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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Franklin Field – Penn Quakers

Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Franklin Field 235 S 33rd St Philadelphia, PA 19104

Penn Quakers football website Franklin Field website

Year Opened: 1895 Capacity: 52,593


Here's a Toast to Dear Old Penn

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Franklin Field is the oldest college football stadium in the country. The Penn Quakers have been playing here since way back in 1895. Many historical moments have taken place here – the first football game broadcast on the radio was played here in 1922 and it has hosted everything from political conventions to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles to track and field’s historic Penn Relays. The stadium has undergone several renovations over the years, and the Ivy League has faded from the top college sports conference to one more known for its academics, but Penn football is still going strong.

Food & Beverage 4

All the usual food and beverage is available for sale at Franklin Field, including burgers, pizza, chicken tenders, and, since this is Philadelphia, cheesesteaks. Local favorite Chickie’s and Pete’s also sell their famous Crab Fries, which are French fries with a white cheese dipping sauce topped with crab seasoning, but no actual crab despite the name. There is an area just inside the 33rd Street entrance which sells alcohol, but it is not for sale in the rest of the stadium.

Although there are a few small stands on the concourse, most of the concessions can be purchased not at a window but in areas set back from the concourse in vestibules. This gives the feeling of walking into a shop to purchase your items, although the lines move slowly and frequently stretch out onto the concourse. Only credit cards are accepted so come prepared.

Atmosphere 5

Just walking up to Franklin Field and gazing at the large brick exterior, you get the field that this is a historic stadium. Walking into the stadium will put you on an old, narrow concourse under the bleachers from which you can walk to your seat. There are a few reserved chairbacks at midfield, but other than that you can sit in any bleacher seat other than the areas reserved for students and the band. The stadium is large and imposing, much larger than the typical Penn football crowds, although most fans pack into the lower level on the Penn sideline (unless they are fans of the visiting team) which makes it seem closer to capacity than it actually is. A large scoreboard is located on one end of the field while a much smaller one is at the other.

Penn being a school steeped in history, there are several notable traditions here. As at many schools, the marching band will come out and play a standard selection before the game, including the official alma mater, “Hail, Pennsylvania.” At halftime, the band comes back and plays more selections, concluding with the unofficial but more popular alma mater, “The Red and Blue,” which always draws the crowd to its feet to sing and wave along. At the end of the third quarter, the band will perform “Drink a Highball”, better known as “The Toast Song”, while the crowd sings along. Previously the fans would raise an actual toast, but after alcohol was banned in the stadium, they began a new tradition – throwing toast. Some fans will bring whole stacks of toast to throw, and it can be seen flying through the air for almost a minute. When they are done, the track surrounding the field will be littered with toast as some poor sap tries to remove it with a rake.

In addition to the band, Penn has some cheerleaders and a mascot simply named Quaker, who as his name implies resembles the Penn logo and a traditional Quaker, although he is probably more muscular than the actual founders of Pennsylvania were.

Quaker, Photo by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Neighborhood 5

Franklin Field is located on Penn’s campus in the University City Neighborhood of Philadelphia. Within a short walk, you can find numerous restaurants ranging from pizza to burgers to chicken to bars, and much more. Most of this can be found north of the stadium, as the university hospital is located directly to the south. The Schuylkill River is direct to the east, but there are plenty of options as you head west along the streets as well. The New Deck Tavern is one favorite, as are the White Dog Café and highly rated Mexican restaurant Cucina Zapata.

Fans 4

Penn typically draws about 5,000 fans a game, although they will get more for big games such as Homecoming. Although the stadium seats about 50,000, they make it feel like it is more than 10% full. Most Penn fans will sit in the lower level behind the Penn bench on the south side, while most fans of the visiting team will sit on the north side behind the away bench. That being said, visiting fans sitting on the home side are not likely to face anything worse than a mild curiosity as to why they are sitting there.

Penn fans are loud, passionate, and intimately familiar with the traditions of the school. Whether it’s cheering after a touchdown, singing along with “The Red and Blue” or throwing toast at the end of the third quarter, Penn fans make themselves heard here at Franklin Field. Although a crowd of a few thousand may not seem like a lot in a stadium that seats ten times that, you wouldn’t know that from the way it sounds here on gameday. Of course, the student section is boisterous as well, and are enthusiastic participants in the toast toss, the singing of the official and unofficial alma maters, and all the other traditions, but they’re not the only ones here who are.

Access 3

There are several roads in Philadelphia including I-76 and I-95. However you get into town, there are several garages near the stadium. The closest one is at the Penn Museum across the street from the southeast gate, but parking is first come first served so if that fills up you will have to go elsewhere. The attendant should be able to direct you if that’s the case. Parking on gameday is $20 – you will be given a ticket as you enter and pay as you exit. You can either pay at the station as you return to the garage and hand the ticket to the attendant, or you can pay the attendant as you leave the garage. Either way, only credit cards are accepted.

The concourses at Franklin Field are pretty narrow, but this is not normally a problem for the crowds the football team draws. Lines at concession stands and restrooms can get long at times so plan accordingly. The aisles in the stands are very narrow and fans often have to stand up on the seats to let other fans through. This also means that there is very little legroom. Franklin Field is an old stadium and dates back to a time when people were smaller, but the stadium was recently renovated and it is disappointing that this was not addressed.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets are $15 for general admission seats or $25 for reserved chairbacks near midfield on the south side, though prices will be slightly higher for homecoming. Concessions are affordable as well. The $20 for parking is pretty expensive, but you are downtown in a major city and parking is limited so it is what it is. Given the low cost of tickets compared to many other places, the high parking cancels out. This is still a good value, but the usual costs of parking in a major city do bring this rating down a notch.

Extras 4

Look for the banners along the brick walls on the north sideline (visible from the home sideline on the south side) honoring Penn football accomplishments.

There is a team store on the concourse selling Penn football merchandise as well as game programs.

A third star for the toast toss, a unique tradition here at Quakers games.

A fourth and final star for all the history that’s taken place here – this is the oldest and arguably the most historic stadium in all of college football.

Final Thoughts

A stadium that opened almost 130 years ago, closer to the founding of this country than the present day, is obviously not going to have a lot of the modern amenities you’d see at a newer stadium. That much should be a given. However, Franklin Field is steeped in a rich history and the Penn football team has built up many traditions over the years. Fans here are loyal to the red and blue, the band is not as large as at many schools but is every bit as mighty, and you will find traditions here from the pregame to the final whistle. A visit to Franklin Field is a must for any college football fan in the Philadelphia area or anyone with an interest in the history of the game.

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