FIU Stadium - Florida International Golden Panthers
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86
FIU Football Stadium 11200 SW 8th St Miami, FL 33199
Year Opened: 1995
Miami’s On-Campus Football Experience
Nearly 10 years removed from their short glory days with Mario Cristobal at the helm, the FIU Panthers find themselves mired in mediocrity once again. Despite jumping from the lowly Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA, FIU’s college football experience still seems a little forced. Fans show up more because they may have friends who go to FIU and they want to hang out, instead of coming to see D-I football on the field. In the past, when the fans showed up, FIU football could be exciting and energetic. Unfortunately, as with most sports teams in South Florida, they don’t show up now, especially when the team only wins a handful of games each season, and isn’t bowl eligible most of the time.
FIU Stadium opened in 1995 and was gradually renovated over the years, most recently in 2012 with the addition of new concessions stands, the enclosure of the north side of the bleachers, and the addition of an upper bowl of seats. It is a stadium that most lower-tier teams would be envious of having, especially on campus. Sadly, it sits empty most days, even when games are being played on national TV.
Food & Beverage 4
FIU is in the middle of a flavorful area of Miami, with great food on every corner – the fare at FIU Stadium reflects that. Prices are average and affordable, and the food is varied. From the burgers and hot dogs that are standard in sports arenas to the arepas vendors that set up on the upper concourse of the stadium, there is no shortage of food choices. Add to this various beer tap vendors around the stadium that serve both nationally known and local favorites, and you can easily find yourself something to eat at the game without breaking your bank. Currently, part of the stadium is being expanded, with new food options coming soon behind the suite elevators on the lower level.
The atmosphere at FIU Stadium isn’t exactly top notch, but it is improving. The fans, when they do show up, are not exactly hardcore. Many are seen arriving wearing Miami, Florida State, or Florida Gators colors. The fraternities are the biggest FIU supporters, but they only comprise so many fans. While tailgating may be decent outside, some people have been known to arrive at games to set up camp outside, and then stay down in the parking lot to watch a bigger game on their portable TVs while FIU is playing just steps away.
With improved performance comes improved attendance and bigger teams to play, but ultimately FIU is a show that lacks at this time. When a high school rivalry game packs more fans into the stadium and leads to bigger roars to be heard than the college that plays there on a regular basis, it’s hard to take the team seriously as a contender for top entertainment when compared to bigger stadiums.
The facility itself is nice though – a stadium enclosed on all sides with a fully walkable upper concourse and giant video scoreboard is what many teams out there would envy, particularly with it being located on campus. Also, all the seats have backs to them as well, a bonus other stadiums cannot boast.
FIU’s athletic fields are on campus, which makes it convenient. Unlike stadiums in the middle of a city, there is a sense of security on campus as you are seemingly separated from the rest of the neighborhood around it. However, there still remains the issue of how that surrounding neighborhood looks, and it isn’t exactly the best in Miami. Sweetwater is a town known for political corruption and severe street flooding during hurricanes, and not much else. Put a college campus in the middle of it, and you have FIU.
For lodging, one option is Aloft Miami Doral just to the north. For those with a wanting for higher society, Trump National Doral is also located north of campus and within driving distance. For food there is a Five Guys across the street, while the Chili’s on campus offers an alternative to fast food. For something to do with the family when it isn’t game day, both Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve are due west on the same road that FIU’s campus is located on (SW 8th Street). In addition, the Miccosukee Casino is also west of campus, about 10 minutes away.
Fans, when they show up, are energetic – it is college after all. However, getting them to show up is another big ask for a results-driven city fan base. FIU Stadium has seen very few packed-to-the-gills games since FIU began playing here. Perhaps that says something about the fan base, or lack of, at FIU games.
Getting to FIU Stadium isn’t too hard, but traffic can sometimes be problematic. As is typical in Miami, traffic backs up right around the exits nearest FIU’s campus on a daily basis. If you find yourself hoping to get to a game and rush hour happens to have lasted a little longer on that day, you may be in for a late arrival. But parking is plentiful right outside the stadium gates, thanks to the county fairgrounds right next-door. Parking here is usually $20 with multiple lots and garages around campus offering alternative options as well.
Return on Investment 2
As far as FIU Stadium’s entertainment value goes, the team’s performance doesn’t help its case – the campus is growing and bustling, but the football games aren’t. Also, with a road-weary commuter school student body, getting students to games isn’t their strongest suit either. When you want to see college football, you want a rowdy student section and passionate fans. At FIU, you may get a free t-shirt for going and the ability to seeD-I football played, but that’s about it.
For students, FIU has a program called Panther Points, rewarding students for attending athletic events throughout the year. At certain points, fans with the most points are rewarded with computers, scholarships, and other prizes. For fans, a t-shirt giveaway may be at random games.
At some games, FIU has shot off fireworks that go along with various themed nights, such as Star Wars night. The team also shoots off a cannon every time FIU scores points.
Another neat feature is the touchdown cannon; every time the team scores, the cannon goes off and the FIU ROTC does pushups for each point the Panthers have scored.
From their continued effort to force a rivalry with UM where none exists, to their lack of fans at home games, FIU is a team with some work to do. Despite this, there remains potential for growth, and if all goes well the Panthers at FIU Stadium have the ability to become a huge draw down south once again.