- Eric Moreno
Bold Stadium - Austin Gilgronis
Photo by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Bold Stadium 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd Del Valle, TX 78617
Austin Gilgronis website Bold Stadium website
Year Opened: 2019 Capacity: 5,000
Bold Stadium - Austin Gilgronis
Started in 2017 as an expansion franchise as part of Major League Rugby’s growth into Texas, the AGs (née Austin Gilgronis) have found a niche in one of the fastest growing cities in the state. After previously playing in Round Rock in 2018 and 2019 (at the Multipurpose Complex and Dell Diamond, respectively), they moved into their new home in 2020 only to have their season cut short by the pandemic.
Opened in 2019 on the grounds of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) racetrack, Bold Stadium is also home to the USL’s Austin Bold soccer club. The state-of-the-art facility blends seamlessly into the overall aesthetics of COTA and has become part of its overall appeal and year-round drawing power. As the sport continues to grow in the Live Music Capitol of Texas, so too will the already impressive crowds for AG games at Bold Stadium.
Food & Beverage 3
On race days at COTA they pull out all the stops (no pun intended) in terms of food and drinks for patrons. For AG games, things are a bit more pared down. Most of the food trucks that populate the main concourse area are gone, as are most of the food stands in the main walkway separating the stadium from the Germania Amphitheatre.
There are two permanent food stands, however, fan favorites Southside Flying Pizza and Thirty-Four Chop House. The oversized slices at Southside are perennial favorites; cheese, pepperoni, and meat (sausage, pepperoni, beef, and bacon, etc.) will set you back $12 apiece. Alternatively, over at the Chop House there is more traditional game day fare, such as burgers, hot dogs, and chicken finger baskets ($9 each) – an unlisted menu item to be on the lookout for here is the queso fries; combining crispy French fries with gooey, spicy, South Texas queso is a natural choice and a great ballgame treat. Both Southside and Chop House offer bottled water, fountain drinks, and sports drinks, which are essential on hot summer nights in the stands.
Karbach Brewing Company is also on hand with a beer stand selling their tasty adult wares. Their Hopadillo is a personal favorite of mine. There is also a full-service bar on site for those who want to venture beyond beer.
For AG games, the carnival-like atmosphere that is present during race days at COTA is significantly tampered down. The midway games and rides do not operate (i.e. no Ferris wheel, zip line, or go karts), but that does impact the score here a bit. However, COTA and Bold Stadium do not put away all their bells and whistles for their rugby compatriots. There may not be carnival rides, but there is a helicopter onsite that offers rides for $35 per person. This seems absolutely thrilling and reasonable and something I’ll definitely look into next time I’m there.
The Austin Music Foundation presents free live music concerts before each Gilgronis home game. As Austin is a premier live music destination in the country, this is a great treat to get you going before matches. There is also one main merchandise stand that has a surprisingly high number of branded Austin Gilgronis products; it can be found in the main concourse and should not be missed if you’re looking to snag a souvenir.
Aside from the fun window dressing, part of the draw is COTA itself – it is a destination and there is always something to see and do there. On the night I saw my most recent Gilgronis match, the final night of the regular home season, there was a motorcycle rally on the grounds, and it was LGBTQ+ Pride Night as well. This made for an interesting crowd and made the game all the more interesting.
While COTA is technically in Austin, it is as far away from the action of Downtown as you can get. It is tucked out in a mixed rural/industrial area that rises out of the landscape seemingly out of nowhere, with its signature tower the first thing you see.
With that in mind, there is not much in the way of amenities or attractions in the immediate vicinity of COTA for people to take in before or after games at Bold Stadium. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you are only 15-20 minutes from downtown Austin and all of its food, drinks, museums, attractions, energy, and more.
You could write books about the culture, nightlife, food, and history of Austin – and many, many folks have. What I mean is that Austin has tons and tons of options and no matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find options for them. In the years that I’ve been reviewing Austin teams for Stadium Journey, I’ve offered quite a few suggestions for things to see and do. Now I’d like to toss out a couple of new ones that I’ve never offered up before.
First up is a dining option that is an icon in the area: El Arroyo. This quintessential Tex-Mex restaurant is as much about its menu as it is about its aesthetics. Cheese enchiladas, chile rellenos, tacos, nachos, margaritas, and more are all popular items, but equally as popular is the iconic marquee sign out front. The sign is one of the most Instagrammed sites in all of Austin, with its catchy sayings that are changed daily. The El Arroyo gift shop also sells magnets, t-shirts, and post cards with some of its more popular ones. Make sure you stop by and get your pic before or after you take in an AG game.
Another often overlooked experience is Austin Duck Adventures. This amphibious tour of the city gives visitors a great historical and architectural tour that culminates in a splashdown befitting its name in Lady Bird Lake. This is a fun experience for visitors who’ve never been to the city before, or who have been before and are looking to experience it in a different way. Plus, you get a souvenir duck beak whistle, which is fun.
Rugby is a growing sport in the country, but it is still a fringe one. Still, it is that outsider-ness that has an appeal and is perfect for a city like Austin. Attendance was not great when they called the Dell Diamond their home, but things look to have picked up since moving to Bold Stadium. They will probably not hit full capacity of 5,000, but they should at least get 50%-75% of that for most games, which is more than respectable.
Bold Stadium and COTA, as has been alluded to, is a little out of the way. It’s 15-20 minutes from downtown Austin, 30-45 minutes from downtown San Marcos, and an hour and 45 minutes from downtown San Antonio. If you are flying in, well, you’re in luck there, as Bold Stadium is a lot closer to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. There are ride-share options, of course, and there are designated lots for pick-up and drop-offs.
If you’re driving, once you arrive at COTA parking is both ample and free, which is nice. Lots are pretty far from the main entrance and from Bold Stadium, though, so if you prefer not to walk, there are free shuttle services. There are also more personal bike shuttles (e.g. 1-2 person rides that are done up to look like oversized butterflies) that are not free, if you are so inclined.
Butterfly Bikes at Bold Stadium, Photo by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Return on Investment 3
General admission tickets for AG games start at $20 per person, though there are deals where tickets can be had for as little as $5 per person. Concessions do tend to run a little high, but that can be balanced out by the free parking.
Major League Rugby is all-in-all a pretty inexpensive way to catch some high-quality sports. It also feels like you could be getting in on the ground floor with this team for a relatively low cost.
In terms of Extras, most of them have already been touched upon. There are the year-round events at COTA, the helicopter rides, the free shuttles, etc., but the Gilgronis, like a lot of other leagues, also have fan-involved games and contests at the halftime break.
In addition, the club also does a pretty good job of trying to explain to the novice what some of the less obvious rules of rugby are by flashing them up on the videoboard in real time.
So, with my third go round with the sport of rugby, my knowledge increased as did my, let’s say “fondness” for the sport. I am nowhere near well-versed in the finer points of the game, but I did have a really good time at Bold Stadium. The sightlines in the stands are great (and my goodness, is the covered seating on the home team side very much appreciated during the hot summer months), the food was good, the crowd was energetic, and the team (as far as I honestly can tell) was really competitive in a lopsided win.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time during my visit and plan on catching an AG game again next season, and I recommend everyone do the same at their earliest convenience.
Follow Eric Moreno’s Stadium Journey on Twitter at @EricMoreno6477. Visit Eric Moreno’s writer’s portfolio site at ericmoreno.contently.com.