We typically keep a “Game Day Guide/Information” post at the bottom of our front page that we write up every couple of years or so. Our latest post was from 2013, and while we did update it when needed, we’ve reached the point where we just need to re-write the whole thing since many things have changed at Ross-Ade and Purdue since 2013. This is a very long post, so I don’t blame you for skimming it and reading the parts you need.
2018 update: There have been a few changes to West Lafayette over the last year, such as the closer of Jakes. We have updated it to reflect any changes that may be in effect this season. Any additions to this article will be in italics.
2019 update: Nothing too big has changed. See italics in body of article.
Without further ado, here is our update Purdue Football Game Day guide:
Ross-Ade Stadium was built in 1924 and it located northwest of Purdue’s main academic campus. In fact, you’ll notice that Ross-Ade is tilted slightly to be northwest to southeast, as the U-shaped bowl opens up in the south end, giving some seats a view of Cary Quad, the Bell Tower, and other parts of Purdue’s campus (of course, this is also where the videoboard is located, obscuring most of your view).
Since it was built, Ross-Ade has had some major renovations, most recently in the early 2000s when the new press box was built on the west-end of the stadium, spanning from endzone to endzone. This is also home to luxury suites and the Shively Club on the 3rd floor, which features the outdoor gold seat back chairs on the west end of the stadium. This year, at the request of the Big Ten conference, permanent lights were added to Ross-Ade Stadium, thus ending Travis Miller’s endless crusade. What he will complain about now is beyond me.
Within these next few years, Ross-Ade Stadium will go through another face-lift. The current plan includes closing off the south end of the stadium with club seating, a videoboard in the north end zone, and more. As of early September 2017, there is no timeline for the completion of this project, though some parts have already occurred (such as the permanent lights and removal of the south end zone bleachers). Previous Ross-Ade renovations have been promised in the past (upper decks on the east side of the stadium, a larger video board), but none of them came to fruition under the old administration.
Update: Ross-Ade Stadium now features a ribbon-board in the north end zone.
Nearly all the seats in Ross-Ade are located within the U-shaped bowl, with only a few located in the south end zone. The north end of Ross-Ade was built into a hill, so the vomitoriums for each section are located around row 43, a little more than halfway up each section. Up until 2014, there were over 6,000 seats located in the south end zone, but were torn down before the 2014 season due to age and future renovations. This is currently home to the South End Zone (SEZ) Patio, jokingly known as Morgantown. This was named after former Purdue athletic director, Morgan Burke, who was well known for directing the football program down a path. This is only accessible to season ticket holders with SEZ passes.
With the exception of the earlier mentioned club seating, all seats in Ross-Ade are bleachers. Sections 107-111, as well as parts of 106 and 112, are student section seating. Since 2013, the Purdue All-American Marching Band has been seated within the student section.
The greatest concentration of visiting fans are typically located between sections 117-120, with visiting bands seated in Section 101. You will also see visiting fans seated behind the visiting sideline (sections 101-106).
Cheapest seats are typically found at the top of the north end zone, along with sections 101 and 129, where Purdue offers family discounts. While you can typically find plenty of seats through Purdue’s website, you can also find good deals through StubHub and SeatGeek. However, all of these sites do feature fees and can add up.
In the Stadium
- Clear-bag policy: Starting in the 2017 season, Purdue will enforce a clear-bag policy for all those coming to Ross-Ade Stadium. Fans are allowed to bring one bag that is clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and does not exceed 12”x6”x12” (or one one-gallon clear plastic bag). One small clutch bag (not exceeding 4.5”x6.5”), with or without a handle or strap, are also permitted. Purses, mesh bags, fanny packs, diaper bags, drawstring bags, backpacks, and others are no longer permitted. You can find more details here.
- Concessions: These are pretty typical (hot dogs, pop, popcorn, etc.), along with some stands featuring specialty items and local favorites. Previously, souvenir cups purchased at these stands featured unlimited refills, but I haven’t purchased one of these in awhile, so I’m not sure if that’s still the case.
- Alcohol sales: Starting in 2017, beer and wine will be sold throughout Ross-Ade Stadium and Mackey Arena, with the exception of stands near and around the student section. Many Purdue fans wished we had this sooner. Most of the beer sold is generic beer (i.e., Bud, Miller, Coors), along with Boiler Gold and Boiler Black, Purdue’s signature beers created by People’s Brewing Co. Gold Rush, a hard cider by New Day Craft, will also be sold in Ross-Ade starting in 2019.
- Up until 2016, you were free to leave and re-enter Ross-Ade Stadium throughout the game (insert joke here of fans leaving and not re-entering). Purdue was one of the few schools in the Big Ten, and probably the country, to allow fans to re-enter the stadium. However, with the new alcohol sales starting in 2017, Purdue will no longer allow stadium re-entries.
- The Purdue All-American Marching Band, as mentioned earlier, is seated within the student section; they are a great band and deserve to be mentioned here. I definitely recommend staying in your seats at halftime (and coming early for pre-game) to watch them perform. Starting again in 2017, they will also perform at Slayter Hill before each game (located in the S Lot), and do a post-game show/drum major breakdown at Hovde Hall and the Engineering fountain. I highly recommend it, as they kept us sane and entertained during the Hazell years.
Parking & Tailgating
Most parking and tailgating lots around Purdue require permits that need to be purchased ahead of time. Lots open 8 hours before kickoff (no earlier than 7am, with some not opening before 8am), and RV lots open at 6pm the day before each game.
Public parking is available in the IM Gold Lot for $20, and can be accessed through 3rd Street. You can also park in the Northwestern Garage and University Garage for $20, and is good for the whole day. Other garages, like those on Wood Street and Harrison Street, are free on the weekends but farther away from the stadium. Do NOT park in the Grant Street garage (across the street from the Union), as it still charges an hourly rate on game days.
If you want to tailgate, please note that it is not allowed in the garages or along parking spots within the streets. If you do tailgate, only gas grills are allowed on the grass lots, as no charcoal or wood fires are allowed on these lots.
Getting to the Stadium/West Lafayette
Indianapolis International Airport is the closest commercial airport to Purdue, and is just over an hour away (though if you do own a private plane, Purdue does have an airport on campus). Currently, the Reindeer Shuttle and Lafayette Limo offer multiple shuttles daily between Purdue’s campus, the Lafayette area, and the Indy Airport. If you are flying into Chicago O’Hare, Reindeer Shuttle, Express Air Coach, and Lafayette Limo offer daily shuttles as well. There are no shuttle services between Chicago’s Midway Airport and the Lafayette area.
In the day and age of Waze and Google Maps, you can easily just punch in the location of where you want to park (details above) and get directions to West Lafayette. You might have to veer off-course once you get to West Lafayette due to game-day traffic restrictions, but it should be easy to follow the flow of traffic.
However, there are some things to keep in mind that might not get picked up by the GPS right away. If you are coming up on I-65 from Indy, we recommend exiting at Exit 141 and taking US-52 north to Lafayette. While this is technically a bit slower with a lower speed limit and a half-dozen traffic lights, it runs parallel to the interstate (bit more of a straight shot) and can be less frustrating. I-65 was being expanded to 3-lanes around the Lafayette area, and that project should be complete. For up to date construction information, see INDOT’s website.
If you do stay on I-65 and are coming straight to West Lafayette for game day, you can also exit at State Road 38 at Exit 168 and follow that into Lafayette.
If you’re coming from Chicagoland/The Region, you can stay on I-65 and either exit at Exit 193, and follow US-231 (then US-52) into West Lafayette. You can also exit at Exit 178 and take River Road into West Lafayette. This will give you nice views of the Wabash River as you come into town.
Digger Phelps claims there’s no road to Lafayette from South Bend, but that’s because he could never read a map. For those coming from Fort Wayne or South Bend, I suggest taking US-24 or US-31 (respectively) to State Road 25/Hoosier Heartland. SR-25 is now a 4-lane highway between Logansport and Lafayette (thanks, Mitch!). This will take you to the east side of Lafayette.
Whichever exit you take, I do recommend using GPS once you exit the highways and/or researching your game day route ahead of time. Purdue doesn’t get a lot of gameday traffic compared to the bigger schools, but it always helps to know where you are going.
There have also been some major changes to West Lafayette’s roads, namely State Street:
After construction in 2017, the entirety of State Street, along with many other streets in West Lafayette, were converted into two-way roads. State Street now has additional traffic lights and is only one-lane in each direction. This can result in extra traffic back ups as other roads are still closed, so please give yourself extra time.
All of this was part of the State Street Redevelopment Project, which concluded at the end of 2018.
And remember: the fastest way between Point A and Point B at Purdue is always under construction.
Where to Stay
There are not many hotel options in West Lafayette, as they are either nice-to-decent hotels (Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn) to OMG I might be murdered here (Campus Inn, Prestige Inn, maybe now the Four Points apparently?), and not a lot of middle ground.
The Purdue Union Club Hotel is currently closed for renovations, and will reopen in August 2020.
Your best bet is going to be the hotels in across the river in Lafayette. Of course, with the exception of Holiday Inn near downtown, most of these hotels are located on the east side of Lafayette near I-65. While there are some hotels that might offer a shuttle, plan on driving from these hotels to get to Purdue for game day. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to drive from the east side to West Lafayette.
If you can’t find any hotels in the Lafayette area, your best bet is to look for hotels south along I-65. There’s not a lot of options close north, east, or west of Purdue or Lafayette, but heading south on 65 will get you closer to the Indy Metro Area. I know some people will stay in Northwest Indiana near Chicago (like Merrillville), but do note that they are in Central Time, whereas Purdue is in the Eastern Time Zone.
Where to Eat
You have your typical chains around Purdue, both big and small, but here are some unique places that you’ll find around campus. There’s also plenty of places to eat across the river in Lafayette, but for now we’ll focus on some of the highlights in West Lafayette.
- Triple XXX: This is the iconic old-school, cash only diner just on the hill before you reach Purdue’s campus. Many famous Purdue Athletes are honored by getting a dish named after them. The top dishes are the Drew Brees breakfast platter and the Duane Purvis burger, which is the famous peanut butter burger. Both are amazing. Unfortunately, their 2nd location, Route 66, closed at the end of 2018. Route 66 featured an expanded menu and better seating options for groups.
- Nine Irish Brothers: A great Irish pub located near the intersection of State and River Road. They’ll serve you the best pint of Guinness on this side of the pond. You can never go wrong with an order of the fish & chips and a pint of the black stuff. Whatever you do, do not pass up the pub chips.
- Bruno’s: A great pizza place, also by 9 Irish. This place is loaded with Purdue memorabilia on every wall from floor to ceiling. Drew Brees even created a pizza that’s on the menu: the Drew Brees NO Cheese (Brees is lactose intolerant).
- Mad Mushroom: Another pizza place that’s more of a typical college town pizza place. Their pizza isn’t bad, but I’m including them because of their Cheesestix. They will probably give you a heart attack from all the fat and grease, but damn it is worth it. This is primarily a Purdue place, but it seems like they have a few locations now down in Kentucky?
- Discount Den/Hammer Donuts: While technically not a restaurant, the Den is still a local favorite. You can get yourself a Den Pop, a giant styrofoam cup for less than a buck and fill it up with a wide selection of pops from both Coke and Pepsi brands. Pro-tip: mix up your own drink using the guides above the fountains, or make your own. Only losers and IU fans fill up their Den Pops with only one type of pop. And starting this year, you can also get freshly made donuts at the Den through Hammer Donuts. It was started by recent Purdue grads who realized there weren’t any donut options near campus. The Den has recently closed their Chauncey Hill location, and their new store is located on Stadium Avenue near Ross-Ade and Mackey.
Where to Drink
First off, if you’ve never been to Purdue for a football game, you should know about Breakfast Club. This is when the bars will open up at 7am on game day (and the day of Grand Prix in April) and students will show up in costumes. Common ones include students dressed up as Waldo, minions, referees, and more. The bars mentioned (except The Pint, I think) below do open up for Breakfast Club.
Just like the restaurants, there are plenty of places to drink in Lafayette too that are not listed below. We’re just highlighting a few popular ones in West Lafayette:
- Harry’s Chocolate Shop: I mean...this should be the only bar on our list, right? This is the old school bar in West Lafayette that turns 100 years old in 2019. This used to be a speak-easy back in the prohibition days. It’ll be crowded here on most game days and weekends, and drinks might run a bit more than other bars in West Lafayette, but damn do they make ‘em good. Took a friend from Ann Arbor here a few months ago the night before a basketball game; he took one sip of the Baltimore Zoo (supposedly created at Harry’s) and asked how it was legal to put that much alcohol in a drink. Get yourself a Long Island, Baltimore Zoo, or any other drink you want, and don’t skip out on the free popcorn. Drink ‘em cute, and Go Ugly Early.
- The Pint: This is a good place to go if you like craft beers, especially those from Indiana. They have a rotating list of beers from Indiana, Michigan, and elsewhere. Pro-tip: you are allowed to bring in your own food to this place.
- Neon Cactus: Known for their Thursday night drink specials, dance floor, and most importantly, Bruce the Piano Man.
- Where Else?: This is where you might end up finishing your night (last call in Indiana/West Lafayette is at 3am). It moved to its current location in late 2012, as its old location was supposed to be torn down. The old location was known for always causing trouble and being the scene for a few arrests by Purdue student athletes, most notably in February 2012 when Kelsey Barlow caused a disturbance after being kicked out and DJ Byrd was arrested for assaulting a bouncer.
- There’s also Brother’s (a chain) and 308/Bobby T’s on the north side of State Street. 308 opened after I graduated, so I don’t know much about it. Brother’s is a stereotypical college bar, so nothing unique about it in my opinion.
Purdue’s main academic campus is small and compact for a school that has nearly 40,000 students. You can usually walk across it non-stop in about 10-15 minutes. Some features you may want to check out include (but aren’t limited to) the clapping circle, John Purdue’s grave, the Bell Tower, the Engineering Fountain, and the Neil Armstrong statue. All the buildings have red-brick exteriors. While some hate it, I personally like the uniformity. There are also plenty of deciduous trees on campus, adding a lot of color to campus in the early fall.
Most of the restaurants and bars mentioned above are located in the Chauncey Hill/State Street area, which is southeast of Purdue’s main campus. With Ross-Ade on the opposite end, I would recommend at least 30 minutes to walk from here to the game if you want to visit the sights within Purdue’s campus.
On south campus/Discovery Park, Purdue recently built a giant solar system model named after the late Purdue alum and NASA astronaut, Janice Voss. It has displays for all eight planets, the Kuiper and Asteroid Belts, and the sun. The orbits of the model are to scale and was created based on the Fibonacci Spiral because we can, damn it. According to its website: “For every foot you travel around the Fibonacci Spiral, you would be traveling approximately 5.4 million miles in space.”
Nearly all of the residential halls at Purdue are located west of University Avenue, starting with Cary Quad and spanning to McCutcheon Hall near Purdue West. If you are visiting someone at the Res Halls, parking can be limited as there are not a lot of open spaces (residential hall parking is enforced 24/7), especially around game day.
While we didn’t talk about it too much above, I do recommend heading over to downtown Lafayette and patronizing some of the restaurants, bars, and businesses there too. Parking can be hit or miss, but if you drive around you should find a parking spot.
And for now, that’s all we have for our game day guide. I will try to keep the comments open on this for the whole football season if there is anything our readers would like to add, or if any visitors have any questions (comments close 30 days after a post is published, so I just have to remember to come back and re-open them).