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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

SHI Stadium - Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

SHI Stadium 1 Scarlet Knight Way Piscataway, NJ 08854

Year Opened: 1994

Capacity: 52,454

The Birthplace of College Football

Rutgers University has a long and storied history of college football. The first college football game in history was played at what was then called Rutgers College on November 6, 1869, as Rutgers defeated Princeton 6-4 in a game that more closely resembled soccer than modern-day football.

Today, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights call SHI Stadium home. The stadium opened in 1994 and replaced the previous stadium on the same spot.

Food & Beverage 5

There is a wide range of concession options available at SHI Stadium. You will find classic options such as hot dogs, burgers, and pizza (the latter disappointingly being from Pizza Hut despite being in a state known for its pizza), as well as more unusual options such as tacos, cookies, and of course, New Jersey's famous pork roll sandwich. For those not in the know, pork roll is a processed meat that is then grilled or fried before being served on the sandwich. Some in North Jersey call it "Taylor ham" instead.

Alcohol is also available for sale at SHI Stadium. When Stadium Journey visited, alcohol sales did not begin until an hour after the gates opened. However, none of the staff seemed to know if it was a permanent thing or just a quirk of New Jersey's infamous blue laws clashing with a rare Sunday game before the NFL season started.

If the options in the stadium were all there was, this category would still score highly, but would perhaps not earn the top score. However, there are more options outside the stadium before the gates open, which we will discuss in the next section.

Atmosphere 4

The fun at a Rutgers football game starts before the gates even open. Four hours before kickoff, and two hours before gates open, the Rutgers Boardwalk opens along Scarlet Knight Way. This boardwalk has all the fun of one down the Jersey Shore, except that there is no beach to speak of.

Local food trucks are parked along the side of the boardwalk, offering everything from brownies and ice cream to chicken wings, tornado potatoes (essentially a crispy potato kebab), and much, much more. The band and cheerleaders provide live music and entertainment, and there are also bounce houses, carnival rides, and pony rides for the kids. All of the attractions are free of charge except for the food.

Once you get in the stadium, the fun continues, even before kickoff. Airplanes fly overhead before the game carrying behind them banners supporting the Scarlet Knights. The marching band performs a lengthy pregame show, and the knight mascot rides out onto the field on his horse. The band plays at halftime as well as during other breaks in the action.

Rutgers will also take time during media timeouts to honor football alumni or others in the athletic department. When we visited, basketball coach Steve Pikiell gave away a big-screen TV to one lucky fan during a timeout, although of course, the specific promotions will vary by game. After each Rutgers score, the team fires off a cannon in celebration.

Neighborhood 5

Piscataway is a sleepy college town in northern New Jersey and you will find a few options here such as Henry’s Diner near the basketball arena and some of the best pizza places in the country. No reason to get Pizza Hut or Papa John’s here (unless you're stuck in the stadium and have the former forced upon you), it’s far better to pick up a real Jersey slice.

Fans may also be interested in grabbing a Fat Sandwich from R U Hungry at the corner of Hamilton Street and College Avenue in New Brunswick. While the grease trucks serving these legendary sandwiches once dotted Rutgers’ College Avenue campus and they were thought of as the school’s quintessential food, most of these trucks have been shut down as the university constructed new buildings, relocated the trucks, and ultimately declined to renew their permits.

R U Hungry, which was the original fat sandwich vendor, now serves them out of a more traditional storefront location. Fat sandwiches consist of sub rolls topped with seemingly random combinations of toppings. The original Fat Cat has a double cheeseburger, lettuce, tomato, French fries, mayo, and ketchup, and the combinations just get weirder from there.

For example, the Fat Elvis comes with gyro meat, mozzarella sticks, lettuce, tomato, French fries, and white sauce, certainly a bizarre combination. There are many others with fun names such as the Fat Darrell, the Fat Koko, and at least one whose name violates the editorial standards of this website. As you can probably guess by the name, these sandwiches are loaded with calories and are not for the faint of heart (figuratively or literally.)

Fans 4

Rutgers may not sell out the stadium every home game, but they usually at least come close. Rutgers fans come decked out in scarlet and cheer on the team to victory. They are a loud and boisterous bunch who know their football. Rutgers is proud to be the birthplace of the game, and the fans carry on that legacy to this day. While the stands may not be full, the team averages almost 50,000 fans in a stadium that seats close to 53,000.

Rutgers fans have several chants and traditions that are worth mentioning here. The rationale for the "R-U" chant should be obvious - it is the school's initials. Before every third down by the opposing offense, fans will hold three fingers in the air and make as much noise as possible, urging the defense to get a stop.

Access 3

Just getting to the Rutgers campus can be confusing. For starters, “the” Rutgers campus is misleading as Rutgers University has five separate campuses in Piscataway and New Brunswick – College Avenue, Busch, Livingston, Cook, and Douglass. (These should not be confused with the two regional campuses in Camden and Newark, which are completely separate institutions.)

SHI Stadium is located on the Busch campus, but that may not be where you end up driving. The lots closest to the stadium are reserved for season ticket holders, donors, and anyone who picks up a parking pass on the secondary market. Everyone else can buy a parking pass for $25 to park in the lots adjacent to Jersey Mike's Arena, home of Rutgers basketball, on the Livingston campus. A free shuttle bus takes fans to the stadium from there.

Once inside the stadium, the concourses are extremely narrow and congested, which would not be out of place at an older stadium, but SHI Stadium is less than 30 years old so this seems like a major architectural flaw. Restrooms are larger and should be sufficient for even the largest crowds.

Return on Investment 4

Like many teams, Rutgers utilizes a dynamic pricing model, so how much you will pay depends on who the Scarlet Knights are playing that day. For a non-conference game against a weak opponent, tickets will start at around $24 and even the most expensive seat is only about $45.

For a game against a major Big Ten school like Ohio State, tickets could be two to three times that. Concessions are reasonably affordable, and while parking is pricey, it is on par with what you will pay at many other schools. Considering the experience here at Rutgers, this is a pretty good value.

Extras 3

One star for the history here at Rutgers. Being the birthplace of college football is an extra, and the team will constantly remind you of that.

A second star for the cannon that goes off whenever Rutgers scores. It is quite loud.

A third and final star for the pregame Rutgers Boardwalk. It is a fantastic pregame experience.

Final Thoughts

While some may not think of Piscataway as a college football town, it is and has been since literally the very beginning of the game. Fans can arrive early and enjoy the Rutgers Boardwalk for two hours before gates even open, and have a full day of football and fun at SHI Stadium.

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