Every Duck fan can agree on at least one thing: there’s no better place to be on a fall evening than good ol’ Autzen Stadium. Temperatures in the mid fifties, a misty layer of fog shrouding a tempest of yellow-and-green hoodies, and nary an umbrella to be seen since, as Don Essig will remind us, it never rains in Autzen stadium.
Still, for all its glory, Autzen isn’t quite perfect. Quite frankly, our sacred arc of green and yellow could use a few improvements. Here are three that would make the best stadium in the West even better.
Find a New Kickoff Tradition
When former head coach Willie Taggart made his way to the Pacific Northwest, he brought some much needed swagger. Although Taggart’s lone season at Oregon wasn’t necessarily one to remember, the energy that he brought was a welcome contrast from the previous regime. Mark Helfrich — the khaki-wearing, grill-tending every-dad — didn’t exactly bring the hype. Taggart, on the other hand, was much more in tune with the current generation. He initiated the pre-game ritual of spinning Fast Life Yungstaz classic Swag Surfin’ to hype the crowd and rally the team. Around week six, the Ducks actually looked cool doing it.
Two years later, Swag Surfin’ remains the Autzen kickoff ritual. But the song is just too reminiscent of that forgettable 2017 season and Taggart’s premature abandonment. The juice is dried up, the sideline bounce replaced by a gentle kumbaya swaying. Shout has staying power, but Swag Surfin’? Meh. If you want to play some hip-hop before kickoff to get the crowd going, keep it current. Hey DJ, here’s one request.
Re-Open the Gates
Last season the University surprised everyone by announcing it would start selling beer inside the stadium. The trade-off, however, wasn’t well-received: fans are no longer allowed to re-enter the stadium once they’ve left.
Stepping out to tailgate or hit the “Mo” is something many of us fans looked forward to. If fans had friends or family at the game in a different section, it was a great way to meet up and talk about the first half.
It’s easy to understand why the University did this. Tailgating typically involves more than chit-chat and cup of coffee. I’ll be the first to admit that halftime was an excellent opportunity to keep the buzz going. And in most games, even close games, many wouldn’t return to the stadium until mid-way through the third quarter. Prohibiting re-entry controls alcohol intake and maintains the “juice” through the entirety of the game.
However, a strict policy allowing stadium alcohol monitors to remove fans from the stadium due to inebriation would free us responsible fans to come and go as we please. Fans get the freedom to leave at halftime and Autzen keeps the beer revenue.
Upgrade the Food
It’s 2019, and college football stadiums have stepped up their concession games. Heck, one can get prime rib at Notre Dame Stadium. At Autzen, however, the choices are a dry hamburger or a boiled hot dog. “Chef’s Special”? A bigger boiled hot dog. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with a burger or a dog during a ballgame, but have you tasted the Autzen dog?
Granted, Oregon has improved its selection of food in the last few years by adding a salmon sandwich and a bacon corndog. But outside of the salmon and some pizza, the menu is very “Fourth of July BBQ.” Have you been to a Seattle Mariners game lately? That place has a menu that’s rivaled by Epcot. And don’t get me started on AT&T park in San Francisco. Sure, these are pro parks, but would a few food upgrades be too much to ask? Let me offer a few ideas:
- “Aut-Zen” Garden Salad
- “Fish and Chip Kelly”
- “Dan Flautas”
- “Marcus Mari-Torta”
- Cliff Harris “Smoked-It-All-Brisket”
- “The Reuben Droughns Sandwich”
Long Live Autzen Stadium
These three minor upgrades would improve one of the best stadiums in the country. It’s already a must-see destination for fans. Ryen Russillo ranked Oregon the fourth-best place to watch a game on ESPN’s “Get Up.” It’s not just this biased fan’s opinion that Autzen is a cut above the rest.
With Oregon’s 2019 home opener two and a half months away, these upgrades won’t happen this season. But that won’t stop my buddies and me from setting up our tailgate across the street at the Mason Lodge and cheering on the team we love. Autzen is our home, and it’s darn-near perfect. A tweak here and there would get it a smidge closer.
Wilsonville, Oregon Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
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