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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Braly Municipal Stadium – North Alabama Lions


Photos by University of North Alabama Athletics and Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Braly Municipal Stadium 521 N. Royal Ave. Florence, AL 35632


Year Opened: 1949 Capacity: 14,215

 

The Pride Of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama (UNA) was founded in 1830. It is Alabama’s oldest public university. Today it has a student body of 9,500 students enrolled in more than 300 lines of study. Its largest majors include Nursing/ Health Professions, Music, Business, Computers/IT, Education, and Social Services. These programs are held on the 130-acre main campus in Florence, Alabama.


The athletic teams at the university are known as the Lions. The football program at UNA has a very distinguished record during its more than 110 years of existence. It was a powerhouse in the Division II level of competition. It made it to the Division II playoffs 21 times and won three Division II National Championships (1993,1994, 1995).


The Lions were the only Division II Championship team to ever visit the White House. In 2018, the school voted to move up to the FCS level of competition. They played the 2018 season as an independent. In 2019 the university joined the Big South Conference in football only. The other sports at UNA play in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The football program became eligible for conference championships as of the 2022 football season.


The home of the Lions is the 14,215-seat Braly Municipal Stadium. It opened in 1949. The stadium is named for Thomas Braly, a local coach and school administrator in the area for many years. The stadium is located just a few blocks from the University of North Alabama. The stadium is owned and managed by the Florence, Alabama City School District. The stadium is used by both the UNA Lions and the Florence Falcons High School football programs.


Food & Beverage 2

The concession stands at Braly Stadium are located on the concourse beneath the grandstands on both sides of the field. No alcohol can be sold in the stadium as the facility is run by the school system.


The offerings are what you would expect in a stadium run by the school board. In other words, your typical stadium basics. They have hot dogs, nachos, candy, popcorn, and pretzels. Bottled water and Coca-Cola brand sodas are also on the menu.


Atmosphere 3

Braly Stadium is a functional stadium that will not overwhelm you. It was designed in an era when the “extras” were not even dreamed of. World War II had just ended and just going to a college or high school football game was considered a luxury.


The stadium has seating on either side of the field, with the home side being much taller and having much more capacity than the visitor’s side. For the most part, it is bench seating. Both the band and the student body members are sitting in the lower seats, with the alumni and Lions Athletic Club members sitting in the prime seatbacks along the fifty-yard line.


There is a very impressive three-level press box atop the home seating area. It houses both the electronic and newspaper media. We can understand how this stadium kept the Division II Championship Game for so long, as it was one of the nicest press boxes we have seen. The press box also houses a hospitality room for members of the Lions Athletic Club.


The field is used by multiple teams during the week since it is run by the local school system. Because of the heavy wear and tear, the school system has invested in a very state-of-the-art artificial turf surface. The stadium also has a very nice video board/scoreboard behind one of the end zones.


Neighborhood 5

The University of North Alabama and Braly Stadium are located in Florence, Alabama. Florence is a city of 40,000 residents. It is located in an area known as “the Shoals.” The Shoals are a group of four small cities along the Tennessee River. Florence is the largest of these four cities and offers the most in the way of lodging, attractions, and restaurants.


The Shoals were made famous by the music industry and what is called the “Muscle Shoals Sound.” This refers to the many recording studios that worked with many of the top singers in the music industry. Alabama, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, and others all traveled to this small city to be a part of that sound.


The Music Tour of the Shoals offers visits to the FAME Studio and the Muscle Shoals Sound studios. Another popular attraction is the W.C. Handy Birthplace and Museum/Library. He was known as the “King of the Blues.” The Helen Keller home is also open for visitors in nearby Tuscumbia.


There are a surprising number of hotel choices in Florence. The closest ones to the stadium are the Hampton Inn Midtown and the Holiday Inn Express.


Dining choices are also plentiful. The Marriott Shoals 360 Degree Grille offers a 360-degree view of the Tennessee River and the surrounding area from its perch atop the local Marriott Hotel. Barbeque is a way of life in these parts. We found Bunyan’s BBQ had us licking our fingers after we finished our ribs. Birdy’s Sports Grille is a great place to catch some of the late games on their multiple sets of TVs.


Fans 5

The University of North Alabama has been blessed with one of the most loyal fan bases in the country. The Lions have an average attendance of 9,500. The team earned their loyalty long ago with the string of appearances in the Division II playoffs and National Championships. Now that the team has upped its game in the FCS level of play, the fans are even more enthused about the program. The Lion Athletic Club has seen its membership increase which helps with the expenses of playing at the FCS level, as there is a much greater expense due to travel.


We also have to take our hats off to the cheer team, the ROAR dance team, and the UNA Pride of the Lions Band for keeping the energy going during the action and for providing a great pregame and halftime show.

The University of North Alabama has some great athletic traditions. The first is Leo III, the live lion who lives in the George L. Carroll Lion Habitat on the UNA campus. His habitat includes rocks, a pond, and a stream with running water. Leo III has been recognized as the #1 Best Real Animal Mascot in College Football on several occasions. He is open for visitors from 8am-5pm on a daily basis.


Another tradition is the Lion’s Pride Rock. This is a granite rock with the pawprint of Leo III impressed into it. The rock is placed in the end zone before each game so the team members can touch it for good luck in the game that follows.


There are also several sets of lion statues on the UNA campus. The most impressive is the Pride of the Lions, which features an adult male and female lion with their cubs.


One last tradition is the Victory Flame. It is on the UNA campus. After a Lions win, everybody goes over to the campus to watch the Flame be lit.


Access 3

One of the main issues as far as access to Braly Stadium is its distance from almost any major city. UNA and Florence, Alabama are located in the northwest corner of the state of Alabama. It is quite a distance from any interstates as well. Florence is 118 miles from Birmingham, 76 miles from Huntsville, and 127 miles from Nashville. The best route from I-65 is as follows:


From Birmingham: Take I-65 North to exit 310. Go right on AL-157. Turn right at Huntsville Road (County Road 32). At the roundabout take the first exit for Royal Avenue. Stay on Royal Avenue until you reach Stadium Drive and Braly Stadium.


Parking near Braly Stadium can also be difficult on game days. You can prepay for a space, but getting to it can be an issue. We strongly urge fans to park at the UNA campus and take the free shuttle bus to the game. The buses run continuously throughout the game, so you should not have a long wait for the next bus. Parking is free and plentiful on the campus.


Return on Investment 3

Braly Stadium offers tickets at several price points depending on where you want to sit at the stadium. The visitors stand's seats are all priced as General Admission, which is $12 on both sides of the field. The home side of the field has a much larger grandstand and charges by location.


The Outer Bench seats are along the 20-yard lines at the bottom of the grandstand and are $20. The Prime Bench seats are along the 40-yard lines are low in the grandstand and cost $25. The most expensive seats are designated for Lion Athletic Club members and cost $50. The $50 also covers perks like seatbacks rather than bench seating, preferred parking near the stadium, and access to the Grady Liles Hospitality Room at Braly Stadium.


Parking at Braly Stadium is $12. We strongly urge you to prepay to get a spot anywhere close to the stadium. Better yet, park at the UNA campus for free and ride the free shuttle to the games. The concession stand prices at Braly Stadium are very reasonable. However, the number of menu items is very limited.


Extras 4

George “Goober” Lindsey from the Andy Griffith TV show played quarterback for the University of North Alabama. He is now a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.


The University of North Alabama has begun raising funds to build a new, on-campus stadium. This project is known as the Bank Independent Stadium project. This project is very important for the school, as Braly Stadium is 74 years old and lacks many of the amenities found in modern stadiums.


The new stadium would also be managed by the university rather than the school board, giving the college much more flexibility in scheduling events and offering more perks to major donors to the school. The design phase for the new stadium got underway in 2023 and the school hopes to be in a new facility by the 2026-2027 school year.


Braly Stadium hosted the Division III National Championship football game from 1986 to 2013. This allowed the Lions to win all three of their National Football Championships on their home field.


Harlon Hill was a star football player for the Lions. He went on to a long career in the NFL, where he was the NFL Rookie of the Year and the MVP, while he played for the Chicago Bears. The Harlon Hill Trophy is awarded to the top player in the Division II level of competition each year. It is the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy that is given at the FBS level of play.


The University of North Alabama football program was the first school in Alabama to integrate its team in 1968.


Final Thoughts

The University of North Alabama is thrilled to be an FCS-level school, as they were a dominant program at the Division II level. For now, their longtime home at Braly Stadium provides an adequate facility. However, the future for Lions football is bright, as a new on-campus stadium is in the design phase of planning.

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