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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
After an 18 year hiatus and several years struggling on the field since football returned to campus in 2003, the Southeastern Lions have emerged from the ashes to not only become a relevant DI-FCS program, but to also create a home field advantage at historic Strawberry Stadium. Back-to-back Southland Conference championships (2013, 2014) have breathed life into the game-day environment for Southeastern football.
Strawberry Stadium was originally constructed in 1937, though recent upgrades have helped to preserve historic elements of the stadium while adding a modern touch. Some of the new elements at the stadium include a new press-box and suite structure on the west side, a parking garage with elevator access, and a new video replay screen added to the scoreboard. The official seating capacity for Strawberry Stadium is 7,408.
Whether you are traveling with your favorite college football program or find yourself in the Louisiana Northshore region, be sure to check out a new-classic by grabbing a seat in Strawberry Stadium for an SLU Lion football game.
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".
Strawberry Stadium has your typical stadium favorites along with a few specialty items.
Concession stands are located under the west side concourse and at a tent in the northeast corner. Under the west side, you'll find two main concession stands built into parking garage side of the concourse. Your staple options include hot dogs ($3), hamburgers ($4), and nachos ($4) as well as snacks like popcorn ($2), peanuts ($2), candy ($1), and pickles ($1). The same offerings are available in the northeast corner.
The hot item here is the Ron Roberts Special which offers up a pulled-pork sandwich, a bag of chips and a drink for $6. While there's nothing overly special about the combo, the price is definitely a winner.
Outside of the primary stands, there are few specialty stands to checkout including Pizza Hut, Chickfila, Captain's Tasty Treats (ice cream bars) and the Wise Guys Daiquiri tent in the north endzone.
Drink options are headlined by bottled Coca-Cola products for $3, which includes Dasani Water and PowerAde drinks. Beer is available for purchase in Strawberry Stadium and includes popular domestics like Bud Light, Budweiser and Michelob Ultra in 16oz cups for $5 and a couple of craft options (Gnarley Barley) for $5. Also, fans can enjoy Wise Guys frozen daiquiris at the beer table under the west side or at the Wise Guys tent in the north end zone.
Concessions at Strawberry Stadium are cash only, so be sure to visit the ATM before heading to the game.
Strawberry Stadium offers an improved atmosphere thanks to an established winning tradition.
The stadium layout includes two separate grandstands, on the west and east sides. The press-box and suite structure sits above the west side. Sections D-G between the 30s on the west side offers chairback seating while the rest of the facility is bleacher back.
Despite recent upgrades, the historic brick structure still remains on both grandstands. A unique aspect of Strawberry Stadium is that you are literally right on top of the action with only about five yards of sidelines separating the east and west grandstands from the field.
Fans can cross over to each side via the area behind the north end zone. This is a very active area with some student groups sitting in temporary bleachers up against the end zone and a very large play area for kids with inflatables and games taking up the rest of the area.
Section K in the southeast corner of the stadium is reserved for fans of the visiting team. You'll probably want to sit at least half-way up here so you can get a good view of the field action. The student section takes up sections around the 50 yard-line and can sometimes bleed over towards the visitor seats. Along with the students, typically the younger alumni also sit on the east side. These two groups combined can get a little rowdy, but usually there aren't any problems. For games that start before sun-down, you'll want to take along some sunglasses if you sit on the east side due to the sun setting behind the west grandstand.
The Spirit of the Southland Marching band is located on the north side of the east grandstand. They combine with the Lionettes dance team the cheer squads to help keep fans engaged throughout the game. Roomie the Lion is the team mascot and you'll notice him constantly roaming the stands interacting with kids and posing for pictures.
The field surface at Strawberry Stadium is synthetic UBU-Speed Series-S5-M turf. The scoreboard is located in the south end zone and is highlighted by the recent installation of a video replay board.
Strawberry Stadium is located on the southwest corner of the Southeastern Louisiana University campus. Pine trees and campus buildings dominate the landscape around the stadium. "Hammond, America" (as many in the region call it) is a charming small college town conveniently located between both Baton Rouge (to the west) and New Orleans (to the south). While the area is a little short on big-time attractions, you'll fall in love a few of the restaurants in town.
Whenever you visit Hammond, there are three restaurants you must make time for: Brady's, Tommy's, and Mariner's. Brady's offers a traditional American-style menu with some Cajun flavors blended in. They also have a nice selection of beers on tap. It's a great place to meet-up before or after the game. Tommy's on Thomas serves up a pizza and Italian-style menu with a signature sweet sauce and delicious Buffalo Breadsticks. They, too, have a great selection of drinks. The old classic, Mariner's Inn, features the amazing Kickin' Chicken sandwich and a laid-back atmosphere with a few pool tables and a bar inside. If you're looking for drinks, check-out Wise Guys Daiquiris and the Red, White, & Brew.
As mentioned, Hammond doesn't have many attractions with a big draw. You'll find plenty of college town bars and great restaurants, but not much unique to do outside of that. If you are traveling with small kids, the Louisiana Children's Discovery Center is a small, but fun break from sports action. If you have time for a drive outside of town, the Global Wildlife Center offers a fun family safari adventure complete with feeding giraffes and other wildlife. The Hammond Square area was recently converted from an old near empty indoor mall to a very active outdoor mall. There are also plenty of neat shops to browse in the historic downtown area.
You shouldn't have any problems finding lodging with several hotels in the area. For a something a little off the radar, check-out the Historic Michabelle Inn & Restaurant. For a good chain hotel stay, try the Holiday Inn Hammond - Northshore near I-12 and the Hammond Square Mall shopping center.
Some wise SLU faithful once said that "winning cures all", and they've certainly been proven correct. Though there is still plenty of room for growth in numbers, the Lion Nation fan base has been reenergized.
While attendance has experienced an up-tick over the past two years, average crowds still lag behind peers in the Southland Conference. Sitting in the shadow of the LSU campus, which is just a 45 minute drive to the west, the Lions fight a never ending battle for recognition. Just a few years ago, crowds between 2,000 - 4,000 were fairly typical. Since the Lions have been on a roll, the numbers have grown closer to 5,000- 6,000 per game, but usually fall short of a modest 7,408 capacity.
Fans get excited for big plays and scores, but struggle to maintain a noticeable level of noise outside of that.
Though Lion Nation is still developing an identity, a new tradition has emerged. Fans and players "Lion Up" after big plays (see image below).
There are some highs and lows to the access in and around Strawberry Stadium.
Located at the crossroads of two major interstates, I-55 and I-12, the campus is very accessible by car. If you're flying in, the Hammond area is about a 45 minute drive up I-55 from the Louis P Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans.
Parking isn't much of a challenge either with accessible on-campus lots north of the stadium. There is a parking garage attached to Strawberry Stadium, but this is typically reserved for those with passes.
Where you'll want to budget some extra time is the ticket booth and entrance gates. If possible, be sure to pick-up your tickets before game-day. The ticket booth is located outside the northeast corner of the stadium in a small building. Lines can get fairly long and there's typically only 2-3 folks working inside the booth, which can slow things down. The flow into the stadium has improved some, but it isn't unexpected to experience a delay at the entrance gates.
The concourse underneath the stadium on the west side is fairly spacious. However, the concourse in the grandstands is located at the bottom of the seating area and can get a little congested at times, especially on the east side, due to being fairly narrow. Aisles getting up and down to your seats are adequate. Restrooms are accessible in both the east and west grandstands. Do keep in mind, however, that the restroom facilities for men on the west side are open stall only inside the stadium, but just across the concourse, the facilities built into the parking garage have closed stalls.
Overall, the return-on-investment for a Lions football game at Strawberry Stadium is strong.
With wins increasing, so have prices. General admission is up from $15 to $17, which puts it near the top of the Southland conference in pricing. Chairbacks have held steady at $25. Youth tickets are $10 for kids aged 3-12. Personally, I recommend seats in the bleacher-back sections in C or H. Great view without increased cost of chairbacks.
Campus parking lots are free on game day. You'll want to look for lots north of Friendship Circle. Concessions and apparel are a little inflated, but fairly typically.
There are a few "extra" features at Strawberry Stadium which help to enhance your overall game day experience:
Tailgating in Friendship Circle continues to improve. While the numbers are still fairly small, comparatively speaking, the area provides a cozy and comfortable place to connect before the game. "Storm 30" is a nice addition and seems to work. 30 minutes prior to kick-off, the band, Lionettes, and cheer teams march through Friendship Circle and into Strawberry Stadium alerting fans that it's time to fill the seats.
The Lions do a great job of honoring past legends under the west grandstand. The concourse is littered with pictures of former Lion greats. There is a neat mural for Robert Alford on the south side of the west concourse. Alford starred at the local Hammond High School, went on to dominate the secondary at Southeastern, and became the highest ever drafted Lion when selected by the Atlanta Falcons.
In addition to the west concourse, you'll also notice a banner under the scoreboard which lists Southeastern's Southland Conference championships. The fencing behind the north end zone lists other accomplishments prior to the return of football in 2003.
Despite the limited resources of an FCS program, the Lions do a great job of mixing up uniforms. While they may not compare to Oregon, you'll see a variety of uniform combinations from straight gold, white, green, or black, to any combination of those colors on gameday. The players and younger crowd seem to appreciate this the most.
Member Review by pwdonaldson on Nov 12, 2012
Strawberry Stadium has been the beneficiary of significant upgrades in recent years, and has become a new classic in FCS football stadiums. Originally constructed in 1937, recent upgrades include a new press box, suites, field lighting, turf, adjacent parking garage, and club seating. However, the historic feel of a stadium built in the first half of the 20th century still remains. You might say all that’s missing from the Strawberry Stadium atmosphere is a team that fans can get excited about. After an 18 year exodus, however, many in the region are just happy that football has returned to the Louisiana Northshore.
Member Review by chase.pennington on Apr 15, 2013
The fans are very respectful, the only problem is there isn't much of them. As soon as the Lions obtain one winning season I believe the whole program is going to going to skyrocket.
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