Williams-Brice Stadium, where the University of South Carolina Gamecocks play football, has long served as an impressive structure and deserving home to everyone's favorite team in Columbia, SC.
The stadium's humble beginnings take us back to October 6, 1934 when Columbia Municipal Stadium made its debut after being constructed with help from the Works Progress Administration project. The stadium originally seated just 17,600 but as football's popularity grew throughout the 20th century in America, so did the stadiums that hosted the football events. Carolina Stadium underwent its most sizable expansion prior to the 1972 season via a bestowal from the estate of a generous donor named Martha Williams-Brice. The stadium saw its capacity increase to over 54,000 and was renamed in honor of Mrs. Williams-Brice as a token of gratitude.
Williams-Brice continues to grow to this day, now sitting an estimated capacity of 80,250, making "The Cockpit", as many fans call it, the 20th largest college football venue in the country.
The stadium is located approximately three miles from the school campus in downtown Columbia but is visible from several vantage points in the city as a striking and formidable presence in the distance.
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Your typical stadium fare can be found at multiple locations throughout the stadium concourse. The prices are reasonable as far as stadium fare goes. Hot dogs and hamburgers go for about $4.50. Your standard cola goes for $3.50 a "pop" while bottled water is priced at $3.00.
Several variety stands sell food and beverages in the stadium as well, such as Caesar's Pizza, Doc's Barbecue, and Oriental Kitchen. Lemonade, Ice Cream, and Cotton Candy stands are available too for all the sweet tooth's out there.
This is an SEC stadium. Therefore, consumption of alcohol within the stadium confines is prohibited. Besides, that's what tailgating is for. Ultimately, the food and beverage scene ranks around average to slightly above average..
Vibrant and lively would be two good words to describe the game day atmosphere in Columbia. As with many big name programs in the South, the fans take tailgating seriously and turn their Saturday's into an all day football event.
The large parking lot areas (which also serve as the location of the state fair) that surround Williams-Brice transform into a mob of tailgaters on game day as families and friends set up their tents, grills, coolers, and satellite televisions throughout the concourse. Many of these folks don't even enter the stadium, choosing to instead watch the game on their satellite TV's.
For the high rollers out there, the luxury suites that comprise the COCK-A-BOOSE railroad adjacent to the southern end of the stadium make for a neat game day experience.
Fans travel from all over the state (and many out of state) to take part in the festivities making RV's and Winnebago's a common sight on the tailgating grounds.
A new Daktronics scoreboard was introduced with much anticipation at the beginning of the 2012 season. The sound quality is superb and the scoreboard shows replays on nearly every down in addition to promotional videos, player introductions, and highlights from other games around the country.
Fireworks are also incorporated into the entertainment as an electric sendoff to the home team following every Gamecock score.
There's not a bad seat in the house as every angle and vantage point in the stadium provides a great sight line of the action transpiring on the field and one will find passionate and energetic fans sitting in any and every section.
The surrounding area of Williams-Brice Stadium makes it clear that the stadium and fairgrounds are the main attraction to visitors. Parking lots, small businesses, and housing and apartment complexes mostly surround Williams-Brice.
Dining and entertainment options are somewhat sparse for those who choose to stay in one of the major condominium projects built nearby the stadium. However, a three-mile drive into the heart of downtown Columbia provides all the various eateries, bars, and entertainment options a visitor could ask for.
The fans passion for football shows through their energy and enthusiasm and several traditions exist at Carolina games. The most notable traditions include the pre-game GAME-COCKS chant (where the west side of the stadium yells GAME while the east side responds with COCKS!), the blaring of Sandstorm before every kickoff, and the various music and marching choreography provided by the impressive school band dubbed as The Mighty Sound of The Southeast.
Perhaps, the most exciting tradition at Williams-Brice involves the pre-game entry where the team swarms onto the field to the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey with fireworks lighting up the sky as Cocky, the beloved school mascot, is unveiled from his Magic Box to the frenzied crowd. It's truly an exhilarating experience that many fans like to capture on video.
Gamecock fans are well known for their lively spirit and that statement certainly holds true when the Gamecocks take the field. Especially when the opposing team is on offense, the fans often dial up the loudness intensity to a level on par with a 747 taking off the runway. Towel waving is also a prominent sight at Williams-Brice Stadium, especially when Sandstorm blares over the loudspeakers as the Gamecocks prepare for a kickoff.
Williams-Brice is located comfortably away from campus property on the outskirts of town. Sufficient parking is available at the state fairground and business lots as well as the State Farmer's Market lots across the street. Parking prices range from $5 to $20 depending on proximity to the stadium.
Many fans like to avoid game day traffic by taking advantage of the shuttle services provided to and from the stadium at the Colonial Life Arena parking lots. Parking is easy to find, not to mention free, and $3 will cover your round trip shuttle fare. The shuttles drop off and pick up at the Fairgrounds entrance a couple hours before and after the game.
As far as what is expected in the way of stadium traffic, the control on traffic is reasonable. City and state law enforcement personnel direct traffic into and out of the stadium area over several major traffic routes with George Rogers Blvd serving as the major route to and from downtown Columbia.
The experience of a football game at Williams Brice Stadium won't disappoint football fans and is well worth the price of admission.
Prices are reasonable and on par with what one would pay to see a game at a rival school's stadium in the SEC.
For all the towel waivers out there, the game day towels are provided free of charge and are laid out in the bleachers prior to fans entering the stadium.
I found the stadium well staffed and prepared for the usual large turnouts of people at the games. Information desks aren't hard to find and game day programs are sold at several booths inside the stadium along the walking concourse.
One of the loudest stadiums in college football and arguably, one of the best student sections as well. Future additions to the stadium will include adding more seats to the North Endzone. The old farmers market is also getting an overhaul and will be turned into a tailgating venue similar to "The Grove" at Ole Miss.
I sat in the student section (even though I am admittedly not a student nor was I ever) and therefore was treated to a different experience than someone who visits anywhere else in the stadium. I have considerable experience with SEC stadiums and this one holds it's weight with some of the best. Access was pretty difficult as it's far from pretty much everything.
While South Carolina doesn't have the same history like its SEC counterparts, they are starting to create a good bit of history under the Steve Spurrier Era. 3 straight 10 win seasons and now one of the the toughest teams in not just the conference but the nation. Williams-Brice is a stadium that is a true homefield advantage when the fan base is rocking (or a swayin). Alabama lost there, ending their win streak back in 10. Rival Georgia has gotten crushed there a few times, as it has become mostly their lone blemish to their schedule as of late.
The place has a great feel and something you really can't compare, but it is an overall mixed bag.
FOOD: Some variety such as bbq sandwiches and boiled peanuts. But nothing out of the ordinary, similar to the taste of the food. Nothing great.
ATMOSPHERE: It could be Georgia coming in, Florida coming in, Clemson coming in, or it could be UAB coming in. The place gets packed and quickly. And it is loud the ENTIRE GAME. Most intense atmosphere I've seen.
NEIGHBORHOOD: On the faigrounds. And yes there are things for the casual fan to see, but besides that, there's absolutely nothing around.
FANS: Goes with atmosphere. They are into every game, and it doesn't matter who they are playing. They have a deep knowledge of the game as well as being very friendly.
ACCESS: Well, getting there isn't the problem. But parking is hard if you aren't a season ticket holder/donor. You can park off of stores along the highway, but it is brutal and alarming given the fact you're walking near cars driving 50-60 mph right next to you. After the game is rough as you can only go one way out. Very challenging.
ROI: You will get a true experience of a college football GAME, but not much else. But I guess that's all that matters.
EXTRAS: I liked the 2001 song to the intros and Sandstorm as many say that South Carolina was the one who started that fad. It adds in to the whole homefield advantage.
The town of Columbia lives and breathes Gamecock Football! From the moment they take the field until the end of the game, there are 80,000 people that are constantly making their presence felt.
I went to a game against the Citadel (a local school but not a rival) and the game was almost entirely full at kickoff and stayed that way through the 4th quarter.
Parked at the Basketball Arena and took a complimentary bus over because you couldnt park within TWO MILES of the stadium!
Def an awesome experience walking around the stadium seeing everyone set up for the tailgate. I plan on making another trip in the near future to see them play a SEC rival.
To start, I've been to a lot of college football games around the country, and on in-stadium experience on Gameday, Williams-Brice is unrivaled. Between 2001, Sandstorm, the colors, the band, Cocky and the just beginning to end environment it's spectacular. The stadium itself is old and needs some updates, but it's on it's way over the last few years. The area around the stadium has seem some drastic updates and the Farmer's Market is one of the coolest tailgate experiences around. Parking is tough as there are well over 100,000-150,000 people hanging out around the stadium near gameday and they arrive early. Overall, one of my favorite stadiums in the country.
1400 Main St
Columbia, SC 29201