Harvard Stadium – Harvard Crimson
Built in 1903, Harvard Stadium is the nation’s second oldest stadium still in use today. In addition to serving as the home for The Crimson’s football team, the stadium acts as home to Harvard University’s men’s and women’s lacrosse teams. In the past the Stadium has served as host to rugby, track and field, Olympic soccer, and even ice hockey games. The New England Patriots, then known as the Boston Patriots, called Harvard Stadium home from 1970-1971.
Harvard Stadium is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and is one of just four athletic arenas to be so designated. The other three are the Yale Bowl (built in 1914), the Rose Bowl (built in 1922) and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (built in 1921). Harvard Stadium was the first reinforced concrete structure of its size to be built anywhere in the world, and was the first large permanent arena built for an American university. A gift from Harvard’s Class of 1879 for their 25th anniversary, Harvard Stadium amazingly only took 4 months to build at a cost of $310,000.
The physical layout of Harvard Stadium is actually quite significant to the way football is played today–when college football’s rules committee met to discuss ways to make the game less violent and dangerous back in 1906, one of the rules changes considered was widening the field by 40 feet. Since widening Harvard Stadium was an impossibility, and the committee felt that losing the prestigious Harvard team would be a death-knell to the fledgling sport, the committee decided to adopt the forward pass instead.
Harvard was one of college football’s dominant teams in the early years of the sport, as the Crimson won seven national championships between 1890 and 1919. Football has been played at Harvard since 1873, and only seven teams have more wins than the Crimson. 20 Crimson alumni are enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Today, the team competes in the Football Championship Subdivision, where they have won 14 Ivy League championships.
Food & Beverage 2
When they were designing and building stadiums at the turn of the century (and I mean 1900, not 2000) it’s doubtful that today’s creature comforts, such as concessions, were part of the process.
There are concession stands scattered throughout the concourse at Harvard Stadium, and the menu doesn’t stray far from the basics. Hot Dogs, nachos and assorted snacks including pretzels, cotton candy, peanuts and churros can be found here. Hungry Crimson fans can save a few dollars by purchasing a value meal, consisting of two hot dogs and a bottle of Coca Cola for $11.00.
Variety is achieved through the placement of food carts and temporary stands throughout the concourse. Items as varied as sausage and pepper sandwiches, chicken tenders, pizza and gyros are available.
Fans looking for an adult beverage can head to the beer garden located just outside of the stadium. A limited selection of drinks, including Budweiser, Bud Light and Barefoot Wines, are sold here, but cannot be brought into the stadium.
If you are coming to Harvard to see the latest incarnation of “The Game”, the annual meeting between the Crimson and Yale, then this becomes one of the greatest gameday experiences in the nation.
The gameday atmosphere is pretty much what you would expect at a school like Harvard. The tailgating scene is active, but reserved. This is not a place for over the top shenanigans. All your typical college football gameday elements are here, from the dueling marching bands and cheerleaders to the video scoreboard. Aside from a couple of promos and t-shirt tosses, in game promotion is kept to a minimum. The energy at Harvard Stadium is derived almost entirely from the fans in attendance. For Ivy League games, a solid turnout by the visiting fanbase is the norm.
The biggest factor limiting the atmosphere here at Harvard Stadium is the sheer size of the place. Even when a crowd approaches 20,000, the stadium is half empty. On the plus side, this gives fans a lot of room to spread out and for the younger fans in attendance to move around and release some energy.
Before or after a game at Harvard Stadium, take a walk across the Anderson Memorial Bridge, which spans the Charles River, and explore Harvard Square, a top Boston tourist destination. While Harvard Square may not be the bohemian center it once was, it still is one of the most popular areas in Boston for walking, shopping, and people watching.
For those wishing to bask in the history, architecture, and aura of Harvard, walking tours of the campus occur regularly. While touring the campus, take a picture in front of the statue of John Harvard, as so many others have done. Just remember these three things about the statue: 1) it is not actually a statue of John Harvard (no image of him exists), but of a random student; 2) John Harvard was not the founder of the college, but its first benefactor; and 3) the college was actually founded in 1636, not in 1638, as the statue claims. But remember to touch his shiny shoe, it is rumored to bring good luck.
For an entirely different experience, head in the other direction, into the town of Allston. Known as a working class town, Allston has no shortage of bars, shops and restaurants just a short drive from Harvard Stadium. If neither of these choices do it for you, head to downtown Boston, just a couple of miles away from the Stadium.
Harvard is annually among the nationwide leaders in attendance for all of FCS. In seasons where the Crimson host Yale, they generally average about 15,000 fans per game, and in seasons without a home game against Yale, Harvard averages around 12,000. Obviously, the crowds of 30,000-plus that pack Harvard Stadium for “The Game” skew these figures. Either way, these figures are good enough to place Harvard in the top 20 nationwide.
Harvard’s student body is well represented at the stadium, and you can expect to see a great many Harvard alumni in the stands. The crowd at Harvard Stadium is a great mix of old and young, families and students, making for an eclectic crowd great for people-watching should the game not hold your attention. With all the famous alumni produced by the university, you never know who you might end up sitting next to.
While Harvard University is located in Cambridge, MA, Harvard Stadium is located across the Charles River, in the Allston section of Boston. Also located here are most of Harvard’s other athletic facilities. Even on its best days, the city of Boston is a difficult city to drive in. If you are foolhardy enough to drive to Harvard Stadium, beware; the easiest and most direct paths to the stadium are often blocked around game time. Most fans will arrive at Harvard Stadium via either Storrow Drive or Interstate 90, better known as the Mass Pike. Plan to arrive early, or have someone with you who knows the crooked streets of Boston well.
A much more efficient method of transportation in Boston is the subway, or “T”, as it is called locally. The Harvard Station Red Line MBTA stop is a 10 minute walk from Harvard Stadium across the Charles River. In addition, the 66 and 86 Bus routes stop on North Harvard Street, directly in front of the Stadium.
The closest parking lots surrounding Harvard Stadium are reserved for season ticket holders and VIP’s, and a place like Harvard has more VIP’s than you can imagine. Parking spots are tucked in throughout the many buildings in Harvard’s sprawling athletic complex. Tailgating is allowed only in selected lots on the western side of the stadium complex.
Harvard Stadium is an enormous concrete horseshoe. Fans will enter the stadium underneath the grandstand into an open concourse, where concession stands and restrooms can be found. There are many construction projects going on at Harvard Stadium, so portions of the facility are blocked off at the present time. Much of the concrete on this concourse is in need of repair, so fans should tread carefully in spots.
Stairs lead up to the seating bowl, emptying out about a quarter of the way up the grandstand. All of the seats here are concrete bleachers, so bring some padding to protect our backside. Fans requiring handicapped seating can access the accessible seating area via a ramp located on the near end of the horseshoe.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets to Harvard football games cost $20, with an extra five dollars added if purchasing tickets on game day. Parking will cost $15-$20 in the lots scattered throughout the Harvard athletic complex and neighboring Business School. Concession prices are in line with other facilities in the area.
While these prices are a bit higher than other FCS schools in the area, they are in line with other Ivy League schools. To save some money and the stress that can come with dealing with Boston traffic, many fans will take the T to Harvard Stadium. A one-way fare costs just $2.75 and accesses most points in greater Boston.
Additional bonus points for the historical touches throughout the stadium, such as the banner for the 1920 Rose Bowl winners, national and Ivy League champions. The ivy covering the walls here is most appropriate, and the wrought iron gates fans pass through upon entering the complex just add to the historic aura at Harvard Stadium. Locals still talk about the 1968 game against Yale that Harvard “won” 29-29 by scoring 16 points in the final 42 seconds.
The Harvard Coop has stands set up both inside and outside the stadium selling a wide variety of Crimson merchandise. All fans get a free game program upon entrance.
In this day and age, many stadiums bill themselves as “unique” or “historic”. Harvard Stadium is a place that truly delivers on these claims. From the moment you first view the colossal hulk of the Stadium to the final whistle of the game, there is an aura surrounding this place that cannot be replicated. Harvard Stadium itself altered the game of football, making it the sport we love today. While Harvard Stadium may not host games that affect the national championship anymore, there is no mistaking that this place holds a special place in the annals of college football.
Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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In this day and age, many stadiums bill themselves as “unique” or “historic”. Harvard Stadium is a place that truly delivers on these claims. From the moment you first view the colossal hulk of the stadium to the final whistle of the game, there is an aura surrounding this place that cannot be replicated. Harvard Stadium itself altered the game of football, making it the sport we love today. Locals still talk about the 1968 game against Yale that Harvard “won” 29-29 by scoring 16 points in the final 42 seconds. While Harvard Stadium may not host games that affect the national championship anymore, there is no mistaking that this place holds a special place in the annals of college football.