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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Harvard Stadium - Harvard Crimson

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Harvard Stadium

95 N Harvard St

Boston, MA 02134

Year Opened: 1903

Capacity: 30,323

Harvard’s Yard

Built in 1903, Harvard Stadium is the nation’s first stadium built for college football. Containing architectural elements of a Greek stadium and Roman circus, it is considered an engineering marvel, as it was the world’s first massive reinforced concrete structure. Harvard Stadium is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and is one of just four athletic arenas to be so designated. A gift from Harvard's Class of 1879 for their 25th anniversary, Harvard Stadium amazingly only took 4 months to build at a cost of $310,000.

The physical layout of Harvard Stadium is quite significant to the way football is played today. When college football's rules committee met to discuss ways to make the game less violent and dangerous back in 1906, one of the rules changes considered was widening the field by 40 feet. Since widening Harvard Stadium was an impossibility, and the committee felt that losing the prestigious Harvard team would be a death-knell to the fledgling sport, the committee decided to adopt the forward pass instead.

In addition to college football, rugby, lacrosse, soccer and even ice hockey have been played at Harvard Stadium. The New England Patriots called Harvard Stadium home for two years during the 1970 and 1971 seasons. Part of the 1984 Olympic soccer competition was held here, as were the U.S. track and field Olympic trials in 1916 and 1920.

Harvard first sponsored a football team in 1873 and were one of college football’s dominant teams in the early years of the sport, as the Crimson won twelve national championships between 1873 and 1920. Even today Harvard ranks in the top ten in all time wins in college football. Over their history Harvard has won 17 Ivy League titles and have had 21 alumni enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. 38 Crimson alumni have played in the National Football League.

Food & Beverage 3

When they were building Harvard Stadium around the turn of the century (and I’m talking about the 20th century here), it’s not very likely that concessions were considered in any part of the planning process. That being said, there are enough food and beverage options here to satisfy any hungry football fan.

There are a few permanent concession stands tucked into small spaces underneath the grandstand. These stands offer a basic menu consisting of hot dogs and assorted snacks (pretzels, nachos, popcorn and peanuts. Coca-Cola products are featured at Harvard Stadium.

For something a little more substantial, check out the grill located just outside Harvard Stadium’s west entrance. Here fans can purchase burgers, sausages, chicken fingers and french fries. Food trucks scattered around the area offer hot beverages, ice cream treats, fried dough and other snacks.

During football games the Dillon Pub moves outside into the grassy space just north of Harvard Stadium. Fans can enjoy some adult beverages here before the game while listening to live music and playing some outdoor games. Brews from local favorites Sam Adams, Castle Island and Wormtown Brewery highlight the offerings here.

Atmosphere 4

You might think a facility with the age and history of Harvard Stadium and a team with the tradition of the Crimson would hit you over the head with their history at every opportunity. This really isn’t the case. Harvard lets the historic surrounding do the talking for itself. There is absolutely a certain aura that is felt when stepping into this concrete behemoth, but the focus is squarely on the game taking place on the field.

Most of the entertainment aspects college football fans have come to expect at a game today can be found at Harvard, including the pep band, cheerleading squad and dance team. There is a modern video board atop the Murr Center in the north end zone, which is utilized to good effect with videos, replays and advertisements. There are even ribbon boards on the ivy-covered walls of the Murr Center which display game statistics, although they did stop working early on during Stadium Journey’s visit.

There are on-field contests for younger fans in attendance, t-shirt tosses and a modern sound system. There’s a good turnout from the student body and a most impressive turnout from alumni. The greatest drawback is even a crowd of 10,000 fans, which is large for an FCS team, can be swallowed up by the enormity of Harvard Stadium. If you come to Boston for a game with a smaller crowd, the atmosphere will suffer greatly.

Now, if you happen to be visiting for the latest installment of “The Game” against archrival Yale, prepare yourself for one of the great experiences in all of college football.

Neighborhood 5

Before or after a game at Harvard Stadium, take a walk across the Anderson Memorial Bridge, which spans the Charles River, and explore Harvard Square, a top Boston tourist destination. While Harvard Square may not be the bohemian center it once was, it still is one of the most popular areas in Boston for walking, shopping, and people watching.

For those wishing to bask in the history, architecture, and aura of Harvard, walking tours of the campus occur regularly. While touring the campus, take a picture in front of the statue of John Harvard, as so many others have done. Just remember these three things about the statue: 1) it is not actually a statue of John Harvard (no image of him exists), but of a random student; 2) John Harvard was not the founder of the college, but its first benefactor; and 3) the college was actually founded in 1636, not in 1638, as the statue claims. But remember to rub his shiny shoe, it is rumored to bring good luck.

For an entirely different experience, head in the other direction, into the town of Allston. Known as a working-class town, Allston has no shortage of bars, shops and restaurants just a short drive from Harvard Stadium. If neither of these choices do it for you, head to downtown Boston, just a couple of miles away from the Stadium. You’ll find more than enough to interest you there.

Fans 4

Harvard averages between 10,000 and 11,000 fans per game annually, a figure which regularly ranks them in the top twenty FCS schools in attendance. During years where Harvard hosts “The Game” versus Yale, this figure increases accordingly. A sellout crowd of over 30,000 will do that to an average.

You’ll find a cross-section of Boston sports fandom at Harvard Stadium, from assorted alumni who have been coming to games since they were in school to townies and other casual sports fans. There’s also a decent turnout from the student body on any given Saturday. With the compact footprint of the Ivy League, expect a decent turnout from visiting fans as well.

Fans are not rowdy at Harvard, but they are vocal in their support of the Crimson and not afraid to make some noise.

Access 4

While Harvard University is located in Cambridge, MA, Harvard Stadium is located across the Charles River, in the Allston section of Boston. Also located here are most of Harvard’s other athletic facilities, including Lavietes Pavilion, Bright-Landry Hockey Center, O’Donnell Field, and Jordan Field.

Anyone who has ever tried to drive the crowded, crooked streets of Greater Boston can tell you that you are better off leaving your car at home and taking public transportation. The same is true for getting to Harvard Stadium. Stadium Journey’s recommended method of travel to Harvard is the subway, or “T”, as it is called locally. The Harvard Station MBTA stop is a 10-minute walk from the Harvard Stadium. Several bus routes also stop at Harvard Station. The 66 and 86 busses stop directly in front of the athletic complex. For more information, fares and schedules check out the MBTA website.

If you do insist on driving to Harvard Stadium, simply take Storrow Drive to North Harvard Street. Parking is available throughout the Athletic Complex. Cars are jammed into seemingly every available space in the complex. Tailgating is only allowed in certain areas, and some parking areas are a decent walk from the stadium, so reserve your spots and arrive early.

Harvard Stadium is an enormous concrete horseshoe. Fans will enter the stadium underneath the grandstand into an open concourse, where concession stands and restrooms can be found. Over the years the school has made great efforts at paving and smoothing the concourse area, eliminating the old “ankle buster” spots and tripping hazards that showed up from time to time.

Keep in mind that Harvard Stadium is almost 120 years old, so it is not the most accessible stadium you are going to visit. Stairs lead up to the seating bowl, emptying out about a quarter of the way up the grandstand. All of the seats here are concrete bleachers, so bring some padding to protect your backside. Fans requiring handicapped seating can access the accessible seating area via a ramp located on the open (north) end of the horseshoe. All seats feature excellent views of the action.

Return on Investment 3

Harvard University uses a variable pricing system for their home games. Prices start at $20, with youth and seniors discounted to $10. Certain premium games (i.e. conference games vs. Princeton) have increased ticket prices to $25. Waiting for game day to buy your tickets increases the price by five dollars. If you are looking for tickets to “The Game,” the biannual game against Yale, expect to pay significantly more (we’re talking $100 each - and be sure to get your tickets well in advance).

Parking in the many lots located throughout the athletic complex (and it does seem like cars are squeezed into every available nook and cranny of the complex) will run you between $10-20. It is highly recommended that you purchase in advance. More parking information can be found here. Concessions are a bit pricey, but are generally in line with other facilities in the area.

Extras 3

Harvard won multiple national titles in the early days of college football. These championships are commemorated along the façade of the south end zone, along with Ivy League championships. A banner honoring the Crimson’s 1920 Rose Bowl win is hung in the north end zone by the scoreboard.

A second extra point is awarded for the Dillon Pub, filled with live music, food and beverage before every game.

A final point is awarded for the aura football fans will experience when entering Harvard Stadium. There are not many stadiums anywhere that can match the history of this place.

Final Thoughts

Many places today will substitute the word “historic” for “old.” While Harvard Stadium is indeed the latter, it is most certainly the former. More than just a stadium that has been around for a long time, Harvard Stadium had a direct influence on the game of football that we know today. A visit to this concrete behemoth on the banks of the Charles River should be on the short list for any serious college football traveler.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI

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