Memorial Stadium remembered

From the Archivist: Occasional posts related to University history

By Erin George

The University of Minnesota Archives staff wishes Head Coach Tracy Claeys and the Gopher Football Team good luck as they open their 2016 season against Oregon State on September 1 at TCF Bank Stadium!

In the early 1920s, University of Minnesota faculty, students, staff, and alumni banded together in an unprecedented effort to raise almost $2 million for two major campus building projects. The first project was Memorial Stadium, which would pay tribute to the men and women of Minnesota “who fearlessly sacrificed themselves in the great war.”

Memorial Stadium 1924-1992, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/573.
Memorial Stadium 1924-1992, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/573.

A brochure rallying the University community to the cause praised the virtues of an on-campus stadium, “Minnesota’s program of comprehensive physical education…is set towards supervised play, and exercise in rugged types of games. Upon the foundation thus built will scholastic training securely rest and normally function.”

University of Minnesota Invites Participation in a Great Program, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/399.
University of Minnesota Invites Participation in a Great Program, 1923, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/399.
Stadium Section Plan, undated, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/253.
Stadium Section Plan, undated, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/253.
Details of the Processional Entrance, Doors, and Guard Rail, 1924, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/220.
Details of the Processional Entrance, Doors, and Guard Rail, 1924, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/220.

The dedication of Memorial Stadium and inaugural game on November 15, 1924 would stand as a significant day for the University.

Page from Memorial Stadium Dedication Program, 1924, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/446.
Page from Memorial Stadium Dedication Program, 1924, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/446.

Not only did the football team come away with a stunning victory over the University of Illinois, and its legendary halfback Red Grange, but the campus began a decades-long tradition of having a bustling stadium venue that hosted battles on the gridiron in addition to commencement ceremonies, faculty research, track meets, statehood centennial events, and even an opera.

Golden Gophers in Action, 1936, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/60.
Golden Gophers in Action, 1936, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/60.
Ohio State vs Minnesota Gopher Goal Post Official Program, 1969, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/388.
Ohio State vs Minnesota Gopher Goal Post Official Program, 1969, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/388.
University of Minnesota Marching Band in block “M” formation, 1975, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/51.
University of Minnesota Marching Band in block “M” formation, 1975, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/51.
Commencement, 1947, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/342.
Commencement, 1947, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/342.
"Aida" Scrapbook, 1926, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/407.
“Aida” Scrapbook, 1926, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/407.
Cellophane Stratosphere Balloon Experiment by Dr. Jean Piccard, 1936, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/325.
Cellophane Stratosphere Balloon Experiment by Dr. Jean Piccard, 1936, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/325.

In 1982 the decision was made — still seen as controversial by some alumni and Gopher fans — to move the Gopher football team to the newly opened Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.

Save Memorial Stadium Button, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/467.
Save Memorial Stadium Button, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/467.

After the move and the efforts of various “save the stadium” campaigns stalled, Memorial Stadium became a fenced-off and increasingly desolate corner of campus. In 1992, it was demolished.

Memorial Stadium, 1987, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/172.
Memorial Stadium, 1987, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/172.
Memorial Stadium Demolition, 1992, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/174.
Memorial Stadium Demolition, 1992, available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/items/show/174.

The physical structure is gone, but Memorial Stadium lives on for many University alumni, Gopher fans, and community members. To explore the history of the stadium and its central role in the life of the University, please visit Brickhouse: Memorial Stadium, 1924-1992, an online exhibit highlighting the rich archival resources of University Archives. We hope the site continues to capture, and perhaps strengthen, the spirit of Memorial Stadium.

Brickhouse online exhibit available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu/
Brickhouse online exhibit available at http://brickhouse.lib.umn.edu.

Ski-U-Mah, my friends! Ski-U-Mah!

GoldyWithMegaphone

Erin George is the University Archives Research Services Archivist. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here