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  • Writer's pictureMatt Colville

Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium – Florida State Seminoles


Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium Champions Way Tallahassee, FL 32304



Year Opened: 1950

Capacity: 79,560

 

The House that Bobby Built


For over 60 years Doak Campbell Stadium at Bobby Bowden Field has played host to one of the most storied college football programs in the country, the Florida State Seminoles. Nestled amongst palm trees and Spanish moss trees lies perhaps one of the true meccas in college football. The ‘Noles have produced three national championships, eighteen conference titles, three Heisman winners, and can lay claim to having one of the greatest coaches to ever coach football grace its sidelines for 25 years, Bobby Bowden. During the Bowden era the Seminoles became one of the most dominant teams in all of college football, and during the 1990s the ‘Noles were the most successful college football program in the country, boasting a win percentage of 89% and playing in five national championships between 1993 and 2001.


Florida State University, originally called West Florida Seminary, was founded in 1851 and is located on the oldest continuous site of higher education in the state of Florida. Over the years the college changed names several times, including being called Florida State College in 1902 when it fielded its first football team. The football program would go on hiatus in 1905 when the school was renamed Florida State College for Women, but the program restarted once the college began accepting males again in 1947.


Doak Campbell Stadium opened in 1950 with a seating capacity of 15,000 and was named after the FSU president at the time. Over the years its capacity changed substantially, bringing the current capacity to 79,560. Doak Campbell Stadium is currently the second-largest stadium in the ACC and the 18th-largest in college football, and in addition it is the largest continuous brick structure in the country.


Numerous renovations and expansions have happened over the years; a new press box and PA system was installed in 2003, two new scoreboards were installed in 2008, and in 2016 the stadium added the Dunlap Champions Club located in the south end zone – this three-story club lounge is truly a unique experience, and is one of the premiere experience in all of college football.


Food & Beverage 3

College football stadiums are not known for expansive and diverse food options, and there’s no exception here. The majority of fans will get something to eat beforehand or eat at a tailgating spot. If you have access to the Champions Club, then this rating would get a 5, but I’ll give it a 3 and take it from the perspective of an average fan.


As soon as you enter the gate the thing that stands out is the numerous concessions stands located down the concourse. The stands weren’t set up like regular stands where the stand would be against a wall and you walk up to the counter and order your food; here the stands are in the middle of the walkway, meaning you can walk around them if you want to. I’m not sure if these were set up this way to help with crowd control, because no matter where you go there is not a line at all.


The food and beverage people do an excellent job of providing a various assortment of concessions stands on the first and second floors. The main stand seems to be the Gridiron Grill with 12 locations throughout the stadium (6 on each floor). This stand sells the usual ballpark food such as sausage ($6); hot dogs and tubs of popcorn ($5); nachos, pretzels, and peanuts ($4); and candy ($3). Coke is the main soft drink provider, and there are many other stands as well such as a pretzel stand on the lower level, a gourmet hot dog stand on the upper level, four Spear It Treats stands that sell various ice creams and candies, six Pizza Hut stands, and two Chick-fil-A stands.


FSU alums and Oprah’s personal chef Art Smith also have two specialty stands set up on the lower level called Art’s Southern Fanfare. A wide assortment of southern foods awaits you at this stand including hush puppies, fried chicken sandwiches, grits, and biscuits. There are also four Seminole Subs stands that sell a wide assortment of various subs and po’ boys, as well as three Sonny’s BBQ stands that sell beef brisket and pulled pork sandwiches. There are also two Bodacious Burgers restaurants located on each level, which sells large burgers for $10. Then, on the north end zone in the upper level is an Italian food restaurant, and all of these are just the stands for an average fan, not to mention the club level food options.


If you have a Champions Club pass the score of this rating goes up to 5. The club has an indoor and outdoor full spread buffet set up with everything you can imagine. This set up is quite glamorous to say the least, all the food and drink you can imagine and it’s all free with the purchase of the pass. There is also a 4 Rivers Smokehouse located in this area; the Orlando-based restaurant is known for its BBQ and is finally branching out into other areas of the southeast.


As more and more college football stadiums are beginning to sell alcohol, FSU is starting to follow this trend as well. There are currently two places in Doak Campbell Stadium you can buy alcohol, but the only catch is that the alcohol has to be consumed in designated areas. This rule does not apply to people in the Club level and suites, where you can drink alcohol anywhere.


Atmosphere 5

You know you are in a special place before you even walk into the stadium. The Spanish moss trees and palm trees really set the tone for the atmosphere outside Doak Campbell Stadium. The entire campus is lined with the beautiful trees, and with the Florida State Capitol Building off in the distance, it really does embody the spirit and culture of the state of Florida. The 1600-acre campus is spread out, and all of the buildings, including the stadium, look the same and are either made of brick or are garnet colored. It seems tailgating is spread out forever around the campus, and there are even fans tailgating in the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center parking lot which is over a mile away. Even though the FSU program isn’t what it used to be, it’s nice to see that people still come to tailgate even though most of them don’t go into the game.


The stadium is a part of the University Center complex, which includes classrooms, a team store, and the FSU visitor center. Because of the stadium’s multi-use setup, there are numerous entrances into the Doak Campbell Stadium, and not all the entrances lead to the stands. For instance, the College of Communication’s advising office is located at Gate D as classrooms, and the College of Social Work is located at the Gate C entrance. Gates open 2 hours prior to kickoff and there are 8 entrances, Gates A through H, and with there being enough entrances around the stadium, congestion never really occurs.


Doak Campbell Stadium is beginning to show its age – the concourses are old and dark, and the whole stadium is just one big concrete structure so it is starting to show cracks. But its gritty appearance only adds to the experience. The stadium is set up in a north-south configuration, with the home sideline located on the west and the visiting team set up on the east. The only upper deck is located in the Champions Club on the south end zone. The rest of the stadium is shaped like a bowl, with a lower and upper concourse located on both sides. There are 86 rows on each side of the grandstands and all the seats are basic bleacher seating; you can start at row 1 and walk all the way up the 86 steps to get to the top of the stadium to get gorgeous views of downtown Tallahassee. In addition, the 57×120-foot, 7200-square-foot scoreboard was installed in the north end zone in 2016 ranks is one of the top ten largest scoreboards in all of college football.


All colleges have their own traditions, but perhaps the most amazing tradition in all of college football happens at Doak Campbell Stadium when Chief Osceola and his horse Renegade charge the field. The chief then throws a flaming spear at midfield to begin the game. This is truly a site to see for all college football fans. The idea originated in 1962 but didn’t come to fruition until after Bobby Bowden arrived in the mid-1970s. Osceola wears traditional Native American clothing that was designed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Renegade is a rare breed of white Appaloosa horse that is supplied by the originator of the idea’s son; he personally selects and trains the horse and the rider. There is a strict and detailed selection process, and students who are selected receive a scholarship to portray Chief Osceola. As of 2014 there has only been 16 students who have played Chief Osceola.


Another tradition at FSU is the birthplace of the tomahawk chop. Even though the famous chant has branched out to other teams such as the Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City Chiefs, FSU can lay claim to starting the chant in the mid-80s. The chant was invented by then student Wallace Odom and was then picked up by the famous FSU Marching Chiefs band. The tomahawk chop caught on and has become synonymous with the university; you cannot leave Doak Campbell Stadium without getting the chant stuck in your head.


Neighborhood 4

Tallahassee is the capital city of Florida with a little under 200,000 people. But even though Tallahassee is the capital and a fairly large city, it still retains that college town feel. The sprawling FSU campus spans about 1,400 acres throughout downtown, with the capitol and government buildings all located about a mile or so east of the stadium, so there is not much separation between the two. Because of the closeness of the university you’ll catch a distinct class of different people mingling together under one roof; the government/business professionals and the college-aged kids.


There are several different areas of downtown Tallahassee, the most popular one being the College Town neighborhood, located just across the street from campus. College Town is a mixed used development project opened in 2012, and is home to a multitude of different bars, restaurants and residential properties. Perhaps the biggest and most prominent structure has to be the Madison Social; the two-story bar is probably the most packed after game day. For late night go upstairs to the Recess Club, which has a South Beach-themed rooftop pool with sweeping views of Doak Campbell Stadium. Other restaurants and bars in College Town include Thin Lizzie’s Cantina, Township, Coosh’s Bayou Rouge, Magda’s, Vale Foods, Brooklyn Bagels, Centrale Italian, Brick House Pizza, and Harry’s Seafood. Craft beer has become really popular in Tallahassee over the past few years, and there are currently five breweries operating in Tallahassee, with GrassLands and Proof Brewing being the main two. Located just south of campus is Railroad Square, which is the Art District of Tallahassee. This is kind of the hipster area and a collection of brightly painted studios, art galleries, restaurants, and other unique shops. For other shopping there are two malls in the area, Governor’s Square Mall and Tallahassee Mall, both located on the north side of the city.


An unusual, but interesting, attraction on campus would be the FSU Flying High Circus. The circus, located across the street from the stadium, originally started in 1947, and FSU is one of two colleges in the country to have an affiliated circus. All the members of the circus are required to be students, and they perform several times a year. Also, while in the downtown area I definitely recommend checking out the Florida State Capitol; this 320-foot building is one of the tallest state capitols in the U.S., and has an observation deck on the top floor with sweeping view of the FSU campus. Another attraction I recommend checking out is the Tallahassee Automobile Museum – this museum has over 1,000 different cars on display, such as an impressive collection of Batmobiles and Abraham Lincoln’s hearse.


There are not a whole lot of hotels in the downtown area, with the majority of hotels located around the interstate. The prices can more than triple on game weekends though, so my suggestion if you don’t mind driving would be to drive the 45 minutes west and stay in Marianna. There are plenty of hotels here to stay at and prices are more affordable.


This area is also known for its many underground springs, so if you stay in Marianna make sure you check out Florida Caverns State Park; the caverns are impressive and some of the country’s most famous underground caverns. The caverns are part of Blue Hole Springs, and you can swim in crystal clear 80 degree year round waters.


Fans 4

The score for this section would be a lot lower if it wasn’t for all the traditions and the fact that this school was a college football powerhouse at one time. However, this 2019 season the fan support could be better. The ‘Noles are averaging about 55,000 fans this year, a far cry from where it was 20 years ago. At the most recent game I attended, the west side stands were pretty full while the east side was virtually empty. The only exception to the low turnout happens to be the Champions Club in the south end zone. This area is where most of the boosters and the higher-up FSU fans sit, so the fans in this section are diehards who show up regardless. I’ve heard the atmosphere and turnout is much better for a night game, although this season the Seminoles have only had one night game.


Even though the Seminoles football program is in a decline (Willie Taggart was recently fired), the student and alumni support outside the stadium is still rowdier than ever. All throughout campus is lined with tents, so it is a party atmosphere no matter where you go.


Even though the fan turnout for games is not what it once was, there still remains a loyal fan base that stretches across the entire northern part of Florida from Jacksonville to the panhandle. With so many colleges to compete with in the area, it’s safe to say that this part of Florida is definitely ‘Noles country.


Access 4

Because of a major university being located in a downtown setting, I figured traffic would be a nightmare. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case. If coming from out of town you may have a little bit of traffic congestion getting onto any of the main roads off I-10; Monroe Street and Capital Circle are the two main roads into the university and they are pretty busy on a non-game day, much less on a game day. The stadium itself is located about a mile west of downtown, and about 5 miles south of the interstate, so expect considerable delays if you are coming from far away.


The best advice to avoid traffic would be, if coming from the west take the Highway 90 exit, which exits a couple of miles west of Tallahassee, but you approach the campus from back roads which would be a quicker drive than taking the main highway into town. Highway 90 runs into Tennessee Street, which runs parallel to campus; if coming from the east you can take this exit as well, as it runs just a couple miles east of Tallahassee.


Once on campus there are multiple parking lots and people charging to park in their driveways. The parking lot prices range from $10 to $20 depending on how close you park to the stadium. There are some houses charging $40 to $60 to park in their driveway, so avoid doing these unless you absolutely have to. There are enough lots around campus to park, so I recommend using the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center parking lot, as it is a fairly large lot and only charges $10. Once in the stadium the concourses are pretty wide, and with the numerous concessions stands congestion is no issues at all.


Return on Investment 4

Ticket prices range anywhere from $15 for the corner of the stadium to $175 for first row seats on the sidelines. However, $25 to $40 is about the average price per ticket. The prices fluctuate when teams like Clemson or Miami come to town, but for the most part tickets are cheaper than they were when FSU was consistently winning. You can even find cheaper tickets on the secondary market or from a scalper. Concessions and parking prices are about average, so I consider this a good return on investment; you get to see one of the premiere college football experiences in the country for a reasonable price.


Extras 4

Take a moment before the game to walk around Doak Campbell Stadium and view the different statues located around the stadium. There are three statues located outside – the Sportsmanship statue is a 15-foot tall statue of a football player helping a fellow rival teammate off the field; the Sportsmanship statue was unveiled in 2002 and is located in the south end zone. There’s also a 9-foot tall Bobby Bowden statue that was unveiled in 2004, which is located outside the north end zone. But perhaps the main statue happens to be the statue titled Unconquered; it’s a 19-foot tall statue of Chief Osceola riding his famous horse Renegade, depicting him about to spike the spear onto the field. On the Friday before game day, the university lights the end of the spear, and the flame does not get extinguished until the Sunday morning after the game. The statue was unveiled in 2003 and makes for a great photo op, and has become one of the most photographed spots on campus.


Furthermore, underneath the Bobby Bowden statue are bricks lined with the names of all the greatest athletes to play at FSU in all sports. For football names like Bobby Bowden, Deion Sanders, Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston, Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, Peter Warrick, Ron Simmons, Terrell Buckley, and even Burt Reynolds are forever enshrined in the bricks outside the stadium.


Another extra point for the Dunlap Champions Club in the south end zone. I encourage any diehard FSU fan who has never watched a game from up there to do so at least once in their lifetime. Even though tickets are fairly expensive you cannot find a better atmosphere in all of college football. Even though the fan support may be kind of dead in the seating bowl, the Champions Club is always rockin’. You can tell the university really put a lot of effort into making this area special; multiple bars, restaurants, and booth style tables with televisions at every table; the whole area just screams top notch.


I recommend getting to the stadium early and just walking around the campus. The FSU campus is absolutely beautiful, and many of the buildings are brick with Spanish Colonial Architecture, so they all blend together quite nicely. Doak Campbell Stadium fits in perfectly with the surrounding buildings. Many of the buildings are rumored to be haunted as well. The Westcott Building is probably the most beautiful and famous building on campus – the early 1900s structure has two castle shaped towers rising from the middle of the building, and has many palm trees and a gorgeous fountain.


Final Thoughts

Even though the FSU program hasn’t had much success in recent years, a long history of winning seasons and traditions still make seeing a game at The Doak something special. The pageantry and magic of what made this place so great is still here. Everything from the statues outside the stadium, the tomahawk chant, to Chief Osceola spiking the spear at midfield, makes watching a game at Doak Campbell Stadium truly a remarkable experience, one that all college football fans should experience.

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