Waldo Stadium - Western Michigan Broncos
Photos by Steve Ohnsman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Waldo Stadium 1903 W Michigan Ave Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Year Opened: 1939
The Ship Has Sailed
Waldo Stadium opened its doors in 1939 for $250,000 with a 6-0 victory over Miami (Ohio) University. The home of the Western Michigan Broncos was named for the school's first President Dwight D. Waldo and over the years has been renovated and expanded to its current 30,200-seat capacity. The Broncos play in the Mid-Atlantic Conference and Eastern Michigan is their arch rivals.
The football program began in 1906 and has captured MAC championships in 1966, 1988, and 2016; western division championships in 1999, 2000, 2015, and 2016; and have made seven bowl appearances. The school boasts 41 alumni who went on to play professionally in the NFL.
A popular WMU slogan created by head coach P. J. Fleck during the 2013-16 football season was “Row the Boat.” Fleck took the phrase with him when he accepted the head coach position at the University of Minnesota. They now have two new phrases: “Let It Reign” and “Let's Ride” which relate to the team name Broncos and their popular tradition where a student rides a horse charging onto the field at the beginning of each home game.
The crowds at the stadium never reach their capacity but do get a bump in attendance when nearby rivals pay a visit to town. There have been a few changes since our last visit a few years ago, but as Waldo enters its ninth decade it’s still a pleasurable facility to enjoy a college football game during the fall months.
Food & Beverage 4
The traditional sandwiches cost $4 to $7 and snacks are offered at Waldo, along with pulled chicken sandwiches and nachos. Pepsi products along with water, coffee, Gatorade, and hot chocolate go for $3 to $4. Credit cards are accepted at the main concession stands. There are no alcoholic beverages available in the stadium.
Waldo Stadium has seating on all four sides, with gaps in each corner. There are three scoreboards, two above the northeast end zone and one above the southwest end zone, so fans sitting anywhere in the stadium can see them easily. The big one is on the southwest side, the other two are smaller.
The staff does a lot of fun things to enhance the experience, the most memorable of which is having someone ride a horse onto the field before the team comes on. They also shoot off a howitzer after every score, which is located above the east corner if you want to snap a pic. Broncos-themed signage such as 'Welcome to Kalamazoo' is spelled out in front of the northwest stands.
The WMU band is probably one of the most active I have ever seen, with constant motion and dancing; before the game, they spell out W-M-U facing both directions, so fans on either sideline can see it right-side up. This is cool because most college bands will only do formations one way, so half the fans see it upside down.
And the activity doesn't stop there either; throughout the game, the band will dance and jump up and down in their seats, and will also do additional formations after a win. One notable tradition is their performing “I Got A Gal from Kalamazoo.”
A majority of the seating is aluminum bleachers with a few plastic seats below the press box. Seat cushions are rented for additional comfort. Suites sit atop three of the seating sections. WMU mascot Buster the Bronco is a tall horse character.
Waldo Stadium is just south of the WMU main campus with many restaurants, breweries, and bars nearby. This is a great destination city to spend the weekend before or after the game. The cities of Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids appear to be battling each other for the title “Craft Beer Capital of Michigan.” Local options include One Well Brewing, Bell's Eccentric Cafe, Final Gravity, Latitude 42, and Arcadia Brewing.
University Roadhouse and Waldo's Tavern are great choices, both of which are within walking distance of the stadium. University Roadhouse offers burgers, pasta, seafood, and sandwiches, as well as drink specials every day of the week. Waldo's Tavern, on the other hand, has typical bar food such as wings, burgers, and pizza, but also boasts cheap drinks. Ray Ray's Italian Beef and Sausage is located on Miller Road for great food at low prices.
If the college student scene isn't your bent, a little further from the stadium you can find Eccentric Cafe and Kalamazoo Beer Exchange. Eccentric Cafe has local beers from Bell's Brewery, located right here in Kalamazoo, while Kalamazoo Beer Exchange offers darts, pinballs, and pools.
Over the years, WMU fans have ramped up their tailgating game with large tents, grills, and tables arriving early in the nearby parking lots. This is a bit of a challenge for night games as the university staff need their parking and the fans like to start early; many lots are not available until 5 pm so the 7 pm kickoff causes a short interval for fun.
Considering the student population on campus, the number of students who attend WMU football games is relatively low. The band makes up for that fact with lively, entertaining shows.
A unique tradition takes place when an Amtrak train stops in Kalamazoo (on its run between Detroit and Chicago) and passes by on the north side. WMU fans wave at the train, the engineer blows the train's horn and the passengers are advised in advance when games are scheduled.
The southeast side of Waldo Stadium is built into the side of a hill and the majority of the parking is located atop that hill which means many fans must be ready for several stairs going down to the stadium and (more challenging) going up after the game. Fans with special needs are best served by entering the north side gates at the street level.
There are plenty of parking lots all around Waldo Stadium, some of which are reserved for pass holders; these tend to be on the front side along Michigan Avenue. The back side is where you want to be if you are paying cash, and you can park for just $10 within a few blocks of the stadium. There are gates all around the outside, so you can enter wherever you want, but note that will call is at Gate 1, next to the southwest end zone.
Once you get inside, moving around is fairly easy. There are plenty of functional bathrooms and are kept clean. There is also a walkway that connects the four sets of stands, so if your side is too crowded, or too loud, you can move around. There are no ramps into the stands that I saw, but those with special needs can sit in front of the walkway on any side, on little cutouts built for that purpose.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets may be purchased online in advance, prices run $18-$30. The concession prices are quite reasonable for college events and parking is around $10. All of these prices make for a good bargain at the stadium.
One point for the railroad track on the north side, you can sometimes see Amtrak trains going by during the game. The great tailgating, the quality of breweries and restaurants in the area, and the official band bring three more additional points.
Waldo Stadium is a fine stadium to visit on the weekends. The Broncos staff provide a fun experience and the game day staff makes everyone in attendance feel right at home.