Overall Score 4/5
Over the past several years, Indiana University has renovated Memorial Stadium into a fine facility, with plenty of modern amenities to help build the football tradition, and enhance the experience of attending a Hoosiers pigskin game. The horseshoe-shaped stadium is family-friendly, student-friendly, but mostly football-friendly. So much so, you’ll almost forget that you’re in basketball country. Almost.
The Stadium has become known as “The Rock” ever since former head coach Terry Hoeppner had a limestone boulder from southern Indiana installed near the north end zone.
Food & Beverage 4/5
Walk the wide concourses and you’ll find Papa John’s personal pizzas, hot dogs, bratwursts, and footlong hot dogs at many of the Big Red Refreshment stands. Look to the outside of the concourse, near sections eight or 28, and you’ll find the Honeybaked Ham Company Café stand. Try one of their sandwiches, whether Smoked Ham, Turkey, or BBQ Pulled Pork ($5 each).
On the north end of the stadium you can find Philly Cheese Steak ($6) or Wings ($4). You’ll also find Baskin Robbins ice cream throughout in case it is early enough in the season to be a hot day.
Coca-Cola products are served and you can take home a souvenir cup, filled with 32 ounces of Coke, Diet Coke or Sprite for $4.
The student section extends from the north end zone to about the 40-yard line, and all the way up, 70 rows to the top. The game that I attended, against an overmatched Towson team, that student section was full and raucous. It’s a great sign for a school that is trying to become relevant in the world of Big Ten football.
The capacity is just short of 53,000 and there are still plenty of empty seats, something that needs to be rectified before this program can achieve its goals.
The addition of a beautiful 36'x91' HD video screen really enhances the game day experience, as does the new Knot Hole Park, a miniature field behind the south end zone where kids can run around and play a little football themselves.
It really is a beautiful stadium. I’m not a big fan of the metal bleachers that run throughout, but with all of the empty space, you can compensate by stretching out. Then again, if the program continues to improve, you won’t need to sit at all.
The marching band is also a highlight. Known as “The Marching Hundred,” the IU band has the luxury of having a great fight song, as well as a great school song to choose from in the arsenal.
The immediate area surrounding Memorial Stadium is campus housing. A healthy walk from the stadium (about a mile) will get you to Scotty’s Brewhouse, on the corner of Walnut and Eighth. It’s part of a well-run chain of restaurants that specialize in beer and a very good menu. I think their ribs are solid, as are most of the offerings on the menu (including the wings). They have TVs in each booth, and I don’t think there’s a seat in the house where you can’t see some sports. It’s kid-friendly enough that you could bring the family before a game, and dude-friendly enough to belly up to the bar for some local beers and some grilled protein. They also offer a weekend brunch with a build-your-own Blood Mary bar, a great way to start a game day experience.
A little further away (another half-mile or so) and you’ll find The Irish Lion. It’s a great pub with a wonderful Irish feel. There’s a touch of fine dining with the casual warmth of a pub. Seafood, steaks, great soups, and traditional Irish fare are available. If you’re into taxidermy, you’ll love this place too. They have plenty of stuffed heads and animals scattered throughout. I tried the corned beef and cabbage ($7.50) which was spot on. Great service here as well.
Right next door is Crazy Horse, a place with more of a bar feel, but with surprisingly good food. I tried the Cuban sandwich with sliced roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles. It was satisfying, but I wish they would have used a higher quality, and less processed-tasting cheese.
The other thing to keep in mind while you’re in the neighborhood is Cook Hall. The recently dedicated tribute to the history of Indiana basketball is a beautiful building. If you happen to be tailgating nearby, it also has the most immaculate bathroom that you’ll find before the game, so keep that in mind. To continue your basketball tour, Assembly Hall is open to the public on game day, so you can check out the Indiana University Hall of Fame.
I was extremely impressed with the student section, and the fans around me also were clearly into the game. Building on the Rock theme, the Indiana student section is known as “The Quarry.” The Quarry Captain was introduced, and he ran through the tunnel, patting The Rock before taking his seat amongst his fellow students.
I heard several fans rating all of the recent changes to Memorial Stadium very favorably, and it seems clear that any longtime Indiana fan, who hasn’t been to a game in a while, should make the journey soon to see all of the renovations.
On my way to Bloomington, I heard a local radio station sports host describe the Indiana fans as “Stupid.” That certainly wasn’t my experience, as I overheard high-level conversation ranging from coverage packages to the activity of the opponent’s safety on play-action. If they can get another 20,000 butts in the seats, then they may just have something special here.
There are plenty of parking lots, and tailgating was abundant before the game. I chose to park on a nearby street (14th street) so I could be halfway between the bars and restaurants and the stadium. If you don’t mind walking, you can save on parking costs.
The wide concourses make it very easy to get around, and there are more than enough bathrooms, without lines even during the busy halftime period. They are some of the cleanest bathrooms that I have experienced in a stadium.
Return on Investment 4/5
Individual tickets for students, children, and alumni who have been graduated for three years or fewer are only $5. Tickets for everyone else go for $40-$50 depending on the opponent. It is certainly a reasonable price, and the concession stands and parking make this a very good value.
I award one extra point for the overall investment that the university has made to make Memorial Stadium a top-notch venue. I’m awarding a second bonus point for the full and rowdy student section. Finally, I really like the Knot Hole Park play area, and the policy that allows kids to keep footballs that they catch (or wrestle away from another kid).
I fully expected this to be a ho-hum football experience, and I was pleasantly surprised to see great momentum in the football program and amongst its fans. No matter what they do, this will always be a basketball school, but don’t let that impression stop you from attending another great Indiana event, a Hoosier football game.
Paul Swaney is the Co-Founder of Stadium Journey