Memorial Stadium – Indiana State Sycamores
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.29
Memorial Stadium 3300 Wabash Ave Terre Haute, IN 47803
Year Opened: 1970
College Football in the Wabash Valley
Memorial Stadium was built in 1924 and was the home to everything in town from baseball games, high school football, 4th of July celebrations, soccer matches, and circuses. The original horseshoe shape grandstand seated 16,000 and for the size of Terre Haute was quite large and impressive. It featured an aesthetically pleasing arch at the entrance that was dedicated to the memories of all who served the country during the First World War.
That all changed when the Indiana State football team took the field for its home opener in 1967, the natural grass field was replaced with AstroTurf becoming the first outdoor venue to feature synthetic grass, and three years later the original grandstand was demolished in favor of permanent seating that also included locker rooms, concession stands, bathrooms, and a press box. The only remaining piece of the original stadium was the memorial arch and the outfield wall for the new football-only facility. In essence, Memorial Stadium was built in 1970 and not 1924 as it boasts.
There were plans for additional changes that would have included another 12,000-13,000 grandstands on the north side of the field to increase capacity to 26,000 but those plans appeared to run out of favor by 1976–the same year the Sycamores joined the Missouri Valley Conference and reclassified as a Division I football program.
In 1996, the visiting bleacher section was razed in favor of a landscaped knoll that serves as the general admission section. The artificial turf would be permanently removed in favor of the updated field turf in 2009, but for all intense purposes, the stadium remains almost unchanged since the major renovations had been completed in time for the 1970 football season.
The Sycamores football program has seen limited success on the field and their tenure at Memorial Stadium may be coming to a close shortly. The only exception was the 1983, 1984, and 2014 seasons when the club qualified for the playoffs. The 2014 squad made it to the second round before losing to Chattanooga 35-14. It was the program’s most successful season in 30 years and a chance for the hometown crowd to get behind its football team. The university and the city hope to construct a new football stadium downtown with various sites having been reported.
However, talks have been going on for quite some time. One of the major blemishes about the stadium has been its distance from campus (1.6 miles). The long trek has resulted in “The Walk” during the Homecoming game where fans begin drinking at 8 AM at a downtown bar and making their way to the game while stopping off at other bars and party tents set up along Wabash Street.
Food & Beverage 2
There are three concession areas underneath the grandstand that serve a small array of food. Depending on crowds, there may only be one that is open for service. There is not a lot to choose from at the game, but there is enough to keep your stomach satisfied until it is time to leave. King size candy bars, nachos, hot dogs, and popcorn sell for $3. The brat and chili cheese dogs are $4, and the sycamore nachos are $6. Pepsi products are sold inside the stadium.
There is not a bad seat in the house at Memorial Stadium and the school provides a spark from their mascot Sycamore Sam, cheerleaders, marching band, and the dance troop, the Sparkettes. However, the atmosphere is rather tame for college football. There does not seem to be any traditions, except for “The Walk,” where students, locals, and alumni walk over a mile from downtown and stop at every bar or watering hole along the way to Memorial Field during homecoming ceremonies.
Terre Haute is filled with classy joints and it is too bad this type of revelry is not spread out throughout the season. However, one can find multiple tents from numerous Greek and non-Greek organizations during the warmer months and there will always be a collection of die-hards at the game. An interesting part of the stadium is the general admission section which consists of a grassy knoll where fans are invited to bring out blankets and lawn chairs to watch the game. It is a unique vantage point in comparison to the metal bleachers at the main grandstand.
Underneath the grandstands are hollow hallways and spaces that would be ideal to house a few more concession and souvenir stands (the current souvenir stand is a couple of tables and racks outside of the main entrance). The grandiose feature is the original arched entrance that has been left intact since 1924. It is a work of art, and one should take a couple of looks around the base and rows of the structure. It houses two small ticket windows and displays the names of servicemen who fought in the First World War. So revered is the entrance that, if the Sycamores were to relocate downtown, the entrance would be saved from demolition.
Memorial Stadium is situated between a commercial and residential area of town. There is a multitude of establishments to choose from after the game for dining choices. Rick’s Smokehouse and Grill is within the footsteps of the stadium’s lot, along with a few fast-food chain restaurants. A little further down Wabash Avenue are a few local places worth checking out after the game. Sonka’s Irish Pub and Grill have a wonderful selection of craft beer on draft and even better food.
Across the street at Ambrosini’s one can enjoy thin crust pizza and chicken wings, and J.Gumbo’s offers affordable Cajun and Creole dishes by the bowl or plate. My hands-down favorite place for pizza is at the Pizza King located next to The Bally (a favorite among the college crowd for more than 40 years). The thin crust pepperoni and barbecue pizza make me pass on the fact that it is not New Jersey pizza, just do not tell anyone.
If you are looking for fancier establishments, M. Moggers and Stables across the street from one another on Poplar Street are your likely destinations. A couple of great places for a drink later on in the night are The Verve and 7th and Elm Bar and Grille. Another hidden treat is the square-shaped donuts from Square Donuts, a great place for a sweet treat and a cup of coffee. A little further south near the interstate of I-70 is a smorgasbord of familiar chain restaurants, hotels, and retail box shops. This could satisfy the traveler with his or her family and would be the best place to find a great rate on a hotel or motel. It’s a safe, friendly, and convenient area to spend a night in the Wabash Valley.
The fans in Terre Haute at times are fickle about the university’s sports teams. It is hard to imagine witnessing a football game with a near-capacity crowd. Then again, there has not been a lot to cheer about since 1984 when the Sycamores last appeared in the NCAA Division I Championship playoff. There have been a few spots of winning seasons, but I sometimes wonder where the fans are since the town could easily support consistent crowds during the warmer parts of the season.
It is rather simple to enter and exit Memorial Stadium. It is situated less than two miles away from campus and parking is ample around the facility. There are friendly parking vendors to help direct you to the perfect angle for parking in the grass lot and you are never far away from the entrance to the stadium. The best part about attending a game is that the parking is free. The stadium is also a few miles away from I-70 and there are two options for arriving depending if you are visiting from east or west of town. In this day and age, trust the GPS will get you there on time.
Return on Investment 3
The tickets are inexpensive at $10, four dollars more for homecoming games, and only $4 for children (2-18). It is a very plausible way for a sports fan to spend the afternoon without setting your wallet back a few paychecks.
There are a lot of great places to eat after the game that are nearby. You do not have to travel very far to enjoy friendly establishments along the main drag of Wabash Avenue.
I have attended quite a few games at Memorial Stadium in the last 15 years, and I would recommend anyone to take part in homecoming festivities. However, and speaking as an alumnus, it is time for Indiana State University to put its football program on the map with either a brand new stadium or major renovations to its current facility. Here is hoping for progress in the Wabash Valley.