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Memorial Stadium

Vital Statistics






Parsons Construction Co.



Also Known As:

Soldiers Memorial Stadium

Few buildings have undergone more additions and changes than Memorial Stadium, arguably the most recognizable structure at the University of Nebraska. Constructed on the site of the earlier Nebraska Field, Memorial Stadium was built after a now legendary fund raising effort conducted by the Nebraska Alumni Association.

When Roscoe Pound returned to Lincoln from attending law school at Harvard, he encouraged students at the University of Nebraska to embrace the exciting new sport of football. Pound witnessed the Harvard and Yale game in 1889 and was fascinated with the game, and with the enthusiasm it generated. Chancellor Canfield also encouraged the sport, seeing it as a means of building public good will for the University. Within a few years, football fever had seized the citizens of the state. An organized team was in place as early as 1890, and was formalized with a volunteer coach within a year.

Earliest organized football games held on the University campus were played on the first field which ran parallel to 10th street within the original campus boundaries. When D B Brace planned his new Physics Laboratory in 1904, the footprint of the building plan was altered so as not to interfere with the playing field. Once the building was constructed, it became apparent that it cramped the field and limited space for the growing number of fans. Consequently, the new Mechanical Engineering Laboratories (Richards Hall) was built on the north end of the old field a few years later, and another, larger, parcel of land was purchased to the north of T street in 1908. This would become the site of Nebraska Field, and later, Memorial Stadium.

Unlike Memorial Stadium, Nebraska Field was oriented from east to west. A covered grandstand was located on the north side of the field along U street, uncovered bleachers backed up to T street on the south. This field served the football team until 1923, when Memorial Stadium was quickly constructed on the same site, which had expanded to the north. Many now famous games were played on the old field, including the 1922 defeat of Notre Dame, against Knute Rockne's Four Horsemen, although the name wasn't applied to them until the 1924 season. Notre Dame's George "the Gipper" Gipp competed againt the Cornhuskers, and was victorious, in 1920. The great Guy Chamberlain, collegiate All American and Pro Football Hall of Famer from Blue Springs, Nebraska, played exclusively on the old Nebraska Field.

Talk of improved athletic facilities had started before the first World War. By 1922 the demand for tickets to football games was so great that the Alumni Association embarked on a massive fundraising campaign to build a new stadium. During the post WWI era, many universities were building memorials to fallen soldiers, including many stadiums. Kansas had completed a new stadium just a year before. Cal's new stadium was said to be worth a million dollars, with a seating capacity of 72,000. Nebraska students and alumni wanted to build a memorial of their own.

By spring, 1923, the Nebraska Memorial Association, an incorporated building committee of the Nebraska Alumni Association, had enough pledges and cash on hand to commence with the building of the stadium. George Holmes, President of First National Bank, took a risk and backed the Alumni Association with a loan secured only with student and citizen pledges, and future gate receipts. Ground breaking ceremonies took place in the rain on April 26, 1923, with Chancellor Avery plowing the earth with a team of horses. In June the cornerstone laying ceremony was held during Round Up, the annual alumni event. By October, the stadium was ready for its first game, played against Oklahoma, which Nebraska won, 24-0. The following week on Oct. 20, the Stadium was dedicated during Homecoming festivities, and Nebraska and Kansas tied, 0-0. CR Richard, former Dean of Engineering and President of Lehigh University, gave the Dedication address.

The Alumni Association selected two architecture firms to desgin the stadium. John Latenser Jr, whose father had designed the Temple building twenty years earlier, represented John Latenser and Sons of Omaha and Ellery Davis, a partner in Davis & Wilson. Both Davis and Latenser donated their services, saving approximately $25,000 on costs. Both architects, along with Earl Hawkins of Parsons Construction Co., who also served as construction supervisor, were honored at a large banquet following the first season.

Originally the Alumni Association intended to build a larger and more elaborate structure which would serve not only as a stadium, but also a gymnasium, war museum, and gathering place for veterans, all at a cost of one million dollars. By 1922 it became clear that this was an unrealistic goal, given that the legislature had voted to cut the $250,000 appropriation made ealier in the session. A new and more realistic goal of $450,000 was set, and all of it was to be raised through donations.

Inscribed on the four corners of the stadium are the following words, written by former UNL professor of philosophy Hartley Burr Alexander:

Southeast: "In Commemoration of the men of Nebraska who served and fell in the Nations Wars."
Southwest: "Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory."
Northwest: "Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor; In these are the true awards of manly sport."
Northeast: "Their Lives they held their countrys trust; They kept its faith; They died its heroes."

The stadium site consisted of only the east and west stands for over twenty years. In the 1940's the Field House was completed, and in the 1960s a series of expansions began that increased the Stadium's capacity to over 70,000. In 2006 the most recent expansion, including the Osborne Athletic Complex, was completed, increasing the Stadium capacity to over 81,000.

Source Information:
Give til it hurts: financing memorial stadium, Nebraska History, Winter 1998. University Journal, 1922, 1923.