Best high school football stadiums
Here are our top choices -- some famous, some quirky and some for other reasons -- for the nation's best places to watch high school football.
1. Fawcett Stadium (Canton, Ohio)
Located adjacent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the site since 1962 of the annual preseason Hall of Fame Game, the 70-year-old structure currently is a home field for three high schools -- famed Canton McKinley, Timken and GlenOak -- and two NAIA colleges, Walsh and Malone. Named after local civic leader and school board president John Fawcett, the venue has an NFL flavor with artificial turf, a pro-style press box and lighting system. The Ohio state high school playoffs uses this site, along with nearby Paul Brown Stadium in Massillon, for its six championship games.
2. Ratliff Stadium (Odessa, Texas)
The 19,302-seat home since 1982 of Permian and Odessa high schools, it is the focal point of the book, movie and television series "Friday Night Lights." It cost $5.6 million to build "in the middle of nowhere" with a sunken field flanked by two enormous concrete seating areas and surrounded by a running track. Close to the stadium, at the Permian practice field, a sign lists all the Permian state championships and its Mojo nickname. Crowds approaching 20,000 are common, especially for the rivalry games between Permian and Odessa or Permian and Midland Lee. The place has been rocking this year and last, as Permian seems to have regained its prominence as a Texas powerhouse.
3. Bazemore-Hyder Stadium (Valdosta, Ga.)
Built in 1922 and refurbished in 2004 with new synthetic turf and a state-of-the-art scoreboard, the home of the Valdosta Wildcats is one of the nation's best examples of honoring the past with an eye on the present. The stadium can hold more than 11,000 and is used by Valdosta State University as well. Valdosta High, which has won more games than any other school in U.S. history, has been known to intimidate opponents when its players bang their helmets as they come onto the field.
4. Napa Memorial Stadium (Napa, Calif.)
Known as the Fenway Park of Northern California prep football stadiums, the grandstands surrounding the field may be the steepest you'll ever see. And with no running track as well, the atmosphere for big games when Napa High and Vintage High are playing is electric. The all-grass surface is immaculate. Throw in the two Quonset huts on one end with trees on the other and Napa Memorial becomes very tough to beat. The Oakland Raiders have a preseason event at Napa Memorial every summer.
5. Tad Gormley Stadium (New Orleans)
This field became one of many symbols of the destructive force of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when it was completely flooded. Photos of the stadium, with its concrete grandstands surrounding a pool of water, were seen all over the world. It had been the scene of some of the biggest games in Louisiana prep football history. After extensive repairs, a Louisiana high school playoff game was the first to be played when the stadium re-opened. Tad Gormley Field is located in City Park and has also hosted other events, including the 1992 U.S. Olympic Track and Field trials. The field itself has been re-named in honor of New Orleans Saints star Reggie Bush, who donated much of the money needed for repairs.
What are the best places to watch a high school football game? ESPN RISE lists the top 13 stadiums across the country. Check out our photo gallery.
What makes a stadium unique? Matt Winkeljohn looks at a different kind of spirit that fills Valdosta (Ga.)'s Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
6. Brickie Bowl (Hobart, Ind.)
Named after the brick-making factories that used to dominate the Gary, Ind., area, this stadium is home to Hobart High and was constructed in 1939 through the government-funded Works Progress Administration. It sits near the district's middle school In a downtown area with no true parking lot. Duck Creek runs under the aluminum bleachers on the visitors' side and circles the east end of the stadium. Train tracks run directly above and behind the visitors' seats. The trains often pass by during games, sounding their horns only when Hobart's opponents are on offense. When the creek overflows, the field is flooded with water and fish. The west end zone opens up to several homes with backyards sometimes filled with tailgating parties and bonfires. Hobart has been to 11 state finals, and once had a 71-game home winning streak.
7. Bill Duchon Stadium (Glen Ellyn, Ill.)
The field is surrounded by woods on three sides, and with the man-made Lake Ellyn Park behind the visitors' stands, the crowd atmosphere on Saturday afternoons (there are no lights) appears right out of the movies. In fact, scenes from the movie "Lucas" were filmed at the site. The high school, built in 1923, looks like a castle, complete with turrets, and sits atop a hill behind the home bleachers. After a Hilltopper victory, the home-team players storm up the hill to ring a victory bell to announce to the town they've won. The field is named after a longtime coach/athletic director who still resides in the affluent suburb west of Chicago.
8. Wolverina (Turtle Creek, Pa.)
The Woodland Hills School District has spent nearly $8 million in the past three years to renovate the 66-year-old facility plus the soccer field and track for Woodland Hills High School. The playing field is now artificial turf, the parking lot is paved, and new bleachers and restrooms were part of the first improvements in four decades. With a rabid fan following for the Wolverines, the stadium was once voted "the most intimidating stadium in Pennsylvania." Famous alumni who have played on the field include current NFL players Jason Taylor and Steve Breaston plus Leon Hart, the 1949 Heisman Trophy winner from Notre Dame.
9. Lockhart Stadium (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
This venue is better known as a great place to watch soccer, but it's pretty darn good for football, too. It was built in 1959 and can seat 18,000. It's been the home of the Fort Lauderdale High Flying Ls since it started, and during the weekend it's not uncommon for two games to be played there. Another reason we wanted to list it is that soon Lockhart Stadium is going to be demolished. It's going to be replaced by a new stadium that will be the home of the Baltimore Orioles during spring training.
10. Paul Brown Tiger Stadium (Massillon, Ohio)
Like Valdosta's field, this one needs to be on any stadium list as well. The home of Washington High School, or more famously the Massillon Tigers, Paul Brown Tiger Stadium is named for the legendary NFL head coach who started his coaching career at the high school. It's an older facility, but a partial roof on one side with a press box on top creates a modern effect of crowd noise being deflected back down toward the players. When Massillon plays Canton McKinley each year, the place can get packed with more than 18,000 fans.
11. Stadium Bowl (Tacoma, Wash.)
Folks in the Northwest have been writing about this place for years. You may have seen it in the movie "10 Things I Hate About You." For beauty, it's tough to beat, with a breathtaking view of Puget Sound. The stadium itself sits below Stadium High School in Tacoma, which was built in 1910. A luxury hotel was supposed to be built on the hill, but it burned in a fire. The school and stadium were built instead based on what didn't burn. In addition to Friday night football, Stadium Bowl also has hosted speeches and other community events. Wilson High of Tacoma also plays its home football games there.
12. George White Field (San Francisco)
This one is different from many on this list because it's home to a city school, Galileo of San Francisco, and the stands are nearly empty during games. If you are ever at Fisherman's Wharf, though, it's a very historical site just the same. Located kitty-corner to Ghirardelli Square, it's also where O.J. Simpson played as a prep; it's near where Joe DiMaggio played sandlot; and the gym right behind it is where Hank Luisetti practically invented the jump shot. It's a small field, too, and it's easy to see how some kicks would hit cars, buildings, buses and people.
13. Jelsma Stadium (Guthrie, Okla.)
Located in downtown Guthrie, the state's first capital, it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Named for Lawrence Jelsma, a prominent Guthrie businessman of the 1920s and '30s, it was constructed in 1936, partly with funds provided by the Works Progress Administration, and was built using primarily sandstone. The field sits at the bottom of a 30-foot sandstone wall, the top of which is a few feet above street level.
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