Vanderbilt Stadium – Vanderbilt Commodores
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Vanderbilt Stadium Jess Neely Dr Nashville, TN 37240
Year Opened: 1922 Capacity: 40,550
Setting Sail in the Music City
Vanderbilt University began playing football in 1892 and since 1922 it has played at the corner 25th Avenue South and Jess Neely Drive. The stadium began as Dudley Field, a name it would carry until 1981. In 1981 the school basically rebuilt the stadium, with the 12,000 seats on each sideline raised 10 feet above the playing surface. The newly renovated stadium was designed to resemble a naval vessel in keeping with Vanderbilt’s maritime-themed mascot… the Commodore. Even the exterior of the stadium was painted battleship gray. The stadium’s name was changed to Vanderbilt Stadium, with the playing surface retaining the Dudley name.
In 2008, a new set of renovations added a brick and iron perimeter to the stadium, along with a new gold color scheme on the walls. Vanderbilt added two fan pleasing features in 2012, with the installation of a visitor’s concourse at field level and a berm with a 500-fan capacity at the open end of the field. Today the stadium has a capacity of 40,550… the smallest stadium in the SEC.
Food & Beverage 3
Vanderbilt Stadium has seven concession areas and two vending rooms. A majority of the concession areas are known as Commodore Classics and sell the typical stadium fare. Their menus include hot dogs ($7), chicken sandwiches ($9), pretzels ($5), peanuts ($4), cracker jacks ($4), Coca-Cola brand sodas ($5) and bottled water ($4).
The locally owned Puckett’s BBQ seems to be very popular with the Vandy fans. They offer brisket nachos ($9), Piggy (pulled pork) N Mac ($9), Hillbilly Hot Dogs (hot dogs with pork covering it) ($9) and Red Neck Burritos ($9).
In recent years the school has added some elements to the stadium to build enthusiasm in the crowds. A new video board was added to show replay of exciting plays and provide updates on games from around the conference. A foghorn staffed by midshipmen from the school’s ROTC program goes off whenever Vandy takes the field, scores a touchdown or field goal or wins a game.
What is missing in the atmosphere at Vanderbilt is the swagger and sense of optimism that you are in the hunt for either the SEC Division title or the SEC Conference title. This is not true of all Commodore sports, as the basketball and baseball teams are extremely competitive on an annual basis.
Everyone knows that Vanderbilt is in Nashville, the Home of Country Music. However, Vanderbilt’s neighborhood is known as the West End, several miles from the Grand Ole Opry. We will focus on the restaurants, lodging and attractions centered in and around the Vanderbilt campus. Feel free to check out our reviews of Nissan Stadium, First Tennessee Park and Bridgestone Arena for detailed information on the dining and entertainment options in downtown Nashville.
The West End is a quieter, more residential section of Nashville. It is home to both Vanderbilt and Belmont University, a school renowned for its performing arts program. Just across West Avenue from Vanderbilt Stadium is Centennial Park and the Parthenon. The park has a bevy of activities available and the Parthenon is a to-scale replica of the ancient Greek Palace. On the lower level of the building is a wonderful art museum. Further out West End is a suburb called Belle Meade, home to Cheekwood Estates and Gardens. You’ll be passing the homes of many Nashville stars as you head out Forest Park Drive.
For your game day breakfast, we encourage you to head to the Pancake Pantry, a Nashville tradition since 1961. It offers a wide variety of breakfast options, but they serve an unbelievable array of flapjacks! After the game check out the Redlands Grill, just a block from the stadium on West End Avenue. You can close your day by staying at either the Marriott or the Holiday Inn right at the entrance to Vanderbilt University.
Vanderbilt fans are realistic about their chances against some of the SEC’s elite teams. As a result, Commodore games are as much a social event as they are an athletic event. Vandy fans know how to have a good time!
The organized activities get underway three hours prior to kickoff with the opening of Vandyville at the corner of Jess Neely Drive and Natchez Trace. This is tailgating central for the Vanderbilt faithful. Activities include live bands, food trucks, a picnic zone and a kid zone with inflatables and face painting. One hour prior to kickoff the Commodore Star Walk begins. The team is led by the game captains carrying an anchor (there’s that maritime theme again!), as they walk through a tunnel formed by fans, the Marching Commodores Band and the cheerleaders.
Once the game is about to start, the black and gold clad Vanderbilt fans form a V-U with their fingers and give the cheer Anchor Down! (This is their version of Hunker Down!) If the game is close Vanderbilt fans are loud and supportive. Once a game gets out of reach the stadium population drops quickly.
When you compare Vanderbilt Stadium’s service areas…. 4 entry gates, 7 concession areas and 10 sets of restrooms… to other SEC stadiums, you would think accessibility would be a major problem. However, the scale of everything is smaller at Vanderbilt than every other school in the conference. Vanderbilt has a student body of only 11,000 students and its stadium capacity is a fraction of other conference facilities. An average crowd at Vanderbilt games is 30,000 so in reality the number of service areas is just about right. It is only when an Alabama or Tennessee comes to town that this is a problem. Traffic and parking are an issue on campus, but Nashville’s transit system operates a shuttle system up and down Broadway to get fans to the games.
Return on Investment 3
You will get a good return on your investment. Vanderbilt tickets are by far the cheapest in the SEC, and you can even buy a General Admission ticket. something unheard of at other conference schools. Once in the stadium you will find that there is not a bad seat in the house. One caveat… most of the seats are of the aluminum bench variety, so you may want to bring a seat cushion with you. The concession prices are expensive for the limited menu offered. Expect to pay $15-$20 for a close in parking space on campus. Cabs and public transit come right by the stadium on a regular basis, so you might want to use them as an option. Hotels in Nashville can vary greatly depending on where you stay. Generally, the prices are going to be higher downtown near all the tourist areas. The hotels immediately in front of Vanderbilt also tend to be pricey. There are many hotel brands along Broadway that would fall in the $125 a night range.
Dudley Stadium was the first college stadium in the South specifically built for football.
Whatever Vanderbilt lacks in athletics, it more than makes up for in academics. It ranks in the national Top 10 schools in the fields of medicine, law, education and business. It is ranked #3 for the Best Value in Private Education and #15 in the Best National University poll.
Vanderbilt served as the first home of the Nashville Oilers/Tennessee Titans while an NFL stadium was being built in 1998-2000.
The concourses feature signs honoring the Vanderbilt football great dating back to 1915 all the way up to the Jay Cutler era.
Vanderbilt Stadium has hosted concerts by U2, Luke Bryan, the Dave Matthews Band, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones over the years.
While sports seem to rule at the SEC member schools, it is important to remember that first and foremost, these are academic institutions. Vanderbilt has never compromised on its high level of academic standards. This makes it difficult to recruit some of the better athletes, and the school’s small size relative to other conference schools is also a challenge. Even if Vandy fans grumble about the team’s record… they are even prouder of their Vanderbilt diploma. As the old saying goes… winning isn’t everything.