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  • Writer's pictureChris Green

Karen Shelton Stadium - North Carolina Tar Heels


Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Karen Shelton Stadium 327 Ridge Rd Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Year Opened: 2018 Capacity: 1,000

 

UNC’s Hidden Sports Gem

To many, UNC is known for its basketball and football programs. However, Olympic sports have long held a history of success in the school’s history. The field hockey program is no different, capturing its 10th NCAA National Championship in 2022. The home of UNC Field Hockey, Karen Shelton Stadium, is indeed a hidden gem of this stunning campus. Nestled in the hillside across the street from UNC’s Baseball stadium and next door to the football practice field, this beautiful and impressive facility is fitting for the dominant program that UNC fields every year.


Food & Beverage 3

There is one concession stand at the stadium, located at the end of the grandstands. Here you can find hot dogs ($5.75), candy or chips ($4.25), peanuts ($5.25), jumbo salted pretzels ($7.25), and popcorn or nachos ($6.25). For drinks, water ($4.75), large souvenir cup sodas ($6.75), and alcohol ($11.25-$16) are also available. The majority of the food items are hot grab-and-go and frequently replenished, making the line move a lot faster than one would expect.


Atmosphere 5

To call this stadium beautiful is an understatement. The grandstands face a verdant background of tall trees shading the field. To your left is a large HD video scoreboard. The seats, except for a few individual rows, are all individual folding stadium seats. Tickets for games are all general admission as well, meaning your ticket gets you a seat along the field level or in the upper sections. The topmost level of the grandstand is a walkway offering standing room for fans as well.


The UNC band occupies the far lower right sections of the grandstands below the concessions stand, providing an unexpected addition to the college experience at what would otherwise be considered a lower-tier sport compared to the program’s larger teams. Indeed, nothing about Karen Shelton Stadium suggests that UNC Field Hockey is anything but elite, showcasing that stunning facilities can be utilized for all sports, regardless of their national prominence.


Neighborhood 4

The area surrounding UNC is stunning – from quaint neighborhoods to the beautiful campus itself, it is hard to argue with how great this area of North Carolina is. Located less than 30 minutes from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, UNC’s campus features plenty of parking for fans in the immediate area. Just outside of campus, copious amounts of shopping and dining are available, as well as numerous hotels.


Fans 5

This year, record-breaking crowds have filed into Karen Shelton Stadium to watch UNC defend its 2022 National Championship. The stadium’s stands are almost always packed with fans, be they locals and UNC grads or current students and fellow UNC athletes. Pre-game tailgates happen in the adjacent parking lot to the stadium, and the UNC band even performs at them before leading a fan march into the stadium.


You’d be hard-pressed to say the fans here aren’t loyal or sport-knowledgeable, so if you’re new to the sport, don’t be shy about asking your neighbor for some guidance on what is happening on the field of play.


Access 4

Parking is plentiful near Karen Shelton Stadium; many fans use the Ram’s Head parking deck across the street. This multi-level parking garage offers a large number of parking spaces for easy in and out access. At the other end of the stadium is another small parking lot, used by most hardcore fans for pre-game tailgating. Once inside the stadium grounds, it is easy to get around thanks to copious signage for fans.


Return on Investment 5

Tickets to UNC Field Hockey are free, a steal for the entertainment value you receive. With standard concession prices and a family-friendly atmosphere, you can be sure to expect a lot of fun for a low price when you arrive. Perhaps the best value on campus, UNC fans have long known this is a great value, and with a solid stadium to back up the hype the team currently enjoys, it is easy to see why.


Extras 3

The stadium itself features signage and plaques along the main concourse honoring the team’s ACC Conference titles and NCAA National Championships, as well as important figures from UNC’s past like Karen Shelton.


Fans can also expect a giveaway table at the entrance to each game, often filled with kids' club information or free posters for fans. The stadium also features a small grass berm on the far right side of the stadium seating area that is tiered and usually has tents erected with cooling fans on hot days.


Final Thoughts

This may be the best-kept secret of UNC athletics. While they may not enjoy national TV coverage like football or basketball, the field hockey program has a stunning facility they call home. Fan-friendly, inexpensive to attend, and easy access to parking are all positive points when considering this team during your next visit. If you’re in the area, fans can expect to look at this facility as a potential site of interest. And thanks to a beautiful backdrop and the great weather North Carolina enjoys in the fall, this may be the most beautiful field hockey facility in America.

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