Beehive State produces winning football teams.
One of the lesser-known but equally successful programs in the state can be found in the town of Ogden in the form of Weber State University and its Wildcat football team. Weber State competes in the Big Sky Conference at the FCS level with such small-school powers as Montana, Montana State, the University of North Dakota and Eastern Washington, all of which have won either an FCS or a 1-AA National Championship in the past few years. Other schools rounding out the conference include Northern Arizona, Idaho State, Northern Colorado, Portland State and the Wildcats' major in-state rival, the University of Southern Utah.
The Wildcats call Elizabeth Dee Shaw Stewart Stadium on the Weber State campus as their home field. (We will use Stewart Stadium for brevity's sake for the remainder of this review.) The stadium was constructed in the early 1950s as one of the first facilities of the then Weber State Junior College. It has undergone revisions in 1966, 2005 and 2011 in order to enhance the fan experience.
There is one overwhelming aspect to the stadium that can never be improved on… its setting. Located at the base of the Wasatch Mountains to the East and the Great Salt Lake on its western flank, it is Mother Nature at her finest surrounding the field. Make sure you take a camera for the sunsets, as Weber State often schedules 6pm kickoffs. You will not be disappointed.
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".
Weber State manages its food and beverage offering from portable trailers stationed at both ends of the field. The trailers are numerous enough that lines do not get lengthy, and you are still able to watch the action on the field.
A sampling of the offerings and their prices: Hot dogs and nachos are $4, pretzels are $3, and corn dogs and cotton candy are available for $5. They also package items with a 32-ounce drink as a combo, which can save you money. These combos include a hot dog combo ($7), Polish dog combo ($8), popcorn combo ($7). The quality of the food is excellent, as the hot dogs are grilled at the stadium, not just heated up.
We have already mentioned the natural gifts that Stewart Stadium enjoys, so let's discuss the man-made aspects of the stadium. Stewart Stadium seats 17,312 fans for football. It features grandstands on both the east and west sidelines, with the west grandstand towering above the east stands, which are allocated to the visiting school. Due to facing to the east, fans in the west stands do not have to contend with the sun being in their eyes for a majority of the game. Unfortunately, Stewart Stadium features bleacher seating, so you will want to bring along a seat cushion to improve your comfort level. The exception to this is the Sky Suites and Press Box complex, built atop the west stands in 2001. There are 26 Sky Suites which feature club seating and a dining area. Season ticket holders are the only reserved seats, meaning the rest of the stadium is general admission seating. Come early enough and you could score some great seats at a very low price.
One other word of warning when choosing which Weber State game to attend: games in August-October enjoy a very comfortable temperature range of 65-80 degrees. In November and December, plan to bundle up as temps can fall into 30s and 20s, and snow can accumulate up to four inches. Due to drastic changes in the elements, Stewart Field has a synthetic field surface that can be cleared quickly in the case of snow.
When speaking about Weber State as a neighborhood, there are three components; the 26,681-student body on a 600-acre campus, the natural wonders of the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake as the front and back door to the campus, and the greater neighborhood of Ogden, home to more than 83,000 residents.
Weber State's campus features a very natural setting with plenty of greenspace set aside between the academic buildings. You will have no trouble finding where you are going, as there is excellent signage throughout the campus. If not, the student body is very welcoming and happy to answer your questions. The natural beauty surrounding the campus is breathtaking.
The city of Ogden provides the widest sense of neighborhood, and it produces. As one of the largest cities in Utah (after Salt Lake City and its suburbs), Ogden has a very vibrant downtown and provides excellent local transportation through its local bus system, with an intermodal facility near Weber State. Outdoor recreation opportunities abound, including mountain biking, hiking the city's numerous greenways and kayaking on area rivers. As for spectator sports, the Ogden Raptors minor league baseball team is based at Lindquist Field. For dining, you need to head to the Historic 25th Street district, as it is home to a number of excellent restaurants. I would suggest Rooster's Brewhouse and MacCool's as two places to check out. Ogden is also a satellite location for the Sundance Film Festival, adding to a vibrant cultural community. Most importantly, Ogden is the birthplace of the most famous family in Utah, the Osmonds.
Ogden is a college town, and many of the alumni still reside in the area. They were quite evident at the game I attended, as it was homecoming. The alumni band played with the present band at halftime, and several former Weber State star players were recognized as well. The stands are a sea of purple and black, the Wildcats' team colors. I noted a number of cheers unique to Weber State throughout the game. These included "WEBER.. STATE.. GREAT!!!" and situational cheers where the PA announcer said "It's another Wildcat... and the stands would erupt in response "FIRST DOWN!". When Weber State is on defense, the announcer starts "It's time for a defensive.. and the crowd responds "LOCKDOWN". WSU really coordinates with its fans, as they have a large cheerleading squad, a dance team, a great band and Waldo the Wildcat to lead the cheers. The effect of the adjacent mountains helps to make the cheers reverberate even more.
Due to its close proximity to Salt Lake City (41 miles) getting to, and around, Ogden is relatively easy. Interstate 84 goes through the southern suburbs of the city in an east/west pattern, while I-15 runs north/south and will bring in visitors who have flown in through Salt Lake City's hub airport (SLC). The Utah Transit Authority runs four bus routes daily between Salt Lake City and Ogden. Frontrunner commuter rail is yet another option to consider. Once you reach Ogden, getting around is very simple. Simply get off I-15 at the Highway 89 exit and stay on it. This serves as the Main Street for Ogden. Very clear signage will show you the way over to the Weber State campus. Parking at Weber State is usually not difficult, as there are numerous lots on campus available for football parking. Another option is to park 1.5 miles south of WSU at the Dee Events Center, with a free shuttle dropping you off right in front of the stadium.
Tickets are priced at $8 for general admission or $11 for reserved seats. The food and beverage item selection is broad and reasonably priced, and the merchandise available at the team store is of good quality. Parking is free anywhere on campus or via the shuttle from the Dee Center. Prices for hotel rooms range in the $75-$90 rate, much less expensive than staying in nearby Salt Lake City. Add in the priceless beauty of the area, and a trip to a Weber State football game is quite a bargain.
Mother Nature gets the first extra point, as the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake cannot be ignored when at a Weber State game. The next extra goes to Waldo the Wildcat, as he was named the top mascot in the country following the 2014 season. It is easy to see why, with his constant interaction with the fans, as well as his gymnastic ability. A third extra goes to the nearby Historic 25th Street district, home to most of the dining and entertainment clubs in Ogden. The district also holds a Harvest Moon celebration the third weekend in September, which draws tens of thousands of people to celebrate the end of summer. The festival rounded out a great trip to Ogden and I would definitely put it on my schedule for future trips.
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253 E 2500 S
Ogden, UT 84401
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