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Official Review by Ed Pelle, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Millions of people visit New York City every year from all over the world, but far fewer ever venture away from Manhattan into the Outer Boroughs where the vast majority of New Yorkers go about their daily lives. Perhaps the least visited borough of the five is the mostly residential Staten Island, which is home to the Wagner College Seahawks.
Located atop Grymes Hill, which has an elevation of 310 feet, the college enjoys spectacular views of New York Bay and the Verrazano Bridge having been built on the site of a large 19th Century estate.
In today's world of conference realignment, athletic affiliations change rapidly. The case of Wagner is a bit unusual as the entire college relocated to Staten Island from the Rochester, New York area in 1918. Wagner Football had its inaugural season nine years later in 1927.
Wagner Football plays its home games at Hameline Field at Wagner College Stadium. The site has undergone several renovations since opening in 1967 on the highest area above sea level on campus. The field was named in honor of Walter Hameline who is the current athletic director and football coach. Under his guidance the program won the 1987 NCAA Division III National Football Championship and began its transition to Division I in 1993. In 1996 the team joined the Northeast Football Conference where it competes today.
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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".
Although there is one concession stand located at the south end of the stands, the service is prompt and there is a decent variety of options. At a lot of sport venues the food focus tends to be around easily prepared hot dogs, bratwurst or some variation thereof. At Wagner, burgers are the comfort food of the day. A plain hamburger is $4, and a cheeseburger will go for $5. They even have a vegetarian option available with a black bean burger for $5, and a gourmet type of grilled chicken sandwich called the Carolina Gold Chicken Sandwich ($5) which is slathered in BBQ sauce.
You can still find that aforementioned hot dog on the menu for a mere $2, as well as pretzels ($2), churros ($2), large candy ($2) and chips ($1). Coke brand beverages are sold here for $2 as is Starbucks brand coffee for $3.
The concessions here are outsourced to a company called Lackmann Culinary Services. They are a local company that generally specializes in high end catering for important events like weddings and fundraisers. Because of this, the food sold here is of a much higher quality than what you would normally find at an FCS Football stadium.
Wagner College Stadium is comprised of an artificial turf field that is encircled by a track. The multi-use stadium is home to Seahawks lacrosse, men's and women's track teams and women's soccer in addition to football and it seats 3,500. The stands are placed only on one side of the field here and since fans are restricted to only one side of the field during athletic events, visiting fans generally congregate in the north side of the seating area to be closer to the visiting team locker room. The vast majority of the seating area is aluminum bench type seating except for the section directly in front of the press box which has plastic bucketed seats that are a bit more comfortable. On a clear day, looking out from the top of the stands, one can see for miles across the New York Harbor to Brooklyn.
Below the stands are murals depicting the history of Wagner Football in mesh fabric. Further toward the south end of the stands are team records, coaching win-loss records, and tributes to some of Wagner's memorable achievements. All are great touches to the experience, but it is quite dark underneath the seats in this tunnel-like area.
There is one large video screen at the south end of the field behind the end zone that shows replays of the action and coordinates fan activities.
The area around the field and the college in general are very well kept and neatly manicured.
Tailgating in the parking lot directly adjacent to the stadium is not officially permitted like at other schools since the lot is not all that big, but the fans that do find spaces here will indulge in some pregame libations.
Richmond County has the highest percentage of residents with Italian-American descent of any county in America. For the most part Staten Island is primarily a middle class area populated by a lot of the blue collar workers that make New York City operate so smoothly. The eastern coastal areas were devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and even a year later, despite the massive cleanup, some scars remain.
There are plenty of places to grab a slice of pizza in the general vicinity, but if you want a nice place to sit down and enjoy a home cooked Italian meal near the campus the place to go is Marie's Gourmet. It's located down the hill on Victory Boulevard, a few blocks north of Wagner's Campus. Some of the dishes they make are spaghetti and meatballs ($10), lasagna ($13), penne alla vodka ($12), and baked ziti ($12). They also make burgers, pizza, and sandwiches for those people who are in more of a hurry.
I'd also recommend checking out the Staten Island Yankees at Richmond County Bank Ballpark should you come early enough in the season. You could possibly see a football/baseball double header if the schedule cooperates. The ballpark is located next to ferry terminal and has received high ratings among the minor league ballparks.
Many of the people that live on the island commute every day to places off the island, but far fewer people who have no ties to area will visit recreationally. This dynamic creates a small town feel in the shadow of a big city. Local support of events at Wagner is strong, but support from the overall city is weak. Competition for sports headlines in a metropolitan area that is home to seven pro teams in the big four sports is almost impossible for the local colleges and universities. Columbia University and Fordham University also play FCS football within the confines of New York City and seem to suffer similarly. The difference at Wagner is that this opportunity to have a local rallying point within the community is embraced.
Fans at football games here are very knowledgeable, but tend to be a bit subdued. This might be due to the overall configuration of the stadium where the sound drifts away off into the sky. Like any good community event there will be plenty of families on hand to enjoy the day together.
Coming from any point other than within Staten Island by car requires the crossing of a bridge with a hefty toll. The Verrazano Bridge which links Staten Island to Brooklyn costs ($15) to cross westbound. It is the iconic starting place of the New York City Marathon. Three bridges connect Staten Island to New Jersey. The Outerbridge Crossing, the Goethals Bridge, and the Bayonne Bridge all cost ($13) cash, ($11) with an EZ Pass, to cross inbound to Staten Island. During off-peak hours the price drops to ($9) with an EZ Pass.
My preferred method of travel is public transportation. From Lower Manhattan it is an approximately fifteen minute ride on the Staten Island ferry which departs from the southern tip of The Battery. The ferry departs frequently 24 hours a day and is free to ride, you'll also pass fairly close to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Governor's Island. I'd recommend sitting on the right side of the boat near a window for a great view of the statue.
Upon arrival at St. George Ferry Terminal head toward the bus station for a quick trip on the S61, S62, or S66 that will bring you down Victory Boulevard toward the campus area. The S66 has stops directly in front of the College but does not run evenings. I've used the other bus lines and walked a few blocks up Grymes Hill to reach the campus from Victory Boulevard, which is a moderately steep ascent.
Parking is free, but the lots are not very big. Patrons use the ample free parking available on the local adjoining roads.
General admission tickets cost ($10) for football games and fans tend to spread out across the stands. Concession prices are reasonable when compared to peer venues in New York City. Throw in free parking and that brings up the score. A family of four can easily have a full day of entertainment here for less than the price of parking at other pro venues.
It is unfortunate that Wagner Football's most successful NFL alumni, Rich Kotite is still despised in the area due to his two unsuccessful years as head coach of the New York Jets. The one point he gets is equal to the win total of the 1996 Jets.
Coach Walter Hameline for whom the field is named after is also worthy of a point as he may go down as one of the winningest head coaches in college football history by the time he retires.
Let me take this time to reiterate that the backdrop view of the surrounding area is fantastic and I must apologize if the pictures don't do it justice. It is a refreshing experience in a city of millions to find a quiet mountain getaway where one can retreat to and watch good football up close.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Nov 17, 2015
The review is quite accurate, stadium is easy to get to on public transit and a great spot to visit on a fall Saturday afternoon. Catch the 10:30 ferry for a noon game, remembering that the S66 doesn't run on weekends, so you will need S61 or S62. Otherwise, a very relaxing experience as there are few fans and you can have an entire row to yourself to enjoy the action.
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