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  • Writer's pictureEric Moreno

DATCU Stadium – North Texas Mean Green


Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29

DATCU Stadium 1251 S Bonnie Brae St Denton, TX 76207



Year Opened: 2011

Capacity: 30,850

 

North Texas Mean Green – DATCU Stadium

Located on the northwestern edge of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex is the city of Denton and the University of North Texas. Founded in 1890, the university is the largest in the area and third largest in the state of Texas in terms of enrollment.


In 1913, the then North Texas State Eagles began their inaugural football season. In 1966, the school officially adopted the nickname “Mean Green,” allegedly spurred on by the cheers from the then Sports Information Director’s wife. Over the course of their history, the Mean Green have won 25 conference championships, the most recent being a run of four straight from 2001-2004 as members of the Sun Belt Conference.


The team has sent a number of players to the NFL over the years, but none has brought more weight or significance to the program than the legendary Joe Greene. A member of the college and pro football halls of fame, “Mean Joe” was a star defensive tackle for North Texas during the era of the team changing nicknames. When he got to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the moniker was adopted in honor of his alma mater and playing style.


Perhaps the Mean Green’s second most celebrated alum earned superstar status in a completely different avenue – WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin earned his varsity letter at North Texas as a linebacker and defensive end before heading off to the squared circle.


Both Mean Joe and Stone Cold are celebrated in different ways at North Texas’ current home, DATCU Stadium. Built on campus in 2011, the stadium sits in a prime spot not far from the rest of the school’s athletics facilities. Eminently recognizable with its V-shaped north end zone stands (symbolizing an eagle’s open wings), DATCU Stadium has been a great homefield advantage for the Mean Green.


Food & Beverage 3

The main concourse at DATCU Stadium boasts 23 separate food and drink stands throughout the stadium. While none carry anything flashy, there is plenty there for fans to satiate themselves with.


The stands offer traditional fare like pizza, hot dogs, sausage, and burgers. There is also popcorn, soft pretzels, boxed candy, fountain sodas (the souvenir cups offers one free refill, which is a nice bonus), and beer.

Starting with the tailgating area on the Hill (more on that in the next category), fans can hit up a variety of food trucks before, during, and after games at DATCU Stadium. These include barbecue trucks, ice cream, and fried chicken.


Again, there’s nothing flashy, but it will get the job done for fans.


Atmosphere 3

The atmosphere at DATCU Stadium begins with the aforementioned Hill – its name implicitly explains what it is. This hillside area abutting the stadium is home to the majority of the North Texas tailgating groups, including the fraternities and sororities. There is a DJ, a live music stage, and the previously mentioned food trucks. It is, to be honest, a pretty nice way to have a good time before a football game – if the weather holds up.


Other points of interest include the massive statue of Mean Joe Greene near the stadium’s main entrance, as well as the team stores near the east and west gates. One pretty great atmospheric note is that, before the game I most recently attended, North Texas arranged for a flyover from nearby Sheppard Air Force Base; this is always a great way to get a crowd energized before kickoff.


Neighborhood 3

Denton is by and large a pretty quaint mid-sized town. The North Texas campus dominates the local sports scene, as there are lots of shades of green everywhere you look. There are also some sites of interest for visitors, including the Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center; located at the confluence of Clear Creek and the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, the center has over five miles of family-friendly hiking trails through diverse habitats. There is also a bingo card for birdwatchers, which you can play by identifying the native birds in the area.


The historic downtown square in Denton is also a place visitors should take in. It’s home to numerous shops and boutiques, the Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum, and several restaurants and bars. For other attractions, the benefit of heading to Denton is that you’re close to everything that is offered by Dallas and Fort Worth, which are both short drives away.


One thing I’m particularly excited about here, and something I haven’t been able to touch on in any of my reviews to date, is that Denton is home to a Buc-ee’s. Say the name “Buc-ee’s” to any Texan and you’re going to get glowing reviews of these massive interstate oases. I can’t adequately describe how wonderful a trip to Buc-ee’s is to someone who’s never been before; all I can say is you have to go to one and see for yourself.


For dining options, since the stadium is on the North Texas campus you will have to venture away from there for any pre- and post-game meals. Some spots to look out for include Frosty Drive N; looking like it is straight out of Happy Days, this old school drive-in has all the classics, like fresh-made burgers, malts, and shakes. For the nostalgia alone, it is worth a visit. I also highly recommend Amy’s Donuts, which is relatively close to the stadium. This donut shop is open 24 hours a day and offers up a wide variety of donuts – I recommend the Elvis.


In terms of lodging, Denton is a big enough town that you will find plenty of options to stay in regardless of your budget. Near the stadium, however, the closest options are about 10 minutes away, being Studio 6 Denton and SpringHill Suites by Marriott Denton.


Fans 2

If there is one area where I can say I was a little disappointed, it is the fans. North Texas averages just a hair under 21,000 fans per game, which is not too bad. However, at the last the game I attended, a rivalry game on a gorgeous fall afternoon, there were just over 17,000.

The north end zone stands, the ones I mentioned that are shaped like eagles’ wings, were virtually empty, which is a jarring visual. The one positive was that the home fans who did show up were all decked out in their various shades of green.


Access 4

DATCU Stadium has proven to be one of the more accessible stadiums that I have visited in recent years. While it is on campus, it is directly located off Interstate 35W. You can see it from miles away, which is helpful.


Once on-site, however, the parking situation can be hit or miss – while there is plenty, there are only a few spots in the paved lots behind the Hill. The other parking option is in an unpaved area behind the west side of the stadium; this is fine and the walk isn’t too bad, but if the weather turns bad, it gets a little dicey.


As mentioned Denton is part of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, which is great for travelers. It is a 40-minute drive from Fort Worth and just a shade under an hour from Dallas. It’s also less than 30 minutes from DFW International Airport, and just about 40 from Dallas Love Field Airport.


If you don’t want to drive, which is understandable, the Denton County Transportation Authority has light rail and bus services all through the area with stops at North Texas.


Return on Investment 4

Single-game tickets for the Mean Green start at just $20 per person. As North Texas has just joined the American Athletic Conference in time for the 2023-24 season, this is a pretty nice bargain considering the caliber of opponents that will be coming into DATCU Stadium on a regular basis.


Parking in most of the lots at DATCU Stadium costs $20 if you purchase ahead of time, versus $25 if you buy at the gates the day of.


The concessions costs here are some of the more affordable ones I’ve seen in my visits to DI stadiums. I think the free refill on souvenir cups is also a nice bonus – you’re getting a bargain at North Texas football games.


Extras 4

North Texas pulls out a lot of the traditional bells and whistles that college sports have to offer. They have a cheer squad and dance team, who perform on the sidelines and have routines during breaks in the on-field action. North Texas also has a mascot, Scrappy, who is pretty popular; you can see his costumed visage adorned on billboards all over the city.


The UNT Mean Green Brigade Marching Band is one of the university’s pride and joys – the university is known for its music department, and that shows in the band. The team also has their Victory Cannon, nicknamed “Boomer,” set up in the south end zone. Manned by the Mean Green Talons, they fire this bad boy off after every score and at the end of each half.


Final Thoughts

Holistically I can say that I mostly enjoyed my most recent visit to DATCU Stadium. I like the look and feel of it overall; it combines the aesthetic of an older venue with some novel modern features. Denton is a great city to spend some time in as well.


However, I have to temper my overall enthusiasm from my latest trip with the lack of a crowd at the game I attended. The day had all the makings for fantastic college football afternoon; the finicky north Texas weather was postcard perfect, and it was a rivalry game with fans that traveled. However, it was just disappointing to see how empty the stadium was, and how that sapped the energy out of the building. Hopefully this was just an aberration and it will be better on my next trip.


Follow Eric Moreno's Stadium Journey on Twitter at @EricMoreno6477.

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