Hunter: Bryant-Denny, football fantasy land

By Hunter Ford

Walt Disney would be jealous if he could see the football “Fantasy Land” that is Bryant-Denny Stadium.
I attended last weekend’s Tide game in T-Town and, as I have in the past few seasons, I again found myself in awe of how the Alabama game experience has changed over the years.

When I was growing up, all the biggest games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham. The seating capacity was somewhere around 75,000. The joint was in the ghetto, as it still is and always has been, but nobody ever complained. Games at Bryant-Denny were usually against teams the Tide throttled by six or seven touchdowns. The stadium was a round bowl with about 50,000 seats.

People brought transistor radios to listen to John Forney, Jerry Duncan and Doug Layton. Whenever there was an injury or an unexplained penalty, you would see thousands of folks mashing the small radios to their ears for updates. Today, I get a kick out of watching the sea of fans simultaneously crane their necks to look at the giant replay screens. It’s also amusing to watch a player hop up from a dropped pass or a missed tackle and stare up at the screen to see what went wrong.

Concession prices at Bryant-Denny are higher than I ever could have imagined. When I was a kid hotdogs were still a buck and cokes maybe two. A coke in a souvenier cup now costs $6. Co-cola’s in Tuscaloosa are now spiked in more ways than one. My brother and I, in the old times, would go around the stadium and gather up dozens of plastic cups to take home as trophies from our outing. Not too many people discard their six-buck investment these days.

Stadium dogs, peanuts and popcorn were the only food items I remember from my youth. Now at Bryant-Denny, the high rollers in the luxury boxes feast on Asian stir fry, pasta salad and crab dip.
That simple, yet unique, kraut and mustard covered dog, will now set you back $4. You can get nachos with Dreamland BBQ for $8. I’m glad they serve Dreamland fare in the stadium now, but drizzling that famous pork with neon cheese whiz is sacrilege.

The box seats cost $1,500 per seat plus the cost of a season ticket package, according to a 2006 report by The Decatur Daily. Standard end zone seats are $45 face value.

I took my daughter and oldest son, ages 11 and nine, to the game with me. They both have cell phones and they spent most of the game snapping photos and texting friends back at home.

According to ticketwaitinglist.com, demand for Alabama season tickets has doubled since last year. About 10,000 people are on the waiting list for tickets and 3,000 current ticket holders would like additional tickets. The stadium will be expanded to more than 100,000 seats soon, and Athletic Director Mal Moore has said, “Truth be told we could probably fill another 30,000 per game.”

The modern game day experience is truly amazing, and I’m glad for the athletic department and the university that the football program is so financially successful.

Yet I still get nostalgic for the simplicity of yesteryear. Speaking of history, the best value on game day is a trip to the Bryant Museum. Tickets are $2 for adults and $1 for children.

It is astounding to see all of the Tide’s championship hardware, and player memorabilia. My two favorite items are Joe Namath’s New York Jets jersey and the Leroy Neiman portrait of Coach Bryant.

But steer clear of the gift shop if your wallet is light. A houndstooth hat is $26.50.

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