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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Gillette Stadium - Army/Navy Game - New England


Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43


Gillette Stadium

1 Patriot Place

Foxborough, MA 02305



Year Opened: 2002

Capacity: 65,878


Real Patriots at Patriots Place

 

The Army-Navy Game marks the end of the college football regular season and is one of the oldest rivalries in the nation. This rivalry was first played in 1890, with the 2023 game marking its 124th edition. Traditionally played at neutral sites, this year’s game marked its first visit to New England and only third trip outside the mid-Atlantic region.

 

In 2002 Gillette Stadium, a $325 million privately funded stadium opened as the new home for the NFL's New England Patriots. The team immediately began to make the area not only a football venue, but an entertainment, dining, and shopping destination. In 2006 construction began on Patriot Place, an open-air shopping center located adjacent to the stadium. Patriot Place has proven to be so successful that imitators have begun to sprout up at stadiums around the country, and have become almost a standard feature in new stadium designs.

 

Food & Beverage 4

 

With an active tailgating scene and dozens of dining choices located just steps from Gillette Stadium’s front door, you may not expect much from the facility’s concessions. While Gillette Stadium may come up short on signature food items and high-end options, you will be satisfied with the choices available here should you choose to eat inside during the game.

 

Stands are located around the outer edge of the Gillette Stadium concourse, organized by the types of foods they offer. You may have to do a little searching to find what you want. All the stadium basics are covered, with stands that sell pizza, burgers, dogs and sausages, chicken tenders, and BBQ ringing the field. Portable carts selling drinks and snack foods line the inner edge of the concourses.

 

Pepsi products are featured at Gillette Stadium. As you may expect, the beer game is strong here, with national brands lining the menu boards alongside dozens of local craft favorites. For the most extensive selection of local beers, check out the Taproom or Draft Kings Lounge.

 

A complete guide to Gillette Stadium’s concessions can be found here.

 


 

Atmosphere 5

 

The atmosphere at an Army-Navy Game is unique among all college football games. The spectacle of the day usually outweighs the excitement of the game itself. The activities that surround the game are more than enough to keep even the most casual fan interested and involved.

 

The parking lots surrounding Gillette Stadium open up a full six hours before the game, giving fans plenty of time to tailgate or explore the shops of Patriot Place. In 2023 a FanFest was going on in the north entrance plaza to Gillette Stadium, filled with activities, games, swag, and even the filming of College Game Day. Of course, watching the Cadets and Midshipmen get into formation and march into the stadium is a highlight of the day and are not to be missed.

 

Once inside Gillette Stadium, the atmosphere is dominated by the facility’s new scoreboard, which is the largest outdoor scoreboard in North America. Videos, replays, crowd cams, and more are played throughout the afternoon, keeping energy levels up and engagement high.

 

The march of the middies and cadets into the stadium, the paratroopers, and the flyovers make this one of the best experiences in all of college football. The student sections and bands compete throughout the game and can be more entertaining than the game itself at times.

 

Neighborhood 5

 

Gillette Stadium sits on what was once a lonely stretch of Route One containing only a harness racing track and a trailer park. That started to change in 2007 when the Kraft Group began construction of Patriot Place, an open-air shopping center located mostly on the site of the old Schaefer Stadium. Patriot Place was constructed piecemeal and has grown to now include, among other things, a four-star hotel, entertainment complex, and outpatient health center.

 

Fans visiting Patriot Place can choose between numerous eateries ranging from casual dining to fine fare. Options vary from brew pubs to fancy steakhouses. Fans looking for entertainment options before or after a Patriots game can visit Splitsville Bowling Alley, Cinema de Lux, explore the on-site nature trail and cranberry bog, or take in some live music at Showcase Live! Fans looking to stay on-site will find Hilton Garden Inn and Renaissance Hotel steps from the stadium. Visit the Patriot Place website for more information.


 

Fans 5

 

You can expect the stadium to be packed, no matter where the game is being held and no matter what the weather. Virtually every person in the stands has a rooting interest in the game, and chants of “Go Army!” and “Go Navy!” ring through the stadium throughout the afternoon. The student sections are featured on the jumbotron frequently to great reactions, no matter which side.

 

Despite the high emotions and intensity of the rivalry, there is a respectful tone to the cheers. After all, we’re all on the same team here, aren’t we?

 

Access 3

 

Gillette Stadium is located in the small town of Foxborough, MA (alternatively spelled Foxboro). Foxboro has a population of almost 19,000 residents and is situated about halfway between Boston and Providence, RI at the intersection of Interstates 95 and 495. This location was picked for the original Schaefer Stadium due to its apparent convenience, but access has always been an issue at Patriots games.

 

Gillette Stadium is located on Route One, a busy four-lane road. It is the only way into and out of the stadium complex. As you might imagine, traffic is extremely heavy on game days and can back up for miles in both directions. The Patriots constantly tweak their systems to try and get visitors moving as quickly as possible, but no plan seems to consistently work. These issues are exacerbated at the Army-Navy Game, as thousands of fans who are not familiar with the processes in place at Foxboro descend on Gillette Stadium.

 

Fans who have not visited Gillette in a while will notice changes in the parking system. The lots closest to the stadium are now reserved for prepaid parking only. Fans arriving on game day will park on the opposite side of Route One, a bit of a walk from the facility. The perk to parking further away is that these lots are now free of charge. A complete guide to Gillette Stadium parking can be found here.

 

Once arriving at the stadium, fans will enter through one of three gates. Concourses, while busy, are large enough to move about without issue. The renovations to the north end of the stadium have improved flow greatly. Three sets of ramps lead to the upper levels of the stadium. There is standing room available at certain points on all levels of the facility. Handicapped seating is plentiful. Fans should have no issues moving about the facility.

 

The concourse is filled with concession stands, both permanent and portable. Lines can be long, particularly at halftime. Restrooms are plentiful and clean considering their busy usage. Just time your visits wisely. Be aware that Gillette Stadium is a cashless facility with a fairly aggressive clear bag policy. What can and cannot be brought into the stadium is advertised in all parking lots. Pay attention and save yourself a long walk back to your car.

 

Any veteran fan of the Patriots will tell you that the key to avoiding the legendary Gillette traffic is to arrive early and plan to stay a bit after the game. Luckily, with Patriot Place next to the stadium and the excellent tailgating scene, this is not the worst plan.

 

 

Return on Investment 4

 

Going to the Army-Navy game isn’t cheap, but somehow you won’t leave the stadium feeling gouged. Tickets sold through the Army and Navy websites go fast. According to the sites, upper-level seats are sold for $135-$150 and lower-level seats cost $200-$215. Prices were much higher than those on the secondary market.

 

General parking on the opposite side of Route One is included in the ticket price for 2023. The private lots that line Route One were charging between $30-$60 for parking. Since the game is held in an NFL stadium, expect to pay NFL prices for concessions.

 

Extras 5

 

It would be tempting to award the full score in this category simply for the grandeur of the game, but that would be the easy way out. There’s more than enough going on at “America’s Game” to warrant the maximum score here.

 

As mentioned before, don’t miss the March of the Cadets and Midshipmen before the game. Whether you are watching them march into the stadium or fill the gridiron in formation, it’s an emotional moment that is worth the price of admission all by itself.

 

The fanfest, located in the north entry plaza at Gillette Stadium, features giveaways, interactive games, and of course, ESPN’s College Game Day.

 

The pre-game flyover and paratroopers skydiving into the stadium balls are worth extra points.

 

Finally, an extra point is awarded for bringing America’s Game to the birthplace of the American Revolution.


 

Final Thoughts

 

Even though neither team is a national power, the Army-Navy Game is one of the highlights on the sporting calendar every year. The players on the field are not your typical college athletes, and the pageantry of the game transcends the action on the field. It should be a bucket list item for any college football fan.

 

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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