The scene in Kalamazoo is one of those that gives the smaller venues in college football a great reputation. The fans that fill Waldo Stadium are lively, devoted, and help to make Western Michigan football relevant.
Some folks may react unfavorably about the move to InfoCision Stadium from the classic Rubber Bowl that hosted Zips games since 1940. However, the venerable old stadium required much repair, and the dream of a brand new facility on campus drew closer to reality. In 2009, Akron opened InfoCision Stadium and parked it right amongst the hotspots in campus. The excitement for this new arena certainly had justification. It towers high off the main strips in campus. Akron University has fallen into the rat race for the newer and better when it comes to stadiums. However, InfoCision Stadium, other than its name, has clung to many traditional aspects of what a college football atmosphere is all about.
Doyt L. Perry Stadium, fondly named “The Doyt,” is the home of Bowling Green football. The construction is rather typical for a Middle American Conference arena. It’s small, yet cozy and certainly comes with devoted fans, making this place uninviting for visitors. In 2007, they tore out the north grandstand and made room for the modern and impressive Sebo Athletic Center, which houses offices, locker rooms, band seating and luxury suites. This newer addition clashes somewhat with the original structure that completes the rest of the stadium. But, the charm of “The Doyt” still remains.
Lost amongst the farms and forests of western Ohio lies Yager Stadium. If Highway 732 is chosen as the route to reach this destination, you might feel lost yourself.
The space between Cleveland and Pittsburgh is awfully quiet, but there is some life in the otherwise sleepy town of Kent when gameday arrives. Kent State University is located ten miles outside of Akron, making the Zips their most heated rival. The Golden Flashes have their home in Dix Stadium. It very recently was renovated with an impressive press box, jumbotron, and training facilities.
When entering the city of Toledo, it may be challenging to locate clues that suggest that it’s gameday. There are not hoards of people shuffling toward the stadium, or bars overflowing with anxious fans, or even many cars zipping around with Toledo flags attached to windows. When nearing campus, the reason becomes clear. The University of Toledo is very isolated from the rest of the town, as it really feels like its own city in a city.
Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio is another hidden gem of college football that few people know about. Only an hour south of Columbus, Athens appears as a cute brick laden college community, but only after the highway dwindles from three lanes, to two, and down to one. The campus is visible from the highway and as soon as the exit for Ohio U is reached, the stadium appears in the near distance. Tents lined up across the street and adjacent to the Hocking River host tailgaters that sprinkle the lawns with enthusiasm. Just a short drive from the stadium is Court Street – an all brick road brimming with fans weaving in and out of shops and filling up on novelties and gear for gameday. Ohio is known for its party-school status and traces of this were evident along Court Street.
Central Michigan University is an unexpected surprise hidden among the nothingness in the middle of Michigan. Driving into Mount Pleasant provides immediate clues that you have arrived onto a college campus. Folks decked in maroon and gold trickle around the area and it all flows toward Kelly Shorts Stadium where just outside awaits a massive party in preparation for game action. Live bands, loud music, dancing on trucks, and other common college behavior electrifies the area around the stadium. It’s a concentrated gaggle of young adults crammed together making it difficult to walk through and get to the stadium.
Lost between the shadows of Michigan Stadium’s 111,000 seat “Big House” and the metropolitan area of Detroit, Rynearson Stadium sits quietly off the campus of Eastern Michigan University. With the Wolverines only ten minutes away, EMU really gets lost in the shuffle. It’s almost like a gathering place where fans who couldn’t get a ticket to the Michigan game can chat about the Big Ten.
Although the experience at Scheumann Stadium doesn’t compare to the Big Ten, the interest of Ball State athletics still shines through the hardy visitors that come to view their Cardinal football team. Large banners reading, “Go Ball State” and “Welcome to the Red Zone” greet fans arriving into Muncie. The Ball State band named, “The Pride of Mid America,” plays the fight song as they march outside the stadium just prior to kickoff. They are arguably the most positive aspect of the Ball State experience as they play and sing their school songs proudly. Following the band is the Cardinal mascot scooting by on a golf cart and snapping photos with fans. During the game, he mingles with fans in the stands and plays a large part of the atmosphere.