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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

McGuirk Alumni Stadium – UMass Minutemen


Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium 300 Stadium Dr Hadley, MA 01003



Year Opened: 1965

Capacity: 17,000

 

Did It in a Minute, Man

Football has been played at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst since 1879. In 1965 the school completed the construction of Alumni Stadium, which was renamed in 1984 to honor Warren P. McGuirk, who served as the school’s athletic director from 1948-1972.


UMass has a long, successful history in Division 1-AA/FCS, winning 22 conference titles and a national championship in 1998. The Minutemen also appeared in the championship game on two other occasions (1978 and 2006).


The Minutemen made the jump to FBS beginning with the 2012 season. At the time, their on-campus home did not meet the minimum standards set by the FBS. To remedy these shortcomings, the University embarked on a $20 million renovation project to bring McGuirk Stadium up to speed. The team played two seasons at Gillette Stadium, 95 miles from campus, while work progressed at McGuirk. Even though capacity was expanded to 17,000, McGuirk Stadium remains the third smallest venue in FBS.


The team, which now competes as an independent, has struggled since joining college football’s top division, compiling a dismal 19-81 record in FBS going into the 2021 season.


Food & Beverage 3

There are four main concession stands tucked underneath the grandstands at McGuirk Stadium, two on either side of the field. The menus at these stands do not stray far from stadium basics, with hot dogs, burgers, sausages, and chicken tenders comprising the entire menu. Coca-Cola products are featured at McGuirk Stadium.


Local favorite Batch Ice Cream operates a couple of stands at McGuirk Stadium, serving up varieties of their homemade ice cream flavors. Other snacks include pretzels, fresh fruit, and chips.


The craft beer game is strong at a UMass game. Local brews from Amherst Brewing, New City Brewery, Loophole Brewing, Wormhole Brewery, and City Roots are sold alongside Bud Light, UFO, and Corona. If wine is more to your taste, you can find that at the concession stands as well.


Atmosphere 3

There’s nothing particularly unique about the atmosphere or game day presentation at a UMass football game, and the smallish crowds tend to hold down the overall noise and excitement levels, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with the atmosphere at McGuirk Stadium, either. If you prefer your football viewing experience a bit more laid back than at the big schools, a UMass game is most enjoyable.


When you have a football stadium in a rural location surrounded by parking lots, that’s a recipe for a fun tailgating scene, and that’s certainly the case here in Amherst. The school made some waves when they canceled the organized student activities for the first game of the 2021 season after some breakthrough COVID cases were documented, but the students were back in full force for home game number two.


Before the 2019 season, McGuirk Stadium underwent several improvements designed to improve the fan experience, including a new high-definition scoreboard in the south end zone, a new auxiliary scoreboard in the north end zone, a new hospitality plaza in the south end zone, new restrooms and several ADA improvements.


Neighborhood 4

There’s not a whole lot near McGuirk Stadium if you are a visiting fan looking for food, beverage, or lodging before or after a Minutemen game. However, Amherst is a mainstay at the top of many “best college towns in the nation” lists, so you aren’t too far from a whole bunch of great options while at UMass.


Just a mile away from the UMass campus is North Pleasant Street, where a seemingly endless variety of shops, restaurants, and pubs can be found. To fit in with the locals, take a trip to the Hangar Pub and Grill for a craft beer or to Antonio’s Pizza for a slice or two.


Despite the presence of five colleges in and around Amherst, there’s not a ton of lodging options in the area. Most of the places you will find are located in Hadley a few miles from the UMass campus. Lodging doesn’t get any more convenient than the UMass Hotel, located right on campus and run by students in the hospitality program. As any self-respecting college town should, Amherst has its share of museums, including ones dedicated to authors Emily Dickinson and Eric Carle.


Fans 2

Since their elevation to FBS in 2012, UMass has struggled to fill McGuirk Stadium for football games. Even with local power Boston College in town for the opening home game of 2021, there were only 12,000 fans on hand. 2021’s second game against Eastern Michigan drew only 7,000. Looking back at the 2019 season, UMass finished next to last in the country in terms of attendance, averaging just over 10,000 per game.


The fans who do show up at McGuirk Stadium are enthusiastic and supportive, even if they aren’t the rowdiest fans you’ll see during your travels across the country. You can expect a big turnout by the student body, even if most of them do leave at halftime.


Access 3

The flagship school of the UMass system is located in rural Amherst in western Massachusetts, about halfway between Boston and Albany. Springfield is located about a half-hour to the south. Most fans will take the Mass Pike (I-90) to Interstate 91 and then travel some local roads to arrive in Amherst. The scenery in the area during leaf season is amazing.


McGuirk Stadium is located on the southwest edge of the UMass-Amherst campus, just across the town line in neighboring Hadley. There is ample parking in the lots a short walk from the stadium. Remember to purchase your parking early to save money!


McGuirk Stadium has a basic setup, with one grandstand on either side of the field. All seats are aluminum bleachers without backs. The eastern side of the field is in the sun, and the western side is in the shade due to the presence of the press box on top of the grandstand. It’s humorous how most fans sit on one side during the warm early-season games and on the other during cold late-season games.


McGuirk is unique in that the first row of seats is located 12 feet above the ground. Concession stands and merchandise stands are tucked underneath the stands, and a walkway circles the gridiron at field level, pushing the seats further from the field.


New restrooms have been built on either side of the facility and have alleviated wait times greatly. There is plenty of room to roam at McGuirk, as entrance gates are located a bit of a walk from the seating area. The area between the gates and seats is not paved, so tread carefully.


Return on Investment 4

UMass splits its games into two tiers. Tickets for Tier One games are priced at $23 and $30, while Tier Two games are priced at $18 and $25. Parking is also variably priced and will cost you either $30 or $40 if purchased on game day. Stadium Journey can’t stress strongly enough the benefit of purchasing parking in advance. By buying ahead of time, parking will only cost you $10. Concession prices are comparable to other venues in the area.


Extras 2

The UMass Marching Band, the largest marching band in all of New England, earns an extra point. They perform pregame, at halftime, and postgame, as well as adding plenty to the atmosphere during the game.

The UMass Militia earns an extra point. They may be smaller and less well-known than their counterparts in Foxboro, but they add an appropriate touch of Minutemen spirit to the festivities.


Final Thoughts

The UMass football team has experienced more than its share of troubles since the program was elevated to FBS in 2012. As a result, the game day experience suffers at tiny McGuirk Stadium. However, all is not lost in Amherst. During a crisp fall day with the leaves turning all sorts of colors, not many stadiums can match the scenery of western Massachusetts. McGuirk may be a simple facility, but it’s a worthy Stadium Journey.

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