Photos by Gregory Koch and Richard Smith, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Wesley Brown Field House Cooper Road Annapolis, MD 21402
Year Opened: 2006
Navy Blue and Gold
Wesley Brown Field House is a 140,000 square foot facility on the campus of the United States Naval Academy that is home to several of the Midshipmen's athletic programs, as well as intramural sports, physical education, and several athletic department offices. The Navy volleyball team calls the gym at the back of the Field House home. With seating for about 400 fans on three sides, this is a small arena within a much larger facility.
The Field House is named for Wesley Brown, the first African American to graduate from the Academy. Brown, who graduated in 1949, went on to become a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy.
Food & Beverage 1
There is a small table just inside the entrance to the gym selling a very limited menu. Candy, chips, and popcorn are your only options to eat, while bottled Pepsi products (soda and water) are available to drink. Prices are affordable, with the chips only costing a dollar, candy $3, and popcorn and drinks $4. However, the selection is extremely limited so we suggest eating before or after the game.
There are a few rows of plastic bleachers on three sides of the court at Wesley Brown Field House, and they do tend to fill up. However, the space is actually much larger than the court itself, as there is also a 200 meter track just behind it as well as other open space on the ground floor of the Field House. They put up nets, but those are more to protect those on the track from errant balls than to keep the sound in. This does tamper the noise somewhat, although it still gets loud.
The team offers several promotions during the game, including t-shirt tosses and giveaways to a randomly selected fan. There is a small scoreboard in one of the corners, but this is frequently obstructed by fans. There is a small display on the scorers' table which also shows the score, but the referee will often stand in front of it. There is a large videoboard on one baseline which shows a pregame hype video, but instead of being used as a scoreboard at other times, it is blank. This seems like it could be put to better use.
Annapolis is a small-sized city of about 40,000 people, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. There’s a shopping center located across from the football stadium where you will likely park (more on that later.) It has a few basic restaurants, but you can find far better food a short drive away. Annapolis being located on the Chesapeake Bay, there are plenty of great seafood restaurants nearby, including Buddy’s Crabs & Ribs, The Boatyard Bar & Grill, and the Sailor Oyster Bar, all located within a couple miles of the stadium. If you want an authentic sweet treat after your meal, The Boatyard sells the official state dessert of Maryland, Smith Island Cake, which is made fresh on Smith Island daily and brought up by ferry.
The real attraction, though, is the U.S. Naval Academy itself. The grounds are beautiful, and there’s so much history, so be sure to take a tour while you’re in town. Keep in mind the stringent access requirements that will be discussed in that section, however.
As mentioned above, the Wesley Brown Field House gets close to full for most volleyball games. You will have friends and family of the players, alumni, locals coming to cheer on the team, and a few members of the Brigade of Midshipmen who show up to cheer on their classmates. The crowd can get quite loud at times despite the cavernous space.
Getting to Wesley Brown Field House is quite complicated. Although Annapolis is conveniently located off US 50/US 301, getting onto the Academy grounds is another story. Vehicular access is prohibited to anyone without the appropriate DOD permit. Instead, you have two options.
The most convenient one is to park at the football stadium (punch 550 Taylor Avenue into your GPS) and take the shuttle bus to the arena. Parking here will cost $10 via the Parkmobile app, although there is no cost to ride the shuttle itself. Note that on days Navy has a home football game, parking is instead at the Navy Health Clinic. Check the Navy athletic website to confirm. There is no charge to park here on days when this is the location. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes or so, so be sure to allot extra time. Alternatively, fans can park in downtown Annapolis in one of multiple garages (some of which are free on weekends) and walk onto Academy grounds and to the Field House. Regardless of how you access the Academy, anyone over the age of 18 will need to show a photo ID and anyone under 18 will need to either have one or be accompanied by someone who does.
Once you get to the Field House, you will walk through the front doors, past the track, and to the back of the facility and enter the gym. Look for the giant nets. You may be able to see flying volleyballs through them, which will tell you you are in the right place.
Return on Investment 4
Admission to Navy volleyball matches is free and concessions are affordable if limited. However, the $10 to park takes this down a bit.
Check out the area dedicated to Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown by the entrance. As mentioned above, Brown was the first African American to graduate from the Academy, and attended the groundbreaking of the Field House in 2006.
Look for the marketing table by the entrance, with free roster cards and other giveaways.
A third star for all the rich history of the Naval Academy.
A fourth and final star for the gorgeous views of the Severn River and the Academy grounds that you will get to take in on the shuttle ride to and from the stadium. On the way in, sit on the left for the best view of the water or the right for the best view of the Academy. On the way back to the stadium, it's the reverse.
Wesley Brown Field House is a simple but unique gym to watch a volleyball game in. It's a small facility but feels like it's much larger due to being within the larger field house. A sporting event at any service academy is always something special, and Navy volleyball is no exception.