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  • Writer's pictureMichael Davis

McLane Stadium - Baylor Bears

Photos by Michael Davis, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

McLane Stadium S Martin Luther King Jr Blvd Waco, TX 76704

Year Opened: 2014

Capacity: 45,140

A Decade of Football on the Brazos River

For almost a decade Baylor University’s McLane Stadium has been home to the Baylor University football team. On August 31, 2014, the Baylor Bears christened McLane Stadium with a 45-0 win over Southern Methodist University. McLane Stadium is one of three on-campus college football stadiums which are accessible by water, joining Washington’s Husky Stadium and Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium. The stadium’s horseshoe infrastructure was designed by the well-known sports architecture firm Populous at a cost of $250 million, with a seating capacity of 45,140. The structure sits on the north side of Baylor’s campus off I-35, in the campus’ athletic complex.

The venue was originally planned to be named Baylor Stadium until December 2013, when in honor of Baylor Alum Drayton McLane Jr., the stadium was renamed McLane Stadium. The stadium connects to campus via the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses the Brazos River.

Food & Beverage 3

There are plenty of food options inside McLane Stadium for any fan. There are the basic snacks, like popcorn, pretzels, peanuts, chips, and candy, and then there are the heavier meals – Rudy’s BBQ concessions stand offers beef sandwiches, pulled pork, and sausage wraps, while the Bear Zone features an array of choices such as nachos, chicken tenders, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs. In addition, the Mr. Beast Burger stand has a couple of interesting burgers.

Besides the permanent stands, McLane Stadium also has mobile food carts that provide interesting food choices, such as Philly Cheesesteaks or French dip sandwiches, both served with kettle chips. A nacho stand offers $8 nachos, unless you choose to go big with the loaded nachos, in which case the cost is $12. In addition, McLane Stadium has stands from outside vendor Chick-fil-A, serving $10 chicken tender baskets and $8 chicken sandwiches.

In terms of drinks, McLane Stadium offers fans a choice of Pepsi and of course Dr Pepper products, as Waco is the birthplace of Dr Pepper. Souvenir sodas come in at $6; other choices are $3 bottled water and $4 Gatorade. McLane Stadium doesn’t offer sales of alcohol, but this doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t available on game days; just head to the Charlie O’s Restaurant beer tent across MLK Jr. Blvd., which opens three hours before kickoff.

Atmosphere 3

Like every great college football game, the atmosphere begins outside the stadium, and that means tailgating. However, McLane Stadium now provides what only a few campuses can do with their game day atmosphere, and that is “sailgating”. Tailgaters get to set up tents all around the stadium grounds, as well as on the shores of the Brazos River, and some even tailgate in their boats.

Touchdown Alley is located across the Basin Bridge, opens three hours prior to kickoff, and closes about 30 minutes after kickoff. This area provides local radio and TV station coverage during pregame, and has food, beverages, and various activities to keep fans entertained.

The Bear Walk begins as the team buses roll up about two hours before kickoff; the Bear Walk provides fans with an opportunity to interact with the Baylor football team, with fans forming a pathway for the team to walk through from the buses to the stadium. In addition the incoming freshmen, known as the “Baylor Line”, also add entertainment by rushing out onto the field before the players do, running across the field starting at the southeast corner, and forming a tunnel for the Baylor football team to run through when the players come onto the field.

College football across the state of Texas always seems to have a tradition of being a great atmosphere, and Baylor University’s McLane Stadium is no exception. The up-tempo offense of the Baylor football team keeps Baylor fans on their feet and cheering throughout the game. Of course, the Baylor spirit squad and the Bears mascots, Bruiser and Marigold, keep the crowd entertained during timeouts, and at the end of the contest the Baylor Band performs a musical concert which is worth staying for, especially because the heavy traffic will have time to clear out while you are watching.

Neighborhood 4

McLane Stadium lies just north of Baylor University’s campus, which is across the Brazos River in Waco. The stadium is nestled in the corner of I-35, Lake Brazos Pkwy/MLK Jr. Blvd, and the Brazos River; the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Pedestrian Bridge connects the stadium to campus. Just over the pedestrian bridge on the campus side, tailgating is done throughout Grant Teaff Plaza, and pre-game activities are set up around the Texas Hall of Fame and the Texas Rangers Museum.

Buzzard Billy’s Restaurant, along the Brazos River, is the closest restaurant to McLane Stadium. However, Waco has numerous other restaurants to enjoy while attending a Baylor sporting event. One of the more popular is Vitek’s BBQ, which is on the south side of Baylor’s campus. Vitek’s BBQ is the home of the Gut Pack, which includes brisket, sausage, Fritos, and beans; if you decide on this dish you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day, as it is heavy and filling, but delicious. You should plan on arriving early, however; Vitek’s does serve outside as well as inside, but the wait can be long no matter which one you choose.

Another choice for beer and BBQ is Coach’s Smoke on Austin Avenue in Downtown Waco, and George’s Restaurant is also a popular place to meet before, during, or after the game. This restaurant has been serving Waco since 1930, and the crowds here are large, so be prepared to get there early. In addition, George’s Restaurant has a beer tent across MLK Jr. Blvd from McLane Stadium, if you just want to have a drink.

Although the restaurants aren’t exactly close to the stadium, Waco has so many wonderful restaurants that you’ll easily be able to find something that suits you. But if you want to do something in the neighborhood besides eat, there is the Dr Pepper Museum, which is open on Saturdays. You’ll get to see how the popular Texas soft drink is produced, walk through its history, and even get your own Dr Pepper drink. Waco has also been popularized by Chip and Joanna Gaines, thru their TV show – you can visit their Magnolia Market or stop at their restaurant. Or if you want to stay closer to the stadium, on campus you can visit the Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat, a habitat that is dedicated to black bears.

Fans 4

Baylor has a wonderful fan base, and McLane Stadium is one of the unique stadiums in the Big 12. The average attendance is always above 40,000 – the largest crowd to witness a game was 50,223 on November 16, 2019, vs Oklahoma.

The fans that attend games at McLane Stadium are energetic, fun, polite, respectful, and knowledgeable. Also, Baylor University being the centerpiece of Waco, the city is decked out in green and gold, with the local shops decorated to show support for the Bears. If you can get to the homecoming game, then be sure to watch the homecoming parade through the streets of Waco.

Baylor Bears fans are what you expect from big-time college football, yet offer a close family atmosphere, since the university is a 14,000-student undergraduate private school. The Baylor student section sits along the visiting sideline, and can be identified by their gold shirts, standing the whole game, and serving as the sparkplug for the energy inside McLane Stadium.

Access 4

There is plenty of parking for football games at McLane Stadium, even if you don’t have a pre-paid parking pass. There is paid parking across MLK near the stadium for $20, but if you get there early enough, residents in the neighborhoods around campus allow parking on their property for $5 to $20. However, the best advice for parking is to take advantage of the eighteen-hundred city of Waco downtown parking spaces, all within five miles of the stadium, and free. While most of these spaces are about a 15-minute walk from McLane Stadium, there are free shuttles for fans with pick-ups at 3rd Street & Franklin Avenue, and drop-offs on the south side of MLK & I-35. There also will be plenty of fans walking to the stadium, so you’ll arrive at McLane Stadium without being misdirected.

The best advice for finding parking is not to wait; get there early and enjoy the game day atmosphere. Campus streets start closing 4 hours before kickoff, and parking lots open 3 hours prior. There is limited ADA/handicap parking, with a shuttle leaving from the Baylor Research & Innovation Collaborative (BRIC). In addition, since McLane Stadium has unique access in getting to the stadium (the Brazos River provides the ability to use a boat), I suggest reading the boating guidelines and rules on Baylor’s website if you plan on sailgating, or if you plan to get to the stadium via water.

Once you get to McLane Stadium you will find eight gates into the stadium; gates A-D are for most of the seats, while the other four are for club/suite access. The concourses at McLane Stadium are very spacious, and you can walk around the lower concourse while the ball is in play without missing anything. However, the stadium is constructed in a horseshoe with a grass berm for general admission in the east end zone. This doesn’t allow fans to walk all the way around the lower level, so you might find yourself having to turn around and walk back the way you came. The stadium and Baylor’s campus provide outstanding signage for newcomers to the area, however, and the concourse is wide with plenty of bathrooms.

Overall McLane Stadium has above average accessibility for fans, but note that the stadium (like most others) has a no re-entry policy except for medical emergencies. Baylor University also has a clear bag policy – bags must be clear plastic vinyl or PVC that do not exceed 12”x12”x6”, or be a small clutch bag no larger than 4.5”x6.5”x3”. Prohibited bags include, but are not limited to, backpacks, briefcases, camera bags, cinch bags, computer bags, coolers, diaper bags, duffle bags, fanny packs, luggage, and any other bag deemed to not meet the clear bag policy.

Return on Investment 3

Baylor football burst onto the national scene when Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy, while the decision to move back to campus into a top-notch facility produced a high demand for tickets. Single-game ticket prices vary at the Baylor Box Office depending on the opponent and on availability. The cheapest price is the general admission section, priced at $20-$55 (general admission is located on the grass berm around the scoreboard and doesn’t allow access to the rest of the stadium). Reserved seats range from $70 to $125, with most of the available tickets being in the upper 300 levels; fans who want lower-level seats should look at third-party ticket sellers.

McLane Stadium is one of the best football venues in the Big 12. The scenic views overlooking the Brazos River, the high level of Big 12 competition, and the wonderful atmosphere that Baylor football provides all make this a must-see stadium for any sports fan.

Extras 4

McLane Stadium is a beautiful setting for college football, being situated on the Brazos River and not far from campus, which includes the Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat – the habitat provides educational awareness about black bears, and is well worth a visit before or after the game.

One of Baylor’s unique traditions is the Baylor Line. The Baylor Line in their gold shirts rush out onto the field to form a tunnel for the football team to run through, and also provide excitement, support, and stay until after the game, when ‘That Good Ole Baylor Line’ is played by the band. No other stadium can claim that their freshmen raise the game day atmosphere, but here at Baylor the freshman class is very active and add tons of energy to the experience.

The sailgating here at McLane Stadium, which fans at only a few college football stadiums can partake in, also adds to the experience. In addition, Baylor University recognizes their only Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, with a mural inside the stadium and a statue on the plaza at the open end. Furthermore, Touchdown Alley (located just across the Basin Bridge) is built on top of the old Floyd Casey Stadium turf; the creativity of bringing that turf over to the new stadium to use as part of the game day atmosphere connects the past to the present.

Finally, McLane Stadium is keeping up with today’s technology by providing six mobile device charging stations inside the venue.

Final Thoughts

McLane Stadium is an incredible facility and a solid footprint for the future of Baylor football. The game day atmosphere will continue to improve over the next decade, since the move from Floyd Casey Stadium and the intimate construction of the stadium provides one of the best sidelines and atmospheres in the Big 12 Conference. A visit to Waco, Texas for a Saturday on the Brazos River should be on the list of must-see stadiums for any college football fan.

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