Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium 157 Gale Lemerand Dr Gainesville, FL 32611
Year Opened: 1930 Capacity: 88,548
The Home of the Swamp and the Gator Chomp
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (the full name is Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium) has served as the home of Florida Gators football since 1930. It is more popularly known as simply “The Swamp,” a name coined by former Coach Steve Spurrier. As he explains “Gators live in the swamp, and I want opponents to be afraid of visiting the swamp.” Since its initial construction Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has grown to a capacity of 88,548. This makes it the largest stadium in the state of Florida, the 12th largest in the NCAA and 18th largest stadium in the world.
The Gators have fared very well during their years in The Swamp. They have won three National Championships, eight SEC Championships and fourteen Division Championships while playing at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Food & Beverage 4
There are more than 60 concessions locations within Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. They are spaced to each serve two sections of the stadium, so you should not experience much of a line. For the most part, the stands serve the usual stadium fare. This includes burgers, hot dogs, mac n’ cheese, quesadillas and pizza from Domino’s.
Where the food really excels is in the area of BBQ. Local favorite Newberry BBQ offers up BBQ pork sandwiches, pulled pork nachos and BBQ turkey legs. Ben Hill Griffin offers Pepsi brand sodas, bottled water, lemonade and sweet tea. Alcohol is not served in the stadium due to state law.
Concession stands are staffed by volunteers from local non-profits. Please be patient in the line and thank them for their service to the community.
The architects and engineers who designed The Swamp definitely had both the fan experience and home field advantage in mind. The stands are elevated over the field, providing excellent sight lines for the fans. They are also built very close to the sidelines, which is great for the fan experience, but can be very intimidating for the visiting team. The seating bowl tends to capture and hold in sound, which creates an extremely loud environment in which to call plays and hear the snap count. The seating bowl also traps in the heat, wearing down teams from more temperate regions who are unaccustomed to the heat and humidity of Florida. By the way, the Gators bench is on the shaded side of the stadium, while the visitors sideline is directly in the sunny side of the stadium.
The stadium has an excellent electronics package to keep fans informed throughout the game. This includes matching video boards atop the stands in each end zone and a new LED ribbon board installed after the 2017 season.
It is important to note two issues for fans coming to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for a Gators game. The stands consist of aluminum bench seating. This can become very hot and uncomfortable throughout the length of a game. The university does not allow fans to bring in their own personal seatbacks, so we highly recommend bringing a seat cushion to the game. The second issue deals with health and safety. It is very easy to become dehydrated during a four-hour game. Fans are allowed to bring clear water bottles into the stadium. There are refilling stations located throughout the stadium, as well as many water fountains. The stadium is well staffed with medical personnel to handle any heat-related illnesses.
The University of Florida has one of the largest campuses in the country. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is at the northern end of the campus. It is just a block off University Avenue, the main thoroughfare in Gainesville.
Gainesville is the largest city in north central Florida, with a population of 127,000. As in most college towns, there are many museums and cultural activities going on all the time. One of the best places to check out the art scene is at the Artisans Guild Gallery. Nature lovers can visit the alligators in their natural habitat at the nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. On the food front, The Swamp Restaurant has been around for decades and is located just across University Avenue from its namesake stadium.
Gator fans are among the loudest in the SEC, and the athletic program has created a number of great traditions to involve them in the game as much as possible. The games get off to a raucous start as the video boards show several live alligators on the screen, with very ominous music playing in the background. Suddenly the picture zooms in to a closeup of the gator’s jaws clamping down. The screen fades to blue and orange with the words “The Swamp – Only Gators Get Out Alive.” The fans go nuts as the Gators enter the field. During the game the music from “Jaws” plays before key plays, encouraging the fans to go into the Gator Chomp arm motion.
One new tradition was added after the death of Gainesville native Tom Petty in 2017. His hit “I Won’t Back Down” is played at the end of the 3rd quarter. This is done both as a salute to the beloved Petty and to encourage the Gator team to stay strong in the 4th quarter. Whether you are a Petty fan or a Gator fanatic… it is hard not to sing along with the other 88,548 members of the choir.
Gainesville, Florida is located 90 minutes west of Jacksonville and 15 miles east of I-75 in north central Florida. Getting to the campus from I-75 is relatively quick and easy, while the ride over from Jacksonville is a two lane highway that can get very congested on game day.
The parking adjacent to the Swamp is quite limited, with spaces reserved for large donors, booster club members and persons with disabilities. The university has worked with the Regional Transportation Authority to establish a very efficient shuttle system from numerous satellite parking areas around the city. Fans can park at The Oaks Mall, the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center, Tioga Town Center or the Downtown Gainesville Parking Garage and ride directly to the stadium. The shuttle costs $10 round trip.
Once at the stadium, fans may enter at whichever gate they wish. The most recent renovations to the stadium included the addition of several more restrooms, concession areas and the widening of the concourses to improve circulation patterns.
Return on Investment 3
Be prepared for a Gator to chomp down on your wallet, as Florida games tend to be pricey affairs. Standard ticket prices range from $15 – $325 for non-conference games and $30-$450 for an SEC game. This assumes that you can even buy a standard ticket. The Gators have a long history of sellouts, so more than likely you will be buying your tickets on the secondary market at a premium price. The hotel stock in Gainesville is rather limited and the local lodging establishments have special event pricing in effect. Expect to pay $250-$300 per night for an in-town room. Parking lots tend to run in the $20 range, with the shuttle busses charging $10 round trip. Restaurants in the area tend to be very reasonably priced, even on football weekends.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is located on the northern edge of the University of Florida campus. There are several buildings and athletic facilities to check out before or after the game. These include the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Alfred A McKethan Stadium and the Heavener Football Complex, which houses a museum saluting the history of Florida Gators Football.
Florida is very proud of its elite athletes and their accomplishments. There are numerous salutes to the Gator Greats spread in and around the stadium. Statues of the three Gator QB’s to win the Heisman Trophy (Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow) are located just outside the stadium. A Ring of Honor in the North end zone salutes players including Spurrier, Wuerfful, Wilber Marshall, Emmitt Smith and Jack Youngblood.
The Gator Growl is the “Largest Student-Run Pep Rally in the World.” It is held the Friday night preceding the Homecoming game. The event includes a concert, cheer competitions, skits, fireworks and a visit from the Gator team. Every year a top-secret celebrity guest has appeared at the event. Past visitors have included Bob Hope, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Snoop Dogg and David Letterman.
A long history of winning football and Steve Spurrier’s knack for marketing and psychological warfare have made “The Swamp” one of the best-known stadiums in the country. The blue and orange color scheme and 88,000 fans doing the “Gator Chomp” will unnerve even the most confident teams visiting Gainesville on a steamy, hot Saturday.