Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Nissan Stadium 1 Titans Way Nashville, TN 37213
Year Opened: 1999
The Tiger’s Lair in Music City
Tennessee State University is a land grant university located in Nashville, TN. It was founded in 1912 and it now has a student body of over 8,000 students. The university offers more than 77 majors in a wide variety of fields.
The school’s athletic teams are known as the Tigers, and they compete in the Ohio Valley Conference at the FCS level of NCAA competition. The football program at Tennessee State has been especially successful over the years. The school first fielded a team in 1912, and since then they have won 13 national championships, including one national championship at the Division II level and 12 Black College National Championships. In addition, they won the Midwestern Conference Championship 16 times, and the Ohio Valley Championship twice. They have gone to the FCS playoffs six times. The present coach of the Tigers is Eddie George, a former star player with the Tennessee Titans.
The football program played its games at the on-campus Hale Stadium until 1999. They then moved their games to Nissan Stadium (it was LP Field at that time) as one of the conditions set by the Nashville Stadium Authority. Hale Stadium was in very poor condition at the time and only seated 10,000.
Special Note: Shortly before this review was done the Tennessee Titans announced their plans to build a new enclosed stadium to replace Nissan Stadium. It would be built just east of the present Nissan Stadium. The stadium would open between the 2026-2027 football seasons. To learn more about this plan go to www.tennesseetitans.com/new-stadium.
Food & Beverage 2
Nissan Stadium offers a wide variety of food and beverage items with something to suit anybody’s taste. Unfortunately, that is only for Titans games on Sundays. There are only four stands open for Tennessee State games. These are Classic Hits, Tri Star Chicken, Bent Buckle BBQ, and Nashgrille.
Classic Hits serves your usual stadium fare, including hot dogs ($6.50), nachos w/cheese ($7.50), pretzels ($6.50), popcorn ($6.50), chips ($5.50), peanuts ($5.50) and candy ($5.50). Tri Star Chicken features chicken tenders with fries ($12.50), chicken sandwiches ($10.50), smoked turkey legs ($10), corn dogs ($10), and fries ($5.50). Bent Buckle BBQ has nachos ($10.50), BBQ tacos ($10.50), baked potato ($10.50), pulled pork sandwiches ($9.50), BBQ dawgs ($9.50), and hot dogs ($9.50). Nashgrille rounds out the food offerings with cheeseburgers with fries ($14.50), hot tenders ($14.50), and chicken waffles ($14.50).
Drinks available at each of these concession stands include Coca-Cola brand sodas ($5.50), water ($5.50), Gatorade ($5.50), domestic beers ($10.50), and premium beers ($11.50).
We found the prices for food and beverage stands at Nissan Stadium to be the highest we’ve experienced at a college venue. Our advice is to try out one of the many great restaurants just across the river in downtown Nashville before or after the game and at least get your money’s worth of dining options.
Let’s face it… there is something special about being on a college campus on a sparkling fall afternoon. Seeing old friends on the quad and showing your kids where dad or mom went to school.
It is not that Tennessee State does not do everything it can to recreate that energy at Nissan Stadium. The Aristocrat of Bands marches across the Siegenthaler Bridge and delivers a great pregame concert and halftime show. The cheerleaders lead the crowd in some of the school’s best chants. The team leaves it all out on the field effort-wise.
The school boasts of having the third-largest average attendance in the FCS at 22,000. However, when you place those 22,000 in a 69,000-seat stadium it seems more empty than full. Imagine sitting in the east stands and your team is making a great goal-line stand. You and all your friends make all the noise you can. In any other stadium, that noise would be deafening, but in a one-third full stadium, the opposition has no problem in hearing the quarterback. As a fan, you look out on the action on the field… but cannot help but see the empty stands on the opposite side of the field.
It is a shame that Tennessee State cannot have its home games back on campus at Hale Stadium. Unfortunately, it could hold only 10,000 of those average 22,000 Tiger fans.
Nissan Stadium offers the best of both worlds in terms of where it is geographically located. It is within walking distance of one of the most vibrant tourist towns in America. The honky tonks, clubs and music halls of Broadway are just across a pedestrian bridge from the stadium. There is no need to pay for parking at the stadium, as most every hotel chain has a location near the river. Nashville is always open, even on a sleepy Sunday morning. There are also shrines to the top performers in country music as well as singers searching for that big break.
Even if you stay on the east side of the Cumberland River, there is plenty to do. Lots of clubs, breweries, and restaurants are opening along the east bank, as the cost of doing business is much cheaper. Traffic is much less congested than the streets filled with tourist buses on the west side of the river.
Tennessee State University is known for its large and very loyal alumni base. A majority of those alums live in the Greater Nashville area and are present for Tiger home games. They are legendary for the meals they serve at the pregame tailgates, which sometimes also include a family reunion. They are joined by most of the student body, as the school spirit is high and it is a social occasion, with many of the Greek organizations decked out in ties and jackets.
Helping keep up the energy level in the stands is the TSU marching band, aka “The Aristocrat of Bands” and their dance team, ‘The Sophisticated Ladies.” The band plays nonstop, breaking into the playing of “I’m So Glad” each time the Tigers score. Fans look forward to the halftime shows as much as the ballgame, and some fans leave after the halftime show, as it has left them fully satisfied.
The gameday staffing by Nissan Stadium on Saturdays is a fraction of what will be needed just 24 hours later. Tennessee State averages a crowd of 22,000 for home games, good enough to be ranked third in the FCS for average attendance. However, those 22,000 will be using the lower level of the seating bowl and even then, only the east side of the field. There are more than enough gates for entry on that side without lines forming. Traffic is much lighter on college gamedays than on NFL gamedays and finding parking at the vast stadium parking lots is a breeze.
The only lines we really saw were not at the restrooms, but at the concession stands. The number of stands open is a fraction of what is open on Sunday. The stands that sold a unique item, such as Nashville Hot Chicken, had much longer lines that a stand that sold just the stadium standards.
Return on Investment 3
The return on investment is much greater on Saturdays than it is on NFL Sundays at Nissan Stadium. The face value on tickets ranges from $25 for midfield tickets to $15 from the end zones to the 40-yard lines. Parking is $30, but a vast majority of the students take shuttles from the TSU campus or walk across the Cumberland River via the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. The alums do not seem to mind the charge, as the tailgate food and beverage cost dwarf any parking fee.
The concession offerings at Tiger games are a fraction of what is open on Sundays. The prices are marked down accordingly.
We give our midrange score of 3 for ROI, as you can enjoy the creature comforts of an NFL stadium, such as individual seats vs metal bleachers, a much more impressive scoreboard and the pageantry of the halftime show is even better in an NFL stadium. The cost of food and beverages brings down the ROI due to their outrageous prices. You still go home at the end of the day with more money than you would on Sunday for that same seat.
The Tiger’s longest-tenured coach was John Merritt, who led the team from 1963-1983. He was the coach during many of their championship years. Merritt is now enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Tennessee State has sent several players on to play in the NFL. Among the most notable are Richard Dent, Claude Humphrey, Joe Gilliam, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones.
The rivalry game for the Tigers is the Southern Heritage Classic against Jackson State University. It is held at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, which is halfway in between the two schools. Unfortunately, the 2022 contest will be the end of the series due to scheduling conflicts between the two schools’ respective conferences.
The Aristocrat of Bands deserves its own extra. The TSU marching band was the first HCBU marching band to perform on national television in 1955. They performed at the halftime of an NFL game despite the strict segregation laws at the time.
In addition to Tennessee State football games, Nissan Stadium serves as the home of the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, the Music City Bowl, and the CMA Fest each summer.
While we feel that the best location for a college football program is an on-campus stadium, we feel that Nissan Stadium does provide an attractive alternative as the home for the Tennessee State University Tigers. Its location on the east bank of the Cumberland River provides stunning views of downtown Nashville, with easy access to some of the top tourist sites in the Music City. Nissan Stadium provides an electronics package that is hard to beat, with its huge scoreboards at each end of the stadium. Accessibility is another strong point for the stadium, as it has more than adequate parking onsite, with the option of fans walking to the games via the Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge from downtown Nashville. Finally, the stadium provides fans with a top-of-the-line sound system to enjoy the music of the Aristocrat of Bands.