Deep in a beautiful Philadelphia suburb, Villanova Stadium has played host to the Wildcats since 1927. Located on campus, the stadium fits in with the beautiful Gothic buildings and leafy pathways that weave their way through the picturesque setting.
As students file into the stadium in their Villanova sweatshirts and hats, you can imagine the scene hasn’t changed much since the 1920’s. There’s a love for the Villanova program from the current students and the alumni that is undeniable. With many alumni still residing within the Philadelphia area, there is no shortage of local support for the program.
The crowd almost feels like a high school football game, in the sense that the Villanova community has invested itself in the success of the team. Everyone seems to know each other in the home side of the stands.
While there are preliminary talks to move the home games to PP&L Field if the Wildcats move to the Big East, the team and fans would certainly lose the community atmosphere that makes Villanova Stadium unique in FCS football.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concession stands at Villanova Stadium offer some of the most reasonable priced food you'll find in Division-I football. There is nothing on the menu that is above $4, which includes nachos, cheeseburgers, and pizza.
There is another option at the stadium for food that I would highly recommend. Look for the tent beyond the end zone that houses some of the most delicious looking Italian food you've ever seen or tasted. The catering company Luigi and Giovanni have set up an impressive spread of Italian hoagies, eggplant, meatballs, lasagna and cannolis. I tried the lasagna and it was out of this world. If I wouldn't have filled up on it, I would've tried the hoagie, which looked great and had fresh mozzarella. The prices were decent, and the staff included a 70 something grandmother who treated the food with the care that it deserves. I challenge any other stadium to come up with a better food option than this.
It's tough to compare small conference football atmosphere with an SEC or Big 10 atmosphere. You can't really expect to have the crowd cause a false start in a 10,000 seat stadium. So using a smaller scale to gauge the enthusiasm, the Villanova crowd was engaged in the gameplay and supportive of the home team. The stands were a 50/50 mix of students and alumni with children.
Villanova provides a kids area next to the field house that has plenty of football related games for the kids to play. It costs $5 per kid, and the kids I went with looked like they had a blast.
There is a very enthusiastic marching band that performs a field show at halftime.
Several fraternities gather behind the visitors bench to razz the opposing players. There were a couple of visiting players that had last names that rhymed with parts of the human anatomy that were helpfully pointed out to them by the fraternities.
With three colleges all on the same stretch of road (Lancaster Ave.) there are bound to be some good hangouts for a beer and a burger. The students I talked to all seemed to favor Maloney's Pub as a hangout. It's located just across the street from Bryn Mawr College on Lancaster Avenue, a short trip from the Villanova campus.
One of the benefits of Pennsylvania living is having a variety of diners to choose from. Minellla's Mainline Diner on Lancaster Ave. was the diner of choice for the students. Their breakfast platters would satisfy the biggest football player or fan. Try the creamed chip beef over home fries, a Pennsylvania breakfast staple. The neighborhood around Villanova is beautiful and safe. I attended a night game, and there was plenty of security visible in and outside of the stadium.
It is a safe family environment when you attend a Villanova football game (aside from the Fraternities behind the visitors bench). One of the great things about small football stadiums is the organic nature of fans and cheerleaders to generate noise, without having a huge HD scoreboard imploring them to do so.
There is no alcohol sold in the stadium, so there are no unruly drunks fighting or swearing (unlike some other Philadelphia venues. Ahem).
The only thing that lacks is a fervent student section. This is not to say that students weren't there. They just seemed to be more into socializing than cheering. Maybe they're saving their voices for basketball season? I can say that mostly everyone had some sort of Villanova logo on. School pride is not lost on the fans and alumni of the Wildcats.
Villanova Stadium is easy to access from Lancaster Avenue, as it sits almost right on the road. They have a gigantic parking lot that costs $5 located right across the road from the stadium. The campus is easily accessible by SEPTA train from 30th St. Station in downtown Philadelphia, and has its own station stop on campus ($10 round trip). It's a little bit of a walk from the Villanova Station to the stadium and you have to dodge some construction, but it gives you a chance to walk through the serene campus. If you get lost (like I did) I had several students point me in the right direction.
Villanova falls into my own personal $20 rule. The rule is if you can get a decent seat and a soft drink and pretzel at a stadium for under $20, then it's a great deal. Seats around the 50 yard line are 20 bucks, but every other seat is $15, ($5 for children) and a Coke and a soft pretzel are $4. You simply cannot beat this pricing for Division-I football. A family of four can get four seats, something to eat and drink, and two kids play area tickets for less than $70. I think that's what Villanova had in mind with all the families I saw in the stands.
While the Men's basketball program at Villanova might eclipse the football team in national popularity, the football program has its share of on field success. Villanova football was the FCS champions in 2009 and the program has produced NFL All-pros like Howie Long and Brian Westbrook over the years. Villanova's head football coach, Andy Talley has been the coach of the program for 28 years and has an impressive .621 winning percentage as the leader of the Wildcats.
The Wildcat mascot (Will D. Cat) worked his tail off the entire game, and was extremely patient with children. He posed for numerous pictures and I didn't see him rest the entire game. It's overlooked most of the time how tough it is to put on a giant fur suit and walk around for 4 hours. Keep up the good work Will!
I especially liked the child play area the night that I went. The kids tired themselves out enough to enjoy the game. Fun game too, though they lost to Richmond the night that we went.
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2628 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19146