And we’re still enjoying discovering all these great stadiums with their stories. Latest: miscalculated capacity in West Virginia, two-stadium campus in Kansas and the legendary West Point Military Academy.
Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas (53,000)
Kansas State University is one of those few colleges to have two football stadiums on campus. First one is the southern Memorial Stadium, dating back to 1922. In 1968 the new stadium (north) was built to replace it, but actually both still operate today.
The newer stadium is also much greater. Already upon opening the U-shaped stands had 35,000 capacity on a single tier. Over the years capacity was going up, but mostly temporarily. In 1970 an eastern upper deck for 4,000 people was added, later demolished. In 1998 the entire east stand received a much greater upper tier, becoming the largest in terms of capacity. Another change in capacity came in 2006, when a modest north side was added, holding some 1,900 people.
While the stands stopped growing at that point, Kansas State University invested a fortune in upgrading the stadium for the new millennium. In 2013 the western grandstand received a large new main building covered in limestone. It holds enhanced corporate facilities, topping the actual stand with several floors of press and business seats. Then in 2015 the Vanier Football Complex was built in the north, improving sporting and administrative facilities.
Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, West Virginia (38,227)
Plans of leaving the dated Fairfield Stadium surfaced in 1980s, largely due to unpopular location off the Marshall University campus. The university secured funding for the new venue in 1989, issuing $70m worth of bonds ($30m for the stadium alone).
With planning clear for three blocks of land (occupied by parking sites, the stadium and training fields, looking from the west respectively) and funding secured the academia selected general contractors in June of 1990 and began works in July. Within just over a year the structure was ready.
The modern stadium with two large stands in the west and east was expected to hold 30,000 people, but the architects admitted late into the project that it would not. Due to miscalculation of seats in the central area of western grandstand the actual capacity was 28,000.
The initial layout was thus 2,000 seats short of the university’s goal, prompting first expansion already in 1994. The missing number of bleachers was added, but Marshall didn’t stop there. In 2000 the south end reached the height of two existing sides, giving the building a 38,000+ capacity. Further expansions are somewhat limited because the north end is enclosed by administrative and sporting facilities of the university’s football section.
Interestingly, the stadium is one of very few named after a woman. Joan C. Edwards was a philanthropist and together with her husband donated $65 million to the university in total. James, the husband, has the field named after him.
Michie Stadium, West Point, New York (38,000)
Main stadium of the prestigious United States Military Academy was set up in a wonderfully picturesque area beside the Lusk Reservoir in West Point. While it wasn’t entirely common in 1920s, this arena was built in 1924 with only football in mind, no running track.
Initial stands were C-shaped, partly based on naturally sloped land in the west and north. East side, one along Lusk waters, was left empty, giving spectators a pleasant view of the area. Those early stands are part of the current stadium even today, representing roughly 30 lowermost rows.
Over the years several expansions were carried out, though it wasn’t until 1962 that the east side was permanently enclosed by a large grandstand. In 1969 the western upper deck was added, while in 2003 the latest addition came, southern pavilion overlooking the field.
From opening game to this day Army Black Knights remain the only regular tenant. The team was started thanks to determination of Dennis Michie, graduate of 1892. He created the team in 1890 and for this is honoured in the stadium’s name. Its field has a separate name though, this one honouring Earl Blaik, famous coach who led the team for 17 years and won three national titles with Black Knights.