Wildcat Stadium – New Hampshire Wildcats
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Wildcat Stadium 145 Main St Durham, NH 03824
Year Opened: 1936
The Wildest Cats?
UNH has played on the site of Wildcats Stadium since 1936. Originally called Alumni Field, it was renamed Cowell Stadium in 1952 to honor former football coach and athletic director William H. “Butch” Cowell.
As beloved as Cowell Stadium, affectionately nicknamed “The Dungeon” was, it was terribly outdated and in need of a facelift. Beginning in 2014, the university began a $25 million renovation designed to modernize and upgrade the venue. Over the course of two seasons, lights were installed, a new grandstand was built adjacent to the field house, a new scoreboard was installed and a new grandstand was built on the west side of the field. New state of the art sound and video systems were installed, along with new concession stands and new luxury suites.
The Wildcats have qualified for the FCS playoffs 18 times, including an incredible streak of 14 straight seasons from 2004-2017. The squad reached the national semifinals in 2013 and 2014. 21 UNH alumni have played in the NFL.
Food & Beverage 4
The setup for concessions at Wildcat Stadium is a little strange, as you can only get food on one side of the stadium and you can only get beer on the other side. Put your walking shoes on!
The bulk of the concessions are sold at the 603 Eatery on the new side of the stadium. There’s a decent variety to be found here, with items such as steak and cheese subs and pulled pork sandwiches augmenting the typical stadium fare. Several hot items, including clam chowder, chili and mac and cheese are offered to fight the cold on those chilly New Hampshire fall days. Even though there are only 6 points of sale, lines move quickly, even at halftime.
Coca-Cola products are featured at Wildcat Stadium. If you are looking for an adult beverage, head over to the Cowell Stadium side of the field and make your way to the Bud Light Beer Deck, where local brews from Tuckerman and Stoneface breweries are sold alongside Budweiser and Bud Light. Aside from a few snack items, there is no food sold on this side of the stadium.
At most schools in this part of the country, football games aren’t really a huge deal. That’s not the case at UNH, where the football team enjoys tremendous support. You can feel the electricity building as you make your way through downtown Durham, past the horde of students walking to the stadium. While you wouldn’t confuse the tailgating scene here with the big boys, Wildcat fans certainly have fun in the parking lots surrounding Wildcat Stadium before the game.
Once inside the facility, you’ll find all the typical aspects you would expect at a college football game. UNH features a large, active student section, a band, a cheerleading squad and dance team. All perform throughout the game. There are giveaways available for all fans, sponsors tables and auctions set up on the concourse. A 50/50 raffle is held, and PA announcements ring out over the crystal-clear sound system. Two mascots, Wild E. Cat and Gnarlz, roam the stadium firing up the fans. If you’re at the game with younger fans, a trip to the kids play area at field level may be a part of your Wildcat Stadium experience.
UNH is unique among New England schools in that football may be the marquee sport here. The support from the students, locals and alumni make this a fun atmosphere to experience.
The small town of Durham, NH may not be a destination location, but the downtown “business district” adjacent to the university contains a few points of interest for visiting fans. Located about a mile from the football stadium, this stretch of Main Street contains all the shops and dining options you would expect in a small college town. Students flock to Libby’s Bar and Grill and Scorpions Bar and Grill before and after the game. Seriously, the line can stretch around the block.
If visiting from out of town, a visit to nearby Portsmouth is a must. Located a short 20-minute drive from UNH, Portsmouth is a port city with a walkable downtown and colonial-era buildings known for its great restaurants and multiple fine breweries. If visiting the area in the fall, the nearby White Mountains are known for their spectacular foliage during football season.
New Hampshire annually ranks in the top 25 nationally in terms of attendance. The Wildcats average between 10,000 and 11,000 fans per game, with Homecoming and games against traditional rival Maine exceeding Wildcat Stadium’s listed capacity.
The student section fills up several seating sections at Wildcat Stadium, and they are loud and active throughout the game. As mentioned before, football is the marquee sport at UNH, so the alumni and locals who fill up the grandstands are knowledgeable and really into the action down on the field.
Most fans traveling to Durham will drive to town, but there is an Amtrak station right across the street from Wildcat Stadium. For those fans who are driving, UNH is only about 15 minutes from Interstate 95. Route 4 will bring you close to campus. Just follow Main Street right through downtown and to the front of the stadium.
There is ample parking in the lots right across the street from Wildcat Stadium, as well as grass fields just north of the facility which are used for larger crowds. Fans enter at the northeast end zone underneath the large video scoreboard. There is a small berm directly in front of you, where some fans choose to sit for the game.
There are grandstands on either side of the field. To your left will be the old Cowell Stadium and the Field House, which has received some TLC to its old grandstand. To your right is the new grandstand, constructed in 2016, which contains the majority of the seats, the luxury boxes and the press box.
The grandstand on the new side of the stadium consists of two levels, with individual seats around midfield and aluminum bleachers further down. The field is visible from the concourse. UNH’s track runs around the field, which pushes the stands far from the field. Rest rooms are clean and large enough for the typical Wildcat crowd.
Return on Investment 2
Tickets to Wildcat football games are a bit pricier than you may expect for this level of football. General Admission seats cost $25, with reserved seating priced at $35 and premium seats at midfield sold for $50. A parking pass will cost an additional $20. While concessions aren’t outrageously priced, it feels like you’re paying FBS prices at this FCS facility.
If you’ve never been to Durham, or even if you have, do yourself a favor and take a walk through the Field House, which is attached to the old grandstand. Lining the hallways of the Field House are photos of every varsity team to ever represent the school in every sport. Take a closer look and you’ll find numerous professional hockey, football and baseball players. Fans with a keen eye may recognize actor Michael Ontkean, whose most famous role was as Ned Braden in the movie Slap Shot. Michael played hockey at UNH from 1966-69,
Trivial Fact: Baseball Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk played basketball for one year at UNH before getting drafted by the Red Sox and giving up hoops.
No football game in New England would be complete without an end zone militia, and Wildcat Stadium has their own crew, who fire off a small cannon after every Wildcats score.
New Hampshire football history is honored at Wildcat Stadium with murals that line the Bellavance Concourse, with flags lining the entrance ramp honoring legendary players, and a large banner hanging on the façade of the Field House commemorating UNH’s postseason appearances.
It’s often said that football in the northeast is generally no big deal. However, to every rule there is an exception, and New England’s exception is the University of New Hampshire. While some longtime fans bemoaned the demise of Cowell Stadium, Wildcat Stadium has taken The Dungeon’s legendary atmosphere and improved upon it.