McLane Stadium – Baylor Bears
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Saturday Football on the Brazos River
Baylor University’s McLane Stadium is one of college football’s most scenic campus stadiums. On the evening of August 31, 2014, the stadium became the third on-campus college football stadium to be accessible by water, joining Washington’s Husky Stadium and Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium. The stadium’s horseshoe infrastructure was designed by the well-known sports architecture firm Populous at a cost of $250 million, with a seating capacity of 45,140. The structure sits on the north side of Baylor’s campus off I-35, in the campus’ athletic complex.
The venue was originally planned to be named Baylor Stadium until December 2013, when in honor of Baylor Alum Drayton McLane Jr., the stadium was renamed McLane Stadium. The stadium connects to campus via the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses the Brazos River.
The Baylor Bears christened McLane Stadium with a 45-0 win over Southern Methodist University, and the stadium has since become a popular venue for Texas high school football playoff games.
Food & Beverage 4
There are plenty of food options inside McLane Stadium. The basics like popcorn, pretzels, peanuts, chips, and candy range from $4 to $6, and being in Texas, there is always BBQ on the menu, in this case Big Bib BBQ. The Big Bib BBQ concessions stand offers brisket sandwiches, pulled pork, turkey breast, or Texas loaded kettle chips for $11 each, while the Eat Street Grill stand features an array of choices such as nachos, chicken tenders, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs. In addition, the Fuel concessions stand has a BBQ pork sliders basket for $11, foot-long hot dogs for $9, or the Grillman’s classic dog for $5.
Besides the permanent stands, McLane Stadium also has mobile food carts that provide interesting food choices, such as Philly Cheesesteak or French dip sandwiches, both served with kettle chips for $10. There is also a nacho stand offering $6 nachos, unless you choose to go big with the loaded nachos, in which case the cost is $10. In addition, McLane Stadium has stands from outside vendor Chick-fil-A, serving $9 chicken tender baskets or $7 chicken sandwiches.
In terms of drinks, McLane Stadium offers fans a choice of Pepsi and of course Dr Pepper products, as Waco is the birthplace of Dr Pepper. Sodas come in 20 oz. bottles for $4; other choices for the same price are bottled water and Gatorade. However, the best beverage choice for the money might be the 32 oz. souvenir soda or Honey Bear Iced Tea (natural honey and Agave sweetness), both of which go for $6. Baylor University is Baptist-affiliated, so there is no alcohol inside McLane Stadium. However, this doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t available on game days; just head to the Charlie O’s Restaurant beer tent across MLK Jr. Blvd., which opens three hours before kickoff.
Like every great college football game, the atmosphere begins outside the stadium, and that means tailgating. However, McLane Stadium now provides what only a few campuses can do with their game day atmosphere, and that is “sailgating.” Tailgaters get to set up tents all around the stadium grounds, as well as on the shores of the Brazos River, and some even tailgate in their boats.
Touchdown Alley is located across the Basin Bridge, and opens three hours prior to kickoff, and closes about 30 minutes after. This area provides local radio and TV station coverage during pregame, and also has food, beverages, and various activities to keep fans entertained.
The Bear Walk begins at Touchdown Alley, when the team buses roll up about two hours before kickoff; the Bear Walk provides fans with an opportunity to interact with the Baylor football team, with fans forming a pathway for the team to walk through from the buses to the stadium. In addition, the incoming freshmen, known as the “Baylor Line,” also add entertainment by rushing out onto the field before the players do, running across the field starting at the southeast corner, and forming a tunnel for the Baylor football team to run through when the players come onto the field.
College football across the state of Texas always seems to have a tradition of being a great atmosphere, and Baylor University’s McLane Stadium is no exception. The up-tempo offense of the Baylor football team keeps Baylor fans on their feet and cheering throughout the game. Of course, the Baylor spirit squad and the Bears mascots, Bruiser and Marigold, keep the crowd entertained during timeouts. And at the end of the contest, the Baylor Band performs a musical concert which is worth staying for, especially because the heavy traffic will have time to clear out while you are waiting.
McLane Stadium lies just north of Baylor University’s campus, which is across the Brazos River in Waco, Texas. The stadium is nestled in the corner of I-35, Lake Brazos Pkwy/MLK Jr. Blvd, and the Brazos River; the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Pedestrian Bridge connects the stadium to campus. Just over the pedestrian bridge on the campus side, tailgating is done throughout Grant Teaff Plaza, and pre-game activities are set up around the Texas Hall of Fame and the Texas Rangers Museum.
Buzzard Billy’s Restaurant, along the Brazos River, is the closest restaurant to McLane Stadium. However, Waco has numerous other restaurants to enjoy while attending a Baylor sporting event. One of the more popular is Vitek’s BBQ, which is on the south side of the Baylor campus. Vitek’s BBQ is the home of the Gut Pack, which includes brisket, sausage, Fritos, and beans; if you decide on this dish you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day, as it is heavy and filling, but delicious. You should plan on arriving early, however; Vitek’s does serve outside as well as inside, but the wait can be long no matter which one you choose. Another choice for beer and BBQ is Coach’s Smoke on Austin Avenue in Downtown Waco.
George’s Restaurant is also a popular place to meet before, during, or after the game. This restaurant has been serving Waco since 1930, and the crowds here are large, so be prepared to get there early. In addition, George’s Restaurant has a beer tent across MLK Jr. Blvd from McLane Stadium, if you just want to have drinks.
Although the restaurants aren’t exactly close to the stadium, Waco has so many wonderful restaurants that you’ll easily be able to find something that suits you. But if you want to do something in the neighborhood besides eat, there is the Dr Pepper Museum, which is open on Saturdays. You’ll get to see how the popular Texas soft drink is produced, walk through its history, and even get your own Dr Pepper drink. Or, if you want to stay closer to the stadium, on campus you can visit the Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat. Here you’ll find Baylor’s live mascots Joy and Lady. Joy and Lady are from Bandon, Oregon, and weigh in between 270 and 280 pounds each. These black bears are sisters, and can be visited daily throughout the year.
Baylor has a wonderful fan base, and in the first few years at McLane Stadium, the average attendance has been 45,838, which is 700 more fans than the listed 45,140. The fans that attend games at McLane Stadium are energetic, fun, polite, respectful, and knowledgeable. Baylor University being the centerpiece of Waco, the city is decked out in green and gold, with the local shops decorated to show support for the Bears.
Baylor Bears fans are what you expect from big-time college football, yet offer a close family atmosphere, since the university is a 14,000-student undergraduate private school. The Baylor student section sits along the visiting sideline, and can be identified by their gold shirts, standing the whole game and serving as the spark plug for the energy inside McLane Stadium.
There is plenty of parking for football games at McLane Stadium, even if you don’t have a pre-paid parking pass. There is paid parking across MLK near the stadium for $20, but if you get there early enough, residents in the neighborhoods around campus allow parking on their property for $5 to $20. However, the best advice for parking is to take advantage of the eighteen-hundred city of Waco downtown parking spaces, all within five miles of the stadium, and free. While most of these spaces are about a 25-minute walk from McLane Stadium, there is a free shuttle for fans, with pick-ups at 5th Street & Austin Avenue, and drop-off on the south side of MLK & I-35. There will be plenty of fans walking to the stadium, so you’ll be able to arrive at McLane Stadium without being misdirected.
The best advice for finding parking is not to wait; get there early and enjoy the game day atmosphere. Campus streets start closing 4 hours before kickoff, and parking lots open 3 hours prior. There is limited ADA/handicap parking, with a shuttle leaving from the Baylor Research & Innovation Collaborative (BRIC). In addition, since McLane Stadium has unique access in getting to the stadium (the Brazos River provides the ability to use a boat), I suggest reading the boating guidelines and rules on Baylor’s website if you plan on sailgating, or if you plan to get to the stadium via water.
Once you get to McLane Stadium, you will find 8 gates into the stadium; gates A-D are for most of the seats, while the other 4 are for club/suite access. The concourses at McLane Stadium are very spacious, and you can walk around the lower concourse while the game is in play without missing anything. However, the stadium is constructed in a horseshoe with a grass berm for general admission in the east end zone. This doesn’t allow fans to walk all the way around the lower level, so you might find yourself having to turn around and walk back the way you came. The stadium and Baylor’s campus provide outstanding signage for newcomers to the area, and the concourse is wide with plenty of bathrooms. Overall, McLane Stadium has above average accessibility for fans, but note that the stadium (like most others) has a no re-entry policy except for medical emergencies.
Return on Investment 4
Baylor football burst onto the national scene when Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy, and moving back on campus to a top-notch facility produced a high demand for tickets. Single-game ticket prices vary at the Baylor Box Office, depending on the opponent and on availability. The cheapest price will be in the general admission section, priced at $40-$50 (general admission is located on the grass berm around the scoreboard, and doesn’t allow access to the rest of the stadium). Reserved seats range from $65 to $100, with most of the available tickets being in the upper 300 levels; fans wanting to have lower-level seats should look at third-party ticket sellers.
Of course, the bigger the game, the higher the cost of tickets. Nevertheless, McLane Stadium is one of the best football venues in the Big 12, and possibly the nation. The scenic views overlooking the Brazos River, the high level of Big 12 competition, and the wonderful atmosphere that Baylor football provides all make this a must-see stadium for any sports fan.
McLane Stadium is a beautiful setting for college football, being situated on the Brazos River, and not far from campus, which includes the Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat, home of Baylor’s live mascots Joy and Lady. The habitat provides educational awareness about black bears, and is well worth a visit before or after the game.
One of Baylor’s unique tradition is the Baylor Line. The Baylor Line, in their gold shirts, rush out onto the field to form a tunnel for the football team to run through, and provide excitement, support, and stay until after the game, when That Good Ole Baylor Line is played by the band. No other stadium can claim that their freshmen raise the gameday atmosphere, but here at Baylor the freshman class is very active and adds tons of energy to the experience.
The sailgating here at McLane Stadium, which only fans at a few college football stadiums can partake in, also adds to the experience. In addition, Baylor University recognizes their only Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, with a mural inside the stadium and a statue on the plaza at the open end. Furthermore, Touchdown Alley (located just across the Basin Bridge) is built on top of the old Floyd Casey Stadium turf; the creativity of bringing that turf over to the new stadium to use as part of the gameday atmosphere connects the past to the present. Finally, McLane Stadium is keeping up with today’s technology by providing 6 mobile device charging stations inside the venue.
McLane Stadium is an incredible facility, and a solid footprint for the future of Baylor football. The gameday atmosphere continues to improve since the move from Floyd Casey Stadium, and the intimate construction of the stadium provides one of the best sidelines and atmospheres in the Big 12 Conference. A visit to Waco, Texas, for a Saturday on the Brazos River, should be on the list of must-see stadiums for any college football fan.
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