Photo courtesy of Old Dominion Athletics
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Kornblau Field at S. B. Ballard Stadium 5115 Hampton Blvd Norfolk, VA 23529
Year Opened: 2019 Capacity: 21,944
The Dominion is Back
The naming of this stadium is a bit confusing. The historic former Foreman Field sat on this spot until the 2018-2019 remodeling and reconstruction, with the S.B. Ballard Stadium designation being added back in 2008. The newer remodeling and rebuild brought in the Kornblau Field name after alumnus Barry Kornblau and his $3 million donations.
Old Dominion played their final game in Foreman Field's original form on November 17, 2018, against Virginia Military Institute. The $67.5 million stadium reconstruction project began with the demolition of the old grandstands on November 19, 2018, and was back open in 2019.
The stadium is far older than the football team. Opened in 1936 it was the home to the Norfolk Division of William & Mary University, the original name for ODU. The team only lasted a few years under the name Braves and ended up having their program canceled in 1941. The stadium also served as the home stadium for the Norfolk State University football program throughout the 1980s and 1990s and hosted the annual Oyster Bowl game from 1946 to 1995, featuring numerous major college football teams. The Virginia Ambassadors of the World Football League were to play their games at Foreman Field in 1974 before the franchise was sold and moved to Orlando.
Old Dominion University (ODU) has only had a football team since 2009 but has shown that theirs is a program on the rise. For the first two seasons, the Monarchs were an independent in the Football Championship Subdivision and then moved to the Colonial Athletic Association in 2011. In 2013 they jumped up to the Football Bowl Subdivision once again as an independent team. Finally, in 2014 the team joined up with Conference USA.
Food & Beverage 4
There are many great food options at ODU football games. There are the normal permanent concession stands located on the east and west sides of the stadium, as well as some other temporary stands. The usual food offerings of hot dogs, hamburgers, and nachos are found in abundance here, and at decent prices.
The main issue is that the concession stands seem to not be able to handle the large crowds. There is a chance this is a Covid related and/or general 2021 staffing issue.
Monarch football games are quite the party. It starts with the impressive tailgating around the parking areas. The fan base at ODU does not seem like one that has only had a team for such a short time. Some schools have existed for over a century that wish they had the atmosphere seen here in Norfolk.
The party doesn't end at game time. The fans fill the stadium and are engaged throughout the game. This is a highly knowledgeable crowd.
The new east and west stands are quite different from the older historic stands. Those were some interesting seating sections but their functionality was true of the past. The new seating structure does seem to use a lot of stairs and multi-level aspects to accommodate the needs of a modern stadium into the space limitations of the old stadium. It is not confusing, but it does make an interesting visit.
The massive south end zone structure was built for the 2009 rebirth of the football program. This is where party suites and other high-end seating options are located. I did notice that fans in this area are less involved with the overall game action.
There is a good marching band and cheerleaders that add to the atmosphere. Students sit in the north end zone. The field is very close to the seating areas. This provides a better view for the fans and makes the stadium quite loud.
Old Dominion University is located in the northern part of Norfolk. This means it is far from the downtown area. Luckily many newer food stores and restaurants are popping up east of the university. Mojo Bones, Raising Cane, and Perfectly Frank are a few of the good options in that area.
While not directly accessible by walking, downtown Norfolk and the Ghent neighborhoods are only a few minutes away by car and are worth a visit. Ghent is a historic walkable neighborhood containing many restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and antique stores. Downtown Norfolk is gentrifying and is worth a stop. Check out the Selden Market, an artist market at 116 Granby Street. Also, downtown Norfolk may be the only city where you see a battleship (USS Wisconsin) docked right next to the downtown buildings.
There is a SpringHill Suites by Marriott on Hampton Boulevard also near the campus. That is an ideal location if staying for the game.
The Hampton Roads area is also a large and interesting "neighborhood." Virginia Beach to the east is a major tourist and beach destination, while Williamsburg to the west is full of colonial history, as well as the Busch Garden amusement park. Fans will find the area is larger and more populated than it is widely known. Since it is made up of numerous medium-size cities the overall size is less recognized.
Not enough can be said about the Old Dominion University fans. They sell out every game and it is hard to tell this is a relatively new program. Once again, the tailgate atmosphere is pretty amazing. Most schools would love to have an atmosphere and fans like they have at ODU.
Since the university is located way from downtown the access is fairly good. There are major highways close to ODU: access can be had via I-64/I-664 (Hampton Roads Beltway). The I-564 exit provides quick access to Hampton Boulevard which runs right in front of the stadium and front entrance to ODU.
Parking is generally free unless you pay for premium parking or are a member of the athletic foundation.
The garage on the corner of Hampton Boulevard and 43rd Street as well as another garage between 45th and 46th off of Hampton Boulevard are a couple of good options.
Return on Investment 4
Every game is sold out so fans should plan. The prices, when available, are of a good value. The price levels do depend on the opponent. Expect Conference USA teams to cost more and be much harder to gain access. After-market tickets are expensive. There just are not too many sellers. People go to the games. With the free parking, Monarchs football is a great value.
The fans are the best extra. They create a lively atmosphere that makes it fun to be a part of. Although there is not a large amount of history with the Old Dominion football program, the stadium itself holds quite a bit of history, even in its newer modern construction.
Banners and signs displaying the great players who played games in this stadium are located on the back of the grandstands. The many Oyster Bowls means that some of the greatest players in college football history played on this field.
S. B. Ballard Stadium is a lively college football stadium that provides for a great place to watch an up-and-coming mid-major program.