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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Fitton Field – Holy Cross Crusaders Football


Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86

Fitton Field 1 College St Worcester, MA 01610



Year Opened: 1924

Capacity: 23,500

 

Fitton Field Football


In 1843 Father James Fitton donated a large parcel of land in Worcester, Massachusetts to the Archdiocese of Boston. This land became the site of the College of the Holy Cross. The college later named its sports complex, containing a football field and baseball stadium, after Father Fitton.


The College of the Holy Cross is a small school with an enrollment of under 3,000 students possessing an impressive sporting history. With a football history dating back to the 1800s, the Crusaders rank 64th in the nation in all-time victories.


Football has been played at the College of the Holy Cross since 1884. After playing at various sites around Worcester, including what is now Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field, the Crusaders football team moved to the current location of Fitton Field in 1908. Originally, wooden stands surrounded the field. In 1924 steel structures were erected, and in 1986 the wooden seats were replaced by the metal bleachers in place today. As a result of the piecemeal expansion over the decades, Fitton Field is a hodge-podge of irregularly sized metal bleachers.


For a time, this tiny school competed among the national powers, finishing in the Associated Press top 20 rankings five times and appearing in the Orange Bowl in 1946. Today, Holy Cross is a member of the FCS’ Patriot League, a league proud of its high academic standards. The Crusaders have won ten Patriot League titles and have appeared in the Division 1AA/FCS playoffs six times, reaching the national quarterfinals in 2022. Six Holy Cross alumni are enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.


Food & Beverage 3


A rotation of local food trucks provides the concessions at Fitton Field on fall Saturdays, covering all the basics and making sure there is a solid variety week in and week out. During Stadium Journey’s most recent visit, eight trucks were counted, serving all your stadium favorites from hot dogs, hamburgers, and nachos to tacos and mac and cheese. Other food trucks offered fried dough and ice cream while another sold slushies.


Permanent stands tucked under the grandstand offer beverages. Pepsi products are featured at Fitton Field, along with wine and beers from local favorites Harpoon and Greater Good. Fans preferring national brands can enjoy a Coors Light or Blue Moon instead.



Atmosphere 3


The game day atmosphere at a Holy Cross football game can be a bit of a hit-or-miss experience. There are many solid features present throughout the game, but some aspects do remind you that Holy Cross is indeed a small school playing in a big venue.


Tailgating begins well before the game in the Freshman Fields to the north of the stadium and in the outfield of Hanover Insurance Park adjacent to the stadium. The tailgating seemed to be going strong well into the game, as many fans appeared to spend their whole afternoon in the parking lots rather than in the football stands.


There is a video scoreboard in the south end zone that is put to good use with replays, features, and game information. There are games and contests during play stoppages, and t-shirts are tossed into the stands every time the Crusaders score a touchdown.


The tiny pep band and cheerleading squad perform throughout the game but don’t add a whole lot to the game-day atmosphere due to their small size. The students in attendance tend to spread out throughout the stadium rather than congregating in their assigned sections, minimizing their energy somewhat. The PA announcer seems to be performing as much as delivering game information.


Neighborhood 2


Fitton Field, located on the northern edge of the Holy Cross campus, sits adjacent to a residential area outside of downtown Worcester. As a result, there are not many dining options to choose from near the ballpark. If visiting Worcester from out of town, there are other neighborhoods more worthy of your attention.


As you may expect, a great deal of attention is being given to the Canal District, the site of the new Polar Park, as a great deal of development is happening in that area. Located less than two miles from Holy Cross, there are several options for dining in that neighborhood.


Shrewsbury Street is home to “Restaurant Row,” where over 40 eateries ranging from fine dining to diners, from brew pubs to Italian bistros are lined up along a two-mile stretch of road. Located less than a ten-minute drive from Fitton Field, it’s a great place for a stroll on a nice fall afternoon. Visitors will find lodging options nearby in the downtown area.


Fans 4


The Crusaders enjoyed a remarkable season in 2022, finishing the regular season 12-0 and reaching the national tournament quarterfinals before bowing out to the eventual champion South Dakota State. Local fans responded in a big way, packing Fitton Field with an average crowd of just under 12,000 fans per game, ranking them in the top twenty in the national attendance rankings. Stadium Journey visited Fitton Field for the 2023 home opener, with an announced crowd of over 13,000 in the house.


Holy Cross fans are knowledgeable about the team and enthusiastic in their support of the Crusaders. Fitton Field can be a sea of purple on game day. While supporting the home team strongly, Crusader fans are welcoming to visiting fans. With the Crusaders featuring several local teams on their annual schedule, there’s often a good turnout from visiting fans as well. Fitton Field is a place where you can feel comfortable sporting the colors of the opposition.


There’s a solid representation of the student body for football games at Fitton Field. While the students are known to leave early consistently, they make their presence known while at the stadium. The “White-Out” game has become a popular event on the schedule, with thousands of students descending on Fitton Field wearing all-white outfits.



Access 3


The College of the Holy Cross is located in Southwestern Worcester, at the junctions of Interstate 290 and Route 146. Fitton Field is located on the northern edge of campus, directly off Interstate 290. Easily accessed by car, there is ample parking near the stadium. While the Holy Cross campus is not accessible by public transportation, it is a short 5-minute drive from downtown for those who arrive in Worcester via bus or train.


Fitton Field has a cold, industrial feel to it. The large facility, which seats over 20,000, is made up almost exclusively of steel and aluminum. From the metal bleachers that make up all of the seating to the exposed grandstand structure underneath, Fitton Field certainly harkens back to an earlier time. Small buildings housing concession stands, locker rooms, facility sheds, and restrooms are tucked into every available corner underneath the grandstand, giving the place a temporary feel even though it is close to a century old.


Restrooms, while dated, are more than plentiful enough for a typical Crusader crowd. As you might imagine in a facility that is approaching a century of use, it’s not the most accommodating place for those with accessibility issues. There is a small seating area for those requiring handicapped access. Much of the area around the stadium consists of stairs and hills, making it difficult to traverse for those with special needs.


Return on Investment 3


Tickets for Holy Cross football games are sold in three tiers: Reserved seats (sections 3-9 and 23-28) which cost $25, and general admission seats priced at $20. Premium “cushioned” seats in the center sections will cost an additional five dollars. Since Fitton doesn’t come close to filling up on game day, it seems that most fans sit pretty much wherever they want.


Parking is plentiful in the parking garage directly adjacent to Fitton Field, the Freshman Fields to the north of the stadium, or the lots on the far side of Hanover Insurance Park. Parking costs $35 in the garage and $25 on the grassy lots. Frugal Crusader fans can find limited on-street parking around Fitton Field.

Concession prices, while a bit pricey, are in line with other similar facilities in the area.


Extras 2


An extra point is awarded for the sense of history at Fitton Field. Several honored numbers are present along the top of the visitors’ bleachers. For a team that has been playing intercollegiate football for over 100 years, more such touches would be a welcome sight.


Crusader conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances are commemorated on the façade of the north end zone.



Final Thoughts


Fitton Field harkens back to the school’s glory days, and much like Holy Cross football, has seen better days. Holy Cross would be better served by a much smaller, more modern facility. There is not anything necessarily wrong with Fitton Field, it just feels too big and too cold for the needs of the program today.


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Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.


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