Allen E. Paulson Stadium – Georgia Southern Eagles
Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
Allen E. Paulson Stadium 207 Lanier Dr Statesboro, GA 30458
Year Opened: 1984
Flying High in Statesboro
The Georgia Southern Eagles first fielded a football team back in 1924, and transitioned to the FBS in 2014, having previously claimed six FCS titles between 1985 and 2000. The Eagles play their home games at Allen E. Paulson Stadium, which opened in 1984 and now seats 25,000 thanks to expansions made during the transition. The facility is known as both the “Prettiest Little Stadium in America” (coined by former coach Erk Russell), as well as “Our House” (due to the extreme home-field advantage the stadium enjoys). The Eagles currently compete in the Sun Belt Conference, and have already won one outright conference championship and three bowl games since making the move to the FBS.
Food & Beverage 3
Paulson Stadium offers a decent variety of food and beverage options, and the lines move pretty quickly due to the number of concessions stands that are available, including both the main stands as well as the smaller satellite stands dotted around the concourse.
Food options include pretty much what you would expect at a stadium – hot dogs, barbecue, nachos, peanuts, pretzels, popcorn, and packaged candy, with food items ranging from $3-$7. Non-alcoholic beverages including hot cocoa, bottled water, and soda from the fountain are $3-$4, except for the giant souvenir soda cup, which is $15 but allows you to get refills for $2 each.
Alcohol selections include options like Bud, Bud Light, Bud Light Seltzer, and Michelob Ultra for $7, or craft beer from Wicked Weed and mixed drinks for $9.
Paulson Stadium is a great place to see a football game – the intimate setting allows you to get really close to the action on the field, but also provides a lot of great extras to enhance the experience. Probably the most talked about event at a Georgia Southern game comes right before kickoff, when the live eagle mascot Freedom makes his flight around the stadium – released by a handler at the top of the press box, Freedom makes several loops around the stadium and lands on the arm of another handler down on the field. The procedure is officially known as “Freedom’s Flight” and is billed as the most exciting 30 seconds in college football – it is an amazing thing to witness firsthand.
Another great feature at Paulson Stadium is the “Field of Dreams”, which is a mini football field complete with painted yard lines, behind the east end zone in front of the Ted Smith Family Football Center. This is a field where kids (or adventurous adults) can run around or toss a football before or during the game. Additionally, there are also small grassy areas in each corner of the stadium, where fans can sit on blankets to watch the game; these areas also provide additional opportunities for kids to play or run around.
In addition to the above, at an Eagles game you will also be treated to fireworks before and during the contest, as well as a cannon (technically an M119 Howitzer on loan from the Georgia Army National Guard) going off before and after the game, as well as after each Eagles score. You will also see plenty of “GATA” signage, which is Georgia Southern’s slogan and stands for “Get after that…”. The venue also has free wi-fi all around the facility, two mascots (Gus the Eagle plus Blooper from the Atlanta Braves), and offers all the traditional amenities, like band performances complete with letter/logo formations before the game and at halftime, fan contests during the game, and Georgia Southern flags waving in the breeze.
In terms of the stadium’s layout, almost all the seating is along the sidelines, with the end zones reserved for those with club seats or special passes. Most of the seats along the sidelines are metal bleachers without chairbacks, some of which are covered (sections 101-113). There are a few sections with chairbacks however, such as the top portion of sections B-F; Georgia Southern’s website has a great seating chart showing which sections have which type of seat.
The replay board is located behind the east end zone, so it won’t be behind you, but it isn’t very big. Also, it doesn’t show the down and distance, only the game clock and score – for the down and distance you can check the scoreboard behind the west end zone or the ribbon board along the north sideline.
There aren’t a lot of tourist attractions in Statesboro besides the university, but there are several restaurants near the stadium such as Uncle Shug’s Chicken Barn, Nonna Picci Wood Fired Pizza, and the Saucy Shrimp, plus a few chains like Zaxby’s and Domino’s – a few years ago there were some great restaurants right next to the stadium itself, but those have since given way to apartments and other student housing.
There are plenty of hotels in Statesboro depending on your preferences and budget; Eagle’s Nest is the only one within sight of the stadium. There is also a live music venue called the Blue Room within walking distance of Paulson Stadium.
The fans are very supportive of their team and do a lot of unique cheers throughout the game. The stands are mostly full, and most fans stay until the fourth quarter, even if the game is already decided. Average attendance is over 20,000, which is over 80 percent capacity, and the student section is right behind the visitor bench, which really helps Paulson’s home field advantage.
The main cheer the crowd does during the game (led by mascot Gus) is one side shouting “Whose house?” and the other side responding, “Our house!” at sundry times during the contest. However, the more fun and interesting “cheer” is right before the fourth quarter, when the stadium lights are turned off (the stadium technically goes dark several times for a second or two each time, I assume for safety reasons, instead of having one long bout of darkness) – when the lights are out fans engage in the classic Journey move of waving their lit cell phones in the air while “Don’t Stop Believin’” blasts from the sound system – this is such a great moment during the game that even the visiting fans get into it.
Paulson Stadium is easy to get to, but it is difficult to park too close unless you have a parking pass – there is cash parking available a short walk from the stadium, and there are also places you can park for free around campus a little further away, but be mindful of the signs so you don’t get towed.
There are gates all around the stadium, and you can use any entrance since there is a pathway around the stadium once you are inside that will take you to your seat no matter where you came in. There are plenty of bathrooms inside the stadium, more than enough to accommodate the crowd size, and there is plenty of room to walk around. You can also view from the game from multiple locations inside, either from one of the grassy areas in the corners or from the stands.
Return on Investment 4
Coming to a Georgia Southern football game is a fun experience and provides a really great crowd to watch the game alongside, as well as several fun add-ons which you won’t see at other college football venues.
Concessions prices are reasonable, and ticket prices are on par with other college football stadiums – tickets start at $35 for general admission, which is a little higher than some FBS venues but is a lot lower than others. Nevertheless, for $35 the experience is definitely worthwhile, and you won’t have to break the bank on parking or food and beverage.
The mini football field behind the east end zone is definitely a plus, and the live eagle flying around the stadium is also a treat, especially for younger fans. I also appreciate the intimate setting, where you can get really close to the action – for example if you make your way down to one of the grassy areas in the corners on the east end, you can literally watch your favorite player from only three to four feet away as they go in for a touchdown. In fact, even if you are sitting in the upper deck you can still see the action on the field perfectly, and the weather isn’t bad in Southern Georgia either, even in October or November.
Paulson Stadium also has a real team store inside where you can buy yourself some Georgia Southern Eagles gear, instead of just a pop-up tent with only a handful of items, like you see at so many college football venues. Also, the staff has a special promotion for first-time visitors to the facility – a free Georgia Southern pinback with a space to write you name on it.
Paulson Stadium is definitely worth a visit for the fun atmosphere, great crowd, and the unique amenities – no matter who the opponent of the day is, you should definitely have a good time.