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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Armstrong Stadium – Hampton Pirates


Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Armstrong Stadium Marshall Ave Hampton, VA 23669



Year Opened: 1928

Capacity: 12,000

 

All Ahoy for Pirate Football!

Hampton University is a historically black college (HBCU) located in Hampton, Virginia, in the southeast portion of the state. The school was founded in 1868 and is considered one of the Black Ivies.


Hampton’s athletic teams, the Pirates, previously competed in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference MEAC) along with many other HBCUs. However, in 2018, the school moved to the Big South Conference. By the time they elected to move, the conference football schedule had already been set, so the Pirates competed as an independent in the sport for one season before joining the Big South in 2019.


Armstrong Stadium has played home to the football team since 1928. It originally had a capacity of just 1,500, but through a series of expansions and renovations over the years it has been expanded to 12,000.


Food & Beverage 3

There are a few concession stands throughout the stadium – one in each corner of the open end and a third behind the home bleachers. However, the menu at each stand is the same, so just go to whichever one is closest. Main courses include hot wings ($7.50, or $8.50 with fries), chicken tenders ($6.50), hot dogs ($4, or $4.50 with chili and cheese), and nachos ($3.50, or $4 with chili.) Snacks include French fries ($2), peanuts ($2.50), chips ($2), and king-size candies ($3). Various bottled beverages are available for $3.50 each.


Atmosphere 5

There are stands on three sides of Armstrong Stadium, all bleachers except for a few chair backs at midfield on one side reserved for large donors. Some of the bleachers are metal, while others are of the more uncomfortable wooden variety and showing their age. A large video board is located in the open end zone somewhat off-center, while a smaller scoreboard showing just the basic information is located behind the other end zone.


The real strength of the atmosphere at a Hampton football game, like at many of the HBCUs, is the marching band. They perform a lengthy pregame show and continue to play during the game and at halftime. The Hampton marching band is one of the best in the country and has played at parades and other events around the world, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and the New Year’s Day Parade in Rome. They are truly something special and add a lot to the atmosphere.

Hampton Pirates Half Time Show, Photo by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


There is also a Pirate mascot as well as cheerleaders, but they pale in comparison to the band.


Neighborhood 3

Armstrong Stadium is located on the Hampton University campus, so you will have to travel at least a little bit to find much of anything. There is a shopping center located across the street from campus that has a few chain restaurants as well as a local Chinese place. If you’re willing to head further away, there are several hotels and restaurants located near the Hampton Coliseum a few miles off campus.


If you go to a game early in the season, you can head about half an hour down Interstate 64 to Virginia Beach and have a whole weekend getaway, but later on, the weather will likely not be desirable.


Fans 2

When we entered the stadium, the ticket taker told us to “enjoy the show.” While she likely misspoke, this reflects how the majority of Hampton fans see the game – as a marching band show with a football game on the side.


Although they’ll stay in their seats and give at least some effort to cheer for the first half, after the marching band has their show at halftime, most fans will head home. Those that remain behind do get into the game, but with a mostly empty stadium, that doesn’t help a whole lot.


Access 3

This rating really does not tell the whole story. While a 3 is considered average, to claim access to the stadium is average is akin to sitting with your legs in the freezer and your head in the oven and claiming your body temperature is average. First, the good – getting on campus is extremely easy. Take Exit 267 off Interstate 64, head straight through the light at the end of the exit ramp, and you’re already on campus.


Now, the bad – once you get on campus, things can get messy. The parking areas are not clearly marked, and you will often receive conflicting information from different people on where to park. Supposedly parking is $5 according to the website, but when we finally found the right lot, there was nobody there collecting money. Bring cash just in case.


After you park, you have to figure out how to get in the stadium. Depending on what kind of ticket you are buying or picking up at will call, you may have to go to one of four different ticket windows in completely different locations. Often, only one gate opens on time, in the far corner of the stadium. Access through this gate requires cutting through the soccer stadium to get in. It should not be this difficult to get into a game.


Return on Investment 3

Tickets are $20 each for general admission, with discounts available to youth, seniors, and military. Parking may or may not be free depending on whether they have anyone working the lots that day. Concession prices are about average too. All in all, the value here is average, nothing more.


Extras 2

One star for all the great energy the marching band brings. They are truly something special.

There is an inflatable pirate ship behind the open end zone which doubles as a bouncy slide for the kids.


Final Thoughts

Attending a Hampton football game is a tale of two halves. For the first half, the crowd is large and at least somewhat into it. Then the marching band does their thing at halftime and most of the crowd goes home. At that point, the atmosphere greatly diminishes. However, this should not be considered a poor reflection on the marching band itself, which is truly one of the best in the country.

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