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Vanderbilt Stadium
at Dudley Field
275px
Location Natchez Trace at Jess Neely Drive, Nashville, TN
Opened October 14, 1922 (rebuilt 1981)
Owner Vanderbilt University Board of Trust
Operator Vanderbilt University
Surface Grass (1922–1969)
Astroturf (1970–1998)
Grass (1999–present)
Construction cost $1.5 million
Former names Dudley Field (1922–1981)
Tenants Vanderbilt Commodores (NCAA)
Tennessee Oilers (NFL) (1998)
Music City Bowl (NCAA) (1998)
Capacity 39,790[1]


Vanderbilt Stadium at Dudley Field is a football stadium located in Nashville, Tennessee. Completed in 1922 as the first stadium in the South to be used exclusively for college football, it is the home of the Vanderbilt Commodores of the NCAA FBS Southeastern Conference.[2] Vanderbilt Stadium hosted the Tennessee Oilers and the first Music City Bowl in 1998 and also hosted the Tennessee state high school football championships for many years.

HistoryEdit

Old Dudley FieldEdit

Vanderbilt football began in 1892, and for thirty years, Commodore football teams played on the northeast corner of campus where Wilson Hall, Kissam Quandrangle, and a portion of the Vanderbilt University Law School now stand, adjacent to today's Twenty-First Avenue South.[3]

The first facility was named for William Dudley, Dean of the Vanderbilt University Medical School from 1885 until his death in 1914. Dudley was responsible for the formation of the SIAA, the predecessor of the Southern Conference and Southeastern Conference, in 1895, and was also instrumental in the formation of the NCAA in 1906.[2]

Old Dudley was the site where legendary head coach Dan McGugin led Vanderbilt to both of its football national championships, in 1906 and 1911.[4]

In 1922, after a 0.742 winning percentage during the eighteen-year tenure of Coach McGugin, the Commodores had outgrown old Dudley Field.[4] It was time for a new stadium.

New Dudley FieldEdit

There was not enough room to expand old Dudley Field at its site near Kirkland Hall, so Vanderbilt administrators purchased land adjacent to what is today Twenty-Fifth Avenue South, on the west side of campus, for the new facility.[5] The new stadium, the first in the South built solely for football, was christened "Dudley Field," and its capacity was 20,000.

The old field was re-christened Curry Field, in honor of Irby "Rabbit" Curry, a standout football player from 1914–16, who left Vanderbilt to serve in the American Expeditionary Force to Europe in World War I. Curry had been killed while flying a combat mission over France in 1918.

The first game played at Dudley Field was between the home-standing Commodores and the powerful Michigan Wolverines. A late 4th quarter goal-line stand by the Commodores preserved a 0-0 tie.[2] The following Friday, nearby Hume-Fogg High School played a game at Dudley. Senior Jimmie Armistead returned the opening kick for a touchdown, providing the first touchdown ever recorded in the stadium. Armistead would go on to a successful career at Vanderbilt and was the captain and starting halfback for the 1927 team.

In 1949, Vanderbilt officials built a modern press box at Dudley Field, replacing a platform that had been used prior to that.[6] Additional seating was also added to the western side of stadium, boosting capacity to 27,901.[6]

On September 25, 1954, Vanderbilt hosted the No. 10-ranked Baylor Bears in the first night game ever played on the Dudley Field surface.[6] The lights had been installed so that Dudley Field, Nashville's largest outdoor venue at the time, would be able to host the Billy Graham Crusade on campus.[6]

In 1960, nearly 7,000 more seats are added to the stadium, with an expansion on the east side of the stadium near Memorial Gym. Capacity jumped to 34,000.[6]

At a price of $250,000, officials installed what was then a state-of-the-art Astroturf synthetic surface to Dudley Field in 1970.[6]

Vanderbilt StadiumEdit

Battleship grayEdit

Over the winter and spring of 1980–81, most of the Dudley Field stadium was demolished, with the remaining stands on each sideline raised ten feet through the use of 22 hydraulic jacks on each side of the stadium. However, the playing surface is still called Dudley Field.

The stadium's maximum capacity after the 1980–81 renovation was 41,448, consisting of a single-decked horseshoe grandstand filled in with wooden bleachers from the original 1960 expansion. The project cost $10.1 million, and the Commodores celebrated a sold-out dedication by taking a 23–17 comeback win over Maryland on September 12, 1981.

The new stadium and its Fred Russell Press Box (named for Vanderbilt alumnus, former football player, and sports journalist Fred Russell), recalling Vanderbilt's naval themed-mascot the Commodore, were designed to resemble a United States naval vessel slicing through the water, and the color-scheme picked for the exterior of the stadium was battleship gray.

To enhance the gameday experience, officials added a Jumbotron video screen in the north end zone, adjacent to Kensington Place, in advance of the Tennessee Oilers playing their 1998 home games in the facility. The stadium served as Nashville's main outdoor stadium until the completion of what is now LP Field in 1999, when the Oilers — now the Titans — moved to their brand-new facility.

The same year, in 1999, the playing surface was returned to grass, and Vanderbilt officials removed an aging bleacher section — from the 1960 renovation — from the north end zone, lowering capacity to 39,773, 2003. The bleachers from the north end zone were replaced them with a visitors' concourse that affords any fan in the stadium a field-level, up-close experience with the playing surface. The metal frames for the bleachers were relocated to Mt. Juliet Christian School's football facility in suburban Nashville.

After nearby Hawkins Field, Vanderbilt's baseball stadium, was constructed in a classic brick-and-iron style in 2002, Vanderbilt administrators began to look at giving Vanderbilt Stadium a similar flavor. They also began to consider the construction of a football facility in place of the present concourse and JumboTron in the north end zone.[7]

Brick-and-ironEdit

On July 24, 2007, Vanderbilt officials announced they were in the preliminary stages of a stadium renovation plan, with financing, design concept, and date of completion yet to be determined.[8]

Nine months later, on May 20, 2008, Vice Chancellor David Williams II announced, in a McGugin Center press conference, that the University was beginning a five-phased, multi-million dollar program of renovations to Vanderbilt athletics facilities, including extensive renovations and additions to Vanderbilt Stadium.[9]

Under the plan announced by Williams, Vanderbilt Stadium will be modified (in the first four phases) as follows:

Phase Date Completed Estimated Cost Renovation/Construction
I
August 2008 $ 12 million Brick-and-iron fences, new ticketing facility,
renovation of east concourse, new paint scheme
throughout interior, exterior of stadium painted
gold, "VANDERBILT" and Star-V logos
added to exterior of press box
II
Expected
August 2009
(under construction)
$ 12 million Renovation of west concourse, brick-
and-iron fences added to
west concourse, addition of
brick to exterior of Natchez Trace (west)
facade of stadium, construction of
new entry plazas at Gates 2 and 3
on Jess Neely Drive
III
Expected
August 2010
(planned)
$ 8 million Renovation of north concourse, brick-
and-iron fences added to
north concourse, completion of
bricking of exterior of entire stadium,
construction of new entry plazas at
Gates 1 and 4 on
Kensington Avenue
IV
Expected
August 2011
(planned)
$ 18 million Construction of additional seating, football
offices, locker rooms, recruiting facilities, hospitality
facilities, and indoor/outdoor luxury suites
in north end zone,
with relocation of JumboTron, addition
of high-quality synthetic playing surface on
Dudley Field
Source: Vanderbilt Athletics Facility Upgrade Central[10]

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NFL useEdit

Upon moving to Tennessee, the Oilers/Titans franchise initially played at the larger Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis while LP Field (then called Adelphia Coliseum) was under construction, with the intention of building up a statewide fan-base.

Dismal attendance during the 1997 season, due in part to the unwillingness of many Nashville fans to make the trip to Memphis, and Memphis fans unwilling to support the Nashville team after years of failing to secure their own NFL franchise, led the team to decide to play the 1998 season at the smaller Vanderbilt Stadium, even though Vanderbilt refused to allow the sale of alcohol at the NFL games.

ReferencesEdit

  1. vucommodores.cstv.com
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Vanderbilt Stadium. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved on 2007-09-08.
  3. See VUcommodores.com, "History of Vanderbilt Stadium," ¶ 7. Online at http://vucommodores.cstv.com/facilities/vand-stadium.html.
  4. 4.0 4.1 See records, online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanderbilt_Commodores_football#Year-by-year_results
  5. See VUcommodores.com, "History of Vanderbilt Stadium." Online at http://vucommodores.cstv.com/facilities/vand-stadium.html.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 See "Key Dates in the History of Vanderbilt Stadium," VUcommodores.com. Online at http://vucommodores.cstv.com/facilities/vand-renovation-history-timeline.html.
  7. See "Facilities Upgrade Central," VUcommodores.com. Online at http://vucommodores.cstv.com/facilities/vand-renovation.html.
  8. See "Facilities Upgrade Central," VUcommodores.com. Online at http://vucommodores.cstv.com/facilities/vand-renovation.html.
  9. See "Facilities Upgrade Central," VUcommodores.com. Online at http://vucommodores.cstv.com/facilities/vand-renovation.html.
  10. http://vucommodores.cstv.com/facilities/vand-renovation.html
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