Johnson Hagood Stadium – The Citadel Bulldogs
Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Johnson Hagood Stadium 68 Hagood Ave Charleston, SC 29403
Year Opened: 1948
Precision & Pageantry
Home of The Citadel Bulldogs, Johnson Hagood Stadium opened in 1948 and is named after Brigadier General Johnson Hagood, CSA, who commanded Confederate forces in Charleston during the Civil War and later became Governor of South Carolina. The venue opened with a capacity of over 22K, but a couple of years ago the college determined that the east stands were badly in need of repair, leading to their demolition and the subsequent placement of temporary bleachers in their place, giving Johnson Hagood Stadium a current capacity of 11,500. The Citadel is currently raising funds to build new stands on that side, which when completed will raise the capacity to about 14K. The stadium is nicknamed, The General.
Food & Beverage 4
Johnson Hagood Stadium offers a strong selection of concessions items from a mix of regular stands and food carts; the prices are slightly higher than average for this level of football, and lines can get a bit long during big games, especially during halftime.
Under the main grandstand (west side) there are two large concessions stands which offer a range of items such as burgers, pulled pork, brisket, tacos, grilled chicken sandwiches, corn dogs, and bowls of mac ‘n cheese for $5 to $12, plus snacks such as popcorn, packaged candy, and pretzels for $2 to $5. There is also a smaller Papa John’s stand here that sells slices for $4 each, and just outside the main stands (near the south end zone) there is a food cart featuring some of the same snacks as the main stands, but adding Dippin’ Dots and funnel cake, as well as drinks. There is nothing on the far side except a beer cart, but not very many fans sit over there anyway (only a couple of hundred).
Drink options at Johnson Hagood Stadium include beer and wine/spritzers starting at $5, as well as sodas, bottled water, and lemonade starting at $3.
Pageantry is one of the key elements in college football, and nowhere is it more in evidence than at The Military College of South Carolina – from the cadets marching in formation to the raising of the American flag before the national anthem, from the artillery pieces in the northeast corner to the team coming onto the field amid a haze of blue and white smoke, and from the bulldog statue in the northwest corner to the Corps’ Regimental Band and Pipes, college football doesn’t get any better than this.
The atmosphere is punctuated by the presence of the cadets; smartly dressed complete with caps and sitting en mass in the southwest corner, the cadets march in by company before the game and form a tunnel for the team to run through as they take the field, drumming their arms the whole time, wave their caps in unison during kickoffs, and cheer loudly throughout the game in support of their Bulldogs. The artillery is also fired off every time The Citadel scores (even after extra points), and the cheer squad runs across the end zone waving their flags, most notably the large light blue standard emblazoned with the old-school looking Bulldogs logo.
The architecture is also impressive, with its castle-esque look evocative of the college’s namesake, and of course t-shirts are thrown out into the crowd to keep the fans engaged. In addition, during special occasions such as Homecoming, former cadets wearing matching shirts based on class year are invited to march onto the field during pregame, to stand in solidarity with the current class of cadets. The pageantry you will experience at Johnson Hagood Stadium definitely makes it worthwhile to visit Charleston for Bulldogs football.
There are plenty of restaurants near Johnson Hagood Stadium, ranging from fast food to seafood and Italian; two within walking distance of the facility are Purlieu, specializing in French cuisine, and Harold’s Cabin which offers local fare plus a coffee bar. There are also numerous other nearby choices, from upscale eateries and wine bars (including vegan options) to more low-key pizza and beer joints.
If you plan to be in town for the day or weekend, there are also plenty of historical sites to take in; the first shots of the Civil War were fired right here in Charleston at Fort Sumter, or for more recent naval history check out Patriots Point, where the main attraction is the WWII aircraft carrier USS Lexington. The H.L. Hunley, the first combat submarine to sink an enemy warship, is also on display in North Charleston; in fact, the site of Johnson Hagood Stadium itself was the original burial site for some of the sailors who served on the Hunley – their remains were mistakenly covered over when the stadium was constructed, and were subsequently moved to Magnolia Cemetery when the remains were found by historians in 1999.
Led by the uniformed cadets, the fans at Bulldogs games are absolutely stellar – they are loud and proud of their team. Most of them wear team gear and cheer on their Bulldogs with an uncommon passion, and the tailgating scene stretches all around three sides of the stadium, and a good ways down Fishburne Street. The only drawback is that there are just not enough of them at typical games, although they do show up for big games. As a result, the college has struggled to replace the now defunct west stands, since the staff is uncertain if the seats will be able to be filled.
There are multiple parking lots around the stadium, a couple on the back side but mostly along Fishburne Street; most of them require a pass but at least one is a cash lot. However, if you don’t arrive early you may be out of luck, as these lots fill up pretty quickly, which means you may have to drive around and find some parking on the street, which of course gets scarcer as kickoff approaches. There are a couple of sections nearby which seem a little rundown and perhaps a little sketchy to park in, but I noticed several high-end vehicles even in those sections, so it seems like the presence of a military college a mere few blocks away makes fans feel perfectly safe.
Once you get inside the stadium moving around the concourse is easy enough, and you can walk across the south end zone to get to the visitors side if you want, and a handful of fans even watch from the fence on that side. Concessions lines can get a little backed up, but there are plenty of bathrooms and plenty of space otherwise, so you don’t have to stand elbow-to-elbow.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to football games at Johnson Hagood Stadium are a little on the high side for this level of football (FCS), starting at $32 for general admission, and parking and concessions are also slightly higher than average. So this will not be the cheapest football game you can find in the area, especially if you have a large crew, but the experience definitely makes up for it. You might be able to get cheaper tickets from a third-party reseller, however, or you may be able to take advantage of a Bulldogs ticket promotion.
The architecture here is pretty grand and ornate, and having the cadets in the stadium with you really adds to the experience – seeing a military unit march in is always impressive, and having the Regimental Band and Pipes perform during halftime is enjoyable to watch, even though the band is on the small side. The smoke that streams out when the team comes onto the field is a nice touch, as are the flag bearers swinging the state flag and The Citadel banners. And as an added bonus, having real artillery fire during the game to commemorate home team scores cannot be discounted.
Some FCS stadiums are better than others, and this is certainly one of them – even if you are not in the local area this is one college football venue that is worth a look, even if you have to make a bit of a drive to get here. The city of Charleston itself is also a great tourist destination, especially in the fall when it is not quite so hot, so make a weekend of it and come on down to Johnson Hagood Stadium.