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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Most of the schools in the Ontario University Athletics, the Ontario Conference of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), do not have much they can agree on. Like any other sports league, the majority of participants are rivals through and through. An attitude that is put forth through their athletic staff, participants and, of course, fans. However, the OUA has one thing that they can agree on; they all hate Western.
It is perfectly understandable why this is the case. The Western Mustangs have had a storied existence since their athletic inception. In football alone they have had a ridiculous amount of success. The Mustangs have won the Yates Cup for the conference championship 30 times. They have won the Vanier Cup as national champions 6 times. They have produced 6 Hec Crighton winners for the top football player in all of Canadian university football. They have numerous players in the CFL including Jeff Keeping of the Argonauts and Andy Fantuz of the Tiger-Cats. They even have 3 alumni whom the NFL claim as their own. Former Bills fullback Tim Tindale, former defensive tackle Vaughn Martin and current Indianapolis Colt Tyler Varga all played for the Purple Ponies. Western also boasts a beautiful campus, a great stadium, a solid fan base, a great band and solid traditions. The Western Mustangs may be as close to an NCAA program as you will find in Canada.
Currently branded as Western University, and formerly known as the University of Western Ontario, the London, Ontario based school was established in 1878 and currently reports over 35,000 students in a variety of disciplines. The main athletic stadium, TD Stadium, was built for the 2001 Canada Summer Games and continues to house other events in addition to Western athletic events. It is a unique stadium with a large capacity for this league, and is just another reason why everybody hates Western ... except for Mustangs!
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".
Concessions at TD Stadium are solid, but not overly exciting.
The food selections at TD Stadium are about what you would expect for an OUA football program. There is nothing all that special here that will blow your mind, but at TD Stadium they do have a decent selection at prices that are not outstanding, but not terrible either. You will find hot dogs ($5.50), sausages ($6), burgers ($6.50), grilled chicken ($7), nachos, popcorn and freezies. The quality of the items offered is pretty good and they do accept forms of plastic money along with cash.
Drink selections are fairly limited with bottles of Coca-Cola products going for $3. You will also easily find coffee, hot chocolate and bottled water. Those hot beverages may be a necessity for those crisp autumn evenings and afternoons the Ontario football season often features. More and more OUA football programs are finding areas within the stadium to license and offer alcoholic beverages. If such a place exists at TD Stadium it was not obvious, but alcoholic beverages are not available for purchase at the main concessions.
If you decide to venture and grab something at the game, the traditional burger and a Coke is a pretty good way to go. However, if you are at a game later in the season a coffee or hot chocolate may be the way to go.
It is in atmosphere where Western has it above most programs in the OUA. They go above and beyond what other programs provide to create probably the best fan experience in the conference.
The first thing that you will notice about TD Stadium that differs from other programs is that TD Stadium has a distinct entrance that other stadiums lack. The entrance is a smart looking grey brick structure which houses all of the ticketing facilities along with offices and the main dressing rooms. Known as the J.W. Little Memorial Building, the entrance also houses some pretty good memorabilia from past Western seasons. It is not necessarily a spot that the average fan would go, especially since entrance into the stadium is usually around the building as opposed to through, but taking a quick peak in the front doors will be well worth the trouble. The playing field is a north-south configured stadium nestled along the banks of the Thames River, in a bit of a valley, almost hidden from the university. The other athletic fields are also near. The J.W. Little Building is at the north end of the field. Inside the stadium, the artificial turf field is surrounded by an 8 lane track with grandstands on the east and west side. Western does its best to separate the students from the community with student seating taking hold of the east grandstand. Above the west grandstand is the pressbox. The centre of the west grandstand features chairs as opposed to the rest of the stadium's aluminum benches, and is reserved seating for season ticket holders or fans who have purchased in advance. On the fencing behind the west grandstand, there are large photographic murals which offer fans a bit of Western football history throughout the years. Although nice, a more prominent feature of the numerous accomplishments that this program has gained, including six Vanier Cup championships is something a blue-blood program like Western should have. There are also a number of spots that have outdated markings referring to the school as The University of Western Ontario or UWO or the team as the Western Ontario Mustangs.
When the game begins, the players enter the field to the Star Wars theme, which was a bit of a surprise. The Western band plays throughout the game. The game that was reviewed was the first of the season on campus and was before the first day of class. As a result, the band was a smaller form of its usual self. There are a whole host of traditional male and female cheerleaders that perform a number of impressive acrobatic stunts throughout the game. One of the real highlights of the experience is upon a Western touchdown. When the Mustangs score the live Mustangs mascots circles the track with rider, prominently carrying the purple Western flag.
The west grandstand at the north and south end features some general admission seating, so this is a good choice and gives the fan the opportunity to find their personal best view. The higher that you sit, the better vantage you have to see the play develop. The west grandstand also offers a correct view of the 55 yard line Western logo.
TD Stadium is located at the south end of the Western campus close to residential London. However, there are a few interesting places that you may want to catch.
Most places that you would want to consider near Western are to the north of the stadium. The Wave is the campus pub. It may be an option for you, but consider the timeframe and student clientele that you will find there. Probably closest to the stadium itself will be the Barakat Restaurant, which is just on the other side of Western Road. To the north, however your best choices are probably the Waltzing Weasel Pub and Beertown Public House. Beertown, especially, features a huge beer menu and is a growing Southern Ontario franchise with a few locations in Kitchener-Waterloo also.
Western is northwest of downtown London. There you will find a number of other food options, but you will also find Budweiser Gardens. The Gardens are home to the OHL's London Knights, and one of the best experiences in the OHL. On campus, you will find Alumni Hall and Thompson Arena. These venues are home to the Mustangs basketball and hockey programs respectively, and are great experiences in their own right. If you are looking for some shopping, then nearby Masonville Place may be the stop for you.
There are a few places to stay around campus. Windermere Manor offers something a little out of the ordinary and may be worth a try. If you are looking for something a little more mainstream, then head downtown for a more recognizable chain.
The CIS is a difficult league to gauge attendance. There are significant fluctuations in game attendance and often attendance not reported.
The CIS is a league where attendance is almost always measured in thousands as opposed to tens of thousands. That being said, Western is among the absolute best fan bases in the country. It is not unheard of for Western to draw over 10,000, as they did on the date reviewed. Western routinely draws over 5,000 fans and the team travels well also.
Western fans, students especially, make the most of their aluminum benches. Stomping on the benches when Western does something big, the sound of thunder can be heard campus wide. Western fans are intelligent and loyal and pretty loud compared to other programs.
Access to TD Stadium is pretty good.
Basically located on Western Road, which is a fairly major London street, Western University is located a significant distance north of Highways 401 and 402 which are major Ontario highways. The end result is that you will be required to drive a significant distance through the city of London. Normally this isn't that big of a deal, however traffic can be a challenge depending on what's happening in the city.
Being located on the campus of Western University, TD Stadium is accessible by a number of different bus routes with London Transit. Schedules and routes are available on the London Transit website and researching your route is a must.
There are a number of places to park on campus for Mustang football games. Just to the north of TD Stadium there is a large parking lot. This lot features some reserved parking for season ticket holders. Further north there is a parking lot near Thompson Arena. There are also other lots across Western Road at Atlhouse and other university buildings. At times parking is free and at times it can go for $6. Plan your trip and check out the facilities page of the Mustangs website for more up to date information.
The north side of the J.W. Little Building is where the ticketing facilities can be found. There is plenty of space for patrons to pick up their tickets or buy tickets for the game.
The disjointed nature of the stadium makes it pretty easy to move around. There is plenty of space behind each grandstand to get around with ease. The washroom facilities are also in permanent structures under the grandstands. They are not spectacular and they are pretty small but they do the trick. Lineups can be an issue at times.
Western Mustangs football is a solid investment for your sporting dollar.
Tickets for a Mustangs can run $27 or $22 for a reserved seat. If you are willing to take a General Admission ticket, then you are looking at $18 for an adult. There are also discounts for students, seniors and children. Your best bet is to get that GA ticket rather than spend the extra money on a reserved seat. If you work at it, you can also find parking pretty cheap or free and concession prices are okay. Combine that with a great afternoon of CIS football and you have a pretty good entertainment experience. One thing to consider is to be very selective with the opponent for the game you select. The OUA has basically three unofficial tiers when it comes to their football programs. A game against a poor team will result in not much in the way of competition and you may be disappointed with the product on the field. Western is an elite team and if it is your one chance to see the Mustangs, hold out for a rival. McMaster is usually a good bet, but Guelph, Ottawa, Queen's, or Laurier usually provide sufficient competition.
An extra mark for Western putting their best foot forward to put together an experience that is as close to the NCAA as you can get in Canada.
Two extra marks for the consistent success that the Mustangs have enjoyed including 30 Yates Cups and 6 Vanier Cups.
An extra mark for being the program that the rest of the OUA hates the most.
It may be harsh to say that everyone hates Western, but sometimes the truth hurts. The reality is that the rest of the OUA holds a great deal of envy towards the Mustangs and Western University. They have created a program that people should be envious of and they have continued their success over decades. When put on the spot, other fans of OUA schools would be more than happy to see their school follow in the footsteps of Western on so many fronts, but that won't reduce the number of people that hate the Mustangs!
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1149 Western Rd.
London, ON N6G 5R8
1324 Adelaide St. N.
London, ON N5X 1J9