Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium 475 N Main St Lexington, VA 24550
Year Opened: 1962
Key(det)s to the Stadium
The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is located in Lexington, Virginia, and is one of six Senior Military Academies in the United States. The SMAs represent a sort of middle ground between the service academies and civilian universities. Of the six academies, VMI is the only one that does not also admit civilian students, but all of them share some common traits. All SMAs have a Corps of Cadets with military standards and training comparable to the service academies, but unlike service academies, students are not required to enlist in the military upon graduation. Nonetheless, many choose to do so and have served the United States in wars around the world. Unlike the service academies, senior military academies are not tied to any one branch, and VMI graduates have gone on to serve in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Many VMI cadets and graduates also fought in the Confederate military during the American Civil War, and it was referred to as the “West Point of the Confederacy” at the time.
VMI’s athletic teams are known as the Keydets, and their football team has called Alumni Memorial Field home since 1962. In 2006, thanks to donations from VMI alumnus P. Wesley Foster, Jr., the stadium was extensively renovated to include a new scoreboard as well as new concourses and restrooms. To honor him, the school renamed the field Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium.
Food & Beverage 3
There are several concession stands scattered throughout Foster Stadium, all of which serve the same items. Main courses include grilled chicken sandwiches ($5), hot dogs ($4), pizza ($3/slice for cheese or pepperoni), and nachos ($4 or $5 with extra cheese.) Snacks include hot pretzels ($3), popcorn ($3), king-sized candy ($2), and chips ($2). Water, soda, and Gatorade are all available for $3 each.
There are bleachers on both sidelines at Foster Field. On the home side, bleachers tower over the field and provide a scenic view of the historic buildings and citadels on post. We recommend sitting on this side if possible, even if you are a neutral, as the sight lines are much better than the visitor’s side. There is a large scoreboard located behind one end zone, which also features a video board and an out-of-town scoreboard.
About 20 minutes before the game, the entire Corps of Cadets will march into the stadium as the band and drumline play “Shenandoah.” The band continues to perform throughout the game, and, as is typical of military bands, is one of the best in the country. Although they are at every home football game and have performed around the world, their best–known role has been leading the entire Corps of Cadets in marching in every Presidential Inaugural Parade since Richard Nixon’s in 1969 and for several before that as well on an irregular basis.
The Keydets have a mascot named Moe, who is an anthropomorphic kangaroo and can be seen in the stands and on the field throughout the game.
Lexington, Virginia has been given the rather cynical and ironic nickname Lex Vegas. Unlike its Nevada counterpart, Lexington is a small, quaint, conservative college town in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley. Even more unlike the real Vegas, the entertainment scene here is almost non-existent. There are many ways to take in the natural beauty of the Valley in and around Lexington, plus some historic sites on and around the Institute, but that’s about it.
VMI fans are extremely passionate about their team and extremely loud. The language they use isn’t exactly clean, either, so make sure to keep that in mind if you bring small children to the game. They will cheer on their team loudly, proudly, boldly, and brashly and aren’t afraid to holler at the opposing team or the referees. The Corps of Cadets will get into it as well, but unlike the rest of the fans, will generally at least keep their language clean, being that they are cadets and all. You can expect to feel this energy for all four quarters, especially if the game stays close.
There are several options for driving to a VMI football game, all of which start with taking Interstate 64 to Exit 55. Fans coming from the north or south will need to first take Interstate 81 to Exit 191 for I-64 – Exit 55 is the next exit once you get on.
There is limited parking available on post on the Parade Grounds and the garage below the Corps Physical Training Facility (CPTF.) This parking is rather expensive at $20. Your best bet, therefore, is to park at the satellite parking lot for free and take the shuttle bus over. This is typically located at Rockbridge County High School, but if the two lots there fill up, fans will be directed to a nearby lot at a Lowe’s store.
Once inside, you should have no trouble moving around the concourses. The restrooms are more than ample for the crowd, but the line for concessions can get long at times.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets start at $25 for general admission seats, which will get you into either side section on the home side or anywhere on the away side. There are reserved seats in the center three sections on the home side above the Corps of Cadets seating for $3 more. This is a little above average, but is cancelled out by the below average concessions and the added atmosphere at a VMI football game compared to most FCS contests.
One star for the great energy and valor brought by the VMI band. Any band worthy of performing at the Inaugural Parade not just for one President, but for 12 Presidents at 15 parades dating back to William Howard Taft in 1909, is definitely something special.
A second, somewhat related star, for the pageantry exhibited by the Cadets as they march onto the field before the game.
There is a cannon located behind one of the end zones which is fired off after every VMI score and before kickoffs. If weather conditions are just right, the smoke will form a ring which will carry into the sky.
A fourth and final star for the energy brought by the fans and by the Corps of Cadets, which is more comparable to something you’d see at a Power Five school than at an FCS school.
Military academy football is always something special, and while the experience at a senior military academy like VMI might not be quite as special as it would be at a service academy, very little is. Foster Stadium is a beautiful place to watch a football game, especially on a mid-fall day in the scenic Shenandoah Valley. With the Corps of Cadets and the VMI band out in full force, a VMI game at Foster Stadium is an incredibly underrated experience in the college football landscape.