A few years ago I posted an initial Gameday Guide To West Lafayette for use by visiting fans, as well as anyone who might be visiting Purdue for the first time as a prospective student. Well, it is in need of some serious updating. Purdue welcomes Nebraska to Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time as a member of the Big Ten this fall. Rutgers and Maryland aren't coming for football until at least 2018, but they will be here in basketball much sooner. Non-conference opponents may also be curious, so here it goes.
Ross-Ade Stadium, Mackey Arena, 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.
*Currently, there are often lower priced seats in the South End zone bleachers, but you cannot access the rest of the stadium from there. Morgan Burke has stated that this will likely be the last season for these seats, as a plan is being developed to remove those seats, install a new video board, and completely redo the area (hopefully like this).*
*There are still a few seats in the South End Zone, but most of the seats have been replaced with the South End Zone Patio for season ticket holders.*
Currently, tickets are not hard to find. Season tickets sales are up with the hiring of Darrell Hazell after being way down last year. Still, there are often plenty of seats available on day that Purdue does not play Notre Dame. Ohio State often brings a large crowd as well, but even that game has not sold out of late. You can pretty much count on tickets being available from the athletic ticket office across the street in Mackey Arena. Scalpers are out on game day, but not in overwhelming force. I have also seen affordable listings on ebay and Stubhub.
For now, Ross-Ade Stadium is one of very few BCS stadiums that does not have permanent lights, so that means the night games are very rare. Usually only the Notre Dame game is played exclusively at night when ESPN pays for temporary lights. Occasionally there is a 3:30pm kickoff, but most games are noon kickoffs.
Mackey Arena is a little more difficult, as most Big Ten games sell out. The completion of the $100 million renovation kept the capacity at roughly 14,000 but added two new club areas and some very nice club seating in the lower bowl. If you're coming for a game against someone like Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Wisconsin, or Michigan get tickets early.
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.
One very unique aspect of Ross-Ade: you can get a "pass out" slip at the gate to leave the stadium. Thus, you can duck out at the half and have a frosty beverage if you park close enough. Return the pass w/ your ticket stub to reenter the stadium.
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.
Triple XXX - Easily the iconic Purdue restaurant and old school drive-in. they have sandwiches named after Purdue all-time greats like Drew Brees, Duane Purvis, and their newest is named after 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist David Boudia. I highly recommend the Purvis.
Von's Dough Shack - This is another personal favorite, as they boast 41 different types of calzones. It is within easy stumbling distance of the bars.
Bruno's - This place has my dream room for Purdue sports memorabilia. I promise I am not a suspect if any of it ever goes missing.
Harry's Chocolate Shop - This is simply the greatest bar on earth and there is no argument. I have signed the wall (like so many others). If you find it I'll buy you a drink! (hint, it is near a table back by the bathroom).
Neon Cactus - If you want to get your dance on this is the place to go, especially for great Thursday and Friday bar specials.
Jake's Roadhouse - In a perpetual war with Harry's, but they have free food late at night on Fridays and Saturdays.
Where Else? - DO NOT GO TO WHERE ELSE! This is where Purdue athletes seem to get arrested in alarming numbers.
People's Brewing Company - People's is kind of the unofficial brewery of the blog. Located on the Lafayette side of the river, they were kind enough to give the staff a personal tour two years ago and they make excellent, local, fresh beer.
Lafayette Brewing Company - This is another local Brewery that also has a nice restaurant with it (People's is beer only), so it is more family friendly.
Breakfast Club - While not a particular bar, Breakfast Club is a popular tradition at Purdue where students get up early and go to the bars before games, sometimes as early as 7 a.m. It is common, in fact encouraged, to go in costume as well. This will explain why it looks like Halloween for most students before games.
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.
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).