Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium 4301 Broadway San Antonio, TX 78209
Year Opened: 2008
UIW Cardinals – Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium
Founded in 1881 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) is the largest catholic university in Texas. In 2009 the university fielded their first-ever football team. Starting out as an independent program, the UIW Cardinals moved steadily up the proverbial ladder before landing in the Southland Conference in 2014.
As members of the FCS the Cardinals have found success in recent years, winning their conference championship in 2018 and 2021 and making the FCS playoffs in both of those seasons. Since the start of their program the Cardinals have called Gayle & Tom Benson Stadium home – the on-campus stadium was renovated in 2010 to double its capacity to its current level, as well as add luxury suites and a press box.
With the program currently riding high after a playoff run, UIW is looking to build momentum for another run at a conference title. The enthusiasm is palpable at Benson Stadium these days. Read on to learn more about the Cardinals nest.
Food & Beverage 3
The food and beverage scene at Benson Stadium is in the category of being ‘just fine’. They have the traditional lineup of game day favorites with three locations for eats and drinks – two on the home team side and one on the visitors side near Sullivan Field.
Manned by the local group Just Smash’em, these three stands offer up nachos ($8), hot dog and chip combos ($9), sausages ($9), and their signature line of fresh-squeezed lemonades ($7) in a variety of flavors. There are also free-standing stands on the home side, with one selling beer, one selling hamburgers, and one food truck outside the entry gate on the south end of the stadium, which sells Just Smash’em lemonade and kettle corn.
Again, it’s all perfectly fine; in fact, I have to say that the lemonade is quite good, if a little on the high side in terms of cost. I think anyone going will find something to snack on during Cardinals games.
I had the good fortune to have my visit to Benson Stadium during UIW’s homecoming celebration. With that in mind, I will say that the atmosphere for the game was especially good in comparison to past visits. The parking area – aka the fan zone – in front of the stadium was filled with tailgaters and revelers.
The home stands were packed with Cardinals fans (more on them shortly) and they helped add to the energy and excitement of the game. The stadium itself is a typical college multipurpose, multi-sport facility. As such, the field is ringed by a running track, which pushes fans and the stands a little bit further away from the on-field action. Not a huge complaint, but it is noticeable compared to larger stadiums.
With UIW the main draw will be the gorgeous campus – it has numerous tree-lined walking paths throughout campus, many leading toward the athletics complex. Noted for its architecture and public art, visitors should take some time before or after Cardinals games to take in the sights.
Located near San Antonio’s popular and vibrant downtown, UIW and Benson Stadium are in a prime spot in the city, a 15-minute drive from the San Antonio International Airport, and 10 minutes from virtually all the city’s main tourist attractions and some of its best dining and lodging options.
In terms of attractions, the San Antonio Zoo, Witte Museum, McNay Art Museum, Doseum, and Historic Pearl, with its multitude of attractions, dining options, and world-class hotel, are all within 10 minutes of the stadium.
For dining options, I have a couple of suggestions for some local favorites that are not too far from the campus. First off, Cheesy Jane’s Big Malts is a retro-inspired joint serving up some of the best burgers, malts, and shakes in the city. Be on the lookout for the bean burger and the choco-banana shake; just a tip from me to you. Next up is an Alamo City institution, Good Time Charlie’s Bar & Cafe – this is Texas-style comfort food (think chicken fried steaks and chalupas) at its highest, and in a funky setting to boot. I recommend it if you have time.
For home games at Benson Stadium the Cardinals are averaging just under 2,500 fans per game. This usually means the home team stands are packed, while there are slim pickings on the visitor’s side. This isn’t an indictment of the school, the team, or the program – it’s just a reality of FCS-level play.
The student section is consistently packed for home games, which is a great boon to the atmosphere of games here. My last visit was also the most people I have ever seen at UIW tailgates, which is always great to see; a really good tailgate scene really adds to the energy of college football.
As mentioned the UIW campus and Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium are located near the city’s downtown area, which is the main tourist hub in San Antonio. It is a short, 15-minute drive from the airport, and conveniently located off Interstate 37/U.S. Highway 281, as well as one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, Broadway Street.
That is all a long way of saying, it’s easy to get to the campus, and it’s easy to get there from pretty much any spot in the city. The Alamo City’s public transportation option, VIA, also runs several bus routes to the campus for those who wish to go that route.
Once on campus parking is ample, however, those wishing to park in the athletic complex will need to obtain a parking permit. If you don’t have one, again, you can park for free in open spots on the campus, which will give you a chance to take that tour I was talking about earlier.
Return on Investment 3
Single-game tickets for UIW football start at $15 per person. This is, quite frankly, an incredible bargain for a team and program that look poised to make continuous playoff runs over the coming years. The staff here brings in an exciting mix of non-conference opponents and play at a high level. You get a lot of bang for your buck at Benson Stadium.
While the concessions might cost a little more here than in similarly-sized venues, the prices still pale in comparison to those at much larger venues, so you’re still getting a good bargain, especially when coupled with the free parking.
In terms of Extras, UIW offers up the standard pomp and circumstance that are found at most college games. The UIW band, the Marching Cardinals, perform throughout the game and during halftime. It’s also pretty fun to watch them march into the stadium before games, so get to your seat early.
Other extras include the schools cheerleaders and dance team, who all perform throughout the game and help get the team fired up during lulls in the action. There’s also the team mascot, Red the Cardinal, who patrols the sidelines and interacts with fans in the stands.
Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium is a really nice venue, especially for a school that has only had a football program for just over a decade at this point. It can’t really compare to some of the grand football palaces in the sport and, quite frankly, it is smaller than a good number of high school venues in Texas.
However, I think visitors to the stadium will enjoy themselves. If you find yourself in the Alamo City during the season and are looking to get your college football fix, take in a UIW Cardinals game and enjoy the ride.