Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Eddie C. McGirt Field at Irwin Belk Complex 500 N Summit Ave Charlotte, NC 28216
Year Opened: 2003
No Bull at Johnson C. Smith
Eddie C. McGirt Field at Irwin Belk Complex is named after former JCSU football coach Eddie McGirt, who coached the team from 1959 to 1977, and led the Golden Bulls to their only CIAA championship in 1969. The complex opened in 2003 and includes the 4,500-seat football stadium whose field is named after McGirt. There is also an Olympic-sized track surrounding the field.
Food & Beverage 3
McGirt Field offers concessions from two stands inside the grandstand – there are actually four stands but only two are open for football games. The menu has a pretty good selection including wings, nachos, burgers, hot dogs, sausage dogs, pickles, candy, lollipops, chips, fish sandwiches, and fish combos with fries, plus bottled water and bottled Coke products. The lines tend to be long since there are only the 2 stands open, and the prices for some items are on the high side. They also might run out of certain items by halftime, so be sure to go early if you want something specific. Also note the concessions only take cash, so plan accordingly.
McGirt Field only has one grandstand, along the southwest sideline – there is no seating on the other side or behind the end zones, except for field-level club seating under a blue-and-gold-tent on the northwest side. There is a track around the football field and a giant statue of a bull behind the club seating, as well as a scoreboard on that side. However, the scoreboard wasn’t working during my most recent visit, and the referee’s microphone wasn’t working either, so it was hard to keep track of the score, down and distance, and time left in the game. On the plus side there are several sets of furniture inside the grandstand (patio tables and chairs), which are a comfortable place to sit and eat, or just relax during the contest away from the sun – unfortunately you can’t see the games from these.
While small, the Johnson C. Smith marching band, a staple at all HBCUs, is called Blue Satin and marches into the facility a few minutes before the game along the southeast side, and entertains fans from a spot on the track in front of the grandstand (pregame) or from their seats (in-game and during halftime) – the drum major is particularly good, showing off his dance moves as the band plays on. The PA system is also very loud, so it is easy to hear what is going on no matter where you are in the stadium.
Blue Satin Marching into Stadium, Photo by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
McGirt Field is in a little bit of a rough area, within sight of I-77 to the southeast. That said there is not much in the way of restaurants or shopping in the immediate vicinity, and this may not be the safest place to be at night. However, downtown Charlotte is within sight of the field (to your right as you face the turf), so there is plenty to see and do within a short drive. The facility is located on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University, and there is a railroad bridge on the northeast side of the field, so you may see a freight train passing by as you watch the contest.
Johnson C. Smith has some great fans, and you can see plenty of gold attire being worn in the stands near the midfield stripe. Unfortunately there just aren’t very many fans in attendance – the venue has a small capacity anyway due to having only one grandstand, and that grandstand looks pretty empty with only a few hundred spectators at the average football contest. Also, I did not see any team gear for sale at the stadium, so you may have to visit the campus bookstore for that.
On the plus side, the fans who are there are pretty loud, stomping their feet in unison on big plays and third downs. There is also a lot of cheering in support of the Golden Bulls – the signature cheer you will hear at McGirt Field is when the announcer calls out “J-C!” and the crowd responds “S-U!” (abbreviation for Johnson C. Smith University), after which the PA announcer closes with “Well all right”.
McGirt Field is easy to get to, but there are a few logistical things to be aware of. First, the road next to the field itself (Summit Ave) is closed off during games, so to park you need to drive in through the main entrance of the university (along Beatties Ford Rd), and then drive around to get to the parking areas next to the venue. Parking is $10 or $15 depending on how close you want to get – the $10 parking is barely more of a walk, so is a perfectly good option. Second, there are no tickets sold at McGirt Field itself – instead tickets are sold out of a ticket window inside Brayboy Hall, which is next to the parking area that is closest to the field), so unless you buy tickets online you will need to stop there before leaving the parking lot, to cross the street before entering the stadium. Tickets are $15 and they take cash or credit cards, but there is no physical ticket – just a bar code texted to your phone.
Once you get inside the stadium it is pretty easy to move around – there is plenty of room given the small crowd, so you can sit wherever you want, either close to the field or in the upper portion of the grandstand. There are also more than enough bathrooms; just note as stated earlier that the concessions lines tend to be a little long.
Pathway to Main Entrance, Photo by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Return on Investment 3
At only $15 it may be worthwhile to attend a football game at Johnson C. Smith University, especially if your team is playing in Charlotte that day. Be aware however that this is a no-frills kind of experience – don’t get me wrong, it is fine if you are a football purist and are just here to witness the greatest sport ever played. But be aware there is no mascot and no fan contests, and really nothing else going on except the game and the performances by the marching band (Blue Satin is a great band by the way, the halftime performance especially is worth listening to). I will say though that I didn’t see the marching band ever actually go out onto the field – the pregame performance was from a spot on the track in front of the grandstand, and for halftime the band stayed in the grandstand and played from their seats.
A big plus for the great Bull statue in the end zone, and another plus for the free pom-poms which the staff gives out – I saw numerous fans in the stands waving these as they cheered during the game.
Bull Statue, Photo by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey