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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Haylor-Semotiuk Memorial Field at Western Alumni Stadium - Western Mustangs

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Western Alumni Stadium

100 Philip Aziz Ave

London, ON N6A 5P9

Opened: 2000

Capacity: 8,000

Purple Ponies

There is no Canadian University football program in Ontario more decorated than the Western Mustangs. Western, along with the Laval Rouge et Or, is one of the most dominant football programs in all of Canada and consistently finds themselves in the National Championship picture. The Mustangs are the owners of a staggering 35 Yates Cup Championships as Ontario (OUA) conference champions. That is nine more than the closest rival. The Mustangs have also brought home the Vanier Cup as National Champions eight times. Western has also produced six Hec Crighton Trophy winners as the top university football player in Canada, including Tim Tindale, who would go on to a solid career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. The phrase “Everybody Hates Western” which is common to hear around the other programs in the OUA is a direct result of their domination and performance on the field.

Home for the Purple Ponies is Haylor-Semotiuk Memorial Field at Western Alumni Stadium. Replacing the venerable J.W. Little Memorial Stadium and originally known as TD Waterhouse Stadium and then TD Stadium, Western Alumni Stadium opened in 2000 and boasts a bulbous capacity of 8,000 to make it one of the largest facilities in the OUA. The field is named after legendary OUA coach Larry Haylor, who retired as the winningest coach in Canadian University Football, and longtime coach and Athletic Director Darwin Semotiuk. Western goes beyond excellence on the football field and also puts together a strong football experience for fans.

Food & Beverage 3

Concession options at Western Alumni Stadium are what one would expect for an OUA football venue. There is a main concession stand with basic offerings including hot dogs, burgers, sausages, popcorn, nachos and candy. Coffee, both hot and cold, water, Powerade and Coca-Cola products are the soft drink options in the stadium. There is a beer garden for those who are able and wish an alcoholic beverage. For the game that was reviewed, there were a number of food trucks on site which helped ease the concession congestion.

Atmosphere 3

Western Alumni Stadium is a solid OUA football venue, but there are a few spots where some improvement could be made. The main entrance is at the north side of the stadium. The J.W. Little Memorial Building is an attractive grey brick building which welcomes fans to Western Alumni Stadium. It houses the locker rooms, concession areas and press entrance. The trophy cases with Western awards can also be found here. Upon entering the stadium grounds on either side of the J.W. Little Building, fans are welcomed by a massive purple Muskoka chair and a view of the field. On the side of the J.W. Little Building is a mural dedicating the field to Larry Haylor and Darwin Semotiuk. The stadium consists of two grandstands on either side of the field-turf field, surrounded by a running track. The main grandstand is to the west and often it is the only grandstand that is open. It is also the place to be for that perfect center logo picture and is home to the press box. The grandstand consists mostly of benches with backs but some regular bleachers are found at either end and reserved stadium seats are in the middle. The PA system is solid and seems to have been upgraded as well as the lighting system has been improved to LED lights. Where Western Alumni Stadium could benefit from some improvements is in recognition of Western’s vast football accomplishments. With 35 Yates Cups and 8 Vanier Cups at the time of writing, some sort of recognition is a must. At one point there were team pictures of championship teams on the exterior of the stadium, but those seem to have been removed. Also, the scoreboard on top of the J.W. Little Building is definitely dated, even boasting the outdated moniker “University of Western Ontario.”

When it comes to gameday production, the Mustangs attempt to put together a production similar to a program in the NCAA. The Mustangs have two live horses that take a lap on the track after a Western touchdown as well as the running of the massive flag. Western also features a marching band, that although not nearly as large as most NCAA bands, is unique in the OUA and a Western tradition. The Western Cheerleaders perform gymnastic stunts for fans and JW, the Mustangs mascot is found around the field, helping build spirit.

Neighbourhood 4

Western Alumni Stadium is located at the southeastern corner of the Western University campus, northwest of Downtown London. There are a few spots that fans can go for a pre or post game meal or drink. Some options include The Wave, Mother Hubbards, Richies Family Restaurant, Westside Family Restaurant, Grad Club and the Barking Frog. Hopping in the car to get away from the stadium is probably the best bet. For fans looking for other sporting options in London, checking out Western Mustangs hockey or basketball at Thompson Arena or Alumni Hall, respectively may be an option. Otherwise, heading downtown to see the London Knights of the OHL or London Lightning of the BSL are options. The London Majors of the Intercounty Baseball League may also be in town. As far as other entertainment options, taking in the tour of Labatt Park, the oldest, continually used ballpark could be fun or Storybook Gardens, Fanshawe Pioneer Village or Jet Aircraft Museum are all good ideas. For fans wishing to stay in London, heading downtown to the Hilton is a good plan.

Fans 4

The Western Mustangs enjoy the highest attendance in the OUA. In the 2023 season, the Mustangs averaged 7,100 fans per game, an increase from the 2022 season. A lack of competition in general has made Western fans spoiled, but overall they do well to support their team.

Access 4

Getting to Western Alumni Stadium is not terrible. Western Alumni Stadium is located at the southeast corner of campus, northwest of Downtown London. It is in a valley among other athletic fields, surrounded by Western Rd, Philip Aziz Ave and the Thames River. It is a significant distance north of Highway 401, so traversing the city when coming from out of town is a necessity. There is plenty of parking off of Philip Aziz Ave, north of the stadium. Some reserved parking is at a cost, but there may be some available for free. For fans wishing to take public transit, there are London Transit stops all along Western Road. Fans should check out the London Transit website for maps, fares and schedules.

Getting around inside the stadium is not difficult at all and washroom facilities are adequate. With the simplistic nature of the grandstands, there are plenty of stairs and could be an issue for those with mobility issues.

Return on Investment 4

OUA football offers great value for the sporting dollar. The Mustangs offer a number of price points for tickets with General Admission going for $15. Reserved seats range from $20 to $45 depending on the type of seat that patrons want. Concession prices are what one would expect and parking can be found at a cost or for free. The product on the field is solid, however, the dominance that Western has shown over the years makes the possibility of getting a blowout game a real possibility.

Extras 3

An extra mark for the nearly unprecedented success the Western Mustangs have enjoyed.

An extra mark for Western alumnus Tim Tindale who is one of the few skill position players to graduate from Canadian university football and make a solid career in the NFL.

An extra mark for the Western Mustangs creating a gameday atmosphere that screams big event, and attempts to produce an NCAA atmosphere.

Final Thoughts

Catching a Western Mustangs game is a great way to spend a fall weekend afternoon. There is a ton that the Mustangs do right and with a couple of adjustments, the experience could be even better. Other programs should consider taking some pointers from the Purple Ponies to make their experience as “Big Time” as possible.

Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on YouTube, Twitter, Threads and Instagram @profan9.

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