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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Turpin Stadium, home of the Northwestern State Demons football team, provides a great environment for NCAA DI-FCS football. Though times have been rough for the Demons on the field as of late, the combination of a great stadium experience and being located in one of the best small towns in America makes attending a Northwestern State football game a memorable experience regardless of the overall record.
Turpin Stadium was constructed in 1975 and has a current seating capacity of 15,971. The stadium layout features an east and west grandstand with a video scoreboard in the north end zone and the Jack Clayton Plaza and fieldhouse in the south end zone. The overall experience is highlighted by a great pre-game and halftime performance from the Spirit of Northwestern (SON) marching band and spirit squads as well as a nice tailgating atmosphere in Donald's Demon Alley.
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".
Turpin Stadium offers the basic stadium fare but is a little light in terms of variety or specialty items.
Permanent concession stands are located on both the east and west sides of the stadium under the grandstands. Traditional game day grub includes hot dogs ($3.50, $4 with chili & cheese), hamburgers ($4), nachos ($4), and Frito pies ($4). Snacks are available ranging from popcorn to peanuts, plus a few other typical items like chips and candy. You'll also notice a Domino's pizza cart in the concourse serving up sliced pizza.
The clear favorite at Turpin is the loaded nachos, which comes with a heaping pile of chili, cheese and peppers.
Your beverage options are headlined by bottled Coca-Cola products and PowerAde for $3.50. Alcoholic beverages are not sold at Turpin Stadium.
The main stands accept debit/credit card, but you may want to bring along some cash for the Domino's pizza cart.
The atmosphere at Turpin Stadium for a Northwestern State Demon football game has lost some luster as the program has experienced some rough stretches on the field. However, Turpin Stadium is still a great venue for FCS football and there are several game day elements which help make it one of the better environments in the Southland Conference.
Turpin Stadium has the traditional west and east grandstands with no seating behind the end zones. The west grandstand offers two tiers of seating. The best seats are along the 50 yard line on the west side in the lower deck. Visiting fans will find friendlies in the northwest side of the lower deck in Sections J & K. The student section and the band will be located on the east side of the stadium. The Turpin Stadium scoreboard is equipped with a small video replay screen located in the north end zone. The south end zone holds the Jack Clayton Plaza and fieldhouse.
While almost every college football program features spirit squads and a marching band, Northwestern State comes through with one of the best programs in the conference. The Spirit of Northwestern (SON) Marching Band nearly fills the entire playing surface during their excellent performances. They are complemented by the Demon Dazzlers dance team and Demon Heat color guard. Vic the Demon is NSU's costumed mascot. You'll notice him making his way around the stadium posing with fans.
ROTC members man a canon in the north end zone, which is fired after Demon scores. On third downs, the sound of a belting bell is played which fires up the home crowd.
The tailgating scene outside Turpin Stadium is definitely a highlight of the overall experience. Also, the Demons do a great job of memorializing past legends and historic moments through the west side concourse. Be sure to read more about both of these elements in the 'Extras' section below.
Turpin Stadium is located on the campus of Northwestern State University in the beautiful small city of Natchitoches, Louisiana (pronounced "Nack-a-tish"). While there's not much immediately surrounding the stadium outside of college buildings, the stadium is located just two miles from the historic downtown area along the Cane River.
While in town, be sure to try the unique regional dish of Natchitoches, the meat pie. And your best bet for a classic one is at Lasyone's. The Pioneer Pub is a great stop after the game for a few local brews and a pub style menu. Mama's and Papa's are two separate restaurants located next to each other on Front Street and feature two different styles of menus and atmospheres. Try Mama's for some good fried seafood.
While in Natchitoches, a stroll down the river side in the historic downtown area is a must. The streets are decorated with potted flowers along the sidewalks and the Cane River is in view. This provides for a beautiful and relaxing stroll. There's a great small town feel here that justifies the title of "Best Southern Small Town" bestowed by USA Today's 10 Best Reader's Choice award. While Natchitoches isn't littered with amazing attractions, there are a few good stops for entertainment while in town, outside of the scenic views. Be sure to stop by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Bayou Pierre Alligator Park.
Natchitoches is locally known as the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Louisiana. One of the more popular stays is the historic Steel Magnolias House, the original site of the famous movie filmed locally. The Front Street Inn offers a comfortable stay in the downtown area, and the Best Western by I-49 offers a good value.
The Demons haven't given fans much to cheer about lately. Though it may seem like decades to some NSU faithful, it wasn't that long ago that Northwestern State was a perennial conference title contender. Despite a somewhat diminished on-field product, Demon fans still turn out to support their team (though in lesser numbers than in years past). Typical attendance is around 10,000, but can dip to around 6,000 at the tail end of tough years.
There are a few neat fan traditions at Demon football games. For one, you'll definitely notice the NSU "fork 'em" hand signal, as fans proudly put it high in the air during the fight song and after big plays. Also, near the end of the fight song, fans join together in belting "beat the hell outta (insert opponent name)."
The student section is known as the "Inferno" and can be a raucous group to deal with when the Demons are winning. However, with the recent rough stretch on the field, the Inferno has been a few flames short of the fire it once was and has the potential to be.
As the only game in a small town, Northwestern State seems to have a ton of untapped potential for an amazing fan-made environment. If the Demons can find a way to string together a few conference title contending seasons, the Turpin Stadium experience will likely burst back onto the Southland Conference scene as one of the best.
Turpin Stadium is very accessible both in terms of getting to the stadium and moving around once inside.
The Northwestern State University campus and Turpin Stadium are located just off I-49. One of the few drawbacks is the rural location of Natchitoches (not conveniently located near any major cities or airports). Several of the parking lots around the stadium are reserved, but you can find paid parking close by in the Prather Coliseum lot ($10) and, if you don't mind a short walk, there's plenty of free on-campus parking north of Turpin.
Two ticket booths are located on both ends of the west grandstand. You'll want to make sure to enter on the side you plan to sit since there isn't a way to cross over to the other grandstand once inside. You may experience a short line at the ticket window, but it moves quickly. You'll walk through the entrance without much of a hassle.
Once inside the stadium, there is plenty of room to move around from the spacious concourse underneath the grandstand to the aisles and rows in the stadium. If you're planning to sit in the upper level on the west side, there are two ramps leading up on both sides of the concourse and an elevator in the center. Restrooms are a bit dated, but large enough to handle typical crowds.
Be sure to check out NSU's game day guide on their website for tips on navigating Turpin Stadium and enjoying your game day experience..
NSU Demon football provides a minimal overall investment and the return is great.
The price for premier seating at Turpin is one of the lowest in the Southland Conference at only $20. General admission is available for $15, which is about middle of the road within the Southland. Though the concessions menu is limited, the price is manageable. Nearby parking is $10, but free parking is available within walking distance. It's hard to beat the value of Southland Conference match-up or in-state battle for the overall cost.
Demon football games at Turpin Stadium feature a few extra elements which help to elevate the overall fan experience.
Northwestern State does an excellent job in memorializing the past under the west grandstand. The columns along the concourse are decorated with pictures of Demon football legends including Mark Duper, Terrence McGee, Marcus Spears, Jackie Smith, and Bobby Hebert. You'll also notice historic team pictures and shots from legendary games.
Donald's Demon Alley is the place to be during pre-game. Complemented by the recently constructed Collins Family Pavilion, you'll find plenty of purple-cladded fans cooking up pots of jambalaya, grilling boudin, and firing up barbecue pits in front of a festive scene that includes a live band.
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