Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Alamodome 100 Montana St San Antonio, TX 78203
Year Opened: 1993
Remember the Alamo Bowl!
The 2019 version of the Valero Alamo Bowl marked the 26th edition of the annual contest held each year at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The annual clash between teams from the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences saw the Texas Longhorns take on the Utah Utes in only the second-ever meeting between the two schools.
Since the inaugural game, the 64,000-seat Alamodome – one of the oldest indoor multipurpose stadiums in the country – has been the home of the Alamo Bowl. Thanks to the association with the largely Texas-centric Big 12, the large and cavernous Alamodome is quite often filled to capacity, becoming a raucous event and one of the biggest social scenes on the San Antonio calendar.
With the Texas Longhorns heading down from nearby Austin for a virtual home game, the Dome was especially lively and energetic this season; this palpable energy was largely able to cover up many of the Alamodome’s sometimes glaring flaws.
Food & Beverage 4
One thing the Alamodome does not lack is a variety of quality concession items and offerings. What visitors will find is a mix of traditional stadium food and drink options, pared-down versions of national chains, and a sprinkling of local food and drink favorites unique to the Alamo City. You’ll be able to find choices on every level of the Dome.
Because of the capacity of the Alamodome, the lines tend to fill up fast depending on what time during the on-field action you head to the lines. However, as part of the recent renovations in 2016-17, all the concession lines were upgraded and updated to now accept credit cards, which significantly speeds things up.
There is a wide variety of food and drink offerings at the Alamodome. There are close to a dozen stands that offer your basic game day selections, such as nachos, hot dogs, popcorn, soft pretzels, soda (the Alamodome offers Pepsi products for your soda selection), and candy; these all range between $6 and $12. There are also nationwide chains, such as Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Papa John’s Pizza.
The Alamodome also offers two great selections that are the epitome of San Antonio cuisine, namely Tex-Mex and barbecue. Los Barrios Continental Mexican Cuisine and Big Bib BBQ both have multiple stands located throughout the Alamodome. If you’re in the mood for beef or chicken fajita nachos or a pulled pork or chopped brisket sandwich, these two pinnacles of San Antonio have got you covered at the Alamodome.
When it comes to adult beverages, the Alamodome has that covered as well. There are hard liquor and cocktail stands, beer stands, wine stands, and frozen margarita kiosks and carts throughout the Dome. For craft beer lovers, two San Antonio pioneers in the field, Alamo Beer Company and the Freetail Brewing Company, have got you covered.
The Alamodome – due to its design – is very cavernous. On games where the Alamodome is not filled to capacity it feels conspicuously empty. However, when a team like the Texas Longhorns or someone of that ilk comes to town, you don’t have to worry about it being empty.
Built specifically to house football, the Alamodome has a configuration that gives the impression of an over-sized barn. However, because of the space, the seats in the lower bowl, specifically those along the sidelines, have the best sight lines for the on-field action.
The two large video boards, one in each end zone, help those in seats which aren’t on that main level. During a game with the magnitude of the Alamo Bowl, all the usually closed off upper sections of the Alamodome are open, which cuts down on some of the emptiness. But those upper seats in particular will need to rely on the video boards to see what is going on during the game.
In an effort to keep the facility competitive in the world of big-time sporting events, the Alamodome has undergone near continuous renovations and improvements in the last decade. In addition to the 2016-17 renovations, which totaled over $50 million and included upgrades to the main concourse and the addition of new video ribbon boards, the Alamodome replaced the playing surface in time for the 2019 season.
For events like the Alamo Bowl, the teams also each bring in their bands, cheerleaders, dance squads, and mascots. With Texas coming to town, they bring their legendary live mascot Bevo with them. If you’re lucky enough to get down on the field near him, he is an impressive site to see in person.
Few big-time facilities can match the setting that the Alamodome has to offer its visitors. The stadium is literally within walking distance of San Antonio’s vibrant cultural hub, its downtown area. A short 15-minute drive from the San Antonio International Airport, the Alamodome has proven to be a favorite for large-scale events, specifically sporting events. Fans who annually flock to the Alamodome have frequently commented upon its convenience and location as being a draw.
San Antonio’s downtown area is home to the historic and photogenic River Walk, the legendary Alamo, attraction-filled Hemisfair Park, and the most defining feature of the San Antonio skyline, the Tower of the Americas. Each and every one of these are must-see attractions for visitors to San Antonio, and all are within walking distance of the Alamodome.
If you’re looking to grab a bite to eat before or after the game, the downtown area is crawling with some of the highest-rated restaurants in the city. However, if you’re looking to get a true taste of the city, you need to head down to the River Walk to Casa Rio, a true staple of Mexican food in the city. Another highly recommended spot is The Esquire Tavern – this longtime San Antonio favorite has a history as a former speakeasy, and has upgraded and updated their food and drink menu to feature modern spins on many old-time classics.
Another amenity that the Alamodome area has to offer is an abundance of hotel and motel options. Downtown San Antonio is the hub for tourism in the city, and as such has a ton of options where visitors can stay. Historic St. Paul Square, which is (there is a theme here) a less than 10-minute walk from the Alamodome , has two family-friendly spots to stay at: Staybridge Suites Downtown Convention Center and Best Western Plus Sunset Suites. Whatever your budget, you’re going to find something you’ll like.
Bowl games are really atypical in terms of sporting events. In theory, both teams competing have had great (or at least good) seasons. For some, the bowl game is the highest achievement a program could have. For fans, the game not only gives them a chance to root on their team in a game of importance, but also gives them a chance to visit a city and have a bit of a vacation built on the football game.
The Alamo Bowl is typically one of these types of games. In theory, the second-best program in both the Big 12 and Pac-12 are invited to attend. The 2019 edition of the game saw nearly 61,000 fans flock to the Alamodome; while the vast majority were rabid Longhorns fans, the Utes fan base was also well represented. This falls right in line with the recent trend of the Alamo Bowl, which has averaged close to 60,000 per game since 2010.
In terms of crowd noise, the Alamodome was rocking from start to finish. When the fans are engaged, the Dome’s configuration amplifies the noise and it feels and sounds even louder. This adds to the energy of the game. When Texas is involved, the fans are engaged from start to finish, and this year’s game was no exception.
The Alamodome is in a prime location for visitors to the city. Located directly off Interstate 37, the stadium is also near the crossroads of Interstates 10 and 35. Within walking distance of downtown San Antonio and a short drive from the airport, it really doesn’t get much easier to get into and out of the stadium on game day.
The city’s mass transit system, VIA, has a bus stop right at street level at the Alamodome, and is a great option for those looking to avoid the traffic before and after the Alamo Bowl. For those looking to use the park and ride option, there are three locations throughout the city that will cost you $2 to $4 for roundtrip to attend the game. Uber and Lyft are still fairly new to the Alamo City, but both rideshare services are available options as well.
In terms of parking, the Alamodome has two main paid parking lots, Lots B and C, for visitors. On game day for the Alamo Bowl these open at 10 am for tailgating, and they fill up fast. The cost for these lots is $20 per car.
Behind the parking area is a residential neighborhood; some of the intrepid residents, as well as some of the area businesses, have made parking available for nominal fees on game day. Like most things, it all depends on how much you want to spend.
One thing you want to keep in mind is the new security measures the Alamodome has put into place in recent years; in addition to strictly enforcing the clear-bag policy, the Dome has metal detectors/scanners that everyone has to go through before entering the stadium. This does take time, so plan accordingly.
Return on Investment 3
The cost to attend the annual Alamo Bowl is truly right about what you would expect for a major college football event that’s not part of the College Football Playoffs. It isn’t “cheap” by any stretch of the imagination, but it is well worth the price for those who are fans of either team, or of the sport in general.
Ticket prices this year ranged from $85 to $300 per person, depending on where you want to sit. The concessions are also right along what you would pay at any Division I stadium. A premium beer will set you back $11 and food at Los Barrios and Big Bib – the previously mentioned fajita nachos and barbecue sandwiches – will cost you $13. Souvenir soda cups are $9 (you can get a regular soda for $7), and a program is $5.
When you factor in these costs plus the $20 for parking, the Alamo Bowl will set you back a pretty penny.
There really has been a ton of work put into making the Alamodome an even better facility for games, especially during the Alamo Bowl itself. One of the areas that was really focused on was the main entry way and the plaza on the north end of the stadium. This area is one of the most popular and populated areas of the stadium before the game, as there are games, vendors, concessions, and more for fans. This is also the area where the local sports radio stations set up to broadcast pre-game shows.
Inside the Alamodome near the main entrance, a new beer garden was installed as part of these oft-mentioned renovations. With tons of beer selections and high-definition televisions, this is a popular spot during every game at this facility, including the Alamo Bowl.
There are also live bands that perform on the main concourse level, adding to the excitement and the energy during games. Not that the Alamo Bowl needs it.
I have been to roughly half of the Alamo Bowls since the year they started, and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed myself every time. Rarely do I have a personal rooting interest in any of the teams playing, but that has not dampened my enthusiasm for what takes place on the field.
I love college football unabashedly, and the Alamo Bowl represents the best of what the sport has to offer: it has pageantry, tradition, history, rabid fan bases, and flat out great football virtually every time out. If you too are a fan of the sport, you should add the Alamo Bowl to your bucket list of big games to attend.