Fitton Field – Holy Cross Crusaders
Fitton Football Field
In 1843 Father James Fitton donated a large parcel of land in Worcester, Massachusetts to the Archdiocese of Boston. This land became the site of the College of the Holy Cross. The college named its sports complex, containing a football field and baseball stadium, after Father Fitton.
Football has been played at the College of the Holy Cross since 1884, with games against other schools beginning in 1891. After playing on various sites around Worcester, including what is now Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field, the Crusaders football team moved to the current location of Fitton Field in 1908. Originally, wooden stands surrounded the field. In 1924 steel structures were erected, and in 1986 the wooden seats were replaced by the metal bleachers in place today. As a result of the piecemeal expansion over the decades, Fitton Field is a hodge-podge of irregularly-sized metal bleachers with press boxes overlooking each sideline.
For a time this tiny school was among the national powers, finishing in the Associated Press top 20 rankings five times and appearing in the Orange Bowl in 1946. The Crusaders boast five undefeated seasons over their long history. Today Holy Cross is a member of the Patriot League, a league proud of its high academic standards. The Crusaders have won six Patriot League titles and has appeared in the Division 1AA/FCS playoffs twice.
Food & Beverage 2
Tucked away under Fitton Field’s enormous metal bleachers are two small concession stands which sell a limited menu of snacks and beverages. Fans looking for a quick snack will find hot dogs, pretzels and assorted Pepsi product here, but little else. On chilly Worcester afternoons, hot chocolate and coffee are big sellers.
Fans looking or something a bit more substantial should head towards the southeast corner of Fitton Field, where a concession tent is located. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of variety to be found here, with hot dogs, hamburgers, sausage sandwiches and chicken tenders comprising the entire menu. Fortunately, prices are reasonable and the quality of food served is good.
Fans looking to satisfy a sweet tooth will be pleased to find Jeremiah’s food truck parked in the south end zone. A variety of snacks, including pretzels, ice cream, shakes and slushes are offered here.
Fitton Field has a capacity of 23,500 for football. It is an enormous, metallic structure devoid of modern amenities or creature comforts. It has a cold, sterile feel to it. Holy Cross was once a major player in intercollegiate football, hosting the likes of Georgia, Syracuse, Penn State, LSU, and Boston College, but those glory days are long gone. Crowds these days average around 7,000, which is a really strong crowd for an FCS school in New England, but which feels much smaller in such a large stadium.
The gameday staff at Holy Cross provides your standard game day experience for those fans attending Crusader games. The Good Times Marching Band livens up the atmosphere at Fitton Field, filling in all the quiet points of the game with an eclectic mix of tunes from the 50s to today. All your standard elements are here, from the cheer squad to contests and giveaways to local youth teams roaming the stands.
While the crowd here at Fitton Field may not be the largest you’ll come across, they are passionate and knowledgeable about the team down on the field.
The tailgating scene at Fitton Field has a distinct laid-back, New England flavor. Cars line up on the outfield of Hanover Insurance Park next door to the football field hours before kickoff, filling the air with the familiar smell of BBQ.
Holy Cross is located in a residential area outside of downtown Worcester. As a result, there are not many dining options to choose from in the immediate vicinity. When looking for the best places to eat in the city, head to Shrewsbury Street, home of Worcester’s “Restaurant Row”, boasting more than forty different eateries ranging from fine dining to casual, takeout to nightclubs, as well as multiple salons and shops. It’s a favorite destination for students when they venture off campus, or to take their parents during visits to Worcester. The downtown area around the DCU Centre is another up and coming location for dining in Worcester.
For fans looking to stay in Worcester, there is a similar dearth of lodging options in the area immediately around Holy Cross. Luckily, there are options available in downtown Worcester, only a couple of miles away from the Holy Cross campus. Worcester has a reputation as a tough, blue-collar city, but city leaders are working hard to change that image, and businesses are coming back to the downtown area. Often overshadowed by its neighbors in Boston and Providence, Worcester is carving out its own niche as an affordable, attractive alternative to those cities.
Worcester is not generally considered to be a destination city, and fans travelling from out of town will usually head on to Boston to spend their time. For fans visiting during ski season, Wachusett Mountain is located just ten miles outside of city limits.
As any college football fanatic will tell you, college football just isn’t the big deal in this part of the country that it is in other areas. Still, for a FCS school in New England, Holy Cross does all right. For the 2016 season the Crusaders averaged 7,200 fans per game. While not the largest crowd around, the fans that show up are vocal and enthusiastic about their team. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a turnout by the student body here at Fitton Field.
The College of Holy Cross is located in Southwestern Worcester, at the junctions of Interstate 290 and Route 146. Fitton Field is located on the northern edge of campus, directly off of Interstate 290. Easily accessed by car, there is ample parking near the stadium. While the Holy Cross campus is not accessible by public transportation, it is a short 5 minute drive from downtown for those who arrive in Worcester via bus or train.
Fitton Field has a cold, industrial feel to it. The large facility, which seats well over 20,000, is made up almost exclusively of steel and aluminum. From the metal bleachers which make up all of the seating to the exposed grandstand structure that fans wind through on the concourse, Fitton Field certainly harkens back to a simpler time. There is little in the way of modern conveniences at Fitton Field. Small structures housing concession stands, locker rooms, facility sheds and restrooms are tucked into every available corner underneath the grandstand, giving the place a temporary feel even though it is close to a century old.
Restrooms are plentiful, with enough room in the facilities to serve a larger crowd than typically shows up at Fitton Field. For those fans who require Handicapped Seating, there is a small area at the end of the grandstand. In addition, fans are welcome to stand and watch the game in the open South end of the stadium.
Return on Investment 2
Tickets for Holy Cross football games are sold in two tiers: Reserved seats (sections 3-9 and 23-28) which cost $25, and general admission seats priced at $18. Discounts are available for youths, seniors, military personnel and young alumni (at what point a person would cease to identify as a “young alumni” and become an “old alumni” is not clearly defined). Since Fitton Field is much larger than the typical Holy Cross football crowd, it seems that most fans sit pretty much wherever they want.
Parking is plentiful in either parking garage directly adjacent to Fitton Field, the Freshman Field to the north of the stadium, or the West Lot on the far side of Hanover Insurance Park. All parking costs ten dollars. Frugal Crusader fans can find limited on-street parking around Fitton Field.
One extra point is awarded for the sense of history at Fitton Field. Several retired numbers are present along the top of the visitors’ bleachers. For a team that has been playing intercollegiate football for over 100 years, more such touches would be a welcome sight.
There is a souvenir stand set up in the south end zone stocked with a good variety of Holy Cross merchandise. The Crusaders purple colors make for some attractive swag.
The College of the Holy Cross is a small school with an enrollment of under 3,000 students possessing an impressive sporting history. With a football history dating back to the 1800s, the Crusaders rank 67th in the nation in all-time victories. Fitton Field harkens back to the school’s glory days, and much like Holy Cross football, has seen better days. Holy Cross would be better served by a much smaller, more modern facility. There is not anything necessarily wrong with Fitton Field, it just feels too big and too cold for the needs of the program today.
Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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Holy Cross is a small school with an enrollment of under 3,000 students with an impressive sporting history. As one of the first schools in New England to play organized football, the Crusaders history dates back to before 1900. Listed in the annals of Crusader history is a trip to the Orange Bowl in 1946. Fitton Field harkens back to those glory days, and much like Holy Cross football, has seen better days. Holy Cross would be better served by a much smaller, more modern facility. There is not anything necessarily wrong with Fitton Field, it just feels too big and too cold for the current needs of the program.