Knight-Newbrough Field at University Stadium - Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks
Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Knight-Newbrough Field @ University Stadium
81 Seagram Drive
Waterloo, ON N2L 3B7
Year Opened: 1958
Are The Golden Years Still Golden?
The history of University Stadium, home of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks football team is a fascinating one. Originally built with a donation from the local Seagram Family, distillers of Crown Royal among other spirits, for the University of Waterloo Warriors football team. Waterloo was unwilling to financially maintain the stadium and left it to the City of Waterloo in 1974. In 1992, the Warriors’ chief rival, Wilfrid Laurier University purchased Seagram Stadium from the City of Waterloo and completed a host of renovations including its first set of Astro Turf. Over the years, Seagram Stadium would be renamed University Stadium in 1994 and the field was renamed after legendary Hawks football coaches Dave “Tuffy” Knight and Rich Newbrough in 2007. After a number of significant renovations that have happened at the stadium over the years, it appears that the biggest renovation yet is on the horizon. When fans returned to campus for Laurier football in 2021, they were welcomed to the majority of the grandstand closed off to fans. With little explanation, it has been rumoured that the grandstands were required to be shrunk as a result of safety issues. Pre-covid reports had a full rebuilding of University Stadium to be in the not too distant future for the Golden Hawks, however, there has been no reporting on such a project since 2019. Understandably, plenty has changed since the coronavirus pandemic and anything planned pre-covid is suspect. Unfortunately, until there is sufficient renovation at University Stadium, the experience has become, and remains, substandard.
Food & Beverage 3
Concessions at University Stadium are pretty good for an OUA football facility. The main concession stand under the grandstand offers regular stadium fare including popcorn, cotton candy, nachos, chips and Domino’s Pizza. Coffee and Coca-Cola beverages are also available. In the west endzone there is normally a BBQ going that offers sausage, hot dogs and burgers. Also, for those of age, alcoholic beverages are available in the west endzone. In 2022, they were provided by Four Fathers Brewing.
Once, University Stadium was among the best football facilities in the OUA. Today, there remains much to be desired. The exterior of the stadium is attractive enough from the north side which includes a gymnasium used for various school recreation activities as well as a nice ticketing office. Entering the stadium, fans will find the large, north side grandstand. The bleachers, which once held 6,000 fans have been shrunk to a mere six rows of seating with a number of gazebos built behind the usable seating for media and coaches. For the 2022 season, a number of temporary bleachers were brought in to raise the capacity a bit.
The stadium grounds are surrounded by mature trees to give the experience a unique feel to it. The west endzone features a simple, football scoreboard. Underneath the scoreboard there is a sign to commemorate the 1991 and 2005 Vanier Cup Championships. Unfortunately, there are no acknowledgements of the eight Yates Cup Championships as Conference Champions or other memorable Laurier football personnel other than Knight and Newbrough.
The gameday atmosphere is about what one would expect from an OUA event. The requisite promotions are part of the fun and the host finds fans in the stands to take part in short competitions or to be Wilf's Fan of the Game. The cheerleading team leads the fans in standard football cheers and performs a number of gymnastic stunts. The Laurier mascot, Midas, can be found around the stadium interacting with fans and posing for pictures. A Laurier survey this season has changed the music selection for spots in between plays a bit and it is now a little more wide ranging. However, the Laurier anthem, “Country Roads” can still be heard at each game.
Wilfrid Laurier is an urban university located just up the street from another urban university. As a result there are a ton of great options for pre and post game meals. University and King streets are where one would find most of the options. There are a ton of great spots to get something to eat before or after the game. Some places one might consider checking out include Crabby Joe’s, Smoke’s Poutinerie and Ethel’s Lounge. The on-campus pub is Wilf’s and offers a great atmosphere and food while being student run and managed. The place you probably should settle on, however, is Morty’s Pub. Home of arguably the best chicken wings in the city, Morty’s always satisfies your post game craving. Their chicken wings are legendary in the city.
As far as entertainment goes, there are a few options in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Fans planning on catching a Laurier game around Canadian Thanksgiving, could be able to catch Oktoberfest. This is the signature festival of Kitchener-Waterloo and the largest Bavarian festival outside of Germany. There are a number of great events that take place over the 10 day festival at a variety of locations including the numerous Fest Halls. Heading south on King Street toward Uptown Waterloo, fans will find a great spot for some evening entertainment in the Huether Hotel Jazz Room. One of the top jazz venues in the province, The Jazz Room offers weekend performances at a great price. There are also a number of pubs in Uptown Waterloo that feature live music.
If fans are interested in enhancing their sporting weekend then there are also a few other options. Wilfrid Laurier also fields other athletic teams, specifically basketball at the WLU Athletic Complex and hockey at the Sun Life Financial Arena. Just up the road, the University of Waterloo also fields USports athletic programs. Fans will find football at Warrior Field, basketball at the Physical Activities Complex and hockey at the Columbia IceField. If willing to drive across town, then fans can catch the phenomenal experience of the Kitchener Rangers at the legendary Aud.
For fans who are planning on staying the night, the Inn of Waterloo is just a short drive from the Laurier campus and is a pretty decent place to stay.
Fan support for Golden Hawks football is a bit of a roller coaster affair. Weather, time of year, number of students on campus are all major factors for football attendance. The post-pandemic era combined with stadium issues has not made University Stadium the most popular place. Annually, the Homecoming game packs well over 6,000 fans into University Stadium. However, a late season game against a weak opponent can bring in less than 1,000. As with most USports programs, Laurier needs to continue efforts to engage students and get them out to the games, regardless of the date. There is no true student section at USports football games like there are at their American counterparts. Building a better relationship with current students and finding a way to make Laurier football part of their lives after graduation will go a long way to improving fan attendance overall.
Getting to University Stadium and around is not very difficult. University Stadium is located on Seagram Drive which runs between University and Albert Streets. Fans who are coming from out of town will have a decent drive through the city as the university campus is a fair trek southwest of Highway 85. Traffic on University Ave moves fairly quickly, so getting to the stadium should not be too much of an issue.
There are a number of bus routes that travel along King St and University Ave. The Ion Light Rail also has a stop at Waterloo Park, a few steps from the stadium. Check the Grand River Transit website for fares, maps and schedules.
Parking can be for sale in the stadium lot, however most spaces are reserved for season ticket holders and media. There is some parking available west of the stadium in the Granite Club parking lot, but be mindful of the signs as ticketing often happens for violators. Parking can also be found on campus or in some of the University of Waterloo lots that are close to Seagram Drive.
The ticketing office is located in the permanent building under the grandstand. Other than that, there is no specific, grand entry gate. Security is present at 3 gates for entry which is more than ample for this facility and entry into the stadium is very quick.
The grandstand is very open and easy to move around. There is ample room underneath for moving from end to end or going to concessions. As expected, the grandstand does have a lot of stairs, however the general admission nature of seating offers the opportunity for patrons to minimize stair climbing. The washrooms in the permanent building are fairly small, but decent. Portable toilets are also brought into the end zones by the BBQs to help with high volume games.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets for the Golden Hawks have come down in recent years. Regular adult tickets are $12 if purchased in advance. Staff, alumni, students and seniors are all $9.50 and Laurier students are $5 while kids are $6. Each ticket category is more expensive when walking up. The concession prices are decent and parking can be found for free. The product on the field is significantly underrated and fans will no doubt enjoy their afternoon.
An extra mark for the continued nod back to West Virginia. The heart of the Laurier athletics program came north from West Virginia. Over the years, the Hawks have embraced John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as their anthem. Although the use of the song has diminished over recent years, when the Hawks won the Vanier Cup in 2005, it was John Denver that blasted over the PA.
An extra mark for Laurier announcer Chris Povey, who has done a fantastic job as the public address announcer for Laurier football and hockey for a number of years. Chris brings energy and enthusiasm to the game every time and does his best to entertain and inform the crowd, even if the game is not so interesting.
An extra mark for the interesting history of the Golden Hawks mascot.
An extra mark for the program that Tuffy Knight and Rich Newbrough put together and the honor of having the field named after these Laurier Legends.
What the future holds for the former Seagram Stadium is a bit of a mystery. There is no doubt that the Laurier Golden Hawks can not continue in the same fashion that they have in the last couple of years. University Stadium is in need of another renovation or an entire rebuild. How Wilfrid Laurier University plans out the future of the stadium could have a grave impact on the program and what the future holds. In the meantime, Golden Hawks football is a great experience that is a ton of fun.