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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The small town of Durham, New Hampshire is home to one of the powers in FCS football. The University of New Hampshire Wildcats have qualified for the FCS postseason tournament an amazing twelve consecutive seasons from 2004-2015, reaching the national semifinals in 2013 and 2014.
UNH has played on the site of Wildcats Stadium since 1936. Originally called Alumni Field, it was renamed Cowell Stadium in 1952 to honor former football coach and athletic director William H. “Butch” Cowell. The stadium is located adjacent to the Field House, which contains the university's athletic department, including Lundholm Gymnasium, Paul Sweet Oval and Swasey Pool. The Reggie Atkins Track and Field facility shares the grounds of Wildcat Stadium with Mooradian Field.
As beloved as Cowell Stadium, affectionately nicknamed "The Dungeon" was, it was terribly outdated and in need of a facelift. Beginning in 2014, the university began a $25 million renovation designed to modernize and upgrade the venue. Over the course of two seasons, lights were installed, a new grandstand was built adjacent to the field house, a new scoreboard was installed and a new grandstand was built on the west side of the field. New state of the art sound and video systems were installed, along with new concession stands, new luxury suites and much more. In short, virtually everything at Wildcat Stadium is new, including its name.
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Located on the concourse of the new facility is the 603 Eatery, named for New Hampshire's area code. For a facility of this size, there is an impressive variety of food available for hungry Wildcat fans.
All the basics are covered here, from hot dogs and burgers to grilled chicken sandwiches, pizzas and chicken tenders. Fans looking for something a little different can choose from Italian subs, pulled pork sandwiches, meatballs or nachos. Fans looking for something a little healthier can purchase chicken Caesar sandwiches, veggie or buffalo chicken wraps, or a turkey and quinoa fusion burger. Snacks including bottomless buckets of popcorn, pretzels, candy and Dippin' Dots ice cream are sold here as well. Coca Cola products are featured at Wildcat Stadium. No alcohol is sold at this on-campus facility.
The Pita Pit operates a food truck in the eastern corner of Wildcat Stadium, selling a variety of sandwiches and salads.
If coming to a game late in the season, it can get pretty cold up here in New Hampshire. The 603 Eatery has you covered, with menu selections aplenty to combat the late fall chill. Items such as macaroni and cheese, clam chowder, chili, and baked potatoes dot the menu. Hot chocolate and coffee are popular items here.
Any football fan who has visited college football venues in the northeast can testify that the game day experience is different up here. Football just isn't really a big deal. Going to a game is not the marquee social event that they are in other parts of the country. That's not entirely the case at Wildcat Stadium.
The vibe starts as you drive down Main Street through campus towards the stadium. Students line the streets clad in Wildcat blue and white. The parking lots surrounding the stadium fill early, and while the tailgating scene will never remind you of the SEC, it's pretty active for an FCS school located so far off the beaten path.
Once inside Wildcat Stadium, much of the noise comes from the Dungeon, as the pep band and students there are in full throat for much of the game. The remainder of the crowd, made up of a solid mix of locals and alumni, are knowledgeable about the team and really into the game.
In addition to the marching band, the cheerleading squad, dance team and a pair of mascots (Wild E. Cat and Gnarlz) add to the atmosphere at Wildcat Stadium. In addition, a small batch of militiamen fire off a cannon to celebrate each New Hampshire score.
The University of New Hampshire dominates the small town of Durham, New Hampshire. The university is located just west of downtown on Main Street, just a short walk from the stadium. Durham has a nice, traditional small town college feel to it, and there are several places worth checking out for a bite to eat if you are visiting here from out of town. Students regularly pack Libby's Bar and Grill or Durham House of Pizza for a pre or postgame meal.
Fans visiting UNH from out of town will often head east to Portsmouth, located just 11 miles from Cowell Stadium. Portsmouth is quickly cultivating a reputation as one of the top small cities on the east coast for visitors, and as an outstanding destination for foodies. Boston, Massachusetts is about an hour's drive south on I-95.
Wildcat fans come out in force to see the home team, averaging over 7,300 fans per game in 2015. While this is an impressive figure, especially in the northeast, it represents a decrease of about 1,000 fans per game from previous seasons. These figures, however, can be deceiving. New Hampshire regularly hosts playoff games, which for whatever reason draw smaller crowds, dragging down the overall average. Crowds of over 10,000 are commonplace, including an announced crowd of just under 22,000 for homecoming 2016.
The student section, better known as "The Dungeon," is located in the southeast end zone. It is regularly packed to the brim with rowdy UNH students. These students, unlike so many of their peers throughout New England, are here to actually be a part of the game. Backboned by an active pep band, the students have a vast repertoire of chants, songs, and routines designed to entertain themselves and distract the visiting team. They add a great deal of noise and energy to a game at Wildcat Stadium.
Wildcat Stadium is easily accessed by either car or train. An Amtrak train station is located adjacent to the Whittemore Center, right across the street from the stadium, with trains departing Durham to Portsmouth, Boston, and the rest of the eastern corridor.
Fans driving to Durham will travel on Interstate 95 to Portsmouth, where they will take Exit 4 (Spaulding Highway/Route 4). Durham is located 11 miles from Portsmouth, and signs will direct you to the UNH campus. Wildcat Stadium is located on the western edge of the campus, easily found from either direction on Main Street.
Ample parking surrounds Wildcat Stadium. Across the street from Wildcat Stadium is Lot A, and Boulder Field is located just beyond some of the athletic fields adjacent to the stadium. Both are located a short walk from the stadium.
Most fans will enter Wildcat Stadium after passing through Wildcat Village on the northwest corner of the facility. The old structure, which is now used as seating for visiting fans, is on your left. Hovering over the action is the Field House. The new structure will be on your right, and is accessible via a pedestrian bridge which empties right onto the concourse. The single concourse sits atop the lower level seats, and contains the restrooms, concessions and team shop.
Seating in the new building consists of two levels. The middle sections on both grandstands consist of individual folding stadium seats, with the remainder of seating made up of metal bleachers without backs. The student section is located in the southeast end zone. There is ample standing room throughout Wildcat Stadium.
Tickets for New Hampshire football games are sold in three categories. General admission seating costs $25 for adults and $12 for youth, seniors and military members. Reserved seating is priced at $35, and box seats at $50. There are no discounts for these ticket levels. Parking in Lot A is $15, and $20 in the Boulder Lot.
If coming to Durham for Homecoming weekend, expect to pay a little more for tickets and parking.
Concessions at Wildcat Stadium seem to be priced a little above average for this area, but are hardly out of line for venues in this part of the country.
Visitors to Wildcat Stadium should be sure to visit the Wildcat Hall of Fame, located inside the Field House on the visitors' sideline. Lining the hallways of the Field House are pictures of every varsity team in every sport in UNH's history. Included in these photos are countless NFL, NHL and MLB players. Fans of the classic hockey movie Slap Shot will search out Michael Ontkean, who played for the Wildcats from 1966-69.
Another extra point is awarded for the additions to Wildcat Stadium, which have modernized the stadium without losing the vintage look of the facility. Murals along the new concourse and championship banners hanging on the façade of the Field House pay tribute to the history of Wildcat football.
A final extra point is awarded for the fine product put on the field here at the University of New Hampshire. As of the writing of this review, the team has made the FCS tournament an incredible 12 seasons in a row, reaching the national semifinals in 2013 and 2014.
Fans who were fond of Cowell Stadium's spartan amenities and intimidating atmosphere may be disappointed in the shiny, modern newness of Wildcat Stadium. For the rest of us, Wildcat Stadium may be considered among the finest small football stadiums in the nation. Coupled with incredible fan support and an outstanding game day atmosphere, a visit to Durham is sure to be unlike anything else you will experience in the northeast.
Follow Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
Member Review by NickStoico on Nov 29, 2012
Cowell Stadium sits just east of the main campus at the University of New Hampshire (around 17,000 total students) located in the traditional New England town of Durham. The stadium, which services football games as well as track meets, is just a couple minutes on foot from the well known Whittemore Center where the men’s and women’s hockey games take place.
The stadium was dedicated in 1936 and was known as “Alumni Field” as the construction of the stadium was funded by alumni contributions and was the first big project by the Alumni Fund in the history of the University.
Cowell Stadium is named after former UNH athletic director and football coach William “Butch” Cowell.
The UNH Wildcats are a part of the Colonial Athletic Association and took a share of the conference championship for the 2012 season. The Wildcats have made the FCS playoffs nine consecutive times through 2012 and are frequently contenders for the conference title. On a campus where hockey is the backbone of school athletics, the football program is sometimes a second thought, despite their consistent successes.
UNH alum Sean McDonnell is the head coach of the Wildcats, a position he assumed in 1999. McDonnell runs a tight program with a strong coaching staff consisting of several young and bright football minds. The football games are always exciting, especially at Cowell Stadium where home field advantage certainly comes into play.
Member Review by puckmanri on Oct 16, 2014
Cowell Stadium, affectionately called “The Dungeon,” is located on the campus of the University of New Hampshire in suburban Durham. It has been the site of 15 Colonial Athletic Association conference titles and an incredible current streak of 10 straight BCS playoff appearances dating back to 2004. Originally named Alumni Field, the stadium was renamed in honor of former football coach and athletic director William H. “Butch” Cowell in 1952. The UNH Wildcats have been playing football on this site since 1936.
Beginning in 2014, the university began a $25 million renovation to the stadium designed to modernize and upgrade the venue. Construction is slated to take place in two stages. Prior to the 2014 season, lights were installed, enabling the university to host night games for the first time in their history. Also, the grandstand adjacent to the field house was renovated, with the old metal bleachers torn down and replaced with a new grandstand, creating one large seating area on the northeast side of the field.
In 2015 the west (visiting) bleachers will be torn down and replaced with a new grandstand with room for 3,500 seats. Along with the new grandstand will come new restrooms, concession stands, and a new student section. Construction is scheduled to be completed late in 2015.
47 Main St
Durham, NH 03824
40 Main St
Durham, NH 03824
48 Main St
Durham, NH 03824
600 Market St
Portsmouth, NH 03801
2 Main St
Durham, NH 03824