Memorial Stadium (Champaign)

Memorial Stadium is a football stadium in Champaign, Illinois, in the United States, on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. The stadium is a memorial to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign students who died in World War I; their names are engraved on the nearly 200 pillars surrounding the stadium's façade.[6] With a capacity of 60,670, the stadium is primarily used as the home of the University's football team.

Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Illinois)
Zuppke Field
Memorial Stadium ReDedication
Memorial Stadium on September 6, 2008
Memorial Stadium is located in Illinois
Memorial Stadium
Memorial Stadium
Location in Illinois
Memorial Stadium is located in the United States
Memorial Stadium
Memorial Stadium
Location in the United States
Location1402 South 1st Street
Champaign, Illinois 61820
Coordinates40°5′57″N 88°14′9″W / 40.09917°N 88.23583°WCoordinates: 40°5′57″N 88°14′9″W / 40.09917°N 88.23583°W
OwnerUniversity of Illinois
OperatorUniversity of Illinois
Capacity55,524 (1923–1929)
71,119 (1930–1963)
71,227 (1964–1982)
70,906 (1983)
70,563 (1984–1986)
70,153 (1987)
69,200 (1988–1990)
70,053 (1991)
70,904 (1992–2001)
69,249 (2002–2006)
57,078 (2007)
62,870 (2008–2010)
60,670 (2011–present)[1]
SurfaceGrass (1923–1974)
AstroTurf (1975[2]–2000)
AstroPlay (2001–2007)
FieldTurf (2008–present)
Construction
Broke groundSeptember 11, 1922[3]
OpenedNovember 3, 1923
Renovated1985, 2008, 2013
Expanded1930
Construction cost$1,700,000
($25 million in 2018 dollars[4])
ArchitectHolabird & Roche

HNTB (renovation)
General contractorEnglish Brothers[5]
Tenants
Illinois Fighting Illini (NCAA) (1923–present)
Chicago Bears (NFL) (2002)

Construction

In the early 1920s, the old football stadium, Illinois Field, was deemed inadequate. There was some sentiment for retaining the site, but it was too congested to expand the stadium adequately, so a new site was selected, in a largely undeveloped area at the south end of the campus.[7] George Huff and Robert Zuppke were responsible for pushing most of the fundraising for this project.[8]

Memorial Stadium Urbana Model 1921
Original plan for Memorial Stadium circa 1921. Caption from Popular Mechanics magazine, 1921

Memorial Stadium was completed in 1923 at a cost of US$1.7 million. Its original U-shaped design borrows some form from the earlier constructed Harvard Stadium. The project's general contractor was English Brothers of Champaign, who are in business to this day. The name was chosen in honor of the dead from World War I. The original construction was financed with donations from University students, alumni, and others. At the time, the stadium consisted of double-decked stands on the east and west sidelines. The single-decked horseshoe around the south end zone was later completed, along with a large student section near the north end zone.

Heavy rain during the construction resulted in a bulldozer sinking into the field. It was decided the expense of removing the bulldozer would have been greater than leaving it buried under the field, and it remains there today.[9]

The bell of the USS Illinois (BB-65), an Iowa-class battleship that was never completed, is on loan to the university and is in use. It is traditionally rung when the Fighting Illini score a touchdown or goal during home games.

General history

The first game played in the partially completed stadium was the Chicago-Illinois game on November 3, 1923, where Illinois won, 7–0.

Dedication

The stadium is dedicated to the men of the University of Illinois that gave their lives serving in World War I. In 2002, the stadium dedication was extended to those who died in World War II. There are a total of 200 columns on the east and west sides of the stadium. 183 columns display one name of a University of Illinois alum that lost their lives in the first war (182 men and 1 woman).

The stadium was officially dedicated on October 18, 1924, on which the University football team played a homecoming game against the University of Michigan. On way to a 39–14 Illini victory,[10] Red Grange scored five touchdowns in one of the greatest single-game performances in football history.

Tributes

Iowa Illinois 005
Memorial Stadium during Illinois' game against Iowa in 2008.
  • The football playing surface within the stadium is named Zuppke Field, in honor of Robert Zuppke, the University of Illinois head football coach from 1913 to 1941.
  • The north end of Zuppke Field hosts The Grange Rock, a tribute to Red Grange. The tribute was dedicated on October 22, 1994, with Mrs. Margaret Grange, Red Grange's wife, in attendance. The rock came from the same Indiana quarry that produced the stadium's columns.
  • In 2009, a 12-foot statue of Red Grange was dedicated as the capstone of the stadium's "Illinois Renaissance" renovations.
  • The Ray Eliot Varsity Room is named for Ray Eliot, the University of Illinois head football coach from 1942 to 1959.

Capacity

The seating capacity of the stadium's permanent seating, including the north end zone bleachers, is 60,670.[1] This number was reduced from 62,870 when it was announced on 12 April 2011 that 2,200 south end zone bleacher seats added in 1982 would be removed. The 62,870 number had been reduced from 69,249 as part of the Illinois Renaissance program which was completed in 2008. The east main holds approximately 18,000 with the east balcony adding 10,000. The west main holds less than 13,000 on the first level plus 5,000 in the balcony. The south end zone "horseshoe" holds nearly 9,800 (12,000 before the removal of the aforementioned 2,200 seats), while the north bleachers add 5,000 more seats.

Memorial Stadium New Scoreboard 2013
New scoreboard above the South Horseshoe in 2013

The stadium's highest single event attendance was 78,297, for a football game against the University of Missouri in 1984.

Past renovations

  • A press box was built at the top of the west balcony in 1967.
  • As part of the 1974 Golden Anniversary campaign, artificial turf was installed on the field, along with a new lighting system.
  • A $7 million renovation began in April 1985. New AstroTurf was installed, along with new football headquarters in the northeast corner of the stadium.
  • From November 1991 to August 1992, an $18 million renovation project replaced all concrete bleachers in both the east and west upper decks, along with the top 25 rows of the main stands. New restrooms were built, and the stadium's electrical and drainage systems were upgraded to meet new building codes.
  • A color scoreboard was added to the north end of the stadium for the 1994 season.
  • The stadium's AstroTurf was replaced with AstroPlay in 2001.

2008 "Illinois Renaissance" renovation

Memorial-stadium-renovation
Memorial Stadium under the renovation (2007)

A massive renovation project was unveiled for Memorial Stadium in the fall of 2005.[11] The "Illinois Renaissance" project began after the completion of the 2006 football season, and was completed just days before the 2008 season began. The concourse areas on all four sides of the stadium were improved with better concession and restroom facilities. Additionally, the concourse areas were connected all the way around the stadium for easier passage between the east and west stands. A permanent, 5,000-seat structure was built on the north end of the stadium, and the existing scoreboard and video replay screen was moved to the south end zone. The south horseshoe was planned to be filled in down to field level, and would have completely connected the east and west stands. The horseshoe improvements, which were not implemented, would have increased seating to 14,000 seats behind the south end zone. The capacity of the west stands will be significantly reduced in order to build a large press box and luxury suite area at the top of the balcony. The new boxes will be three levels tall and will extend the entire length of the field. The new capacity of the stadium after the renovation will be 62,143. This $100 million project will be largely paid for by sales of the stadium’s new suites and luxury seating in the west stands. The field also got a new FieldTurf playing surface.

Controversy has arisen over the decision to move the bulk of the student section to the north side of the stadium.[12] Some student overflow seating is set aside on the north end of the east stands. The location may hamper the view of the student section when the ball is at the south end of the field. Critics of the plan suggest this is a move to sell the seats currently occupied by the student section at a higher price to the general public. The planners assert that they are trying to make the field noise louder and cater to the student's needs by giving them separate concessions and amenities.

The renovated stadium was rededicated at the 2008 season home opener against Eastern Illinois University on September 6, 2008.

2013 renovation

Memorial Stadium 2013
View of the new lettering and one of two new ribbon video boards at Memorial Stadium

For the start of the 2013 Fighting Illini season, the athletic department replaced the main scoreboard with a new Daktronics video board that measures 36 by 96 feet (11 by 29 m). Additionally, the stadium's sound system was updated and two 420-foot-long (130 m) ribbon video boards were installed along the façade between the upper and lower decks of the stadium's sideline seating.[13]

To recognize the Illinois Fighting Illini football's historical accomplishments, the athletic department also installed new lettering along the outside of the luxury suites and press box. The lettering lists National Championships, Big Ten Championships, Retired Numbers, and also reads Welcome to Memorial Stadium Home of the Fighting Illini.[14]

Other uses

  • Memorial Stadium was the site of the 1977 and 1979 NCAA Men's Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships
  • From December 1985 until the Spring of 2000, an inflatable practice dome known as "The Bubble" was inflated over the field, to allow for indoor practice during the winter months. "The Bubble" was replaced by the Irwin Indoor Football Practice Facility in 2001 which is just northeast of the stadium.[6]
  • "The Bubble" was also used by the Chicago Bears in 1985 while practicing for Super Bowl XX.[7]
  • On September 22, 1985, it hosted the first ever Farm Aid concert.
  • It is the site of the field show of the annual Illini Marching Band Festival, hosted by the Marching Illini and usually the largest high school marching band competition in Illinois.[15]
  • Since 1999, it has hosted the IHSA football state finals.
  • In 2002, the stadium also hosted the NFL's Chicago Bears while Soldier Field was being renovated. The Bears' founder and former Illini Football player George Halas had his team's colors mimic his Alma Mater's school colors.[16]
  • Since the marathon's creation in 2009, Memorial Stadium has served as the finish line for the Illinois Marathon, which is held the fourth weekend each April.

Gallery

Memorial Stadium Champaign Panorama
A panorama facing east from the Colonnades Club at Memorial Stadium
Memstad2132

East facing view of Memorial Stadium at night.

Red Grange Statue

Statue of Red Grange outside Memorial Stadium

Memorial Stadium Champaign West Exterior 2013

East Exterior

Memorial Stadium Champaign Jumbotron 2013

Jumbotron

Memorial Stadium Champaign Dedication

Dedication plaque outside Memorial Stadium

Memorial Stadium Champaign East Exterior 2013

West Exterior

Memorial Stadium Champaign Premium Suites 2013

Premium Suites

Memorial Stadium Champaign East Stands 2013

West Stands

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Illinois Taking Out 2,200 Seats". ESPN. April 12, 2011. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
  2. ^ I was a member of The Marching Illini in these years, we marched on grass in 1974. AstroTurf was installed for the 1975 season
  3. ^ "Start Work on Stadium". Christian Science Monitor. September 12, 1922. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  4. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  5. ^ Memorial Stadium Dedication Plaque
  6. ^ a b "2012 Illinois Football Game Day Staff Handbook" (PDF). University of Illinois Department of Athletics. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  7. ^ a b "General History". University of Illinois Department of Athletics. Archived from the original on July 3, 2008. Retrieved September 28, 2007.
  8. ^ "Memorial Stadium: Buildings: UIHistories". uihistories.library.illinois.edu. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  9. ^ "Campus Tours: Memorial Stadium". University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  10. ^ Howell, James. "Illinois Historical Scores". College Football History Database. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  11. ^ "Illinois Renaissance". University of Illinois Department of Athletics. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved September 30, 2007.
  12. ^ "Editorial: Memorial Stadium Student Section Moves". Daily Illini. University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. December 7, 2006. Archived from the original on December 31, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2007.
  13. ^ "Memorial Stadium to Get New Daktronics Video Display for 2013". University of Illinois Department of Athletics. January 30, 2013. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  14. ^ Birkhead, Brandon (August 24, 2013). "New Addition to Memorial Stadium". SB Nation. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  15. ^ "Illini Marching Band Championships". Illinois Bands. Archived from the original on January 1, 2014. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  16. ^ "University of Illinois-Chicago Bears Form Partnership". University of Illinois Department of Athletics. October 22, 2001. Retrieved December 31, 2013.

External links

Preceded by
Soldier Field
Home of the Chicago Bears
2002–2003
Succeeded by
Soldier Field
1928 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1928 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois during the 1928 college football season. In their 16th season under head coach Robert Zuppke, the Illini compiled a 7–1 record and finished in first place in the Big Ten Conference. Tackle Albert J. Nowack was the team captain.

1949 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1949 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois during the 1949 Big Nine Conference football season. In their eighth year under head coach Ray Eliot, the Illini compiled a 3–4–2 record and finished in fifth place in the Big Ten Conference. Halfback Johnny Karras was selected as the team's most valuable player.

1953 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1953 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois during the 1953 Big Ten Conference football season. In their 12th year under head coach Ray Eliot, the Illini compiled a 7–1–1 record, finished in a tie for first place in the Big Ten Conference, and were ranked #7 in the final AP Poll. The sole defeat was a 34–7 loss to Wisconsin.Tackle Don Ernst was selected as the team's most valuable player. Sophomore halfback J. C. Caroline led the team with 1,256 rushing yards on 194 attempts (6.5 yards per carry) and was selected as a consensus first-team player on the 1953 College Football All-America Team. Guard John Bauer was selected by the Newspaper Enterprise Association as a third-team All-American.

1954 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1954 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois during the 1954 Big Ten Conference football season. In their 13th year under head coach Ray Eliot, the Illini compiled a 1–8 record and finished in last place in the Big Ten Conference. Center Jack Chamblin was selected as the team's most valuable player.

1977 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1977 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois during the 1977 Big Ten Conference football season. In their first year under head coach Gary Moeller, the Illini compiled a 3–8 record and finished in ninth place in the Big Ten Conference.The team's offensive leaders were quarterback Mike McCray with 418 passing yards, running back James Coleman with 715 rushing yards, and wide receiver Tom Schooley with 231 receiving yards. Coleman and linebacker John Sullivan were selected as the team's most valuable players.

1984 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1984 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign during the 1984 Big Ten Conference football season. In their fifth year under head coach Mike White, the Illini compiled a 6–3 record and finished in a tie for second place in the Big Ten Conference.The team's offensive leaders were quarterback Jack Trudeau with 2,724 passing yards, running back Thomas Rooks with 1,056 rushing yards, and wide receiver David Williams with 1,278 receiving yards.

1985 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1985 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign during the 1985 Big Ten Conference football season. In their sixth year under head coach Mike White, the Illini compiled a 6–5–1 record and finished in third place in the Big Ten Conference.The team's offensive leaders were quarterback Jack Trudeau with 2,938 passing yards, running back Thomas Rooks with 718 rushing yards, and wide receiver David Williams with 1,047 receiving yards.

1986 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1986 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign during the 1986 NCAA Division I-A football season. In their seventh year under head coach Mike White, the Illini compiled a 4–7 record and finished in a tie for sixth place in the Big Ten Conference.The team's offensive leaders were quarterback Shane Lamb with 1,414 passing yards, running back Keith Jones with 534 rushing yards, and Stephen Pierce with 602 receiving yards.

1987 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1987 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois during the 1987 NCAA Division I-A football season. In their eighth year under head coach Mike White, the Illini compiled a 3–7–1 record and finished in eighth place in the Big Ten Conference.The team's offensive leaders were quarterback Scott Mohr with 1,436 passing yards, running back Keith Jones with 322 rushing yards, and Darryl Usher with 723 receiving yards.

1988 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1988 Illinois Fighting Illini football team was an American football team that represented the University of Illinois during the 1988 NCAA Division I-A football season. In their first year under head coach John Mackovic, the Illini compiled a 6–5–1 record, finished in third place in the Big Ten Conference, and lost to Florida in the 1988 All-American Bowl.The team's offensive leaders were quarterback Jeff George with 2,257 passing yards, running back Keith Jones with 1,108 rushing yards, and Steve Williams with 523 receiving yards.

1991 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1991 Illinois Fighting Illini football team represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the 1991 NCAA Division I-A football season. The Illinois offense scored 264 points while the defense allowed 188 points. At season's end, the club competed in the John Hancock Bowl.

1994 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1994 Illinois Fighting Illini football team represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign during the 1994 NCAA Division I-A football season.

1995 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1995 Illinois Fighting Illini football team represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the 1995 NCAA Division I-A football season.

1998 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 1998 Illinois Fighting Illini football team represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign during the 1998 NCAA Division I-A football season. They participated as members of the Big Ten Conference. Their home games were played at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. The team's head coach was Ron Turner, who was in his second season with the Illini. Illinois had a record of 3–8 and failed to make a bowl game.

2003 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 2003 Illinois Fighting Illini football team represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the 2003 NCAA Division I-A football season. They participated as members of the Big Ten Conference. Their home games were played at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. The team's head coach was Ron Turner, who was in his seventh season with the Illini. Illinois had a record of 1–11.

2004 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 2004 Illinois Fighting Illini football team represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the 2004 NCAA Division I-A football season. They participated as members of the Big Ten Conference. Their home games were played at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. The team's head coach was Ron Turner, who was in his eighth season with the Illini and was fired at the conclusion of the season. Illinois had a record of 3–8.

2006 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 2006 Illinois Fighting Illini football team represented the University of Illinois in the 2006 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The team's head coach was Ron Zook, who was in his second season with the Illini. Illinois had a record of 2–10, as they did the year before. However, unlike 2005, they suffered few blowout losses, and played competitively with the Big Ten powerhouses, including #1 ranked Ohio State to whom Illinois lost 17–10 on November 4.

2011 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 2011 Illinois Fighting Illini football team represented the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the 2011 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The Fighting Illini, who were led during the regular season by seventh-year head coach Ron Zook, are members of the Big Ten Conference in the Legends Division and played their home games at Memorial Stadium. Zook was fired after the team lost the final six games of its regular season. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning was appointed as interim head coach led the team in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. On December 9, Illinois hired Tim Beckman as their new permanent head coach.

The Illini set a record that season, becoming the first NCAA FBS team to start their season off 6–0, but finish 6–6. All of their six losses came against Big Ten Conference opponents.

Before the team's appearance in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, nearly all of their assistant coaches were fired, as well as head coach Ron Zook.

The 2011 season ended with a 7–6 overall record, 2–6 in Big Ten play to finish 5th in Leaders Division, with a victory over UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

2019 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

The 2019 Illinois Fighting Illini football team will represent the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the 2019 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The Fighting Illini will play their home games at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois, and will compete in the West Division of the Big Ten Conference. They will be led by fourth-year head coach Lovie Smith.

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