Is there anything better than Homecoming? The opportunity for alumni to return to the establishment that they gave three, four, or more years of their lives; The opportunity to return to the family that you once had in your early twenties; The opportunity to participate in a variety of activities put on by the alma mater; The opportunity to see the Homecoming game.
The Homecoming game has been an American tradition since who-knows-when and this reporter found out the Homecoming game tradition is alive and well at Western Michigan.
Located in Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University has fielded a football team since 1906. The Broncos joined the Mid-America Conference in 1946 and currently play in the Football Bowl Series group of conferences.
In 1936, Western Michigan built the first phase of what is now known as Waldo Stadium. Named after the original president of WMU, Dwight B. Waldo, Waldo Stadium has seen thousands of fans and players pass through its doors. It retains a certain charm after two separate major renovations.
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 Waldo Stadium, are basically the same as Lawson Arena. They are very simple, but the quality is good and the prices are decent. You can find popcorn, fries, burgers, hot dogs, and candy. Burgers, and BBQ sandwiches are also for the taking. Props to WMU for having an item on the menu that is only $1 - only one dollar will get you a bag of chips.
The one difference in concessions at Waldo Stadium is the Elephant Ears stand. This stand in the west endzone has a carnival look to it and is very popular. They seemed to be running out of items. On their menu are specialty fries, including cheese fries, and chili cheese fries. Also available is fresh squeezed lemonade, and funnel cake. What attracted my attention, however, was the aforementioned elephant ear; a very thin piece of deep-fried dough, covered in brown sugar and cinnamon, that is so big it must be served on 2 plates. An elephant ear and a fresh lemonade, is all you need for a hot day and some football.
Waldo Stadium is built as 4 separate structures. The north and south grandstands are completely separate structures. Simply put, the north grandstand is the student section, and the south grandstand for the rest of the paying public, along with the east and west stands. The south grandstand is built into a hill, which along with natural greenery surrounding the stadium adds a couple of patches of lawn seating.
At the east end is the large athletic complex structure, which also offers some luxury boxes. The west endzone features an average, simple scoreboard. Championship banners are displayed at field level, including their 2 MAC Championships, 4 bowl appearances, and 2 division championships. Above the east endzone is the Seelye Center which, among other things, houses some of the box seating at Waldo Stadium. On the upper facade of the Seelye Center, former Bronco All-Americans are honored including former Miami Dolphin John Offerdahl and current Detroit Lion Louis Delmas.
On this day, Homecoming festivities were in abundance. Before the game the Corral was the place to be. In reality the Corral is Robert J. Bobb Stadium, home of the Western Michigan Broncos baseball team. In the Corral there are a variety of activities and tents. There are also numerous performances throughout the morning. The highlight of the performances was the Western Michigan Band, who marches down Western Michigan Ave from the Track and Field Facilities into the Corral. Once in the Corral, the band plays a 20 minute set before leaving for Waldo Stadium and kickoff.
During the game, the Western Michigan traditions add to the ambiance of a fun college atmosphere. The Bronco band takes its place front and center in the middle of the North grandstand. On Bronco scores, the cannon is fired, and the cheerleaders do push-ups. Before leaving the field after warm-ups, the Broncos walk towards the south grandstand as a unit, and raise their helmets as a signal of thanks. The gameday staff are extremely friendly and free programs are passed out on entry.
Waldo Stadium is in the heart of the Western Michigan campus. Although there are a few restaurant options, the choice of the day seems to be tailgating. There are numerous lots around the stadium, specifically on the south side, at the top of the hill. Lots are numbered, and I saw one lot labeled 94, giving me the idea that at the very least there were a ton of lots.
If you are not interested in the tailgating scene, you may choose from a couple of close establishments. The Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich shop across Stadium Drive is a very popular stop. If you are looking for a more traditional, sports bar atmosphere, then the University Roadhouse on Western Michigan Ave is the stop you want to make.
The Bronco fans are a decent group. They put over 20,000 fans in the stands on an absolutely beautiful Homecoming day. Although a sellout is always preferable, the Bronco fans in attendance were a hearty group, and definitely had a good time. They were into the game and loud when needed.
The south grandstand, which is for the ticket-buying public, was pretty much full. The student side filled up throughout the game, as typical students, they were late arriving.
Getting to Waldo Stadium is not a problem. Stadium Drive is a major road going through that part of Kalamazoo, and is easily accessed from I-94. There are many lots surrounding WMU, but it seemed that many went with pre-paid parking on this, the busiest of days during the year.
Washrooms are a bit of an issue. There are some at the very top end of the south grandstand. If you are closer to the field, you may want to travel to the other side of the stadium. It is clear that there are insufficient washrooms, as under the north grandstand there are some port-a-potties.
MAC football continues to provide a high level of football at a very reasonable price. The top ticket is $24, which will get you the best seats on the south grandstand. Other spots can be found for less, as little as $12. Combine that with some decent concession prices, and you can have a day the whole family can enjoy for a lot less than a mortgage payment.
Two extra points are awarded for the Western Michigan band and their parade down Western Michigan Ave, along with the Homecoming tradition of having band alumni play with them. It was great to hear them play "I've Got A Gal in Kalamazoo." Can't you hear Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air singing "A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I Got a GAL in Kalamazoo!"
An extra point is awarded for the opportunity for an awesome doubleheader, as the Broncos hockey team played Alabama-Huntsville that evening.
A final extra point is awarded for the awesomeness that is Homecoming!
MAC Football continues to be an underrated product that is not only affordable, but very enjoyable. Western Michigan continues that tradition in the Mid-America Conference. Even if you don't have a gal in Kalamazoo, it is well worth the trip. You won't be disappointed.
There are no crowd reviews yet. Be the first and help us build with your expertise!
There are no local entertainment entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!