Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Memorial Stadium N. Harbin Drive Stephenville, TX 76401
Year Opened: 1951
Home of the Texans at Tarleton State
Located in the north-central Texas town of Stephenville, the largest city in Erath County, Texas, is Tarleton State University and the Texans football program. They began playing football in Stephenville way back in 1901, and the Texans moved into their current home in 1951.
The history of the Texans is littered with success and with players who made it to the next level. Tarleton State has laid claim to 11 conference titles, most of which have come during their stint in the Lone Star Conference, before their move to Division I at the FCS level in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), just in time for the 2021 season.
Over the years the venerable stadium has seen multiple improvements and upgrades, including the most recent $24 million expansion in 2017 that upgraded the seating capacity from 7,000 to 15,000, as well as expanding the press box, adding luxury suites, and upgrading concessions.
With the move to the WAC, Tarleton State has begun even more investment in the venerable stadium, expanding seating to 16,600 for the 2021 season and unveiling plans to grow to a capacity of 20,000 over the next two seasons. With big-time football making its debut in Stephenville, read on to learn what makes Memorial Stadium special.
Food & Beverage 3
There are currently three concession stands at Memorial Stadium, two on the home team side and one on the visiting team side. If you’re with the visiting team, this can be a bit of an issue as you do have to walk the length of the stands to the west side of the stadium to get anything to eat or drink. So, consider that when heading to Texans games.
The Texans offer a wide selection of traditional game day fare including their Texan Dog (either with or without chili and cheese for $3 or $4), sausage on a stick, Frito pie, and nachos (with or without chili, also for $3 or $4). You can make any of these a Harbin Street Special by adding chips and a drink for $4 as a combo.
The stadium also offers bottled sports drinks, sodas, iced tea, and water, as well as hot coffee and hot chocolate all for $3, except for the sports drinks which are $4. For a snack, you can get a souvenir cup of popcorn, a soft pretzel, sour pickles, or a bag of chips. They also offer Dippin’ Dots, and on the home team side only they sell Chick-fil-A chicken wraps.
While it is pretty much a no-frills type of menu, they do have everything fans going to a football game could want. The one caveat to keep in mind is that alcohol is not offered, as Memorial Stadium is also the home of high school football on certain Friday nights during the Fall.
The game day atmosphere at Memorial Stadium hasn’t quite matched its Division I status just yet. There are still some of the things that make college football great, but there is still plenty of room for growth. Tailgaters do show up in the north and west parking areas before games, and the home fans do dress out in their finest purple regalia.
The school’s ROTC fires off a cannon to kick off the game, and the cannon goes off again for each team score. The student spirit organization, the Plowboys, can also be found decked out in their finest western gear in the student section, cheering during games.
For the fans there are two-spirit shops, a.k.a., team stores, located next to the two concessions stands on the home team side, on the north side of the stadium. This all adds up to a fun atmosphere with, again, room for growth as Tarleton State and Memorial Stadium grow.
Memorial Stadium is located right smack-dab in the middle of Tarleton State University’s campus, which has proven great in drawing attendance from both the local community as well as from the student body. The city of Stephenville is the largest in Erath County, Texas. Located about three and a half hours north of San Antonio and just shy of three hours north of the Texas capitol of Austin, Stephenville is billed as the “Cowboy Capital of the World” and is the quintessential rural Texas town. On a side note, it is also the hometown of the “King of the Cowboys,” Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Ty Murray.
If you’re looking for activities to do either before or after Texans games at Memorial Stadium, Stephenville is not without options. For history buffs, there is the Stephenville Historical House Museum; the museum, as its name implies, is a collection of historical homes and buildings, including the Chapel on the Bosque and the John Tarleton Ranch House, collected from throughout the region and restored/preserved for visitors to tour.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the Bosque River Trail is a walking, hiking, and biking trail that runs along the north bank of the Bosque River through 1.5 miles of open and wooded areas around Stephenville. There are grassy areas for resting, as well as benches, bike storage, and lighting. The trail connects the city park, including its Boy Scout area, to the historical museum and Stephenville’s historic downtown. One quick note – after dark, options are going to be limited in terms of activities in Stephenville.
The dining scene in Stephenville has pretty much everything you could want. If you’re looking to grab a bite during your visit, a couple of options include Greer’s Ranch Cafe – home of 16 oz T-bones, grilled redfish, and gravy-smothered chicken fried steaks – and Grumps Burgers. A Texas favorite, Grumps is the quintessential burger joint, serving up offerings like their queso burger, guacamole burger, and BBQ bacon cheeseburger.
When looking for lodging, there aren’t many options in the way of five-star accommodations. You can always go the vacation rental route, though, and there are several RV and campground options as well as bed and breakfast choices, including the Gallery House Bed and Breakfast. If you’re looking to get a sense of the Cowboy Capital of the World, you might want to try spending your trip in the rustic cabins at Tri-L-Lodging. Or, if you’re looking for something more conventional, the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Stephenville is a six-minute drive from Memorial Stadium.
Being the proverbial only game in town has been a great boon to Tarleton State and the Texans. On select Saturdays in the Fall, Memorial Stadium, at least on the home side, is rocking. Since the move to D1, the Texans have seen an even larger bump in attendance by breaking their crowd record in the 2021 season.
The fans come out in droves and are decked out in their finest purple attire at Texans games. They are loud and fully engaged in games. There are bleachers on the east side end zone that accommodate the band and the ROTC, as well as some additional fans, and this area tends to be one of the loudest in the whole stadium.
As with the Atmosphere section, there is room for growth in this section, literally and figuratively. As Memorial Stadium expands over the coming season, you can expect larger crowds for Texans games as well.
Stephenville is about a three-and-a-half-hour drive directly north of San Antonio on State Highway 281, or a shade under three hours from Austin along Interstate 35. From the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, it’s just over an hour and change. The Stephenville Clark Regional Airport is in the area but is mainly for private, non-commercial airlines.
Once in the city, there isn’t a viable public transportation option; ride-sharing is an option, however. When you get to the stadium, there is ample parking on game days, including in Texans Alley, the only approved tailgating lot that allows for the consumption of alcohol. While Stephenville can be a bit out of the way, it is well worth the trip.
Return on Investment 4
Single-game, general admission tickets to Texans games start at $15 for the end zone seats and $18 for the stands. Parking costs are $10 per car for reserved spots, but those tend to fill up fast and do not include spaces in Texans Alley.
The concessions are very reasonable, considering the level Tarleton State is now at. All in all, for what you get, Division I college football in a great setting, games at Memorial Stadium are a bargain on par with any that I have seen so far in my travels to date.
I have a particular fondness for college football because of all the pageantry and history involved in the sport. It is high school football dialed up to the metaphorical “11” – Tarleton State has most of the pomp and circumstance that makes college football great, all available on game days at Memorial Stadium.
In addition to the cannon that the ROTC fires off throughout the game, Memorial Stadium has the Texans dance team, the Texan Stars, on hand during games performing routines (especially during halftime). They perform along with the Texans Cheerleaders and the Texans marching band, The Sound & The Fury, which is a great name.
Stephenville is a charming Texas town, and Memorial Stadium is a great football venue that is going to be even better in the coming years. Now that the Texans have moved to the FCS level, expect even more bells and whistles to be added to Memorial Stadium in the coming seasons, and you can expect even more involvement from the fan base.
Even though they’ve been playing football at Tarleton State for over 100 years, it feels like something big is brewing up in Erath County. When you take into account the cost and the competition, along with the setting, you can’t beat a game at Memorial Stadium. For any college football fan, I’d recommend adding this as a stop on your bucket list.