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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
For many, many years, the Waterloo Warriors played football in somebody else’s home. Upon the creation of the football program in 1957, a healthy donation from the Seagram Company helped build Seagram Stadium in Waterloo. Fast forward to 1974 and the University of Waterloo is unable to pay for required repairs and sell the stadium to the City of Waterloo. Fast forward again to 1992 and once again Seagram Stadium is sold; this time to the Warriors’ rival, Wilfrid Laurier University. The Warriors continued to play at Seagram Stadium, later renamed University Stadium. Warriors coach Dennis McPhee found it unpalatable to play every home game under the purple and gold of their chief rival. Enter Warrior Field.
After lobbying the right people and raising the right amount of money, Warrior Field opened to the beleaguered football squad in 2009. Unfortunately, the Warriors would press pause on their program amid great controversy and a few athletes who tested positive for steroid use. Many fans and media of Canadian Interuniversity Sport football thought that the coffin for Warrior football had been built. The Warriors had not been very good on the field and questions about the cost versus benefit of the football program were being asked. However, a new athletic director and a new football coach with Waterloo ties and a ton of great experience at a power program has some hope on the horizon for the Warriors.
The University of Waterloo is a large school in Waterloo, Ontario. The university boasts 30,000 students and a full slate of athletic teams. The football team has seen some success with Yates Cup victories in 1997 and 1999 as Ontario conference champions. Warrior Field, which is located at the north end of campus, is not the greatest facility, but it does give the Warriors a field to call their own and there is more than enough room for upgrades. For now, Warrior Field is a start and it’s up to the program and its supporters to prove that the Warriors are worthy of something better.
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 food selections at Warrior Field are a pleasant surprise.
There are two main concessions at Warrior Field. On the west side of the grandstand is the BBQ which is run by local restaurant The Grill Burger Kitchen. Burgers ($5), hot dogs ($4), chicken sandwiches ($6), Oktoberfest sausage ($5) and corn on the cob ($3) are all available here. East of the grandstand, upon entry, is the Cafe du Monde Creperie food truck. A wide variety of both sweet and savory crepes are available for decent prices, between $6 and $10.
Coca-Cola bottles are available at The Grill as well as water and Gatorade. If you are interested in alcoholic beverages, you can purchase a pass to The Barracks for just $2. The Barracks is a licensed tent to the west of The Grill.
If you are interested in getting something that is totally local, then you should definitely go for the Oktoberfest sausage and a corn on the cob. You can't get much more local than that.
Warrior Field leaves a lot to be desired, but could be viewed as a stop gap to better gauge the long-term interest in the football program.
There is not too much to Warrior Field. From the outside, the grandstand looks pretty temporary. The field runs in an east and west direction with a fairly small grandstand on the north side. The grandstand holds just 1,400 and the remainder of the seating is on the berm on the south side of the field. The playing surface is field turf, which is pretty standard for the OUA. The scoreboard is pretty basic and resides past the west end zone. There are a few markings around the stadium sporting the black and gold as well as the Warriors logo, but there is not a ton. The Warriors do have a football Ring of Honour, but there is nothing within eyesight of the stands to honour past players. Also notably absent is any flag, banner or sign showing the accomplishments of the Warrior program in their heyday, specifically the two Yates Cup championships the Warriors won in 1997 and 1999.
The permanent locker rooms are in the nearby Columbia IceField. The players walk from the nearby athletic complex and enter the playing field through an inflatable tunnel. The rest of the in-game promotions are fairly simple. There is not much in the way of music between plays and the presentation is pretty pure and simple. The King Warrior mascot roams the crowd and sidelines and most games will find the Warrior cheerleaders also on the sidelines.
Seating at the Warriors game is general admission. Patrons can pretty much choose their own seat. Waterloo is attempting to reserve seating for Alumni ticket holders, which limits grandstand seating a bit. The aluminum benches in the grandstand beg for a stadium seat or cushion or some other way to make it more comfortable.
Two universities, University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, within the vicinity of Warrior Field make the surrounding neighbourhood very interesting.
The University of Waterloo is an urban campus so there are many nearby options, however the on-campus bar The Bombshelter has an interesting selection of offerings and has that university feel to it, if that is what you are looking for. For more variety, head over to University Ave and select from a plethora of locals and cuisines. Some spots you may want to check out will include Mel's Diner, Molly Bloom's and The Grill Burger Kitchen.
If you can arrange to see the Warriors play in the late fall, then you may just hit town in time for Oktoberfest. The largest North American Bavarian festival brings thousands into town and is a highlight for many of the locals. There are a huge number of events for all ages and not something to miss. Otherwise, a Saturday afternoon Warriors game can lead into a great evening of jazz at The Jazz Room at the Huether Hotel, closer to Uptown Waterloo. On the campus of Waterloo, the Physical Activities Complex plays host to the Warriors basketball team and Columbia IceField is home to the Warriors hockey team. A short walk across campus leads to the campus of Wilfrid Laurier. The former home of the Warriors is now Knight-Newbrough Field at University Stadium and is home to the Laurier Golden Hawks. The WLU Athletic Complex is home to Golden Hawks basketball and nearby Sun Life Financial Arena at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex is home to the Laurier hockey teams.
If you are looking for a place to stay in town, the Waterloo Inn and Comfort Inn are both close to the campus. The Waterloo Inn is a more upscale stay if that interests you. Both are just a few short minutes away by car.
It is difficult to assess the fans at CIS football games as sometimes the attendance figures are not published and attendance can change drastically from game to game due to the time of year, number of students on campus, and weather.
Considering that the Warriors played under the banner of another university not that long ago, the fans have stuck in with Warrior Field. There has not been much to cheer about at Waterloo in a number of years, but its central location within the conference leads to many travelling fans coming with their favorite team. Usually, the Warriors draw between 1,300 and 2,000 fans. This is not spectacular with in the league, but it is respectable for a program that has put up the results it has. Also considering that the program was nearly terminated, Warrior fans redefine die-hard. It is easy to see that the current incarnation of Warrior Field could easily be improved with sufficient support from the student body, alumni, and fan base.
Waterloo tends to be a great stop for out of town fans travelling with their own team. Therefore, often there is as much crowd noise for the visitors as the Black and Gold. Also, there is often not much to cheer about if the matchup is lacking in parity.
Warrior Field definitely has its ups and downs with regards to its accessibility.
Warrior Field is located at the north end of the campus of the University of Waterloo. It is southwest of highway 85 and a pretty significant distance from the highway. To get to Warrior Field, you will be required to drive through the city a bit. Warrior Field is on the same plot of land as the Columbia IceField. You should not be required to drive through the main campus, between University Ave and Columbia Street.
The twin cities of Waterloo and Kitchener are amidst a huge amount of construction in 2015-2016 to make way for the Ion Light Rail transit. Until the Ion's completion planning of your route to the stadium is a requirement. Also, public transit options will be left to the GRT buses, of which there are a few that travel in and around the University of Waterloo. Check the GRT website for schedules and maps relevant to Warrior Field.
Parking is available around Warrior Field. There is a pay lot at the Columbia IceField that goes for $5. Free parking is available on weekends behind the optometry building to the east of the Columbia IceField. There is more than enough parking if you give yourself a bit of time before kickoff.
The temporary feel of Warrior Field is aided with a lack of a real ticketing area or specific gate. Tickets can be purchased within the Columbia IceField, which is good to know before heading to the field.
Getting around Warrior Field is not much of an issue, however it is far from comfortable. There is lots of space behind and in front of the grandstand. Unfortunately, there are not permanent washroom facilities immediately at Warrior Field. If portable toilets do not interest you, you can head into the arena for permanent facilities.
CIS football remains a solid return for a pretty small investment.
Warrior tickets for adults go for $12 with discounts available for out of town students and children. Waterloo students are free with their student cards. Concession prices are pretty decent and parking can easily be found for free. This adds up to some good family fun, with a pretty insignificant investment. If you have the option, you will want to be selective as to whom the Warriors are playing. Currently, a game against one of the best teams in the conference will be very one-sided, and not as enjoyable.
An extra mark for the student-run nature of a Warrior game. The students run just about all of the aspects of the game, including radio and internet streaming broadcasts.
An extra mark for the new focus and investment in the Warrior football program especially after the program was near cancellation after the steroid scandal.
It is great that the Waterloo Warriors have a place to call their own without having to play under the banner of another university. Although Warrior Field is not the greatest facility in the conference, it is sufficient to give the fans, students and alumni of Waterloo to prove their loyalty and push for something better. In the meantime, a Warriors football game is a decent experience that will not kill your pocketbook.
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