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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

O'Shaughnessy Stadium - St. Thomas Tommies


Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey and Scott Olmstead


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

O’ Shaughnessy Stadium 2115 Summit Avenue St. Paul, MN 55105


Year Opened: 1948 Capacity: 5,025

 

Tell Them the Tommie Boys are Here….

St. Thomas University is a private Catholic liberal arts university in St. Paul, MN. It was founded in 1885 and is located along the east bank of the Mississippi River, just across the river from Minneapolis, MN. It is the largest private university in Minnesota, with a student body of 9,878 students. The school offers more than 150 areas of study at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels.


Football has been played at St. Thomas since 1904. The school’s athletic teams are known as the Tommies. Until 2020, the Tommies played at the Division III level of sports in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). St. Thomas University athletes dominated almost every sport the MIAC offered, to the point they were voted out of the league due to “an inequitable level of performance when compared with other teams in the conference.” There were no allegations of cheating, and schools at the Division III level do not offer athletic scholarships.


The Tommies then became the first Division III level team to ever skip the NCAA Division II level of play and go directly to the Division I level of competition. Since 2021, the Tommies football program has been a member of the Pioneer Conference at the FCS level of competition. The Tommies have handled this transition very well, as they are 17-4 after their first two seasons of Division I play and won the Pioneer League Championship in only their second season in the league.


The Tommies call the on-campus O’Shaughnessy Stadium their home field. The stadium opened in 1948. It is located on the eastern edge of the St. Thomas University campus at the corner of Cretin Avenue and Summit Avenue in St. Paul. The stadium is named for Ignatius O’Shaughnessy, a St. Thomas alumni and philanthropist who donated millions of dollars toward the stadium’s construction.


Due to its location on a corner, the grandstand is located on the western side of the field. The stadium seats 5,205, with 4,237 bleacher seats and 788 seat back chairs (550 in the main grandstand and 238 major donors to the program in the Fowler Veranda on the eastern side of the field.) The field was covered with Field Turf after a renovation in 2017 and it is known as Palmer Field. In addition to football, the stadium also serves as the home for the men’s and women’s track and field programs. A rubberized surface multi-lane track encircles the field.


Food & Beverage 3

O’Shaughnessy Stadium has one main concession stand located on the concourse beneath the grandstand. It offers hot dogs ($4), hamburgers ($5), cheeseburgers ($6), brats ($6), popcorn ($4), candy ($4), chips ($2) and a ½ cookie the size of a pizza ($5). The stadium serves Pepsi brand sodas ($4), Gatorade ($4), and bottled water ($4). No alcohol is sold at O’Shaughnessy Stadium.


A rotating set of food trucks supplement the offerings of the main concession stand. They set up in a plaza at the southern end of the grandstand.


Atmosphere 5

O’Shaughnessy Stadium was built in an era when college stadiums were built in the middle of the campus. You’ll enjoy that return to a bygone era, as you will see great football played on the field, while you have campus buildings just outside of the stone walls of the stadium. St. Thomas has both beautiful architecture and grounds, and even members of the opposition’s fan base come away marveling at the setting of the stadium. It would be a shame to block the view.


The stadium at St. Thomas is at the right scale for the campus, as it does not soar above the campus. There is not a bad seat in the house as there is no upper deck to this venue. Even the size of the bands, fan bases, and the crowd are scaled at an appropriate level at this stadium.


So far, we have not mentioned the color purple. St. Thomas’ team's colors are purple… and there is lots of it in this stadium. The bleachers are purple, the press box is purple, and the end zones are purple. However, it is a regal purple that fits in with the cathedral types of buildings surrounding it. Even the track that encircles the field is purple.


The one necessary piece of modern equipment in O’Shaughnessy Stadium is found behind the north end zone. This is of course a videoboard. The one at St. Thomas is brand new, as it was installed just before the 2023 season. It provides replays, but they stick to only showing the major ones that impact the game. They keep the ads to a minimum and are fair in showing big plays for both the home and the visiting teams, which I feel shows great sportsmanship. Finally, even the base that holds up the videoboard mimics the stone architecture of the campus… well done!


Neighborhood 3

St. Thomas University and O’Shaughnessy Stadium are in an urban neighborhood on the eastern banks of the Mississippi River. The river forms one border of the campus, and several nature trails in the area offer spectacular views of both the river and downtown Minneapolis.


Another street bordering the campus is Summit Avenue, which is known for its lovely residential area in St. Paul. There are some small businesses and restaurants across Grand Avenue from the campus, Gus Gus is a neighborhood bistro that is popular with both St. Thomas grads and current students. My Burger offers a reasonably priced menu for families attending the game. One other establishment we recommend is Tiffany Sports Lounge, which always has multiple football games on its TVs each Saturday.


Honestly, the closest recommendations we have for hotels near St. Thomas University are along University Avenue as it passes through the University of Minnesota. This is about 3 miles north of St. Thomas but on the same side of the Mississippi River.


Fans 4

St. Thomas offers a Purple on the Plaza fan event before each home game. This activity includes performances by the school’s dance and cheer teams, appearances by Tommie the Tom Cat school mascot, and musical performances by the school pep band. The celebration also offers kids games, spirit gear giveaways, and food trucks. The Tommies team does a walk-through around one hour before the game. The alumni and present student body members enjoy this event.


St. Thomas has a unique set of supporters known as Caruso’s Crew. (The Tommies are led by head coach Glen Caruso). The crew are all seminarians (studying for the priesthood) who dress up as hunky construction workers. They loosen their collars and lead the student body in cheers throughout the game.


Homecoming is especially popular with alumni, as most of them still live in the Twin Cities after graduation. Events include a Friday night pep rally and festival, a Saturday morning parade, and a Taste of St. Thomas dining event to close out the weekend on Sundays.


The great success of the St. Thomas football program also attracts fans who did not attend St. Thomas or even go to college. Many of these fans come from the residential areas of St. Paul that live near the school and they can walk to the games.


Access 3

O’Shaughnessy Stadium is easily reached via I-94.


From I-94 West: Head east on I-94 to the Cretin Avenue exit. Turn right onto Cretin Avenue and travel one mile to Grand Avenue. Take a right at the Grand Avenue traffic light. Stay on Grand Avenue until you reach the Anderson Parking Deck on your left. Turn into the Anderson Parking structure. Parking is free on gamedays at this lot only.


From I-94 East: Head west on I-94 to the Cretin/Vandalia exit. Go left on Cretin Avenue for one mile to Grand Avenue. Turn right at the Grand Avenue light. The Anderson Parking Deck will be on your left. Turn left into the parking deck. Parking is free in this parking deck only on game days.


There is a local public bus stop at the corner of Summit Avenue and Cretin Avenue. This is only a block from the stadium.


What hurts the Access score for the stadium is the area underneath the stands. It is extremely narrow with a very low ceiling. The lines for concessions and to use the restroom are so long it may cause you to miss up to a full quarter of the game.


Return on Investment 4

Ticket pricing at St. Thomas home games is very simple. Seatback seats along the 50-yard line are $33. All other seats feature bench seating and cost $18. Parking is free at the Anderson Parking deck on Grand Avenue on gamedays. It is located only a block from the stadium. The concession items available at Tommie’s games are reasonably priced.


Extras 5

Our first extra goes to the St. Thomas athletic department for successfully making the jump from Division III to Division I status. That is a first in NCAA history.


In just their second season after moving from Division III to Division I, the Tommies won the Pioneer Conference Football Championship, and Head Coach Glen Caruso was named the 2022 Coach of the Year for the Pioneer Conference. The team is not yet eligible for the FCS Playoffs due to NCAA rules concerning teams moving from one level of competition to another.


To cut down on the use of paper and trash to pick up after games, the school offers a free digital program for each game. It is available on the school app.


St. Thomas University installed a new video board at O’Shaughnessy Stadium before the 2023 season. The new screen is double the resolution and has quadrupled the number of pixels as its predecessor, delivering a crystal-clear image to fans.


Another extra goes to the lovely view of the campus no matter where you sit in the stands.


Final Thoughts

The St. Thomas Tommies and O’Shaughnessy Stadium are the little teams that could, as they successfully moved from Division III to Division I level of competition. They are the first team to ever do that. O’Shaughnessy Stadium may not have all the bells and whistles of a modern stadium, but it is a great place to watch a game on a fall Saturday afternoon. Having a backdrop of the lovely St. Thomas campus that wraps around the stadium is simply the icing on the cake.

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