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  • Will Halpern

Brooks Stadium – Coastal Carolina Chanticleers


Photos by Will Halpern, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Brooks Stadium 540 University Blvd Conway, SC 29528



Year Opened: 2003

Capacity: 21,000

 

Feel the Teal at Coastal Carolina

Compared to many universities that are at least a century old, Coastal Carolina University, located in Conway, South Carolina, is relatively young compared to its peers. It was founded in 1954, but it wasn’t until 1993 that the school became an independent university. Ten years later Chanticleer Football was born.


A lot of people outside of Conway and the greater Myrtle Beach area probably don’t know what a Chanticleer is or even how to pronounce it; /Shon-ti-Cleer/ is how you pronounce the fierce and cunning rooster from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” But the unique mascot is not the only unique thing about the team – Brooks Stadium boasts teal turf instead of the usual green, similar to Boise State’s use of blue turf at Albertson's Stadium.


The Chanticleers from 2003-15 were in the Big South Conference. They spent one season as an FCS independent, then, the following season in 2017, they stepped up to the Sun Belt Conference in Division 1 FBS football, and are now one of three programs in the Palmetto State at that level. Brooks Stadium has seen a recent expansion to accommodate the team’s rise in leagues. Opening in 2003 with a capacity of just under 6,500 seats, the stadium has seen its most rapid rise in seating capacity this 2019 season, as Brooks Stadium now holds 21,000, which is up from 15,000 last year. The Chanticleers football program is hoping to grow into the stadium over the next few years, as they get used to their success.


Food & Beverage 4

Brooks Stadium doesn’t offer a ton of food options, as there are several concessions stands around the stadium that offer the same food items, but there are some unique items and enough variety to suit everyone. Entrées include the expected nachos, chicken tenders, burgers, and Hebrew National hot dogs. Black bean burgers are offered for vegetarians or vegans, as well as BBQ Pork Nachos and the truly unique Singleton Sandwich, which is a cone-shaped pretzel stuffed with Pork BBQ, BBQ sauce, and coleslaw, and it is every bit as delicious as it sounds. Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches are available as well, and snacks like popcorn and candy are also part of the main concessions stand’s menu. Students can purchase select food with their meal plan (more college stadiums nationwide should adopt this idea).


Pepsi products are the soft drink of choice, and a fair amount of beer selections are offered such as Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, and Truly Sparkling Berry. Blue Bunny Ice Cream is also served, and free ice cream sandwiches are also offered – which is a rarity at any sporting event and a great way to combat the hot and muggy temperatures during a 2 pm kickoff. Prices are not too bad; beverages are four dollars each, or five for a souvenir cup with a one-dollar refill. The average price of entrées is six dollars, with hot dogs going for three dollars on the low end and BBQ pork nachos are ten dollars on the high end. The Singleton is six dollars which is on the lower end of most unique food items offered at sporting events. Overall the food is limited but diverse and reasonable enough to suit most people looking for a bite to eat during the game.


Atmosphere 4

Brooks Stadium continued its expansion project this 2019 season by adding some premium seating and a second level to the west side stands. The stadium now has two rows of seating on both sides of the stadium, with the east side being the side to sit on to see the logo facing the correct way, or the way you would see it on TV. The east side of the stadium consists of bleachers with backs, except for a section of teal chair back seats on the second level. The seats are wide enough; the west and the north sides of the stadium also consist of bleacher seating, with the latter hosting the student section on the lower end of the section and the Marrio and Josh Norman Field House. The 8.5-million-dollar field house was named after the Norman brothers who played football for the Chanticleers (Josh is currently a cornerback for the Washington Redskins).


The south side hosts a large video board as well as views of University Boulevard, the main street through campus, so as you watch video replay you can also see cars driving by, which is not super common at FBS college football stadiums. I’d recommend getting a seat on the stadium’s east side for afternoon games, and the west side for evening games in order to avoid the sun. Coastal Carolina also has a cheerleading squad, and Chauncey the Chanticleer keeps the fans engaged as well. The PA announcer also does a good job keeping the fans excited.


Brooks Stadium has all of the makings of a solid college football atmosphere, as there is not a bad seat in the stadium. The main thing missing, unfortunately, is the fan support. This could be because of the Chanticleers facing an FCS opponent during the game I most recently attended, but as the stadium grows the hope is the fan support will too, and provide the needed energy to add to what Brooks Stadium currently has to offer.


Neighborhood 4

Brooks Stadium, along with Coastal Carolina Soccer Stadium and Spring Brooks Stadium, home of the 2016 College World Series champion baseball team, is part of the TD Sports Complex at Coastal Carolina University. There is not a whole lot around the stadium itself except for some fast food restaurants and some places on campus, such as Einstein Brothers Bagels and Starbucks. A couple of recommended restaurants are both about ten minutes north of the stadium; Coppers, “where style meets taste,” offers classic southern cuisine in an elegant setting, while Denizelle’s offers southern cuisine as well, with a variety of rotating main and side options such as fried chicken, pork chops, mashed potatoes, and slaw.


Conway, though a small town, offers a charming downtown on the Waccamaw River. However, just twenty minutes from Conway is where the real action is – Myrtle Beach is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the US, with over 14 million visitors annually. Myrtle Beach offers tons of restaurants and shops including Broadway at the Beach with over 150 stores, an amusement park, Hard Rock Café, Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium, and more. Myrtle Beach offers plenty of shopping closer to the beach, along with Family Kingdom Amusement Park and the Skywheel Myrtle Beach, and plenty of mini and standard golf courses.


The beautiful beach right on the Atlantic Ocean is always a draw as well. It’s not often that you can experience a college football game and some of the best beaches in the same day. Comfort Suites at the University, Econo Lodge at the University, and Crossroads Inn & Suites are all about a five-minute drive from Brooks Stadium and are reasonably priced, compared to the hotels at Myrtle Beach, though Bermuda Sands and Boardwalk Beach Resorts are reasonable and very well-located hotels if you’d rather stay when you can hear the waves as you sleep.


Fans 3

Fan support for the Chanticleers has been high the last two seasons, leading the Sun Belt in 2017 in the percentage of the stadium filled at a near-sellout 99.73%. It dropped last season to 69.9%, but which was still good enough for third in a ten-team conference. However, as 6,000 more seats are added for this season, bigger doesn’t always mean better, and while it may be the opponent they were facing on my most recent visit, the crowd seemed sparse during the game. Coastal Carolina University enrolls just under 10,500 students, and the metro population of Myrtle Beach is just under half a million, not counting the many tourists, so there should be enough of a population to increase fan attendance.


The problem is that football season stretches into the fall, and the beach offseason doesn’t draw as many outside fans to the area as, say, a Myrtle Beach Pelicans game might. Coastal Carolina is also close to but not in Myrtle Beach itself, which might detract visitors with no connection to the university from coming out to cheer on the Chants. The fans who are there are loud, engaged, and are very knowledgeable about the game. A win over Power Five Kansas this season, and with the Jayhawks and rival Appalachian State coming to Brooks Stadium next season, attendance might increase with the bigger stadium, but in a conference whose geographic footprint is so spread out (schools range from the Carolinas to Texas) and without a long football tradition, it might be a few years, and more victories before more fans in teal pack the seats, but the future in Conway looks hopeful.


Access 4

Brooks Stadium is located on the southwest corner of Coastal Carolina University in the TD Sports Complex on the intersection of university Blvd running east to west, and Corporal Dennis Lyden Memorial Highway running north to south. It is very easy to get to and traffic is not too bad coming to the stadium, though it is a little tougher leaving. Although parking near the stadium is mainly reserved for donors with a parking pass, there are two lots where fans can park for free: Lot YY off SC 544 and Lot GG off US 501. Complimentary ADA accessible shuttles will take fans to the game every ten minutes. There is also select parking in any parking lot on campus where fans can park for free, unless otherwise noted starting at four hours before kickoff. University parking regulations apply, so make sure to check out any signage. A select number of handicap parking spaces are available next to Brooks Stadium in Lot QQ free of charge with proper identification.


The C7 bus runs between downtown Myrtle Beach and Conway, stopping at the university which is about a half-mile from the stadium. The bus runs every hour to Myrtle Beach from the university until 2 pm, and then every two hours until 6 pm when the last bus leaves, so you’ll need to find another form of transportation if the game or your time in Conway extends beyond then. The bus does run until 8, coming back to Conway in case you’re wanting to head to the university for a later game. Coming from Myrtle Beach, the fare is $3 round trip. Myrtle Beach International Airport is about twenty minutes to the east and offers flights to a wide range of cities at often inexpensive prices, as a result of the airport being the hub for the low-cost airline Allegiant.


There are several gates around the stadium, including Gate 6, where all the parking shuttles arrive at the stadium. Lines and security are very quick, just be aware of the new clear bag policy that is happening at sports venues across the country. The concourse is easy to walk around and doesn’t get too congested, bathrooms are clean, and there is handicap seating throughout the stadium as well.


Return on Investment 4

Attending a game at Brooks Stadium is a fun way to spend an afternoon and won’t set you back too much. Tickets and food are reasonably priced, and watching a game on a field that isn’t the standard green alone is worth the price of admission.


Fan Price Guide

Tickets: $15-$20

Singleton sandwich/drink: $10

Parking: Free

There was nothing I could find on group tickets, but season tickets are available, with access to premium seating and reserved parking.


Extras 5

One point for the teal turf that the Chanticleers play on, with point number two for the incredibly unique mascot, and a third point for the Singleton sandwich which is almost as unique as the Chanticleer itself. Point number four goes for the free ice cream sandwiches given out during the game, and finally a point for the close proximity to some of the best beaches in America.


Final Thoughts

Coastal Carolina football is a program on the rise, having only started in 2003, and moving to the Sun Belt Conference just two years ago. Brooks Stadium is now up to FBS standards, and the Chanticleers are hoping to take that next step towards a winning tradition. It will take some time for the fans and students to truly embrace Coastal football, but with a stadium that provides great sight lines, unique food and beverage offerings, a large video board, and teal turf, the future of Brooks Stadium and Coastal football looks very promising.

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