After achieving my 5 year goal of seeing a game at every FBS stadium in 2021, 2022 is largely focused on revisiting some of the nation’s best college football stadiums. As a self-proclaimed “stadium connoisseur”, I’m enamored with the unique features and characteristics of each individual stadium. And while the physical stadium itself is fascinating, the atmosphere within it is as important for a true fan experience. Week 2 presented an excellent opportunity to visit 3 stadium that “checked all the boxes” for what every CFB is looking for: UCF’s Bounce House, Arkansas’s Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and Oklahoma State’s Boone Pickens Stadium.
I traveled to Orlando for the Friday night game between UCF and Louisville for my 3rd career game at The Bounce House. The memory of the 1st game in 2018 still stands out to this day. The 2018 American conference championship game was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a stadium. UCF defeated Memphis 56-41 in what was both an insane game and atmosphere. A literal party in the stands spilled over to campus following the UCF victory.
The vibe at the stadium Friday felt like the season opener, though it was UCF’s 2nd home game. They blew out South Carolina State in Week 1, but this match-up vs Louisville was their first “real” test of the season. A sellout crowd of 44,206 filled the stadium and with their phone light’s lit up, the crowd “bounced” in unison. It’s called The Bounce House due to the bleachers flexing when you jump up and down, creating this bouncing sensation. And when 44,000 people do it simultaneously, it is an incredible feeling. Though UCF ultimately fell to Louisville 20-14, the fan experience is off the charts and the scene was pretty amazing:
My Saturday consisted of an ambitious multi-state doubleheader with a day game at Arkansas and night game at Oklahoma State. Both of these schools were high on my list to return to because my previous games at each school were less than ideal. I went to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019 and saw the Razorbacks lose to San Jose State in what was a very low point for the program. And I went to Boone Pickens Stadium in 2020 when COVID attendance restrictions limited the crowd to about 50% of the stadium’s capacity. So even though the travel logistics to make these games was challenging, the payoff would be well worth it.
The 11am game in Fayetteville featured picture perfect weather and a match-up with fellow SEC foe South Carolina. As someone who loves stadiums, walking around DWR is such a fascinating venture. To see a venue that started out with 13,500 seats in 1938 be transformed over many decades to now hold over 76,000 fans is pretty mind blowing. When you walk on the lower level, you can see the shell of the original bleachers. But after several renovations and expansions, the stadium is absolutely massive:
My favorite spot to watch the game action is at the top of the South end zone. It’s an open outdoor area with plenty of room to maneuver, plus a great birds-eye view of both the field and overlooking Fayetteville. Best part is you can hang up there without a designated section ticket. It’s where I spent most of my time during the game and I highly recommend you check it out on your next visit. The game itself provided a much better result for the home crowd than when I visited in 2019, as their #16 ranked Razorback’s defeated South Carolina 44-30.
After the game ended, I ran to my car and started the 3 hour trek from Fayetteville to Stillwater for the nightcap at Oklahoma State. It can be hectic and sometimes nerve wracking when trying to catch 2 games in 1 day, but I love to challenge myself. Fortunately everything went smoothly and I arrived at Boone Pickens Stadium about 30 minutes before kickoff. And when I walked in, the difference between the 2020 COVID game and this one was readily apparent. Not only was the stadium completely full, but it was “striped” out is OSU colors. The visuals it provided were awesome:
Over 55,000 Cowboy fans coordinated the colors of their shirts with their designated section and it was very cool to see. Plus they were loud the entire night, helping their team jump out to a 17-4 1st half lead. The rain started to come down in the 2nd half, but that did not deter the majority of the home fans. The stadium was still mostly full as Oklahoma State closed out a 34-17 win over Arizona State. The 11th ranked Cowboys improved to 2-0 and have playoff hopes at the end of the season.
Another great weekend for me and really what stadium traveling is all about. Yes the games are important, but I’m there to showcase the venues themselves. With 131 stadiums at the FBS level, the variety is endless and you get to see all ends of the spectrum. Week 3 brings another opportunity for me to visit 3 big time FBS stadiums: Louisville, South Carolina and Clemson. Really looking forward to revisiting all of these venues this weekend. Make sure you follow @CFBcampustour on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with my travels. Peace.