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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Alumni Stadium - Guelph Gryphons

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Alumni Stadium

26 Lang Way

Guelph, ON N1G 2M7

Year Opened: 1970

Capacity: 7,600

Gryphons Raising the Stakes

What was once the Ontario Agricultural College and the Ontario Veterinary College has since grown up to become the University of Guelph. With an enrollment growing over 27,000 students, Guelph has cemented itself as an elite university in Canada. They have also been in the forefront of pushing the envelope for athletic facilities in university sports in Canada. The Gryphons first took the field in 1950 and have grown to a strong program on the field. Yates Cups as Ontario conference champions (OUA) in 1984, 1992, 1996 and 2015 along with their Vanier Cup as National Champions in 1984 don’t do the program justice in describing how far it has come.

The Guelph Gryphons call Alumni Stadium home. Temporarily the home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL while they were between stadiums, Alumni Stadium has gone from a regular, non-descript football stadium, to one of the best football stadiums, and experiences, in the conference. The stadium, which was formerly on Powerhouse Lane, was built in 1970 and has a solid grandstand capacity of 4,100 with a total capacity of 7,600 with the grass berm seating. However, in the last 10 years, Alumni Stadium has gone through some pretty significant renovations, thus answering the challenge from other programs and raising the stakes in the OUA. Their renovations are increasing their advantage in recruiting and attracting additional donar dollars. Former Guelph coach Stu Lang is the generosity behind the new renovations which resulted in a fantastic facility and the renaming of Powerhouse Lane, to Lang Way.

Food & Beverage 3

The concession selections are a little different at Alumni Stadium. A traditional concession area is not present at Alumni Stadium. It is probably the one piece that is lacking in the stadium. However, the Gryphons are doing what they can to deal with the situation. The solution for the Gryphons is the invitation of a number of food trucks which park in the square opposite the stadium on Lang Way. The selection the trucks provide is great, however the temporary nature of food trucks does not instill confidence that this will be the situation for every game. Also, fans are required to leave the stadium to get something to eat, which at the very least is inconvenient. Concessions and beverages are available in the pavilion for those that the team are entertaining.

Atmosphere 4

Alumni Stadium is located at what was Powerhouse Lane and College Avenue. It is a stadium not unlike its brethren in the OUA. A major grandstand with five sections of bleacher seating, Alumni Stadium is as good as any other in the conference. Where Alumni Stadium differentiates itself is the extras. In the west corner of the stadium is the brand new pavilion. A significant financial gift from former head coach Stu Lang made the pavilion possible which contains a locker room, meeting and therapy rooms as well as rooftop seating complete with a huge bronze Gryphon perfect for entertaining donors, alumni and recruits. Outside of the pavilion, the Gryphons have focused on the fan experience and improving the perception of the program itself. Right at the corner of College and Lang Way is Champions Corner. A small square which honours all of the Gryphons National Champions across all sports. This includes the 1984 Vanier Cup Champions. Huge posters of Gryphon players outside the pavilion help promote the athletes and a miniature turf field and the “Be the Y – Proud to Be A Gryphon” display are fan engaging items not found at other stadiums.

Inside the stadium, the synthetic field runs from northwest to southeast with the grandstand on the southwest. The field is surrounded by a full eight lane track and the northeast side of the field is berm seating. Above the berm is a small tailgating parking lot, which is not common in USports. The northwest end zone has a good video board while on the opposite side, fans will be surprised to see the honoured numbers of Pari Ceci, Mark Brown, Sam Benincasa, Gerry Organ, Mike Hudson, Steve McKee and Mike O’Shea. No other program in Ontario has taken this step to honour their past greats.

The game day experience at Guelph is about what you would expect for a USports program. There are a couple of unique items. The production is student run in Guelph, but they also feature one of the top video productions in the conference. The cheerleaders lead the fans in the typical cheers and complete gymnastic stunts. Before the game, the 13th Gryph flag is raised on the northeast side of the stadium. Finally, on a Gryphons touchdown, Dario will run the track with the big Gryphons flag and stop in front of the grandstand to offer up 10 pushups.

Neighbourhood 3

Alumni Stadium is located on the campus of the University of Guelph. There are a few places on campus to service students, but not much that would interest the casual sports fan. A walk across campus or a quick jaunt in the car will bring fans to a number of recognizable chain restaurants including Montana’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and a number of fast food restaurants. Hitting Gordon Street will lead fans to a couple of spots that are a little more unique and a little more upscale. Trying Manhattan’s or Fifty West may be of interest. Otherwise, heading to downtown Guelph would be the best bet.

As far as other entertainment options go, the local theatre is the River Run Centre and is located downtown. Not far from campus is Stone Road Mall also.

For other sporting options, the Guelph Gryphons also feature hockey at the Gryphon Centre Arena and basketball at the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre, both of which are located on campus. A short drive downtown will bring fans to the Sleeman Centre, home of the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.

For fans that need to stay over in Guelph, the Delta is very close to campus as is the Days Inn.

Fans 3

The Guelph Gryphons have good fan support, however the nature of USports football is pretty up and down. The Gryphons routinely average over 3,000 fans per game per season. This has brought them as high as third in the conference. However, The Orientation Week and Homecoming games get far more fans than the other two home games and variables such as weather and opponent can have a drastic effect on attendance.

Access 4

Alumni Stadium is located at the west side of the University of Guelph campus. Getting to campus is not difficult. It is a few short blocks from Highways 6 and 7 and just minutes from Downtown Guelph. There is parking in the lot on the opposite side of College Ave and northeast of the field. Parking is usually free on game days.

Public transit is available in Guelph, right onto the University campus and along Stone Rd. and College Ave. Fans interested in public transit should see the Guelph Transit website for maps, schedules and fares.

Ticketing is usually a temporary tent and the gate entry is at the southwest corner of Alumni Stadium.

There are some washrooms underneath the grandstand which are adequate for the event. There are also portable toilets on the opposite side near the berm.

Return on Investment 4

USports football offers a terrific product on the field for a relatively small investment. Gryphon tickets run $20 for an adult and $5 for kids. It is a little on the high side compared to university hockey or basketball but comparable to other football programs. With parking that can be found for free and a decent price for concession, Gryphons football offers a terrific return on investment.

Extras 3

An extra mark for Stu Lang and his generous donations to Guelph to create a whole new atmosphere.

An extra mark for raising the bar in Canadian university football.

An extra mark for “Gryphon Door” which is cleverly addressed at 9 ¾ and established in 1092. Harry Potter would be proud.

Final Thoughts

The Guelph Gryphons have benefited from a generous donation and really put that money to work. The significant improvements to Alumni Stadium have made Guelph a destination in the OUA offering facilities that other schools do not. In the recruiting race the other Ontario schools must reflect on how they will compete with the new norm which is Guelph.

Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.

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