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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium opened in 2012, and seats 15,000. The $30 million venue was a gift to the Bahamas from the People’s Republic of China, and replaced the original Thomas Robinson Stadium, which is located nearby. The multi-purpose facility hosts mostly soccer matches, but also other sporting events, such as the Bahamas Bowl, and features plastic chairback seating on both the east and west sides, as well as an oval track around the field.
The stadium is named after Thomas Robinson, former sprinter at the University of Michigan, and first Bahamian to win a medal in international competition. Robinson competed in four Olympics in the 50s and 60s, and was inducted into the Michigan Men’s Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2006.
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".
During the Bahamas Bowl, Thomas A. Robinson Stadium offers a wide array of food and beverage options from Tiki huts located in the southwest corner; this is the only part of the stadium that has any concessions.
Food selections range in price from $2 up to $10, depending on whether you want just a snack or a full meal. There are generic stands that sell a variety of items, or specialty stands run by local restaurants that offer Bahamian fare. The lines are a little longer at the specialty stands because the food is very fresh - for example, you can watch the chef chop fresh fruit, conch, and vegetables right in front of you.
The generic stands offer items such as sandwiches, chicken wings, fish fingers, hot dogs, meat balls, macaroni, fried fish, conch fritters, chicken legs, and seafood salad, as well as snacks such as fries, ice cream, small cakes, cotton candy, and popcorn, while the specialty stands have jerk chicken or pork, stewed chicken, curry mutton or curry chicken, ox tail, boiled or fried fish, conch, and plenty of other seafood options.
Drink options include coffee, tea, bottled water, Coke products in cans, smoothies, beer in cans, and milo (a chocolate malt beverage). Beer costs $5, but you get a discount if you buy three or six at once - brands available include Coors, Heineken, and Guinness, as well as local favorites Radler and Kalik. Smoothies cost $8, and come in a wide variety of fruit flavors. Coffee, tea, and milo are only $1, and sodas/bottled water are $2 - Bahamas Goombay Punch is the most popular soda choice.
The crowd is very small during the Bahamas Bowl, but the staff does a good job of providing a fun atmosphere, regardless.
The seats are set pretty far back from the field, mostly because of the track, but also because the stands are raised. This makes it pretty easy to see the action, however, and since the venue is so small, there really isn't a bad seat in the house. The venue also has large scoreboards behind each end zone, which are easy to see from anywhere inside the stadium. Check out the layout here:
Fans who attend the game will be rewarded with plenty of giveaways, including free t-shirts and pom-poms, as well as a Junkanoo performance during halftime, featuring traditional Bahamian costumes, dancing, and music. You will also find local companies giving away samples of things like personal care products. In addition, you can check out the fan fest, located in the southwest corner, which has football-themed games and a bouncy house for the kids. And no matter which teams are invited, you will always see plenty of orange and white, in the form of Popeye's flags, banners, and on-field logos. There are also plenty of Bahamian flags, as well as one or two US ones (both national anthems are played before the game begins).
The stadium is in the Bahamas, which is hard to knock. However, not everything here is a resort area.
Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium is located outside Nassau (the capital city) on New Providence, the Bahamas' 11th-largest island. The 21-mile long island features some amazing resort areas, especially on the east end near Paradise Island, where you can participate in unforgettable experiences such as literally swimming with dolphins. The stadium, though, is located in a more rural area near the center of the island, close to a large lake. To get there you may drive through some pretty run-down neighborhoods, and there isn't much in the immediate vicinity. The scenery is beautiful, however, with gorgeous palm trees and other tropical vegetation in view as you look out during the game.
There are lots of great restaurants located in the resort areas along the beach, or in Nassau proper. There are also plenty of things to do on the island, depending on how much time you have or how much you are willing to spend; for example, snorkeling, cruises, fishing, etc. Or if you happen to be a landlubber, there is a zoo near the stadium showcasing wildlife from all across the Bahamas. Be aware that many of the activities, such as snorkeling or the dolphin and sea lion experiences, take several hours and start early in the day, so you probably won't have time for them on game day. That said, you may want to plan for several days, if possible.
The nicest resorts (and most expensive) are near Paradise Island, which is pretty far from the stadium. Cheaper (and closer) accommodations can be found in the Cable Beach area or in Nassau. Be aware that if you come from the US, you probably won't want to rent a car, since they drive on the left down here and you probably aren't used to that. Cab fare can easily run over $100 per day, depending on how close you are to things, so be sure to plan ahead for what you want to do/where you want to stay. Lastly, note that Bahamian dollars are interchangeable with US ones - just be sure to offload your Bahamian ones as much as possible before you leave, as it will be very difficult to exchange them back home.
Since this is an away game for both teams, and a pretty far away one at that, there aren't many fans who show up - perhaps only five or six thousand in total (which is about one-third full). You will see some fans of the two participating schools, but more than half are Bahamian locals here to enjoy American football.
The fans do get pretty loud, and the announcer does a really good job of making every play matter, and keeps the fans engaged with gusto and passionate play calling. A big part of the crowd noise is actually a result of the overhang on each side, which keeps the sound in, and makes it seem much, much louder than it should, given how few fans are actually here.
Thomas A. Robinson Stadium is a cinch to get in and out of, and easy to move around, because it is small and isn't very crowded.
A lot of fans get to the stadium via shuttle buses as part of tour packages, and others come via cab (namely Americans who didn't rent a car because they don't want to drive on the left). That said, there aren't many cars coming in and out, so if you do choose to drive, parking won't be too much of an issue, and most of the parking is free right outside the gate (although there are a couple of areas where you have to pay $5).
The main entrance into the stadium is from the southwest corner, which includes the main ticket office (a small wooden shed outside the stadium), as well as will-call for the two visiting teams (each team has its own table). There is a slight snarl in this corner, because the fan fest and all of the concession stands are here, but once you get past those, the stadium is practically deserted. Also, there are smaller entrances along the east and west sides if you want to avoid the southwest corner altogether.
Getting to the Bahamas can be pretty expensive, but is definitely worthwhile. Attending the bowl game here may be a different story, however - since this is generally not a marquee matchup, unless your team is in the game, it may not be that interesting. The stadium is easy to get around and provides local fare, but you can find that elsewhere on the islands. Also since the crowd is so small, there won't be a lot of energy, so I am not sure I would go just for the game. But if you want an excuse to visit, football is always a good one. Just don't forget your passport, and make sure you plan to stay at least a few days so you can take in some of the sights.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for as little as $10 if you don't buy beforehand, and you can pretty much sit wherever you want, since it won't be full. I would not recommend buying tickets from the participating schools, however, as you will have to pay $40 or more.
Being able to watch a real football game (not soccer) in another country is pretty neat. Also, the weather and location are hard to beat - the great thing about the stadium is that even though it is pretty hot, the overhang on each side of the stadium protects you from the elements, and creates a nice breeze through the seats, making it seem much, much cooler than you might expect.
Bowl games are a lot of fun, and there are a lot of destinations to choose from. Attending the Bahamas Bowl isn't a bad choice, especially if your team is playing here, so consider a visit to the islands. There is so much to do here, and the bowl staff does try to put on a great show for you. Besides, where else can you watch American football at a soccer field?
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