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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Patchin Field – VMI Keydets

Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.14

Patchin Field 309 Letcher Ave Lexington, VA 24550

Year Opened: Unknown

Capacity: 1,000


Key(det)s Soccer

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is located in Lexington, Virginia, and is one of six Senior Military Academies in the United States. The SMAs represent a sort of middle ground between the service academies and civilian universities. Of the six academies, VMI is the only one that does not also admit civilian students, but all of them share some common traits. All SMAs have a Corps of Cadets with military standards and training comparable to the service academies, but unlike service academies, students are not required to enlist in the military upon graduation.

Nonetheless, many choose to do so and have served the United States in wars around the world. Unlike the service academies, senior military academies are not tied to any one branch, and VMI graduates have gone on to serve in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Many VMI cadets and graduates also fought in the Confederate military during the American Civil War, and it was referred to as the “West Point of the Confederacy” at the time.

VMI’s athletic teams are known as the Keydets, and the soccer team plays at Patchin Field. Located right next to Gray-Minor Stadium, home of the Keydets baseball team, Patchin Field is named after longtime VMI athletic trainer Herb Patchin.

Food & Beverage 0

There is no food and beverage for sale at Patchin Field. Fans are permitted to bring their own. In the event there is a game going on at Gray-Minor Stadium, fans may be able to buy something from the concession stand there, but as the seasons do not overlap except for a few offseason exhibitions in the spring for soccer and fall for baseball, this is unlikely to work out.

Atmosphere 3

Patchin Field is a quaint soccer field nestled at the bottom of a hill. There are a few small sets of bleachers at field level, and many fans choose to bring their lawn chairs and put them down on the grass. Fans can also stand on the concourse of Gray-Minor Stadium or place their lawn chairs on the hill behind the goal in the shade. Wherever you sit, you will have a great view of the action. There is a scoreboard in one corner which shows only the most basic information, and many aspects of it, such as displaying the half, were not working when we went.

College soccer is not very big at VMI, so the team seldom has any promotions going on. There wasn’t even a fan marketing table. However, for fans of soccer, this is a chance to watch the game in its purest form, two teams of amateurs going at it, most of whom will never play professionally and are playing for the love of the game.

Neighborhood 1

Lexington, Virginia has been given the rather cynical and ironic nickname Lex Vegas. Unlike its Nevada counterpart, Lexington is a small, quaint, conservative college town in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley. Even more unlike the real Vegas, the entertainment scene here is almost non-existent. There are many ways to take in the natural beauty of the Valley in and around Lexington, plus some historic sites on and around the Institute, but that’s about it.

Fans 3

VMI averages between 50 and 100 fans a game, though sometimes they will get slightly more than that. However, the compact nature of the seating can make it seem fuller than it is. Most of the crowd is friends and family of the players or those with some connection to VMI. They cheer on the Keydets throughout the game, regardless of the score.

Although there are fundraising efforts underway to expand Patchin Field, a crowd of about 100 people looks better in small compact bleachers and lawn seating than it would in a larger seating area. The bleachers can get pretty full here with the crowds, though not to the point of discomfort.

Access 3

To get to VMI, you will need to take Interstate 64 to Exit 55. Fans coming from the north or south will need to first take Interstate 81 to Exit 191 for I-64 – Exit 55 is the next once you get on. From there, it is a short drive to the Institute.

Once on campus, you will need to park in the lot outside Paulette Hall, then walk under the Gray-Minor Stadium bleachers to reach Patchin Field. The lot at Paulette is small, and if it is full then you have other options such as the Parade Grounds, but that is your best bet. Keep in mind that parking will be drastically more difficult if there is a home football game the same day, so check in advance to be sure.

There are no restrooms at Patchin Field itself, but you can walk up a flight of steps to the concourse of Gray-Minor and use the ones there.

Return on Investment 4

Admission is free, parking is free, and you won’t spend anything on concessions. However, there isn’t enough here to earn the top score.

Extras 1

One star for the immense military history at the Virginia Military Institute. While the treatment of such history has been controversial recently due to it being seen as celebrating the Confederacy, efforts are underway to present it in what is considered a more appropriate fashion. That debate is beyond the scope of this review, so we will just say that regardless of what you think of the history here, it is still history.

Final Thoughts

Patchin Field is a nice little soccer field in the shadow of a bigger baseball stadium. Although college soccer isn’t very big here, a trip to Patchin is a nice opportunity to watch the game for free in a historic military setting.

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