Photos by Aaron Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Oliver C. Dawson Stadium 300 College St Orangeburg, SC 29117
Year Opened: 1955 Capacity: 22,000
The 'Dogs Are In!
The South Carolina State Bulldogs play their home games at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg, South Carolina, which opened in 1955 and currently seats twenty-two thousand. The artificial turf stadium has been used in the past for South Carolina high school football championships, and is named after a former SCSU athletic director who was inducted into the state’s athletics hall of fame. The Bulldogs currently participate as part of the FCS’ Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), and the team has won 18 conference championships. South Carolina State University is an HBCU.
Food & Beverage 3
Oliver C. Dawson Stadium has a limited number of options at its multiple concessions stands (all of which sell the same thing), but the prices are great. Unfortunately several items are no longer sold – you can see certain listings taped over on the menu boards. The remaining items include hot dogs, chili dogs, nachos, chips, popcorn, peanuts, packaged candy, bottled soda, and bottled water, which is not as much as at many other stadiums, but everything costs either $2 or $3, which is a great deal for a college football game.
Like most HBCUs the most impressive thing about a game at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium is the marching band – known as “The Marching 101”, the Bulldogs band puts on a great show before the game and during halftime, and is accompanied by the dance team waving SCSU banners. The team also has a great mascot (person dressed as a giant bulldog), who spends much of the game in the stands with the fans, instead of only staying on the field like at a lot of sports venues.
Unfortunately the facility itself is a little dated – you can see some of the letters starting to fall off on the signage, and they have a very small scoreboard; the scoreboard does have a small section for video replays, but this can be hard to see if you are sitting far away from it. But they do have a lot of great, full-color banners hanging from the ceiling in the concourse showing former players who have made it in the Pros or to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Oliver C. Dawson Stadium is in the heart of South Carolina State University’s campus, so as such there are not many restaurants in the immediate vicinity, but you can find plenty of options within a mile or so, especially along Chestnut Street or along Calhoun Drive – mostly fast food, pizza, Mexican, and the like. Mama’s Kountry Kooking and Original House of Pizza seem to be local favorites.
South Carolina State’s campus itself offers several tourist stops if you plan to be in town for the day or for the weekend, such as the Stanback Museum and Planetarium or the Edisto Memorial Gardens. You could spend several hours exploring the gardens, which actually include a number of different attractions on site – besides the trees and beautiful flowers (including roses and azaleas, among others) there are also statues, a vintage water wheel, a gazebo you can visit for shade, a fountain, and a memorial for South Carolina veterans.
During my most recent visit Oliver C. Dawson stadium did not draw much of a crowd, so there was not a lot of energy from the fans – part of this is certainly due to the ongoing pandemic, but also the weather may have played a factor on this particular day. The Bulldogs are also barely above .500 this season.
In the past I have definitely seen much, much bigger crowds at the stadium, however, so I definitely expect the attendance to increase over time, and get back to pre-pandemic levels.
Getting to Oliver C. Dawson Stadium is pretty easy, given how close the facility is to the freeway – for most fans taking I-26 to either Highway 601 or Highway 301 will be your best bet, or if coming from the other direction you might take Highway 178 or Highway 4 in, but the venue is close to all of these. Parking is a little bit tougher, given that there is no close parking unless you have a pass – most fans seemed to have to walk a fair distance from where they parked.
Once you are inside the stadium, however, concessions lines are pretty swift given the small crowd size, and there are plenty of restrooms to accommodate everyone. Most seats are general admission as well, so you are free to sit pretty much wherever you like.
Return on Investment 3
General admission tickets are $35 for South Carolina State football, which feels a little on the high side given the lack of amenities on offer, the dated venue, and the lack of energy from the crowd at certain games, but concessions are on the very cheap side, so I think that balances it out a little. You can also find free parking if you are willing to walk a little.
Oliver C. Dawson Stadium does have team gear for sale inside the stadium if you are looking to pick up some Bulldogs swag, and they do a great job honoring former players and accomplishments – I mentioned the banners in the concourse, but the press box exterior is also adorned with block numbers showing all of the Bulldogs’ championships.
South Carolina State has a decent stadium and has had some great teams on the field in the past, but of late the facility seems to be feeling its age. Worth a trip if your favorite team is playing the Bulldogs that day, but if you are looking for more excitement from your college football visit, there are some other stadiums in SC you may want to check out first.