Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Community National Bank & Trust Stadium 3701 W. State Highway 22 Corsicana, TX 75110
Year Opened: 2006
The Heritage Bowl
Founded in 1848 by the legendary Tejano hero of the Texas Revolution, José Antonio Navarro, is the north-central Texas city of Corsicana. It is home to Corsicana Independent School District, the Corsicana High School Tigers and their home, Community National Bank & Trust Stadium, and for the past six seasons, the Fun Town RV Center Heritage Bowl.
This annual post-season game is one of four sanctioned bowl games for the NCAA’s Division II. It is unique in the bowl landscape in that it does not hold any conference tie-ins. Until this year’s appearance of the Emporia State Hornets (who took on the Southern Nazarene Crimson Storm), each year’s matchup was unique, with no team repeating an appearance in the game. The stadium itself, which is also home to the Navarro College Bulldogs, is one of the larger of its kind in the area and is perfectly suited to this type of game.
I can say right now that I wasn’t sure what to expect when attending the Heritage Bowl. However, and I hope my review reflects this, I had a great time – read on to learn more.
Food & Beverage 3
The food and drink situation at the Heritage Bowl was truly reflective of the stadium’s regular duties as a high school stadium. During the bowl game, two out of the three concession stands in the stadium are open and available to fans.
These stands, one on each side of the stadium, offer up a selection of pretty standard fare – bags of chips, boxes of popcorn, and a wide selection of bottled sodas, water, and sports drinks are available. There are also hot dogs, Frito pie (delicious), and hot cocoa later in the season; this is the perfect beverage on a cold afternoon or evening in December for a football game.
One selection that stands out, and one I am thankfully seeing at an increasing number of high school venues, is Chick-fil-A. I am a devoted fan of the chain and am glad to see their sandwiches, chips, and beverages pop up more and more frequently.
One caveat for the Heritage Bowl is that no beer or alcohol is sold at the game. However, this is nicely balanced out by the fact that you can feed a whole family of four or five for about $25, depending on what you get. This a refreshing change of pace from most bowl games.
Before delving into this topic in detail, just some background information; Bethany, Oklahoma – home of Southern Nazarene University – is roughly 270 miles from Corsicana, Texas, while Emporia, Kansas, and the eponymous Emporia State University are roughly 500 miles away. Heading to bowl game, these long distances away were something that was on my mind, and I was sure they would impact the attendance – I could not have been more wrong.
Pulling into the parking lots were scores of cars from out of state, and people were tailgating everywhere. It was great. The fans – more on them shortly – showed up for their teams and heightened the energy and excitement in the stands to levels I was not expecting. I hope it is this way for every Heritage Bowl.
Inside the stadium merchandise tents are selling commemorative Heritage Bowl gear, which fans were buying in droves – there is a merchandise tent near each concessions stand.
One other great feature of the stadium is on the home field side, there are a wide array of seatback chairs for fans. This is a great change of pace from the traditional bleacher seating at a lot of high school and small college venues and was much appreciated on the chilly day of this year’s Heritage Bowl.
The nearest big cities to Corsicana are Waco and Dallas; Corsicana is just on the outskirts of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, which gives the city a lot of the amenities of the area without a lot of the hassles, such as the traffic. Corsicana itself is consistently voted one of the most charming small cities in Texas – it does have a unique small-town flare, while at the same time having pretty much everything a more urban city could offer.
In terms of attractions, Navarro College is home to the Pearce Museum, which houses a vast collection of art dedicated to the historic and modern American West. The museum is divided into two sections; the Civil War Gallery, which offers an interactive experience “designed to give visitors a humanistic view” of the war, and the Western Art Gallery, home to more than 250 works of art depicting or interpreting life in the West.
Another attraction to keep an eye on is Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille. As its name may imply, it is a movie theater paired up with a bowling alley, restaurant, and arcade. It is one of the most popular spots in town for locals and could be a great way to unwind after a bowl game.
In terms of restaurants, I am going to offer up a slice of Texas history. When most folks in this state hear the name “Corsicana,” what almost invariably comes to mind is the Collin Street Bakery. Founded in 1896, Collin Street is renowned for its baked goods, especially its fruit cakes. Now, I know that probably doesn’t sound great, but believe me, one bite and you’ll be a believer.
When it comes to lodging, as the stadium is located near the middle and high schools, there aren’t any hotels or motels within immediate walking distance. However, there are still quite a few that are within a short drive – they vary in price, but the closest are the Kingsway Inn and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Corsicana I-45. As you might expect, there are plenty of options based on your budget.
In past seasons the Heritage Bowl has drawn anywhere between 3,500 and 4,000 fans per game. For schools at the Division II level that is a pretty good amount, especially as most of the schools who play in the game are not based in Texas. With that said, I can only anecdotally say how impressed I was with the fans at this year’s iteration of the game.
I’ve already mentioned the vast number of tailgaters I saw before the game; both parking lots were virtually filled with fans, which made the game feel big. Sitting on the Emporia State side I could tell the fans were engaged and enthusiastic the entire game, while on the Crimson Storm sidelines, the fans would erupt with every big play and were fully into the game until late in the second half when the score got away from them.
Regardless of the outcome, the fans were there and that made this game feel big, which is what you want out of any bowl game.
As mentioned, Dallas is probably the closest big city to Corsicana, about an hour and a half drive southeast on Interstate 45. That’s not too bad, by Texas standards, but if you want to fly in, Corsicana is an hour and 20 minutes from Dallas Love Field, and an hour and a half from DFW International Airport.
There isn’t anything in the way of public transportation in Corsicana, but it is easily drivable once you’re here. At the stadium parking is ample and, best of all, free – this includes anyone there to do any tailgating.
Return on Investment 4
Single-game tickets for the Heritage Bowl are a true bargain at just $10; if you’re sitting on the home team side, this entitles you to take a spot in those seat back chairs I mentioned. While the schools participating may not be household names, this is still some really good football you’re seeing.
When you pair the low ticket cost with the low-cost concessions, and the free parking, the Heritage Bowl is one of the best bargains in college football.
There isn’t much in the way of Extras at the Heritage Bowl; Southern Nazarene didn’t travel with their band or dance team, but Emporia State did bring their cheerleaders, along with the Marching Hornet Band and Golden Stingers Dance Team. Both performed during this year’s halftime festivities.
What keeps the score from being lower is the trophy presentation at the end of the game. There wasn’t much production, but it was good to see the players and coaches all celebrating along with the fans.
Again, I was quite unsure what to expect on my first visit to the Heritage Bowl. I’ve been to quite a few of these types of games over the years, and, while each one is unique in its way, there is still one quality that defines a good bowl game.
While on the small side, this game brought the excitement big time. I had a great time, it was great to see these schools in action, and Corsicana is a beautiful town. If you’re a college football fan, the Heritage Bowl will be right up your alley.
Follow Eric Moreno's Stadium Journey on Twitter at @EricMoreno6477.