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  • Writer's pictureEric Moreno

Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium - Texas Longhorns

Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43

Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium 2100 San Jacinto Blvd Austin, TX 78712

Year Opened: 1924

Capacity: 100,119

Texas Longhorns – Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

They started playing football on the 40 acres in the state capital of Texas back in 1893. Since their inception the Texas Longhorns have become one of college football’s true blue blood programs, amassing 32 conference championships, four National Championships, and two Heisman Trophy winners (Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams). In 1924 the Longhorns began playing in their current on-campus home, the now Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (henceforth just DKR as we locals refer to it).

Named for the Longhorns legendary former head coach, the stadium has gone through numerous renovations over the years. The most recent took place from 2019-2021 and has been its most extravagant and elaborate. In addition to upgrades to the field-turf, lighting, and sound systems, DKR expanded permanent seating in the south endzone, luxury suites, and the new, stylized Longhorn logo players’ entrance.

The field was also renamed Campbell-Williams Field in honor of the two great running backs of Texas’ past, and a statue of the first African American letterman in team history, Julius Whittier, was erected in 2020. In the team’s clash with the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2022 season the attendance record was broken, as the stadium swelled to a capacity crowd of 105,213. Truly one of the bucket list destinations in all of college football, DKR and Austin need to be experienced at least once by all college football fans. Read on to learn what makes this place truly special.

Food & Beverage 5

When you’re looking to quench your appetite and slake your thirst at Longhorns games, you’re not going to be disappointed by what you find at DKR. There are plenty of spots throughout the stadium where you can find your traditional gameday fare, e.g. your hot dogs, your popcorn, your nachos, your pretzels, etc.

These are fine for what they are; they’re relatively affordable and can be found at the Gridiron stands sprinkled on every level of DKR. The same can be accomplished for your adult beverage needs at the Filling Station stands and kiosks.

Where the stadium really excels is in the branded stands. These are all local restaurants that have opened kiosks and/or stands throughout DKR – these include such favorites as Stubb’s BBQ, Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Torchy’s Tacos, Pluckers Wing Bar, and Amy’s Ice Creams. Each of these brings a touch of what makes Austin’s cuisine unique to the game. There is also a Quizno’s Subs and a Chick-Fil-A location inside the stadium if you’re craving something more familiar. For those looking for a respite and a cold drink, head over to Bevo’s Beer Garden in the Coors Light observation deck. This is also a great place to watch the action and enjoy a beverage, while taking a respite from the heat early in the season.

Another great feature that UT offers fans to help cope with said heat are hydration stations located throughout DKR. These free water areas are literal oases for thirsty fans needing a break from what can be unbearable temperatures in the first few months of the season.

Atmosphere 5

There is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a big-time college football stadium on game day. In recent years the Longhorns have done a great job of ramping up the atmosphere at DKR, from upgrading the “Godzillatron” in the south endzone to the Longhorn-shaped player’s entrance (complete with billowing smoke), to upgraded lighting and LED boards, it’s all better in Austin.

At the start of the game the stadium roars to life with the playing of “Deep in the Heart of Texas” – I dare you not to clap along. At the start of the fourth quarter the stadium comes to life with the deafening roar of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, after each score the team fires off fireworks, and after each win they light the top floors of UT Tower, the most visible landmark on the campus, orange.

The newest innovation – one that’s already proven to be a hit with fans – is Bevo Blvd. The university has closed off a section of San Jacinto Blvd near the stadium, and on each game day it turns into a raucous street fair.

Longhorns fans get the chance to join not just the band, the Texas cheer and pom teams, the mascot, Hook ‘Em, and the big man himself, Bevo (more on all of these in the Extras section) – who makes his official appearance in a parade into the stadium approximately three hours before game time – but they also get to see the players during the Stadium Stampede about two and a half hours before the game.

There are also food trucks, carnival games, souvenir stands, live music, and a live broadcast from the Longhorns radio team. If you don’t want to tailgate proper, this is a great alternative.

Neighborhood 5

Austin is one of the premier tourist spots in the state of Texas. It’s free-spirit and cosmopolitan ways, and reputation as a live music capitol has made the city attractive to visitors. This doesn’t even take into account its nearly year-round warm weather climate, thriving nightlife, and food and outdoor scenes. When you’re looking for things to do before or after taking in a game at DKR, Austin has you covered.

For outdoor enthusiasts, downtown Austin has you covered in the most spectacular way with Lady Bird Lake. This 416-acre reservoir is an extension of the lower Colorado River and is a haven for kayakers, paddleboarders, and rowers. The lake has been stocked for recreational fishing, and the 10.1-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is one of the oldest urban trails in the state.

Music lovers should be on the lookout for the statue of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, which can be found on the trail and seen from the lake. At dusk, the lake is a prime spot to watch the famed colony of Congress Avenue bridge Mexican free-tailed bats.

If you’re a history buff, Austin is a great place to get lost in it. Museums abound, and perhaps the best one in the state is The Bullock Texas State History Museum, which tells the history of the Lone Star State from pre-history to the present. Each level of the museum tells a part of Texas history, and features some true treasures that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. There is also an IMAX theater and a restaurant on-site, so visitors can spend as much time there as they want.

When it comes to dining there is a boon of options, including a burgeoning food truck scene. I’m a fan of the old school, and Austin has a couple of truly great spots that visitors must check out. First is Scholz Garten, which happens to be the oldest restaurant in Texas. This old-world German-style restaurant pays homage to some of the area’s earliest settlers, and truly feels like you are stepping back into a different era. The menu features such delights as sauerkraut balls, wiener schnitzel, and Reuben sandwiches. They also have a wide selection of imported German beers and lagers if you’re interested in partaking in that.

My other recommendation is quintessential Lone Star State: The Texas Chili Parlor. Masquerading as a dive bar, the Texas Chili Parlor has a wide menu of different chili styles (and “heats” to suit everyone’s palates) and has been an Austin institution for decades. You can also engage in the controversial (in Texas) practice of adding beans if you choose to. Corn bread, steaks, Frito pie, and cold beer are all part of the menu.

Fans 4

Longhorns fans have taken a lot of guff in recent years as the team’s fortunes have wavered. However, with renewed optimism and renovated facilities, the faithful have returned to DKR in droves. As mentioned the team broke its all-time attendance record in a game against Alabama during the 2022 season; the game I attended had the third-largest crowd ever with well over 102,000 in the stands.

The stands are littered with burnt orange, and the student section is filled with rowdy fans throwing their horns up (always up) – including groups such as the Longhorn Hellraisers. Fans chant “Texas Fight” and sing along to the “Eyes of Texas”.

Before the game the tailgating scene is flat out incredible. For blocks and blocks surrounding the stadium you will see fans in every parking area possible setting up shop. Just be forewarned, all these fans jammed into one area does make leaving downtown – even Austin if that’s your desire – very tricky. We’ll discuss that in the next section, however.

Access 3

Fans looking to attend games at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium have the advantage of knowing they will have zero problems finding it. Located in downtown Austin, directly off Interstate 35, DKR is roughly a 20-minute drive from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. It’s also roughly an hour and a half from San Antonio.

Once you get near the stadium there are numerous official parking lots to choose from, as well as a variety of other parking options littered throughout the downtown area. The costs vary greatly on all of these, and it is just a matter of how far away you’re willing to park. Like most big cities, Austin offers pedicabs that are more than willing to take you to your destination.

If you choose not to drive, in addition to rideshare services Austin’s public transportation system – CapMetro – and its light rail – MetroRail – are also viable options. This might be best for you, as the city is notorious for its traffic, especially on game days. This definitely needs to be taken into consideration when you head to the game. You will be stuck in some traffic if you’re on I-35; it’s just a fact, so leave yourself enough time to get there. You’ll also be stuck in some pretty good gridlock after the game as you have a sea of humanity all trying to leave at basically the same time.

Return on Investment 4

Single-game tickets for most Longhorn games at DKR can be purchased for as little as $55. While this will more than likely get you a seat in the aluminum bleachers way up at the tippy-top of the stands, it’s still a pretty good deal for the chance to see some big-time football.

As mentioned, the parking costs vary wildly depending on how far you’re willing to walk. If you are driving and choose to use a surface lot, I would expect to pay a minimum of $25. This is pretty much in line with market prices these days.

The concessions costs are surprisingly not over-the-top, relatively speaking. For example, you can get a souvenir 32-ounce soda for just $5, or a domestic beer for just $8. I have been to plenty of venues where both of these have been just about double that cost, so these are pretty good bargains. The food costs are also pretty low, especially for the game day essentials you’ll find at the Gridiron stands.

It’s not going to be cheap, but I would say it’s affordable, and you’re going to be seeing proverbial big boy football week in and week out in Austin. If you’re a fan of the sport, you really can’t ask for anything better than that.

Extras 5

I’m a huge fan of college football for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the pageantry of the sport. College football brings out a carnival-like atmosphere each and every (mostly) Saturday, and I am here for all of it. The Longhorns – befitting a program of their stature – pull out all the bells and whistles for games at DKR, and it is glorious.

I’ve already touched on the spectacle that is Bevo Blvd; this has really added to the energy and excitement on game days. The chance to see the players up close is always welcome – as is the chance to see the area’s namesake, Bevo. The official mascot of the University of Texas, Bevo is also one of the most recognizable live mascots in all of sports. Flanked by his ever-present group of handers, the Silver Spurs, Bevo can be seen on the sidelines in his pen in the south endzone, and he is a spectacle to see in person.

Like most college programs you can count on seeing the band playing at DKR before the game and at halftime. In this case it’s the University of Texas Longhorn Band – aka the Showband of the Southwest. Whether it’s playing the fight song or the school song or what have you, they will keep the crowd entertained throughout. Be on the lookout for Big Bertha, which is (arguably) the largest bass drum in the world, and the centerpiece of the band experience.

There are also the Texas Cheer and Pom Squads as well as the costumed mascot, Hook ‘Em, all patrolling the sidelines, performing for fans, taking photos, and adding to the atmosphere. Fans love them, the students love them, and they are great for photo ops.

The last bit of Extras to be on the lookout for is Smokey the Cannon, manned by the Texas Cowboys. A replica of a Civil War-era artillery piece and weighing in at over 1,200 pounds, the cannon is manned by the Texas Cowboys student group. It’s a symbol of great pride at the University and is fired off after every Longhorns score.

Final Thoughts

Being a proud, native Texan, I freely admit I have a predisposition to all things orange – especially those of the burnt orange variety. However, I think any college football fan will admit upon their visit to Austin and Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium that it is truly one of the great palaces of the sport.

The upgrades they have done in the past few years have not only made it one of the largest in the country, but they have also greatly enhanced the overall atmosphere at DKR. For likeminded fans of the sport, this is definitely a bucket list destination; for even casual fans, this is an experience you’ll greatly appreciate.

Follow Eric Moreno’s Stadium Journey on Twitter at @EricMoreno6477.

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