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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The College of William and Mary (W&M) is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, as it received its charter in 1693, and is often called the "Alma Mater of the Nation." The Wren Building in Colonial Williamsburg is the oldest college building in America. Among its graduates are a who's who of American history, including Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Tyler and Monroe. Its beautiful campus is located adjacent to Colonial Williamsburg, and is noted for its Flemish bond brickwork, slate roofs and gabled architecture.
The athletic teams at W&M are known as the Tribe. Its football team began in 1893, and it competes in the Colonial Athletic Conference. The football membership of the conference includes Albany, James Madison, Villanova, New Hampshire, Stony Brook, Elon, Delaware, Towson, Maine and Rhode Island . However, its longest rivalry is with the University of Richmond, as they have met annually since 1898. The winner of this game claims the Capital Cup, as Richmond and Williamsburg are the only state capitals the Commonwealth has ever had in its history.
The home field for the Tribe is Walter J. Zable Stadium at Cary Field (for brevity's sake we will refer to it as Zable Stadium). It was constructed in 1935 through a grant from the Public Works Administration during President Franklin Roosevelt's administration. It has gone through numerous renovations over the years, and has a capacity of 12,259.
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".
The concession menu at Zable Stadium is very family friendly, as no item is more than $4. Among the items available are the Griffin Burger ($4), Tribe Nachos ($4), hot dogs ($3), pretzels ($3), popcorn ($3), ice cream ($3), theatre-sized candy ($3), chips ($2) and peanuts ($2). Drink choices include 20-ounce Pepsi products ($3) and bottled water ($3).
A second option to the concession stands is the BBQ 1693 food truck. They offer combos featuring an entrée, drink and chips. Entrées include Texas smoked brisket ($6), a pulled pork sandwich ($6), and a BBQ veggie cutlet ($5). The following sides are offered for $1 more: collard greens, Texas rice, cole slaw, cornbread, grilled corn or baked beans.
For value and taste, you can't go wrong with the food at Zable Stadium.
The College of William and Mary completed a $27 million upgrade of Zable Stadium just before the 2016 season began. The goals of the renovation were to improve the fan experience in the areas of accessibility, comfort and game day offerings. This has greatly enhanced the Tribe's ability to provide a larger and more comfortable setting for its fans and visitors alike.
The most noticeable improvement is the addition of an upper deck, suites and a new press box on the west side of the stadium. These additions allowed some major changes in the existing seating areas, as the aisles have been widened for better flow of fan movement, as well as wider seats in both the chair back and bleacher back sections. The alignment of the field has also been shifted so that there are more seats available between the 20-yard lines, a vast improvement over the previous configuration. The Zable renovations also addressed the needs of fans beyond their enjoyment of the on-field action. A new PA/sound system has been installed to provide much clearer announcement of scores, game statistics and other activities taking place on the William and Mary campus. This complements the state of the art scoreboard, with its video replay capabilities. Restroom facilities and concession areas have been renovated and expanded in number, as well. This has cut down on the lines that had historically been a bottleneck prior to 2014.
These enhancements have dramatically improved the game experience, as it has brought an 80-plus-year-old stadium into the 21st century. Best of all, the renovations were able to preserve the stadium's architectural aesthetics, as it blends in perfectly with the academic buildings surrounding it.
The neighborhood surrounding the College of William and Mary is arguably one of the oldest neighborhoods in the country, dating back well before the American Revolution was even contemplated. It has been preserved as Colonial Williamsburg, one the largest historical preservation areas in the U.S. It seeks to educate, inform and entertain visitors on what life was like in the 1700s. The area is filled with re-enactors in colonial dress who will gladly share with you how things were done "back in their day" and pose for photos with your family members. The Colonial Williamsburg area opened in 1932, after years of preservation efforts funded by the Rockefeller Foundation were completed. More than 100 million visitors have visited the site, and it is definitely a bucket-list location for anyone interested in history, architecture or preservation efforts. Best of all, Colonial Williamsburg is literally across the street from the William and Mary campus.
Due to its close proximity to the Colonial Williamsburg tourism area, there are a wide variety of accommodations available near the William and Mary campus. A majority of these lodgings are along Richmond Road, and they include the Fairfield Inn and Suites, the Hilton Garden Inn, the Holiday Inn Express, and the Comfort Inn Central.
Most of the restaurants near the college tend to be rather pricey, as they cater to the tourist clientele. Here are three very different types of restaurants to consider: 1) You're in Williamsburg... so why not eat like a colonist? The King's Arms Tavern in the historic district provides you with an opportunity to sample a meal consistent with what the typical fare was in the 1700s. Your servers will be dressed in period costume. However, be ready to pay a king's ransom for a meal at the Kings Arm! 2) Fat Tuna Grille and Oyster House is one of the better seafood restaurants in a town full of this restaurant category, and 3) Retro's Good Eats is just what you would expect... a '50s style diner with great food and low prices.
The bar scene in Williamsburg is rather limited, as it is a relatively small town, and is primarily focused on tourism. The closest and best choice on the nightlife front is the DoG Street Pub, located across the street from the campus. It has a wide selection of craft beers available and a great menu. Best of all, it is located in Merchant's Square, a shopping district filled with interesting shops, great restaurants and stores with plenty of Colonial Williamsburg memorabilia.
The fans are rather laid-back in their support of the Tribe. Their priorities seem to be to have a good time at the pre-game festivities at various parties throughout the campus and a very lively tailgate scene. The student body and the band are seated on the visitor's side of the field, as are the cheerleaders, which seems to create a disconnect when a nice drive down the field by the Tribe does not seem to generate many cheers. There is also very little energy when the scoreboard and the public address announcer mentions another "First Down!" In other stadiums, this would generate an immediate reaction from the crowd. Many students leave the stadium at halftime to return to the parties. This is disappointing, as the Tribe football team has a proud football tradition.
The most direct access to Zable Stadium is from exit 234 on I-64 (Route 199 east). You will take Route 199 east until it reaches Monticello Avenue. Turn left on Monticello and proceed two miles, turning right on Richmond Road. You will proceed on Richmond Road, turning right at the first traffic light into the Zable Stadium parking lot. Additional parking is available in the Newtown development adjacent to the campus or in the City of Williamsburg parking deck on Richmond Street.
While the stadium renovation has resulted in major improvements in seating comfort, wider concourses and increased number of restrooms and concession areas, there is one major access issue for persons seated in the second and third decks. Due to the small footprint of the stadium, access to the upper decks is either via stairs or two elevators, as there was no space to build ramps. This means you have either a brisk climb up to your seats, or a long wait to access the elevators.
Ticket prices range from $19 to $40, depending on the location in the stadium. Parking on campus on game days is $10 per car. The concession costs are among the lowest in college football. Throw in that you are enjoying the game in a newly-refurbished football stadium at the oldest school in the country, and a visit to William and Mary adds up to a wonderful value for the whole family.
The fact that Colonial Williamsburg is your neighbor is definitely a huge extra.
Football games coincide with the height of leaf peeper season in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The colors are spectacular and combined with the many historical sites in the area; it makes sense to stretch a football weekend into a somewhat longer trip.
The climate and terrain surrounding Williamsburg are very favorable for growing grapes. Numerous wineries are located within a close drive of Williamsburg.
Busch Gardens is located nearby, and is open on weekends in the fall.
Member Review by bullock0404 on Nov 18, 2013
In the first game at The Stadium at Cary Field in 1935, the William & Mary Tribe football team did not score a point. Luckily, neither did their opponent, the Virginia Cavaliers, and the game ended in a tie. Almost seven decades later, the Tribe still play at the same home, although the name was changed to Zable Stadium in 1990, after alumni Walter & Betty Zable.
The Tribe have turned out their share of NFL elite over the years. Six former players are now coaching in the NFL, most notably Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Darren Sharper, a member of the NFL All-Decade team in the 2000’s also played at W&M.
Notable coaches who can list the Tribe on their resume are Lou Holtz and Marv Levy. Their current coach, Jimmye Laycock, is in his 34th season as a coach and also played for William & Mary, graduating in 1970.
1433 Richmond Rd
Williamsburg, VA 23185
435 Prince George St
Williamsburg, VA 23185
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