Charlie W. Johnson Stadium – Benedict Tigers
Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Charlie W. Johnson Stadium 2047 Two Notch Rd Columbia, SC 29204
Year Opened: 2006
Purple Pride in Carolina
Home of the Benedict College Tigers football team, Charlie W. Johnson Stadium holds 11,000 fans and opened in 2006. The stadium is named after Dr. Charlie W. Johnson, who graduated with a Doctorate in Law from Benedict, as well as played professional football with both the Baltimore Colts and the San Francisco 49ers, helping win one Superbowl with each team.
Dr. Johnson donated $1 million to Benedict toward the building of the Leroy T. Walker Health and Wellness Complex, which was the largest gift ever received by the college at that time, and he also donated $300K toward a scholarship to help Louisville youth attend Benedict College. Dr. Johnson also purchased 2 buses for Benedict College Athletics – the stadium was named after him in recognition of these gifts as well as his other lifetime achievements. Dr. Johnson was inducted into the Benedict College Hall of Fame in 2010.
Food & Beverage 3
Charlie W. Johnson Stadium has concessions stands on both the east and west sides, all of which offer the same menu – hot dogs, fries, and nachos (all 3 are served either plain or with chili and/or cheese), chicken wings, chips, popcorn, candy, and bottled soda or bottled water. All items are $3 except for the bottled soda ($4) and chicken wings ($8), though add $1 each for the chili or cheese if you want your dog, nachos, or fries to have those. This makes for a decent selection and reasonable prices, but the major drawback is that the concessions lines are very long, and they also don’t open the concessions stands until after kickoff, which is kind of annoying. The stands on the west side also run out of drinks very quickly, so buy early if you want any.
As with many HBCUs, the highlight of the day at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is the band performance at halftime, and this is even more dramatic at Benedict than at other HBCU schools you may have seen games at.
Benedict recently won the HBCU band championship, and it may have gone to their heads a little, but in a good way – the band is now known as the Benedict Tigers Band of Distinction, and the 4 drum majors are brought onto the field before the halftime show in a white SUV escorted by three Georgia police cars – yes you read that right; the police cars are driven into one of the end zones with lights and sirens going, so this is kind of a big deal. The drum majors each have nicknames like “The Funkmaster” or “The Quiet Man”, which they are announced by as they exit the SUV, and they pack a lot of rhythm and soul into their performance those 4 are more entertaining to watch than the rest of the band.
The Benedict Tiger band has also been invited to perform in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, so check them out there if you can.
Benedict Tigers Band of Distinction, Photo by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is located in a neighborhood that feels a little rough – there are bars over the windows at the ticket office in the admin building up the street from the facility, for example – but you should be perfectly safe around game time as there are plenty of police directing traffic in the area. There are plenty of places to eat within walking distance of the stadium itself, such as Two Notch Restaurant, Badd Boys Café, or Railroad BBQ, but the nice hotels are all closer to downtown along Gervais Street near the river, for example, the Graduate Columbia (formerly the Inn at USC) or Hilton Garden Inn.
The University of South Carolina is not far from Benedict College, and there are several attractions near USC, such as the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden or the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Museum, if you plan to be in town for the day or the weekend. You also might be able to take in a second football game at South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium while in town, if the schedules between the two schools happen to align.
The crowd at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is very small – even during homecoming when a lot of alums are in town and visiting bands from local high schools are invited to perform at halftime, the stands will be pretty empty. There is a great tailgating scene around the facility though; you can see tents set up as far as the eye can see as you look down from inside the stadium. Also, the fans do represent, with most of them showing up geared in their purple and gold attire – that is a big plus.
Tailgating at Benedict Tigers Football, Photo by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Columbia, South Carolina is the state capital and as such is pretty easy to get to – Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is along Highway 1 (aka Highway 378), a few miles south of I-20 or east of I-77. There is a giant parking lot set up right outside the venue (parking on the grass), with parking costing $15, so only a short walk from the stadium entrances. Note that there are no game tickets sold at the stadium itself, which is odd, but you can buy them (cash only) from the parking attendants at the same time you pay for parking – $40 for both a general admission game ticket and a parking pass.
Charlie W. Johnson Stadium has a main grandstand on the west side and a smaller set of stands on the east (facing the sun) – you can walk between them via a gravel path on the hill behind the north end zone. Moving around is pretty easy given the small crowd size, even at homecoming, but remember the concessions lines are pretty long; you are better off walking across to the east side, which has shorter lines if you want something to eat – that will take you less time than waiting in line on the west side.
Return on Investment 4
Watching a football game at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is well worth it – the stadium has some great décor and amenities, including purple bucket-style seats in the middle on the west side, a great tiger head-shaped tunnel – complete with lots of fangs – for the players to come onto the field through, purple and gold balloons decorating the concourse, tiger statues outside the main entrance, and shrubs spelling out “Benedict” behind the north end zone. Tickets are pretty reasonable at $25 each, and $15 parking is pretty solid compared to most college football venues.
The Tigers do have a mascot (person in tiger costume) to help entertain fans, as well as cheerleaders and dancers to support the band. They also play a lot of great music during breaks in the action, mostly a mix of rap/pop, which the fans seem to enjoy dancing to.
Some of the D2 football stadiums I have been to don’t have a lot to offer, but that is not the case here at Benedict – Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is a great looking, modern venue, and offers better quality and production values than a lot of FCS schools (and even some FBS schools), so I think you will enjoy your visit if decide to take a stroll in Tiger country – go BC!