Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Hovey Field 1500 N Lombardy St Richmond, VA 23220
Year Opened: 1907
At Home in Hovey
Home of the Virginia Union Panthers, Hovey Field opened in 1907 and is the oldest football stadium in D2, and is the second-oldest college football stadium still in use overall (second only to Harvard Stadium); football has been played here continuously since it opened. The stadium is named after the second president of the university, George Hovey, who donated about $8K of his own money to purchase the land for the venue. The stands on the east side of the field are the original ones, but are now mainly used by visiting fans – the bleachers behind the north end zone were added in the 1940s, and the larger stands on the west side were added in the 1980s. The field itself is still the original grass surface, but during the off-season next year the Panthers will install new turf.
Located in Richmond, Virginia, Hovey Field is surrounded by some of the campus’ original granite buildings, as well as the Panthers basketball arena (beyond the south end zone). The building housing the basketball arena was actually built for the 1936 World’s Fair and was moved here later – it is one of only two buildings that remains from that World’s Fair.
Food & Beverage 3
There are not a ton of options available for sale at Virginia Union Football games, but the limited menu should be more than enough to keep you sated for a few hours. The lone concessions stand is located under the home grandstand, but most fans sit on that side anyway, and the venue is small enough that even if you side on either of the other two sides it is a quick walk to get a bite to eat.
Food options at Hovey Field include chicken wings (a sauceless version that is easier to eat on the go), burgers, hot dogs, fries, nachos, chips, popcorn, and candy bars – for these options the prices range from $2 to $6, with the $3 burger a great value for the money. Drink options include canned soda, bottled water, and Gatorade for $2 to $3.
A recent news article said that Hovey Field is the worst stadium in college football, but that report is completely untrue. Admittedly the bleachers on the north and east sides could use some work, being wooden bleachers and thus having the potential for splinters, but I was easily able to sit on them without feeling like they would fall apart. Regardless, all the seats here are general admission, so you are welcome to sit on the much newer, metal bleachers on the east side if you prefer.
Like at most HBCUs the band is one of the driving reasons for attending a football game, so you should definitely stay in your seat during halftime so you can watch the show – the band doesn’t perform during pregame, but you can watch them march, or should I say, swagger, into the stadium when they take their seats, and you can see them movin’ and swayin’ in the stands throughout the game, with their color guard flags waving and twirling in the breeze. The band plays plenty of great music during the game, too much for the refs’ taste in fact, as the band does occasionally get called out for making too much noise during plays on the field – the Virginia Union marching band is proudly known as the “Ambassadors of Sound”.
VUU’s campus and Hovey Field are located near downtown Richmond in probably what is not the nicest area, but there are a few attractions nearby as well as some restaurants. The main area around the stadium consists of other campus buildings and a residential area, but there are a number of restaurants to the east and to the south; college students seem to adore pizza, and they can get their fill at nearby Mellow Mushroom. However, my recommendation would be a quaint little place simply called “Lunch”, which boasts a cool looking black-and-white interior, plus all-day helpings of sandwiches and other lunch choices.
The closest hotels to Hovey Field are Diamond Inn & Suites and Enys Hotel, but these are on the cheap side and therefore may not be the kind of place you would be comfortable in; but never fear, there are plenty of more well-known brands to the southeast closer to I-95/Virginia Commonwealth University, such as Marriott and Hilton, as well as some upscale off-brands like Quirk or Graduate. And if you plan to be in town for the weekend, nearby attractions include the Keystone Antique Truck & Tractor Museum or Petersburg National Battlefield Park.
The fans at Hovey Field are really into the game – you will see many of them in gear and they cheer loudly for their team. As I mentioned before most fans sit on the west side, so that set of bleachers will be pretty full during most games, while the other two sides will be fairly empty. Still, on the plus side you can sit anywhere you want, so fans who want different views of the action can move around with ease.
Virginia Union Panthers Fans, Photo by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Getting to Hovey Field is pretty easy since it is only a couple miles off 1-95, although there will be a little traffic coming in and out despite the small stadium size, given that the streets around campus are not very wide and get easily congested, the college and neighborhood being as old as they are. But you can park right next to the stadium (at a cost of $15), or you can park further away and walk if you want to save a little money, which might be a good option anyway if you want to avoid the little bit of traffic right around the venue.
Once you get inside there is plenty of room to move around – there are not a lot of bathrooms so they do bring in port-a-johns, but you can find regular bathrooms under the main grandstand to use instead, and most fans seem to do just that.
Return on Investment 3
While concessions are on the low side, parking is a little on the high side for this level of college football and ticket prices are as well, being $25 for general admission except for students/seniors, who get $5 off. However, this cost is less than higher college divisions – as a comparison, tickets at nearby E. Claiborne Robins Stadium (also in Richmond and home of the FCS Richmond Spiders) cost between $30 and $55, and though that stadium is much nicer and more modern, that venue is a little more off the beaten path and concessions cost a little more there. So, if you just want to take in a football game and the team you are rooting for is not a factor, you can weigh the options and decide whether cost or other considerations are more important to you.
Unlike some D2 schools, and even some higher-level football schools, the Virginia Union Panthers do have a mascot, and also do some interesting promotions that enhance the game day experience – for example, at homecoming they have antique cars parked on the street next to the stadium for fans to take a look at, and they also invite cheerleaders from past years to perform on the field during the game. The venue also has some history, being the oldest D2 stadium in the country and having some historic buildings around it, so there are certainly good reasons to make the trek.
Virginia Union doesn’t have as much money as some of the other football programs in the area, so your expectations should reflect that when planning your visit. However, the team is solid on the field of late and has even won a National Championship, so Hovey Field is certainly worth a look if you are in the area.