A Game Day guide to West Lafayette


This one is for my fellow Big Ten bloggers. After some recent discussion on our secret board (hint: a Lemon Party is part of the hazing rights) we have decided to work on some travel guides to different Big Ten venues. Since I was the instigator of this idea I decided to get going on the first one. For my fellow Boilers out there, I invite you to add on as necessary in the comments section. I’ll keep this one linked permanently over on the right, and as other guides come available from other bloggers I’ll post them on the right as well. For Ohio State fans, with your game at Miami in a few years (and should any other Big Ten team end up in the Orange Bowl) I’ll likely do a Miami one as well.

Ross-Ade Stadium and ticket availability:

Like nearly every other stadium in the Big Ten, Ross-Ade Stadium was originally built in the 1920’s and has undergone significant renovations since. The most recent renovations came about as a result of Joe Tiller making the program relevant again for the first time in decades. The new press box, with luxury suites and the Shively Stadium club, opened for the 2002 season and the concourse expansion was completed before the 2003 season. There are plans for two more phases, adding an upper deck with additional suites to the east side of the stadium (phase II) and an upper deck on the north end (phase III) that would increase capacity to 80,000 seats, but those will only be built should season ticket demand increase. Right now the capacity is 62,500, but talk has increased in the past year from athletic director Morgan Burke about Phase II actually happening. Personally, I don’t look for anything to get going until the massive Mackey Arena renovation is complete.

All in all it is now a very nice, cozy stadium. I know I am biased, but it is one of my favorite places to watch a game, and the concourse expansion has done wonders. Of the eight Big Ten venues I have been to, Purdue may have the widest concourses and nicest restrooms (among Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northwestern).

Tickets can easily be had to most games. Sellouts at Purdue are more common than they used to be, but don’t occur for every game. Notre Dame is a guaranteed sellout every two years, as is Ohio State. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana generally draw near capacity crowds as well. For everyone else you can pretty much count on tickets being available from the athletic ticket office across the street in the IAF next to Mackey Arena. Scalpers are out on game day, but not in overwhelming force. I have also seen affordable listings on ebay and Stubhub.

For my fellow bloggers, if you’re interested in coming to a game there are a few each season in which I have my personal John Purdue Club seats available. My parents have seats in the Shively Stadium Club, but they miss a game or two every September when they visit their timeshare in Breckenridge, CO. We often get their seats for these games and make our own available. We sometimes get one of the Big Ten games as well, as my father’s business has four more seats in the stadium club and he generally gets all four of those for one game per year in addition to his seats.

My only advice on tickets for visiting fans is avoid the south end zone. Those seats are not as expensive as others in the stadium, but the drawback is that you cannot see much else. If you have a south end zone ticket you are confined to the south end zone and cannot walk around the rest of the stadium. If any of you saw the Ohio State game in 2007 you’ll know that some fans aren’t exactly immune to the lure of the almighty dollar when it comes to selling their tickets to opposing fans.

Parking and tailgating:

Parking is plentiful on game day, and you can park for free within easy walking distance of the stadium. All university parking garages are free on game days, and the closest to the stadium is the Northwestern Avenue garage. On this map it can be found just north of the intersection between Northwestern Avenue and Grant Street. From here is it is a short walk to the stadium, and if you cross Northwestern Avenue and go behind the buildings across the street you’ll walk right through the heart of the engineering mall. This is generally regarded as the most beautiful part of campus.

My wife and I usually park in the Northwestern garage and walk to the stadium. Your main lots for tailgating are the R lot directly north of the stadium, Slayter Hill, and the intramural playing fields on the west side of campus. The IM lots are located behind the Recreational Sports Center off of 3rd street. On the map above they are basically the huge open area bordered by 3rd street, McCormick Road, Intramural Drive, and Stadium Avenue. Parking on Slayter Hill and in the R Lot behind the stadium are usually reserved for John Purdue Club members, but parking in the IM lots is just $10. More information from last year’s guide can be found here.

I have found the best tailgating is in the R Lot directly north of the stadium. One of my dad’s business partners has been here for years and we always end up there before and after games. Purdue has a lively tailgate atmosphere like most of the Big Ten. If kickoff is later than our normal noon time expect plenty of beverages of a spirituous nature to be available. Most Purdue fans are very friendly to visiting fans (except Notre Dame), especially if said fans are friendly as well.

Getting to the stadium:

The greater Lafayette area has easy access to I-65, so it is very easy to come to the stadium. If you’re coming from the south (Indianapolis) I advise getting off at exit 168. Signs will direct you to exits 172 and 175, but those can quickly get backed up (especially with construction at exit 172 right now). From exit 168 (State road 38) simply turn right towards Lafayette. If you stay on that road the entire time it will take you all the way through downtown Lafayette, across the Wabash, and into the heart of campus.

If coming from the north I advise exiting at exit 193 (U.S. 231) or exit 178 (state road 43). U.S. 231 south will take you directly to campus (follow the signs through West Lafayette) as it is Northwestern Avenue through campus. State road 43 will avoid most traffic and will intersect with U.S. 231 under the Harrison Street bridge.

Where to stay:

Most of the hotels in the area are found at exit 172 in Lafayette. These are several miles from campus, however, and not conducive to the local scene. The Hilton Garden Inn is the closest hotel to everything, and is very close to restaurants and bars. The Holiday Inn City Centre is on the Lafayette side of the river in downtown Lafayette. It’s a nice hotel, but is a bit further from campus and you must walk across the Main Street pedestrian bridge into West Lafayette. Prices on game weekend for all Lafayette hotels can be expected to run at least $140, more if you are closer to campus.

The bar scene:

West Lafayette is home to several great bars, many of which are personal favorites. Some, like the Neon Cactus, are places where I spent so much time my senior year I am surprised I managed semester honors for both semesters. The Cactus is the best (and really only) dance club in West Lafayette. It has some really good Thursday and Friday night drink specials. It is located just north of the Wabash Landing complex, which has several restaurants, a theater, bookstore, and the Hilton Garden Inn. The new location of Pete’s is also here, but I have not been there since they moved from Chauncey Hill.

Most of your bars are located along State Street in Chauncey Hill. This area is east of Grant street and west of Salisbury. The most iconic Purdue bar is Harry’s Chocolate Shop. Established in 1919, Harry’s is the home of "Go Ugly Early" and the best Long Islands I have ever had. My wife and I recently took her best friend here when she visited us from Miami and she absolutely loved it, even on a Sunday afternoon. The place is tiny, so be prepared for a line and a wait. The crowd will be asses and elbows on game days, but the Long Islands are more than worth it.

Other bars along State Street include Brothers, Where Else?, and Jake’s. I am not a fan of Brothers, as it seems too generic, but it often has loads of opposing fans. Where Else? and Jake’s are alright, but I swear by Harry’s and the Cactus. An important part of game day to remember about the bars is breakfast club. As far as I know, this is only a Purdue tradition, but it easily could be elsewhere. Basically, several bars like Harry’s and Where Else? will open as early as 7am on game days. Students will dress up in just about anything imaginable (and for women often quite revealing) to go drink. You will see these people, often very inebriated, all over the place both before and even after kickoff. Do not be alarmed.

Chumley’s on the Lafayette side of the Wabash River is also a very nice place with dozens of beers on tap. If you’re into the generic scene there is a Buffalo Wild Wings right next to the Neon Cactus.

Along State Street there are also several restaurants. I highly recommend Lovshack, with over 35 different calzones. Any time I am in Lafayette to cover an event I stop there to get calzones and take them home. It is required for the continued health of my marriage. University Spirit and the Follet’s are also good places to pick up Purdue gear.

Other stuff to do:

Purdue’s campus is surprisingly compact for having almost 37,000 students. Walking from the Chauncey Hill area toward the stadium will allow you to see most of the campus sites, and will take less than half an hour. Be sure to see the Purdue Belltower and the Engineering Fountain along the way.

Tippecanoe Mall is also located in Lafayette along U.S. 52 just before leaving town heading toward Indianapolis. There is also plenty of shopping along state road 26 at Creasy Lane. If you stay at any of the hotels at exit 172 you’ll pass this area along state road 26 on the way to campus. Lafayette itself has most of your typical small American city type of fare, and most of it is concentrated around the mall and exit 172 off of I-65. Indianapolis is only about 50 minutes to the south, while Chicago is about 2 hours to the north. With the Colts opening Lucas Oil Stadium this season it is a great chance to see a gorgeous new venue.

Unfortunately, when it comes to hotels Lafayette is just about the only thing around for miles. There are a series of smaller hotels in Lebanon between Indianapolis and Lafayette, but that’s about it. North of Lafayette there isn’t much until you get to exit 253 in Merrillville, other than a handful of places around Rensselaer (exit 215).

Purdue Boilermakers Football Tickets

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