George Mason Stadium – George Mason Patriots
Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.43
George Mason Stadium 4400 University Drive Fairfax, VA 22030
The George Mason Patriots soccer and lacrosse teams plays their home games in the 5,000 seat George Mason Stadium. The venue is located in a complex which also includes the GMU Field House as well as Spuhler Field, home of the school’s baseball team. It has previously hosted some D.C. United matches in the U.S. Open Cup and other lesser tournaments, but the team now plays those at its new stadium, Audi Field. On the lacrosse side, it was formerly the home of the Washington Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse, before they relocated to Annapolis, became the Chesapeake Bayhawks, and eventually folded.
This review will focus on the experience at George Mason Stadium for a women's lacrosse game. Mason does not have a men's lacrosse team, so during the lacrosse season only the women call this place home.
Food & Beverage 2
There is a cart parked on the track underneath the scoreboard at George Mason Stadium that serves a basic selection of food. Just about the only thing that can be a meal is a hot dog, while bottled soda and water and assorted snacks, cookies, chips and candy are also available. Prices are reasonable with nothing more than $5 but the selection is quite limited. Fans are also permitted to bring their own food and drink into the stadium with them if they so choose.
George Mason Stadium has a large set of bleachers that can seat up to 5,000 fans, which is absolutely cavernous given they usually attract only a few hundred. All bleachers are standard benches without backs and are separated from the field by a track so they do not have the greatest view of the action. The bleachers' sheer size and distance from the field take away a lot from the atmosphere here. Bigger isn't always better and this stadium proves that. A small scoreboard is located behind the goal on the right as you are sitting in the bleachers and shows only the basic information.
The team will occasionally do pregame or halftime activities to honor various groups and will play music during breaks in the action, but this is a pretty standard experience. Some of the best lacrosse fan experiences in the country are located in the Baltimore-Washington area, but unfortunately George Mason is not one of them. The atmosphere here is pretty basic and what you'd expect from most non-revenue sports.
Fairfax is a typical suburban area about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. There is a shopping center across campus which includes several chain places and a movie theatre. If you’re willing to drive a few miles, the Glory Days Grill in the City of Fairfax is a local favorite, as is Capital Ale House.
While Fairfax doesn’t have the same excitement you’d get in the District, it’s still a nice suburb with plenty to do and places to eat before or after the game.
Mason will average several hundred fans a game, which is typical for women's college lacrosse. Most of them are friends and family of the players or have some other connection to the school. They can get passionate, but the fact that the stadium is much larger than it needs to be means the crowd noise and energy is a lot less than it otherwise would be. This is unfortunate and not really the fans' fault, but it does bring down the rating here.
George Mason’s campus is about six miles off the Capital Beltway (I-495) or three miles off I-66. Once you’re on campus, ample free parking is available in the lot stretching between the Field House and Spuhler Field (with the stadium in the middle), and more parking is available on the other side of the Field House. Typically parking will not be a hassle, even if there is a baseball game at Spuhler Field at the same time. However, the Field House does occasionally host outside events as well, and those can draw much larger crowds than the typical Mason game. When Stadium Journey visited for our review, there was a youth wrestling tournament going on in the Field House that drew participants and families from all across the region, and the parking lot was packed. However, we have parked in this lot several times before for other events at George Mason Stadium and Spuhler Field and have encountered no issues whatsoever. Check ahead of time to see what is happening, and leave yourself a lot of extra time to park if something major is going on in the Field House that day. Otherwise you should probably be fine.
Unfortunately, Mason’s campus is not easily Metro-accessible as the closest stop is Vienna, five miles away. Despite having the school name in the station’s full name (Vienna/Fairfax-GMU), getting to the stadium from there is not very easy. There is a shuttle bus that is about a 15-minute ride to campus, but then you will have to walk another 15-20 minutes to get to the stadium. Under no circumstances should you use the Virginia Square-GMU station, as that serves Mason’s Arlington satellite campus, and is nowhere near the main campus in Fairfax.
Although there are no restrooms in the stadium itself, there are some next door in the Field House which are available during games. Typically these are of a large enough size to accommodate the stadium crowds without issue, but as with parking, this can change if there is an outside event at the Field House that day.
Return on Investment 3
Admission to Mason lacrosse games is free and concessions are affordable. Parking is usually free on weekends, but there is a cost on weekdays or if there is an event at the Field House so check the signs to be sure. If there is a charge, you will need to pay on your smartphone using the ParkMobile app.
While a visit to a Mason game is affordable, there is not enough here to earn an above average score.
There are free programs available by the entrance, but that is the only real extra here.
George Mason Stadium is a classic example of why bigger stadiums aren't always better stadiums. A 5,000 seat grandstand separated from the field by a track is far too large for the crowds Mason attracts, and it really puts a damper on the atmosphere. The stands feel cavernous and far removed from the action, and that turns what could otherwise be a great experience into a mediocre one at best. There are many college lacrosse teams to choose from in the Baltimore-Washington area, and while fans of George Mason may want to check out their lacrosse team, there are better places for neutrals to check out a game close by.