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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium - Annapolis Blues FC


Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium 550 Taylor Ave Annapolis, MD 21401

Year Opened: 1959 Capacity: 34,000

 

A Bay of Blue in Annapolis

The Annapolis Blues FC are one of the top soccer clubs in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Part of the fourth division of American soccer, the NPSL mainly features current or recently graduated college players, with a pay structure that allows them to retain their amateur status and continue competing in the NCAA. The Blues play their home games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, also home to the US Naval Academy's football and lacrosse teams.


Food & Beverage 5

There are many different options to eat at Annapolis Blues games. Permanent stands and mobile carts offer similar options to what you would find at Navy football games. Hot dogs, chicken tenders, and burgers are available at the permanent stands, as are popcorn, pretzels, chips, and candy. Soda, bottled water, and beer are available to drink. A mobile cart sells cheesesteaks as well.


Were these the only options, this score would not be as high as it is. However, there are additional places to buy food at Annapolis Blues games. The Picante food truck sells burritos, tacos, nachos (with far more toppings than typical stadium ones), chimichangas, quesadillas, and other Mexican food. Chick-fil-A is available at a tent, and Nothing Bundt Cakes sells personal-sized Bundt cakes. Another cart sells ice cream, both in the regular and vegan varieties.


Prices at the specialty places can be a bit high, but they are good food so it is worth it. Prices at the permanent stands are lower, but the food is not as good.


Atmosphere 5

Although the quality of play on the field at an Annapolis Blues FC game is semi-professional at best, the atmosphere in the stadium is on par with professional games. As in most soccer games, most of the energy comes from the fans (more on that later), but the team does things as well. A pregame hype video shows highlights from previous Blues games and gets the fans ready for the match. There is a lengthy pregame program, honoring a local veteran or fallen soldier, and inviting people (often kids) onto the field for a ceremonial first kick, similar to a first pitch in baseball. After Blues goals, the team will dim and flash the stadium lights in celebration, at least once it gets dark enough for this to have a noticeable effect.


It is worth noting that only one side of the lower level is open for Blues games. About 60% of the seats on this side are chairbacks, while 40% are bleacher seating. The bleacher seats are used for the Brigade of Midshipmen during Navy football games, and as they are standing for the whole time, presumably Navy did not consider it worthwhile to install chairback seating here. The lower part of the leftmost section is used for the Supporters Section at Annapolis Blues games, and while they will typically be standing for the entire match, most of the people in the bleachers will be sitting. The Blues attract large crowds, so arrive early if you want a chairback, especially if you have many people in your group.


Videoboards are located at either end of the stadium.



Neighborhood 5

Annapolis is a small-sized city of about 40,000 people, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. There’s a shopping center located across from the stadium with a few basic restaurants, but you can find far better food a short drive away. Annapolis being located on the Chesapeake Bay, there are plenty of great seafood restaurants nearby, including Buddy’s Crabs & Ribs, The Boatyard Bar & Grill, and the Sailor Oyster Bar, all located within a couple miles of the stadium. If you want an authentic sweet treat after your meal, The Boatyard sells the official state dessert of Maryland, Smith Island Cake, which is made fresh on Smith Island daily and brought up by ferry.


The real attraction, though, is the U.S. Naval Academy itself. The grounds are beautiful, and there’s so much history, so be sure to take a tour while you’re in town. Keep in mind, however, that driving onto Academy grounds is prohibited without proper military clearance. Fans can board a shuttle from the parking lot to take them onto Academy grounds.


Fans 5

Although attendance is usually not high in the NPSL, the Annapolis Blues are the exception to that rule. They regularly draw over 8,000 fans a game, and have been known to draw over 10,000. At the time of writing, the top eight single game attendances in NPSL history have all been at Annapolis Blues games.


The Supporters Section, known as the Bay Bhoys, is located in the lower part of the leftmost section of sideline seats. They will wave flags, bang drums, cheer, and stand the whole game urging the Blues to victory. However, fans in all sections will start chants and cheers, blow horns, and even occasionally wave flags. This is an extremely loud and rowdy crowd. It is the best in the NPSL and it isn't even close. In fact, it is better than the crowds at many professional-level games.


Fans will arrive several hours before kickoff and tailgate before the match. They will get on line early, before gates even open, to make sure they get the best seats, as everything is general admission. This kind of dedication is unheard of at this level outside of Blues games.



Access 3

Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is located just off U.S. Route 50. Take Exit 24 for Rowe Boulevard, and the stadium is just up ahead. Parking is available in a lot next to the stadium for $15, which is paid by credit card at the entrance. Part of the lot is paved while the remainder is grass.


Once inside, it is relatively easy to move around the concourses and other spaces. However, it can get crowded at times. Restrooms are on the concourse and there may occasionally be a wait, especially at halftime when there are larger crowds. That being said, you should be able to get back to your seat by the start of the second half if you leave your seat when the halftime whistle blows.


Getting out of the lot can be a challenge at the end of the game, with everyone trying to leave at once through only a couple of exits. However, once you get on Rowe Boulevard, it should be smooth sailing from there.


Return on Investment 4

Tickets are just $12 each, with discounts available for youth and groups, and must be purchased online in advance. There is a giant QR code on the marquee outside the stadium to scan to buy tickets if you haven't done so by the time you get to the stadium. However, the $15 for parking is quite steep. The Blues do not control the parking lot or how much it charges, but this is still quite expensive and brings this score down a notch.


Concessions are reasonably affordable if you're willing to buy from the permanent stands. The specialty food is more expensive but worth the money.


Overall, an Annapolis Blues game is a great value and fun for the whole family.


Extras 3

One extra star here for the fantastic crowds. As mentioned above, the Annapolis Blues have the best fans in the NPSL and it isn't even close. They are a major part of why this experience is so good.


There is a Kids' Zone in one corner of the stadium.


There are several extras here pertaining to the stadium's role as home of the Naval Academy sports teams. Were this a Navy athletic event, we would award each of them their own extra star. This is not, but since the Naval Academy still plays a significant role in the City of Annapolis, we will award one combined extra star for all of them. The walls of the stadium list all the foreign conflicts in which Naval Academy graduates fought. There is also a model of a Blue Angel plane located outside the stadium gate.


Final Thoughts

A summer evening watching Annapolis Blues FC soccer is one fans are not likely to forget. The experience here is on par with professional stadiums, even if the quality of play on the field is not. The Blues have a fantastic and loyal fan base, and a matchday here has a tremendous atmosphere. Soccer fans in Maryland and the surrounding area will definitely want to check a Blues game out.

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