Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Campus Field 5151 Park Ave Fairfield, CT 06825
Year Opened: 1997
Pioneering a New Era at Sacred Heart
Sacred Heart University has hosted football teams since 1991. The Pioneers originally played in Division III, moving up to Division II in 1993 and then up to the FCS subdivision of Division I in 1999. The team competes in the Northeast Conference, which is made up of small schools located from Rhode Island to Maryland.
Campus Field, which opened in 1997, is located adjacent to the William H. Pitt Center. In addition to hosting the school’s football team, the Pioneer lacrosse and track squads call the facility home. Sacred Heart has won or shared four conference championships since joining the Northeast Conference. They have appeared in the FCS playoffs twice, losing both times in the first round to Fordham. Jon Corto, who played three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, is the only Sacred Heart alumnus to play in the National Football League.
Food & Beverage 2
There is a tent set up beyond the end of the grandstand on the south side of Campus Field. There’s not a great variety of food available here, but it’s enough to get you through any hunger pangs you may have during the game. The food is hot and fresh, and no item costs more than six dollars. Hot dogs, burgers, sausage and pepper sandwiches and nachos comprise the entire menu. There are pretzels, chips and candy for fans just looking for a snack. Cans of Pepsi products are available here. Here’s a Stadium Journey insiders tip: Head inside the Pitt Center through the entrance under the grandstand. Past the restrooms are a bunch of vending machines. The sodas in these machines are $1.75 for a 20-ounce bottle as opposed to $2 for a 12-ounce can outside. Smart shopping can pay off!
There is a beer garden located in the farthest reaches of Campus Field beyond the south end zone. Entrance to the beer garden will set you back an additional five dollars on top of the price of your ticket.
As a rule, football games in this part of the country are just not the big deal that they are in other parts in the country. Crowds are smaller and the atmosphere is more relaxed. What you’ll get at a Sacred Heart game will be very familiar and comfortable to veteran college football fans. All the elements common to college football games are present at Campus Field. There’s a large band, cheerleading squad and dance team, which all perform throughout the game keeping the fans engaged. A mascot roams the stands interacting with fans, and the crowd, while small, is engaged in the action taking place on the field. There’s a new video board in the south end zone which, unfortunately, is severely underutilized. During Stadium Journey’s visit a graphic featuring the SHU logo was displayed throughout the game at the expense of game action, stats or replays. Only a few advertisements broke the monotony.
While Fairfield is a really nice place to live (in fact, Money Magazine rated Fairfield as one of the top 50 places to live in the country), it’s not exactly what you would consider a destination city. Visiting fans coming to Sacred Heart will not find a whole lot of options close to campus. To the north of campus on Park Avenue is a residential area, and a few miles to the south is urban Bridgeport. Fans looking for places to eat may have to drive a bit. Luckily, this area of Connecticut has no shortage of dining or lodging options around Route One, which runs the length of the southern edge of the state along the coastline.
Adjacent to the Sacred Heart campus is the Discovery Museum and Planetarium. This attraction features rotating exhibits and interactive educational displays. Right next door to the Pitt Center is JP’s Diner, a 50s style full-service restaurant which is open on game days.
Attendance at Sacred Heart football games can vary greatly depending on the time of year, opponent and game day weather. Crowds vary in size from 1,500 to 4,500, which is a most impressive figure when you consider that capacity is listed at 3,334. Fans that attend Sacred Heart football games are typical of other fans in the area. While they know the game, they take in the action in a reserved, laid-back manner. It’s not unusual to find yourself sitting amongst family or friends of some of the players on the field.
Sacred Heart University is located in suburban Fairfield, Connecticut, in the southwestern corner of the Nutmeg State. The campus is easily accessed by either the Merritt Parkway or Interstate 95. Traffic in this part of the state is often heavy, so you may have to allot extra time to arrive at Campus Field.
There are many construction projects going on around Campus Field. Where they have had the greatest impact on the Pioneer game day experience is parking. There isn’t a whole lot of parking right around the venue, meaning visitors must search around campus for open spots. Luckily, there are ample parking spots throughout campus. Since Sacred Heart has a very small campus, even the furthest lot is less than a mile walk. Be sure to arrive early, as the spots on campus fill up quickly. Overflow parking is located across the street at Notre Dame High School. Even though this lot is only a half mile from Campus Field, you will have to walk uphill both ways to get to the game (no, really, you walk down one steep hill and up another going both to the stadium and back to your car).
Seating at Campus Field consists on metal bleachers without backs on either sideline. Seats around midfield have padding. There is no seating in either end zone, as the beer garden and president’s club take up residence here. There is a track which encircles the field, which pushes seating back even further. Still, all seats offer good views of the action. Restrooms are located in the adjacent William Pitt Center. During chilly November games the lobby here is a popular spot for warming up during halftime.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to Sacred Heart football games cost $15 for reserved seating around midfield and $10 for general admission seating. Youths and seniors are admitted for five dollars. Admission to the beer garden will cost an additional five dollars. Parking is free in the lots located all around campus. With inexpensive concessions, attending a Pioneers game is an affordable entertainment option for southern Connecticut sports fans.
An extra point is awarded for the upgrades already completed at Campus Field, as well as those in progress. One gets the feeling that this facility will look very different in a few years as the Bobby Valentine Athletic Center is completed.
For the most part, college football in New England is just not the big deal that it is in other parts of the country. Sacred Heart is typical of the many small football stadiums in the area. It’s a laid-back, relaxed place at which to take in a game, enjoy a fall afternoon, and cheer on the home team without spending a whole lot of your hard-earned cash.