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A Place to Call Home

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The Hoosier sports tradition is one of the proudest in the collegiate ranks, and what happens on the field has created memories, joy and sadness for the Indiana faithful over more than a century of action. What happens on the field of play has been great, but the surroundings in which those games are played are as much a part of the experience. Every other week through the 2009-10 school year, we will present a history of the athletic facilities at IU. In the ninth of our 12-part series, we take a look at the history of Memorial Stadium.
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When current Indiana Director of Athletics Fred Glass took over his position in January 2009, he had a singular focus.
Together with the IU marketing department, Glass set out to use all the tools at his disposal to help increase attendance at Indiana football games. Beyond just the usual commercials and advertising, Glass made it a point to revamp Memorial Stadium by adding Knothole Park, a family-friendly area beyond the south end zone, and he worked hard to improve the game-day experience for all Hoosier fans. He continues to do all he can to market the experience of Memorial Stadium to help increase the fan base, which, in turn, will increase the revenues generated by the football program and lead to more operating revenue for the entire athletic department.
Glass is working on improvements around Memorial Stadium for that purpose, but once upon a time, Memorial Stadium WAS the improvement, the centerpiece of what the Hoosier administration hoped would catapult IU athletics into the elite in the Big Ten. The idea was that with more convenient parking and better sightlines, Indiana fans would be better served and would bother themselves to come support the football program.
Despite the good intentions, the move ultimately was a financial one. Indiana needed to increase its revenue to help increase the fanbase, which, in turn, would increase the revenues generated by the football program and lead to more operating revenue for the entire athletic department.
As we have said before, nothing new ever happens.
To find the roots of the stadium known over the years as Seventeenth Street Stadium, Memorial Stadium, "The House" and "The Rock," we have to head back to the middle of the 20th century, when IU suffered through problems that will seem very familiar to Hoosier fans today.
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Some universities have built their reputations around their football programs. Michigan, Ohio State, USC, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a host of others have reaped the benefits of the monster television contracts and playing in front of 100,000-plus fans every Saturday. Football is the engine that drives revenue in college sports. That has always been the case, and it always will be. The arms race among college football programs is never-ending, and it has led to innovations in stadium building over the years.
Despite the fact Indiana doesn't boast the football tradition of some of the powerhouses of the college game, IU has done its best over the years to keep pace in terms of facilities. Although basketball is king at Indiana, football continues to be the biggest moneymaker for the athletic department. After all, even a small crowd of 25,000 at Memorial Stadium for a football game features nearly 8,000 more fans than a sellout crowd at nearby Assembly Hall.
When the football program started in the early 1900s, attendance wasn't all that important. The Hoosiers played on Jordan Field - the site of the current parking lot outside Indiana Memorial Union - and simple wooden bleachers were constructed to hold a handful of fans. As the years progressed and administrators saw the impact football could have on revenues, bigger stadiums were built. Indiana joined the fray in 1925 with the opening of the original Memorial Stadium, which was considered a palace at the time.
The stadium held 22,000 fans, and it was expected that IU would enjoy an advantage at the box office for years to come. And it did, at least for a little while. Then, as other programs around the country built new facilities and the Hoosiers struggled on the field, it became clear that the original Memorial Stadium was becoming obsolete. Add in an almost complete lack of parking, which made it more difficult for fans to get to the games, and an ever-expanding campus that was crowding closer and closer to the stadium, and it was obvious Indiana needed to make a change.
When Paul J. "Pooch" Harrell took over as Director of Athletics from football coach Alvin "Bo" McMillin in 1948, he decided IU needed to make some changes to stay competitive in the Big Ten. Harrell's plan was to move Hoosier athletics from the middle of campus on 10th Street to what he called a new "athletic plant" about a half-mile north of the campus off 17th Street at the sight of what was then a farm. Harrell envisioned a new fieldhouse and a new basketball arena on the 160-acre plot, and the centerpiece of the new facilities would be a state-of-the-art football stadium that could be the pride of IU athletics for years to come.
Harrell dreamed of a football stadium that would become the model for the Midwest, a 50,000-seat behemoth that would rival only the facilities at Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois. The new football stadium would feature a new track for IU's track and field team, and the field would boast modern drainage systems which would allow Indiana better access to the field following inclement weather. With that thought in mind, Indiana contacted the architecture firm of Eggers and Higgins from New York - IU's preferred architects at the time - to come up with some plans for new facilities.
One of the bolder suggestions when it came to the football stadium was the idea of a combination stadium-fieldhouse, which we detailed in Issue 17. That plan never got through the talking stages, and it took years for construction at the athletic plant to get moving. Land had to be purchased, plans had to be drawn up and bids had to be offered and received.
Meanwhile, Indiana football struggled at the original Memorial Stadium beyond just the team's lackluster record.
(Fact - From Bo McMillin's final year as head coach of the Hoosiers in 1947 until Phil Dickens' first year as active head coach in 1958, Indiana never won more than three games in a season and totaled 22 victories. The Hoosiers went through three head coaches - Clyde Smith, Bernie Crimmins and Bob Hicks - in that span and suffered through two one-win seasons along the way. And you think IU's struggling now.)
Indiana was feeling the sting of playing in the now-outdated Memorial Stadium. Although some additional seating had been added by the mid-1950s, IU still couldn't match its opponents when it came to filling the stadium. Eventually, it became more lucrative for the Hoosiers to play on the road than to play home games and by 1956, Indiana had scheduled only three of its nine games in Bloomington, the minimum number allowed by the Big Ten.
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That situation didn't exactly excite IU fans, who wanted desperately to have the opportunity to watch their team in person more often. Athletic chairman Professor John Mee was forced to defend the administration's decisions by making an appearance in the October, 1956, edition of the Indiana University Alumni Magazine. In the article, Mee explained the financial aspect of scheduling football games, and the impact it had on other sports.
"Except for a small return over expenses from basketball," Mee told the magazine, "Indiana's participation in all other sports must be financed from ticket sales and television and radio rights, as much as no state funds can be used for athletics at a state university."
He explained that IU home games actually cost the university revenue.
"IU in its present stadium with a capacity crowd can only realize approximately $40,000 from a home game," Mee said. "Last year the University received $103,000 as its share of receipts of the game with Notre Dame at South Bend, and Indiana at Ohio State can be expected each year to bring a return of $75,000 or $80,000."
Mee added that Indiana could also realize "high returns" from games at Michigan, Minnesota and other schools with larger stadiums and bigger crowds. Mee also mentioned the importance of building a new football stadium in the near future to allow more fans to watch their Hoosiers in Bloomington.
(Fun fact - John F. Mee enjoyed an illustrious career at Indiana, eventually becoming the chairman of the department of management at the Indiana School of Business. Mee came to IU in 1939 and remained active until retiring in 1979, only taking time off to do little things like serving as a colonel in the Air Force during World War II. He also was named staff director of the "Little Cabinet" by President Harry S. Truman, a post that was created to catalogue men and women specially qualified for high Government positions. Mee died in 1985.)
On the bright side, Indiana wasn't standing pat. In February, 1956, new Director of Athletics, Frank Allen, who took over for Harrell when Harrell retired to oversee the construction at the athletic plant, told the Indiana Daily Student that plans were for IU to construct a 55,000-seat stadium, a football practice field and 100 acres of parking to accommodate 10,000-12,000 cars. The project was expected to include the construction of the fieldhouse and arena as part of what he called a "package deal," and the construction would take place over the next two to four years.
There was no question that IU had plans to build a new stadium, but what kind of design would the stadium have? The answer, oddly enough, had just about nothing to do with sports at all.
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In early 1955, Indiana administrators had been scouting arenas around the country to determine the design that would best fit the proposed basketball arena. We will go into much deeper detail on the basketball facility in a few weeks, but the search eventually led Harrell to North Carolina, where someone in the IU administration had spent some time at J. S. Dorton Arena, which happened to be the North Carolina State Livestock Judging Pavilion in Raleigh.
Dorton Arena had been built in 1952 with a unique structure that included parabolic arches and a roof that was suspended by cables, and IU was impressed with the layout of the seating. Chuck Crabb, Indiana's long-time public address announcer and the current assistant athletic director for facilities, worked with Harrell during the early 1970s and remembers the appeal Dorton Arena's seating had for the administration.
"Pooch wanted as many seats on the side as possible," Crabb says. "That's what drove Assembly Hall. From that, Pooch then said, 'That would be really nice for the football stadium, too. Let's do the same configuration.' You had two theatres facing a common stage."
With the general design idea ready to go, it was up to Eggers and Higgins to put together the architectural drawings and blueprints of the facility. Unfortunately for IU, it took the firm a while to send the plans back.
By May, 1957, Indiana was still waiting. IU, however, managed to make the best of a tough situation. The May 25, 1957, edition of the IDS reported that two new football practice fields had been constructed on Fee Lane across the street from where the new athletic plant would spring from the ground. The practice fields were less than impressive, but they served their purpose.
Harold Mauro, who played at Indiana from 1964-67 before embarking on a long career as an IU administrator, remembers the spartan facilities.
"They were directly behind St. Paul's Church," Mauro said in December, 2009. "We had three or four practice fields, and they had an old Quonset hut where we would have meetings or store bags. It was kind of pretty open. They had chairs set up so we could meet before practice. It was a walk from Memorial Stadium to the practice fields, but you got kind of used to it.
"It was a nice space for the coaching staff. As I got into coaching later on, I thought, 'Man, this is great. You can really spread out.' I always enjoyed going up there."
It was bad enough when Mauro and the Hoosiers had to trek across the parking lot once the new stadium was built, but the trip from the practice fields to the original Memorial Stadium was even more of a hike. Occasionally, players would hop in and even on cars to take the ride up Fee Lane to the locker room in the early days, and the transition to the athletic plant wasn't exactly convenient.
IU, meanwhile, finally got the plans back from Eggers and Higgins in late 1957, and bids were advertised almost immediately. Indiana figured the investment for all three athletic plant facilities would total $12 million, but when the University finally opened the bids Jan. 30, 1958, it was in for a staggering surprise.
The lowest overall bid came in at nearly $22,000,000, which was submitted by Gust K. Newbert Construction Company of Chicago. Indiana was floored - after all, the bids were nearly double what IU expected - and IU was forced to adjust its plans. Indiana President Herman B Wells and vice president Joseph A. Franklin toyed with the idea of throwing out all the bids and going forward on a project-by-project basis.
"The proposal figures as presented are the upset cost as estimated by the proposing companies and not net cost," Franklin said in the Jan. 31, 1958 Bloomington Herald-Telephone. "Therefore, the proposals as made include all contingencies and numerous alternates by which the cost can be reduced."
In other words, IU would get out the paring knife and start finding ways to cut costs. The first order of business was to postpone the construction of a basketball arena, but the Hoosiers could wait no longer on a football stadium. The construction of a fieldhouse, meanwhile, was a necessity due to plans for the expansion of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. The fieldhouse could handle basketball duties for the time being, and a new football stadium could launch a new era in IU athletics.
Now, all Indiana had to do was figure out how to afford everything.
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The first order of business was to try to negotiate new prices from the five contractors who submitted bids for the entire athletic plant Jan. 30. The hope was that the costs could be broken down and the buildings could be constructed on an agency basis. A satisfactory agreement couldn't be worked out, however, and the University decided to alter the plan and advertise for new bids.
Indiana released a statement March 3, 1958, letting the public know about its plans.
"Indiana University's Board of Trustees today gave the order to advertise for bids to construct a new football stadium as the first in a series of new athletic facilities," the statement read. "The Trustees also approved moving the site for the stadium on the 160-acre area assigned to intercollegiate sports slightly to the south to eliminate much costly stone blasting and grading. This will save both money and construction time. In doing this, the board rejected earlier bids on an agency basis for the entire multi-building project, and reverted to the University's normal program of contracting for construction on an individual building basis with the lowest bidder. It is expected that a more competitive situation will result, with a larger number of contractors willing to bid on separate structures than did on the all-over project. It also was pointed out that material and equipment costs have declined since the agency bids were received.
"President Herman B Wells said that in getting ready for construction of the new stadium, site preparation has already begun. 'By letting contracts for the new buildings on an individual basis,' President Wells said, 'we improve our financial position so greatly that it insures, and will speed up, the completion of our entire program.' "
Allen, meanwhile, continued to make the case for the athletic improvements, which some critics were calling wasteful. Allen countered that despite improvements to the seating at the original Memorial Stadium that brought capacity to 35,325, Ohio State and Michigan could seat three times as many fans, putting Indiana at a disadvantage. Like Mee before him, Allen laid out IU's finances for the world to see. He estimated that Indiana's athletic department would have an athletic revenue of $739,000 for the 1957-58 school year, and save for the $59,000 brought in by basketball, the rest could be credited to the football program. With non-revenue sports costing the University $509,000 and basketball turning in $48,000 in expenses, there wasn't much left over for the football program. After all, Allen reported in the March 8, 1958, IDS, a full football uniform cost IU $107.70 each.
On the bright side, Allen said, the elimination of the track from around the edge of the football field - which existed in the original Memorial Stadium and would no longer be a part of the plans in the new facility - would bring fans closer to the field than ever.
In the wake of the public embarrassment that accompanied IU being shocked by the bids at the end of January - that event was held at Alumni Hall in the Union and featured some 300 contractors and subcontractors on hand for the announcement - Indiana went the low-key route the second time around. The bids were received by IU May 22, and they were much more in line with what the Board of Trustees had in mind when it came to building new athletic facilities.
J.L. Simmons Company bid $7,317,000, while Baltimore Contractors' bid came in at $6,084,400. IU also received bids from Chas. H. Shook & Co. ($5,999,097), Ryan Construction Co. ($5,972,000), and Johnson, Drake and Piper ($5,750,000). The lowest bid, however, came from Huber, Hunt and Nichols of Indianapolis, who bid $5,485,000.
(Fun fact - Huber, Hunt and Nichols was founded in 1944 by Paul B. Hunt, Arber J. Huber and Harry S. Nichols, each of whom threw $5,000 into the company in the midst of World War II. Huber and Nichols believed the firm should grow slowly following WWII, but Hunt saw a lot of potential in building hospitals, subdivisions, arenas and just about everything else. Not wanting to see their investment wasted, Huber and Nichols left the firm shortly after the war ended. Hunt, however, continued to build the company, and it has become one of the largest construction firms in the country. It built the Lilly Library and an addition to Swain Hall in Bloomington during the 1950s, and the firm finally changed its name to the Hunt Construction Group in 2000. It has been behind the construction of University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Miller Park in Milwaukee and Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Hunt Construction also built Conseco Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium and the Col. H. Weir Cook Terminal at the Indianapolis International Airport, among myriad other projects, in the past 15 years.)
The bids, by the way, weren't just for a full stadium. One of the alternate plans IU advertised included the construction of one-half of the stadium with the east side stands eliminated all together. Huber, Hunt and Nichols didn't actually include that option in its bid, but a representative of the company told the May 23, 1958, IDS that elimination of half the stadium would cut the cost by roughly $2.1 million, which would still have given the firm the lowest bid.
With the bid from Huber, Hunt and Nichols - let's go with HH & N, shall we - in hand, Wells and Franklin made a presentation to the Board of Trustees during their June 6 meeting. According to the minutes of the meeting, Wells and Franklin handed out, "Exhaustive data covering attendance figures over a period of years in the Indiana stadium and other stadia, athletic facilities cost estimates and student fee schedules," which were distributed and brought up for discussion. After looking over the material, the Board decided that plans for the stadium should be redrawn with some 13,000 seats above the upper vomitories on the east side, consisting of the top 37 rows, removed.
(Fun fact - We'll save you the trouble of looking up "vomitories" in your dictionary. The unfortunately named structure is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "One of the tunnel-like passages of an amphitheater or stadium between the seats and the outside wall or passageway." Basically it's the tunnel you take from the concourse to the inside of a stadium or arena. It stems from ancient Roman times and is used to describe the area where spectators spew out of the stadium or amphitheatre following a game or performance.)
All told, the west side of the stands would feature 109 rows of seating while 68 rows would exist on the east side. The east stands, however, could later be expanded to 109 rows if IU so chose.
The Board decided that it would accept the bid from HH & N, but that the contract should be re-negotiated at a figure approximately $1,000,000 lower than originally presented. The Board of Trustees estimated that the 47,000-seat stadium now envisioned would cost roughly $4,379,500 with stadium equipment ($100,000), site work ($1,000,000) and insurance ($75,000) all adding to the cost. Other items, such as the construction of what would become Gladstein Fieldhouse, the golf course, a swimming pool and bath house, track facilities and other various athletic plant and intramural improvements, were added to the estimates, bringing the total investment in the plant to $13,738,000.
Plans for financing the projects included a bond issue for $13,000,00, the liquidation of some real estate investments for $750,000 and $33,000 cash on hand. That plan was approved, but before any construction could begin, there was one more hurdle for the stadium to clear.
A graduate law student at IU, James E. Fields, had previously filed an injunction against the Board of Trustees citing a 1929 act of the Indiana General Assembly, which authorized state-supported colleges and universities to finance from non-tax funds the construction of fieldhouses, gymnasiums, union buildings and dormitories. Fields argued that stadiums weren't included in the act, but Monroe County Circuit Judge Nat. U. Hill ruled that since a gymnasium is defined as "a place where athletic contests are held," stadiums were included in that meaning, clearing a path for IU to begin construction.
Negotiations with HH & N didn't go smoothly, and a suggestion was put forth in a September Trustee meeting that HH & N be allowed to build the west side of the stadium while another contractor could be brought on to build the east side. That plan, which would have been fraught with all kinds of complications, was quickly shot down, and IU decided to continue to negotiate with HH & N.
Ground was broken on the stadium Aug. 27, 1958, even before the project was fully funded. There doesn't seem to have been an official groundbreaking ceremony, and hopes were dashed early that the facility would be ready for the 1959 season. HH & N said it needed 500 calendar days for construction in its initial bid, meaning the earliest IU could play in its new digs would be the 1960 season.
By Oct. 1, the first sale of bonds had closed. Indiana National Bank of Indianapolis had been named the Trustee of the bond issue earlier in the summer, and investors jumped at the opportunity. The total bonds sold and delivered in the first issue totaled $6,500,000, and that cash, plus a $56.25 premium, was delivered to the Trustees. They immediately approved reinvestment of the funds, including $4.5 million being invested in U.S. Treasury bills at 3.31 percent interest that would come due May 15, 1959.
(Fun fact - Indiana was represented legally in the bond issue by the law firm of Ross, McCord, Ice & Miller, which was paid $8,530.97 for its services. Does that name sound familiar? It should. The firm, currently known as Ice Miller, represented IU during the NCAA investigation into the Kelvin Sampson phone scandal.)
Construction on the stadium progressed rapidly. The IDS reported in its Oct. 30 edition that the construction was coming along nicely.
"Alumni of Indiana University, returning this weekend for the football homecoming game with Minnesota, will find construction of the new I.U. stadium 'slightly ahead of schedule,' it was announced Wednesday by University officials. The construction progress report on the new 47,000-seat stadium, situated north of the main campus and adjacent to the Ind. 45 Bypass, shows the west stands excavating 95 percent complete and column footings 75 percent poured and east stands 59 percent excavated and seven percent columns poured."
The IDS also reported that nearly 300 feet of pipe had been laid for a sewer line, and the base had been laid for an 11,000 car parking lot.
Allen, meanwhile, kept dreaming bigger. In one undated article in the IU Archives quotes Allen as saying the stadium could someday be expanded to approach the magical 100,000-seat mark.
"The seating we have arranged for now is only on either side of the field," Allen said. "That doesn't count the ends which are open. You could seat 10,000 at each end easily. Further expansion would come with the adding of an upper deck and could balloon seating potential to around the 100,000 mark."
Despite the optimism, the project wasn't drama-free. By the time Purdue came to town to play Indiana Nov. 21, 1959, in what was to be the final game at the original Memorial Stadium, there was a lot of work left to be done on the facility off 17th Street. Although concrete forms had been poured for the seating, a Carpenter's Union strike had halted work at the facility, leaving some to wonder if the stadium would be ready in time for the start of the 1960 home campaign.
Indiana football, meanwhile, looked like it might be headed in the right direction under Phil Dickens, who had been hired to take over the program from Crimmins in 1957. Dickens came to IU after four seasons at Wyoming and made an instant impact on the recruiting trail - although not in the way the IU administration expected. Dickens was suspended for the 1957 season by the Big Ten for recruiting violations before ever coaching a game, but he finally took over in 1958 and led IU to a shocking 5-3-1 record. He followed up that performance with a 4-4-1 record in 1959, and it seemed like Hoosier football was enjoying resurgence. The future appeared bright for the first season in Memorial Stadium.
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You might be familiar with head coaches who have a tough time playing by the rules. Well, Dickens was one of those coaches. Although there is some controversy about the violations he may or may not have committed - look for much, much more on this period of IU football in a future issue of Inside Indiana - the bottom line is that further recruiting violations by the Hoosier football program resulted in IU receiving one of the toughest penalties ever handed down by the NCAA in the spring of 1960.
"On the hilly, green campus of Indiana University stands a half-completed $4.5 million football stadium," the May 16, 1960 issue of Sports Illustrated wrote. "With its naked beams and bare backside, it looks like the Coliseum at Rome, and, like the Coliseum, it is involved in a decline and fall. Indiana has been thrown - or possibly has jumped - to the lions.
"For four years, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has just decreed, the university may not take part in NCAA championship and bowl games or in NCAA-controlled television programs. This last will deprive Indiana of about $75,000 a year, no small amount for a school that financed its new stadium on a buy-now-pay-later basis."
In laymen's terms, Indiana was placed on four years probation and banned IU from playing in any bowl games. It also was barred from television, and any games it played in the Big Ten would not count in the conference standings. The penalties extended to the basketball program and the track, swimming, wrestling and gymnastic teams. Allen and Wells came out in defense of Dickens and the Hoosier athletic programs, and no less an observer than Harold Handley, the Governor of the state of Indiana, agreed with IU.
"This NC - whatever it is - has taken a pretty rough potshot at I.U.," Handley told SI. "It looks like a pretty raw deal."
Dickens persevered, and the Hoosiers headed over to what was being called "Seventeenth Street Stadium."
By the summer of 1960, the athletic department was buzzing about the first game. In July, Paul Loughlin, the foods manager at the Indiana Memorial Union, sent a memo to Franklin to discuss serving a pre-game luncheon to the fans prior to each home game. The luncheon would be served at the new fieldhouse, and four menus were suggested at four price points:
• $1.25: Bowl of hot chili, ham salad sandwich, coffee or lemonade, cherry cobbler
• $1.50: ¼ Hoosier fried chicken, whipped potato, cream-style cole slaw, buttered roll, chocolate cake, beverage
• $1.75: Swiss steak, au gratin potato, new peas, tossed salad, beverage, buttered roll, sheet cake
• $2.00: Hoosier chicken dinner, ½ Hoosier fried chicken, candied sweet potato, corn and lima beans, Waldorf salad, roll, beverage, pumpkin tart
Fans were getting excited about the new stadium, as well, and the media was doing its best to spark the imaginations of Hoosier fans.
"Ever wonder what a bird's-eye view of a football game would look like," asked the June 25, 1960, IDS. "Those of you who have wondered will have your chance to find out this fall, when Indiana University's 'Fighting Hoosiers' play their opening game in their new stadium on by-pass 46.
"It's true there are no bad seats, and you will be able to see the whole playing field from any seat, but some of you may need your binoculars for a closer view. The highest seat in the stadium is 121 feet above the playing field. Actual distance to the playing field from a seat at this highest point will be considerably in excess of 200 feet. You photo bugs who have always wanted to take aerial football pictures but still keep one foot on the ground will likely find the lofty top of the 155-foot elevator tower a likely position. Since the tower's top is actually 183 feet higher than the bowl-type playing field and the center of the field is about 200 feet from the tower, anyone sitting up there will be about 300 feet from the field."
Weather hampered the final stages of construction. What was considered by some to be the worst storm in a half-century hit Bloomington June 23, causing damage all over town. A total of 4.85 inches of rain fell in one 15-hour period, and Ernie Pyle Hall, home of the School of Journalism and the IDS, saw water more than six feet deep flood its basement.
Despite the weather, there was no concern the stadium wouldn't be ready for the start of the season. Meanwhile, plans were well underway for the dedication of the stadium. Wells set up a committee to advise and work with groups planning the dedication, and an Aug. 5 meeting was scheduled for 9 a.m. for a committee that reads like a who's who of IU athletic history. Allen, Harrell and Mee were involved as were Bill Armstrong, Everett Dean and Zora Clevenger. The students were represented by John A. Nash, who reported that he wouldn't arrive until 9:30 a.m. because he had class. Indiana contacted a number of schools about how they went about dedicating new facilities, and IU did its best to pick and choose the best ideas.
As Dickens and his team prepared for the 1960 season, an unplanned feature popped up on the modern press box being erected at the stadium. Following the tradition of the time, construction workers planted a pine tree on the roof of the press box to commemorate the pouring of the last yard of concrete for the structure. The tree stood roughly 10 feet tall, and it seems that it was removed prior to the first game at the stadium because no mention of the tree is found once the construction workers moved out.
The stadium was just about ready, and the numbers on the structure were staggering for the time. The construction of Seventeenth Street Stadium featured 2,500 tons of structural steel, 26,000 cubic yards of concrete, 140,650 square yards of parking area, 22,070 square yards of roads, 47,620 square yards of walking area and 18,313 square yards of sodded grass. Architects claimed the stadium could be completely emptied in case of emergency in 20 minutes, the total cost of the stadium when all was said and done was $6,072,860.
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The IU athletic department did its best to market the stadium over the team in 1960. Considering that only 16 of the Hoosiers' 55 players had played for the program in 1959 and there wasn't a player on the roster who had thrown a pass, it isn't surprising that the Hoosiers decided to focus on the facility. Allen, in fact, pretty much glossed over the issues with the program in IU's season-ticket pamphlet.
"We are pleased to send you this booklet on Indiana University's new athletic facilities," Allen wrote. "It includes an order blank and information for purchasing tickets to the inaugural season in the new Stadium. We urge you to place your order promptly.
"We feel sure you share the sense of pride and accomplishment in these improvements. With these new additions and others planned for the foreseeable future, IU will have athletic and spectator facilities second to none. Indications already point the way toward a new era in both intercollegiate and intramural athletics. The last two winning football seasons reveal amazing progress toward a football program commensurate with the University's great achievements in other endeavors. Our nationally-known basketball teams and our record in swimming, golf, and other sports substantiate this trend.
"In a program of this scope and complexity, there have been some setbacks. Undoubtedly there will be others in the future. It would be strange if there were not. Some may appear shattering at the time. But, with your support, the entire program can survive any temporary setbacks and can continue to progress.
"We hope to see you in the new Stadium this fall. Your ticket will be the ticket to a bright new day in Hoosier athletics."
The same pamphlet continued to sing the praises of Seventeenth Street Stadium.
" 'Not a bad seat in the house' might well be the slogan in describing the magnificent new Stadium to be dedicated this fall.
"Built for maximum good seating, the structure will have all 48,000 seats between the goal lines, a distinction no other major stadium in the Midwest can claim. Furthermore, the stadium is laid out on elliptical curves, which means that those seated near the ends face toward the center of the field instead of directly across the field.
"The Stadium is designed so that a spectator may enter either side of the concourse level and proceed to his seat through one of twelve passages. The upper level on the west side may be reached by walking one of the ramps at either end of the concourse to a smaller concourse directly above.
"Rest room facilities and concession stands are located on all concourse levels.
"This great structure with its field of dark green turf is truly impressive and, as the new home of the Cream and Crimson, it will provide every facility for spectator comfort and convenience. That's why we urge you to mail your ticket orders early so that you can be assured the 'finest seat anywhere' when your football team takes the field this fall."
Yet another brochure sent out that summer, this one praising the entire athletic plant, trumpeted the new stadium while also, for the first time, admitting a flaw in the facility.
"Unexcelled from a spectator's standpoint, (the stadium) seats 48,344, and can be augmented to seat 60,000, all with a direct sight-line to the playing field," the pamphlet read. "Its concave design permits all seats to be angled toward the center of the field. The west stands at the highest point rise 109 rows, the east stands 72 rows, with steps for spectators virtually eliminated through gently inclined ramps. With the playing field below ground level, spectators in the lower-third of seats enter at that level.
"Dressing rooms, concession stands and public facilities in number, size and location are in keeping with the most modern planning in stadium construction. Accommodations for press, radio and television are equal to any in the United States. Serviced by an elevator, the press box has a capacity of 175 writers on its first deck, 15 radio stations on the second deck and television and photographers on its third level.
"Though, as completed, the smallest in the Big Ten, it is on par with most and ahead of all in design and convenience."
Did you catch that last sentence? Despite the years of planning, despite the millions of dollars spent, when Seventeenth Street Stadium opened, IU still managed to own the smallest football stadium in the Big Ten. It still features the third-smallest amount of seating in the conference - only Northwestern (49,256) and Minnesota (50,805) have fewer seats for fans - and until Minnesota opened TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, Indiana played at the newest campus-based stadium in the conference (the Golden Gophers played in the municipally-owned Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome until last season).
So, how much did fans pay for season tickets to the first season of IU football at Seventeenth Street Stadium? Indiana played four home games on four consecutive Saturdays in 1960, and fans shelled out $16 for tickets to all four games. There was, however, a family plan available. A family of four could buy season tickets for $24 - adults paid $8 each for two season tickets, and two children could have season tickets for $4 each. Students, meanwhile, could buy season tickets for $9.
State-of-the-art scoreboards were in place by the middle of September, and fans were excited for the opening of the stadium. Indiana played its first two games of the season on the road, losing its Sept. 24 opener to Illinois 17-6 and falling at Minnesota 42-0 on Oct. 1.
(Fun fact-The college football world received a huge shock Sept. 16, 1960, when Stockton College assistant coach Amos Alonzo Stagg announced he would be retiring immediately. Stagg had begun his coaching career at Springfield College in 1890 - that's not a typo - and after two years on the job, he left to coach at the University of Chicago. He spent 41 years as head coach at the University of Chicago before being forced to retire at the age of 70 in 1932. Instead of simply climbing into a rocking chair, he took over as head coach at Pacific in 1933 and coached there until 1946. He later coached with his son at two stops and served as a consultant for the final seven years of his career, retiring at the age of 98. During his younger days, he was a member of the first All-America team in 1889 and after taking a job as an instructor at the Springfield, Mass., YMCA in 1892, he played in the first public game of basketball. His team lost 5-1, but Stagg scored his team's only point. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame, and he is credited with inventing the batting cage for baseball. His football innovations include names on uniforms, the lateral pass, putting a man in motion, helmets and the tackling dummy. He died in Stockton, Calif., Feb. 17, 1965, at the age of 102, having done more in his life than most of us could do in 200 years. Oh, to add insult to injury for IU fans, Stagg won more Big Ten championships (7) at the University of Chicago before 1924 than Indiana has won (2) in its 110 years of playing football.)
The Hoosiers were ready to take on Oregon State in the first home game of the season, hoping that the fortunes of Indiana football were ready to turn around. At least one noted observer was relieved to see that the field was, in fact, ready for play.
"I remember coming down during the summer before they opened (the stadium), and the bleachers weren't even in yet," Bob Hammel, the Hall-of-Fame sports editor of the Bloomington Herald-Telephone and Herald-Times. "I wasn't working here yet but I wanted to see the stadium. I looked down from up above, and I thought, 'My God. They can't get a field in down there. It's too narrow!' It was such a huge step forward from the old Memorial Stadium because it was modern."
*****
Three days before the debut of Seventeenth Street Stadium, the arena staff went through a dry run to prepare for the throng of fans expected to be on hand Oct. 8. More than 200 people went through the dry run, including parking supervisors, ticket staff, concession workers and ushers, and IU officials believed they had everything under control as the big day approached.
"Even in the first operation on Saturday we are prepared to handle the football crowd with dispatch if every person coming to the game observes directions," Lloyd A. Kelsler, an IU employee who was in charge of the various stadium staffs, told the Oct. 4, 1960 IDS. "There is no reason to get apprehensive about the situation - we have handled equally big crowds in the past for the Old Oaken Bucket and other games with fewer adequate access and exit thoroughfares and with little parking space as compared with the stadium's 8,000-car lots."
Fans were advised to show up early for the first game, which featured a 1:30 p.m. kickoff, and they were invited to enjoy the planned luncheon from 11 a.m.-to-1p.m. at the Fieldhouse. Food, fun and football. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that kind of day at IU?
As it turns out, just about everyone.
We'll let the IDS tell the sad story.
"Oct. 8, 1960, will be remembered in Indiana University football history as the day the Fightin' Hoosiers played their first game in a new, unequaled $4.5 million stadium. Other than that the day's events will probably go unnoticed. Nothing went right for Hoosier football fortunes Saturday. The weather was lousy, the crowd that didn't even fill half of the 48,344-seat stadium was disappointing and the football team left something to be desired."
IU football records say 25,000 fans showed up for the first game at Seventeenth Street Stadium, 10,325 fewer than had attended the final Old Oaken Bucket game at the original Memorial Stadium one year earlier. The state of the football program undoubtedly played a part in the fans staying away in droves as did the weather. Still, the crowd couldn't have been encouraging for the IU administration, especially when only 27,000 showed up a week later to watch Indiana score its first and only win of the season, taking home a 34-8 victory over Marquette.
At least the sight lines for the fans were nice. The design of the stadium, however, presented a previously unforeseen problem on the field.
"They scalloped the walls and stair-stepped back, and obviously the farther from the middle, the higher your first rows became," Crabb says. "It does improve sightline, but unfortunately it takes people out of being a part of the game. We're not too bad, although it's a dickens when you get to the ends. You've got photographs of people scoring, and behind them is a 20-foot concrete wall you're looking at."
Despite the early struggles, Indiana hoped it could get a fresh start with the Big Ten opener, which just so happened to be Homecoming and the scheduled dedication game.
The IU administration had long pegged the Oct. 22 game vs. Michigan State as the dedication game for the stadium, and no small amount of planning went into the game. For months the planning committee had been sending out invitations to various dignitaries for the Dedication Game, and the day was planned literally to the minute. For example, a portion of the schedule for the ceremony read as follows:
1:13 p.m. - President Wells, acting as Master of Ceremonies, will ask Rev. Elliston A. Cole, of Bloomington, to give the invocation.
1:16 p.m. -- President Wells will present the welcome address and introduce Governor Handley.
1:18 p.m. -- Remarks from Governor Handley.
Never one to miss a marketing opportunity, IU offered a bronze medallion to the public as a paper weight for the cost of $1. The medallion had a relief of the stadium on one side with "Indiana University Stadium Dedication" ringing one side, and the other side featured the words "Dedication Year 1960 Indiana University vs. Michigan State Dedication Game October 22, 1960" in the middle of the piece and the names of the four home opponents for 1960 - Oregon State, Marquette, Michigan State and Northwestern - ringing the outside.
The 20-minute pregame ceremony featured comments from Governor Handley, President Wells and Dr. Merrill Davis, captain of the 1910 team who was celebrating his 50th year as an "I-Man" and was a member of the Board of Trustees. The ceremony also featured 20 members of the 1925 Hoosier squad who had played in the dedication game for the original Memorial Stadium, and 53 former football team captains or their representatives were on hand for the event.
A stage was set up behind the south end zone, and photographers gathered at the base of the stage to get the best shots. Pete Anderson, a junior in the Visual Aids program, climbed the goal post to get a unique shot of the event. As fans watched and listened to the dignitaries make their comments, some may have seen an airplane off in the distance. Those that did see the plane likely didn't see what came next.
Dennis MacPherson, an IU freshman and a sky-diving enthusiast, jumped out of the plane at an altitude of 5,100 feet over the IU Fieldhouse, which later would be named the Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center. MacPherson fell for 4,000 feet before opening his parachute, and he glided over the stadium before landing some 200 feet north of the stadium. For added effect, MacPherson lit two red flares before leaving the plane, but they burned out before he ever reached the stadium. With that excitement out of the way, senior Homecoming Queen Judy Ann Curtis smashed a bottle of Jordan River water against the goal post to the delight of the crowd of 32,322, officially dedicating the stadium.
A fired-up Hoosier squad then promptly went out and lost 35-0.
(Fun fact - The IU administration was probably just relieved that the bottle of Jordan River water broke. Six months earlier IU had dedicated its showboat, the Majestic, in an impromptu ceremony, and the bottle of water refused to break no matter how hard officials hit the boat with it. Eventually they had to use a hammer to break the bottle. On the bright side, the showboat enjoyed a successful season that year, and the vessel was eventually sold to the City of Cincinnati in 1967.)
In fact, Allen would never see Indiana win another home football game while he was AD. Allen announced his retirement effective July 1, 1961, and IU turned over the reins of the athletic department to James Wilfred "Bill" Orwig. Indiana wouldn't go on to win another home game until Oct. 21 the next season vs. Washington State when the Hoosiers scored a 33-7 victory over the Cougars. To make matters worse, IU continued to come up well short of filling the stadium, actually drawing an average of 24,561 fans for its first three home games of the 1961 season. That might have been for the best, however, considering the problem that cropped up following the first Old Oaken Bucket game at Seventeenth Street Stadium.
Indiana's biggest home crowd to date at the new facility - 34,798 fans, still 527 fewer than attended the final game at the original Memorial Stadium - showed up for IU's Nov. 25 battle for the Bucket. Purdue romped the Hoosiers 34-12, and the fans' frustration only increased after the game. Despite the fact the administration moved the entire athletic department north of the campus to help ease traffic and parking woes, IU fans still faced massive traffic jams getting in and out of the area surrounding the stadium. Traffic was bad enough that area officials decided something needed to be done.
In the wake of the bumper-to-bumper nightmare, a committee was formed consisting of local police officials, state police officials, IU officials, Orwig and representatives of the Indiana State Highway Department to try to fix the problem. They discussed different traffic patterns that might be put into use and talked about traffic plans as far away as Martinsville to relieve some of the traffic pressure around the stadium. One of the options discussed involved widening some roads.
"The plan calls for widened roads, rebuilt entrances into the University parking area, one-way streets and 51 control points to direct traffic flow," Captain Stanley Guth, commander of the state police traffic division told the April 7, 1962, IDS. "The shoulder will be stabilized on the bypass around the stadium. On Ind. 45 and 46, a four-lane road instead of the present two-lane road would alleviate some of the pressure. If it is necessary, all four lanes could be converted to one-way roads and used to carry the traffic into the parking lots."
For those of you keeping score at home, the project to widen the 45-46 Bypass was scheduled to begin in August, 2009, before it was postponed due to bureaucratic wrangling. In other words, the committee's suggestion to help ease traffic around the football stadium that was made nearly 50 years ago still hasn't begun construction.
*****
In the spring of 1962, Herman B Wells decided that 25 years as president of Indiana University was long enough, so he announced his retirement effective June 30. The Board of Trustees responded by creating the position of Chancellor for him, allowing Wells to remain intimately involved with the workings of the university. Hoping to avoid too long of a transition period between presidents, IU announced in early May that Elvis J. Stahr, Secretary of the Army under President John F. Kennedy, would be welcomed onto campus before taking over from Wells. Stahr would only serve as IU president for eight years, but he would prove instrumental in bringing one of the most identifiable landmarks to Indiana's football stadium - that of the memorial to the USS Indiana.
The United States Navy has commissioned four separate ships with the name USS Indiana over the years. The first was a battleship that saw action in the Spanish-American War, and the second was a transport that actually served alongside the first USS Indiana in the same conflict. A third ship was ordered and partially built before being scrapped in the 1920s, and finally, in 1939, another battleship began construction with the name of USS Indiana.
The USS Indiana was launched in late 1941 and commissioned in 1942, and it served the Navy well in the Pacific Theatre. The ship helped support U.S. troops in just about every major battle in the Pacific, but after the war she quickly became an obsolete piece of equipment in a rapidly advancing age. She was decommissioned in 1947, and the ship was ordered to be scrapped Sept. 6, 1963.
An article appeared in the Miami Herald in early November reporting on the grim future for the USS Indiana, and it struck IU alum Dorothy Major, the Dean of the School of Nursing at the University of West Virginia, that Indiana might be interested in the USS Indiana.
Major, who happened to be staying in a hotel in Gainesville, Fla., at the time, clipped the story out of the newspaper and wrote a letter to Chancellor Wells with a novel suggestion.
"This article appeared in the Miami paper this evening," Majors wrote Nov. 4, 1962. "If you haven't already seen it elsewhere, I thought you might be interested in it. At West Virginia, we obtained the mast of the USS West Virginia and installed it on campus in the center of a little formal garden. It's very nice. If IU has not already obtained a relic from this ship, maybe you would like to try. Best regards to you and IU."
Wells obviously thought it was a fine idea because the letter reached Stahr's hands two days later. He gave it to his assistant, Joseph Ewers, who contacted E. Ross Bartley, a long-time Indiana administrator who retired as Director of University Relations to work with the IU Foundation. By Nov. 8, the ball was already rolling on the project. Although IU had already requested and received one artifact from the USS Indiana, adding some other relics was an intriguing proposition.
Bartley wrote to Claude R. Rich in the IU Alumni office to see if Indiana had a representative in the San Francisco Bay area - where the Indiana was scheduled to be scrapped - who could make contacts to see if any relics could be salvaged from the ship.
"The USS Indiana is about to be or is in the process of being dismantled by the Nicholi Joffe Co. in the East Bay Scrap Yards, Richmond, near San Francisco," Bartley wrote. "We have in the Federal Room (at the Indiana Memorial Union) a silver tray from the battleship. One suggestion that has been made is that we get a mast which could be re-erected on the campus, used as a flagpole, and properly identified. South of Wright Quadrangle might be a good spot.
"Shipping costs would have to be paid by the University probably since the government no longer owns the ship. If not too excessive, the foundation might assume such costs. What we need to do now is to find an alumnus who would make the preliminary contacts with the salvage firm in San Francisco, an alumnus who would carry some weight in making contacts, and report. I would suggest you call whoever you think would be a good man and obtain his consent to look into the matter.
"President Stahr will be out of town the first three days of next week. Perhaps you will wish to report to Mr. Ewers such information as you may obtain so that Mr. Ewers can advise him on his return. This is a hell of an assignment to give a landlubber from Russiaville!!!!"
IU's representative - there is no record who that might have been - reported back to the University, and by Nov. 21, Stahr personally had taken a role in the project. In a letter to Acting Secretary of the Navy Paul Fay, Stahr officially made a request for some artifacts.
"On behalf of Indiana University, I wish to request of the Navy that the ship's mast and at least one of the ship's bells of the USS Indiana be made available for permanent preservation and display on the campus of the State University of the State for which this great battleship was named," Stahr wrote. "As you know, the Indiana is being decommissioned and is being scrapped in California. One of the members of our staff was recently out there and found that a number of items, including the mast and bells, had been set aside by the Navy when the rest of the vessel was turned over to the successful bidder for the scrap. Although there may well be other requests for many of these items, I should like to stress the eminent suitability of our proposal to erect the mast in a prominent place on this campus for use as a flag pole to display the national colors."
The importance of IU's request, however, took a backseat in the wake of what happened the next day. Stahr's former boss and friend, Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Tex., by either lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald or some combination of other sordid characters. Despite the intense grief being felt throughout the country, Fay actually wrote Stahr back Nov. 26 to let him know that he had received the request and that the wheels were turning to fulfill IU's wishes.
(Fact - Indiana was scheduled to the play the Old Oaken Bucket game Nov. 23, but the game was postponed out of respect for the fallen president. It was played a week later, Nov. 30, and a crowd of 33,987 showed up despite the turmoil of that week. Indiana flew few flags that day, and the ones that did flap in the breeze were adorned with black streamers.)
Indiana's answer arrived Dec. 6. Fay was willing to give IU the ship's mast, but the University could not have the ship's bells because Indiana Governor Matthew Welsh had already claimed them. Fay, however, did make a few suggestions for the items IU would receive, including tapping alumni or IU supporters to provide the transportation for the items.
Not willing to give up on the bells, Stahr wrote a letter to Welsh asking to have one of the two bells.
"Naturally, I feel somewhat presumptuous in even mentioning this to you, but, as the saying goes, you can't blame a fella for trying!" Stahr wrote in mid-December. "I am just wondering if you would be willing to let us have one of the two, naturally with you making the selection - assuming you are willing to part with either one of them, of course. With the many tens of thousands of young Hoosiers who will be coming here through the long years ahead, it seems highly appropriate to me that we should erect and properly mark the mast of this great battleship as both a reminder and an inspiration. I am sure we could also make a very appropriate installation of the bell or bells."
In early January, 1964, IU received word that it would be receiving one of the bells, and the mast was also secured for the University. United States Naval Reserve Captain Robert O. Jackson, commander of Indiana Naval forces who is stationed at the Naval Armory in Indianapolis, informed Gov. Welsh about the decision and briefed him on what exactly IU would be receiving from the ship.
"The enclosed copy of my letter to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation (the firm in charge of scrapping the ship) confirms the availability of the 40-foot section of the mast for Indiana University," Jackson wrote. "The Joffe Corp. agreed to provide a yardarm with the mast section to give it a more authentic appearance; otherwise it would bear a remarkable resemblance to a 40-foot length of steel pipe. President Stahr's office has been in touch with me pertinent to this matter."
(Fun fact - A yardarm is the cross-brace at the top of a mast that normally is used to hold up a sail. It also is used to fly flags, which is the purpose it was given in Indiana's case. The bottom line is that the top of the mast didn't have anything on it, which means the yardarm that was added was not from the USS Indiana.)
Meanwhile, IU was expanding the plans for the mast to include some of the quadruple-mount 40 mm anti-aircraft guns that were on the USS Indiana. Fenwick Reed, the secretary to the Board of Trustees, had spent some time that winter in the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C., and he was impressed by the quad-mount guns. After further discussions with the new USS Indiana Committee, it was decided that the quad-mount 40 mm AA guns would present too many issues. They would be very heavy and difficult to transport to a memorial site, and they likely wouldn't be in very good condition, requiring hundreds of man-hours to prepare them for display.
Instead, the plan was to secure a pair of twin-mount 40 mm AA guns from the San Francisco scrap yard. However, because the scrap yard didn't separate the materials from ships that had been scrapped without a specific request, there was no telling which guns were actually from the Indiana and which were not. Besides, the Committee rationalized, no one would ever have to know that the twin-mount guns weren't actually from the USS Indiana because IU simply wouldn't mention anything to the contrary.
In fact, Indiana didn't even bother to secure the twin-mounts from San Francisco. A call was put in to nearby Crane Naval Base to find out if they had any twin-mount 40 mm AA guns, but Crane only had one in surplus. The base could, however, have one shipped in from Minneapolis for the memorial. Once the extra gun arrived at Crane, both were cleaned and painted, and they were held in storage until IU could accept delivery.
The mast, meanwhile, was shipped in from San Francisco during the summer, and that trip went smoothly thanks to the efforts and cooperation of the Indiana State Highway Commission. By late July, Reed sent a memo to the USS Indiana Memorial Committee announcing the mast's arrival on campus.
"I am happy to give you some further information on the status of our project," Reed wrote. "The mast has arrived in Bloomington and now rests among the sumac bushes in the Showers storage area. In its present state it is not an encouraging sight, but if you would like to take a look at the result of the shipwrecker's art just go West on Eleventh Street along the north side of the Showers area, turn left at the spur railroad at the bottom of the hill, and you will find the mast alongside a metal storage shed. Let your imagination take over from there and be grateful to the State Highway Department for saving the University much trouble and expense: They delivered the mast from Indianapolis."
The mast was rusty and needed a lot of work, but that was fine because the Committee had not yet figured out where to build a memorial. In October, a number of members of the Committee toured various sites around campus, and they came to the conclusion that the most appropriate place for the memorial would be on the west side of the stadium outside the elevator shaft behind the press box. There already was a concrete platform on hand, and the area didn't require much preparation to make the memorial happen.
In November, Captain Jackson wrote to Stahr thanking him for keeping the memory of the USS Indiana alive.
"Indiana University's interests and efforts in perpetuating the memory of the USS Indiana are the nicest things that could happen to we anchor clankers," Jackson wrote. "Although we are loath to admit it, sentiment occupies a large segment of sailors' hearts and minds."
He also sent a photo and some teakwood decking from the ship to use as a frame.
Indiana continued to drag its feet on the memorial, and by March, 1965, the mast and the guns still weren't in place. However, a memo from Reed to Stahr exists that suggests the mast might not be the actual mast from the USS Indiana after all.
"Because of the construction of the mast, actually a fire control platform (emphasis added), use as a flagstaff presents some difficulty," Reed wrote March 27. "The platform at the top of the mast has a railing around it, and in order to use a flag it will be necessary to weld a pipe some 10 to 15 feet tall above the platform. This in turn, means that the halyard line would have to be handled at an angle from the mast to raise and lower a flag. Also, the location would lend itself admirably to the flying of strange objects, including coaches' effigies, etc."
After some debate about minor details of the memorial, the project started to become a reality. The cost of developing the site ran to roughly $4,300, and the dedication of the memorial was scheduled for 9 a.m. May 14, 1966, during pregame and halftime ceremonies of the spring football game. The ceremonies went off without a hitch and included numerous Naval dignitaries. The memorial has become a common meeting place for IU fans ever since.
A few months after the USS Indiana memorial was in place, Wells contacted Stahr to discuss the possibility of giving Seventeenth Street Stadium a proper name.
"From time to time I hear some mention of the consideration being given by certain groups to the naming of the new intercollegiate football stadium," Wells wrote in a June 16, 1966 memo. "Construction (actually refurbishing) at the Memorial Stadium site leads me to the thought that if the demolition of the old Memorial Stadium is inevitable sometime in the future, serious consideration should be given to the possibility of transferring the name of the Memorial Stadium to the new stadium. After all, the old stadium was built by the contributions of many alumni in honor of the men and women who served in World War I.
"If this seems a likely line of reasoning to you and if there is any possibility of the old stadium going, I shall be glad to enter into a discussion with the official committee of "I-Men" that concerns itself with names for athletic facilities recommending them to my committee."
Stahr answered that the old Memorial Stadium likely would be in use for at least another 10 years (it actually was used for another 16 years), but that the recommendation seemed sound. Five years later, as IU prepared for its sesquicentennial celebration (150 years), it was decided that a number of buildings on campus would be receiving new names. For instance, Commerce Hall and the Social Science Hall would now be known as Rawles Hall, and the Business and Economics Building would be re-named Woodburn Hall.
Along with that, the name "Memorial Stadium" would be transferred to the facility on Seventeenth Street, and the "old" Memorial Stadium would become known as Tenth Street Stadium. As part of the ceremonies, the cornerstone box that had been placed in the Tenth Street Memorial Stadium Nov. 15, 1924, would be moved to the "new" Memorial Stadium. A cornerstone box would also be created for the "new" Memorial Stadium, which would include, among other things, the following items:
• Copy of newspapers with story of opening the 1924 box
• Picture of stadium box opening ceremony
• Audio tape of the box opening ceremony
• The Indiana Athletic Review - Memorial Souvenir edition - Indiana vs. Purdue, Nov. 21, 1925
• Football program of dedication game, Indiana vs. Michigan State, Oct. 22, 1960
• Play-by-play record of the dedication game, Oct. 22, 1960
• The Marching Hundred pre-game and halftime program, Oct. 22, 1960
• Script of Oct. 22, 1960 dedication ceremonies
• Bronze medallion prepared for Dedication Game, Oct. 22, 1960
• Football program for Rose Bowl game, Indiana vs. Southern California, Jan. 1, 1968
• Program for Memorial Stadium naming ceremony, Oct. 23, 1971
• Football program for Homecoming Game, Indiana vs. Northwestern, Oct. 23, 1971
• Program for Opening Ceremonies for Sesquicentennial Year, January 20-21, 1970
• Calendar of events for sesquicentennial celebration
On Oct. 23, 1971, the cornerstone box from the "old" Memorial Stadium was removed from its resting place and opened. The items inside were inspected and replaced, and both cornerstone boxes were placed in the "new" Memorial Stadium, where they reside to this day. Concrete panels commemorate where the boxes sit, which is just across the concourse and south of the elevator shaft that leads to the press box.
Memorial Stadium finally had a proper name. The facility itself, however, didn't see much change outside of the addition of seats in behind both end zones through the years.
*****
Indiana had replaced the natural grass field at Memorial Stadium in 1969 with artificial turf for two main reasons. First and foremost, it was less costly to maintain an artificial turf field, but it also had a "cool" factor that most big-time programs were going for at the time. IU had big dreams for the future of the program. The school had gone to its first bowl game in 1967 after winning the Old Oaken Bucket to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl, and head coach John Pont had the program pointed in the right direction. His hard work fizzled in the long run, however, and Lee Corso was brought onboard in 1973. Corso didn't win a lot of games in the early years, but he did take IU to the 1979 Holiday Bowl - a game Indiana won. Corso couldn't return to those same lofty heights, and Indiana replaced the charismatic Corso with up-and-comer Sam Wyche.
Wyche would only stay with the Hoosiers for a year, but he made a major contribution to the IU football program. When he was hired in January, 1983, Indiana's football offices were housed in Assembly Hall, and the program's weightlifting facilities were ancient by most standards. Before he accepted the job, Wyche was assured that improvements would be made, and he pushed to found the "12th Man Club," a fund-raising effort to improve the football facilities. He also spearheaded an effort to modernize the program, developing a new logo and new stylized writing on the artificial turf in the end zones and at midfield.
The "12th Man Club" got off the ground quickly, and a total of 60 donors chipped in $10,000 each to become members of the club. That included Wyche, who donated $10,000 of his own money to the fund when he left the Hoosiers to take over the Cincinnati Bengals at the end of the 1983 season. The "12th Man Club" provided seed money, and Director of Athletics Ralph Floyd, who had been in the position since 1978, followed through on his promise to Wyche.
The Board of Trustees approved a $1.850 million renovation at Memorial Stadium to improve the football complex. Built under the east side stands, the complex and weight room cost were considered among the best facilities in the country when it opened in 1986. The 24,000-square foot facility featured coaches offices, meeting and film rooms, a 120-seat auditorium, study alcoves and a weight room that was 5,800 square feet. The weight room was nothing more than an expanded storage area under the northeast stands, but it was heaven for the Hoosiers.
"When the recruits come through, they light up," IU head coach Bill Mallory told the April 13, 1986 Indianapolis Star. "I think the thing you have to sell is, 'Is Indiana serious about its football? Is there a commitment?' When they actually see what we're doing and what we still have to do, I think they walk away feeling good about Indiana. The commitment now, you can just see the difference. It's really helped us immensely. It's just a different air, recruiting, the whole ball of wax. It has developed a positive air about the program."
Besides the new facilities, other major improvements were added in the mid-1980s. IU opened two practice fields north of the stadium, which still serve the team to this day, and the wooden bleachers at Memorial Stadium were replaced with aluminum seating. The artificial turf was replaced, and a new training area, equipment rooms and locker rooms were built under the west side of the stadium as well.
Lights also became a part of the equation at Memorial Stadium in 1988. Indiana actually played a game vs. Syracuse in 1982, scoring a 17-10 win under portable lighting provided by the Musco Lighting Company. The game was nationally televised by the Turner Broadcasting System, reaching a potential audience of 22 million, and it marked just the third time in IU history the Hoosiers had played before a national audience (the Rose Bowl and the 1979 Holiday Bowl being the other instances).
By 1986, lights were planned for the 1987 season, but delays led to that date being pushed back first until 1988, then 1989. Indiana, however, finally had everything in place to battle toward respectability.
The changes had the desired effect. IU went to bowl games from 1986-88, and the Hoosiers added bowl appearances in 1990, 1991 and 1993. The Indiana marketing team, meanwhile, tried to push a new nickname on fans for the stadium - "The House." Posters were put up around campus, and advertisements repeatedly called Memorial Stadium "The House." The effort, however, never really caught on, and the campaign was eventually dropped. A new four-color scoreboard replaced the nearly 30-year-old scoreboard in 1989, and Memorial Stadium underwent a $1.8 million renovation in 1992 that included the repair and refurbishing of support columns, restrooms and concession stands, and fans didn't notice much of a difference in terms of convenience.
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The only real change that was immediately apparent to fans was the field itself. In what can only be described as the Turf Wars, Mallory had been arguing with the administration for years that the artificial turf at Memorial Stadium was too hard and was leading to injuries. Mallory, undoubtedly, had a point. When the artificial turf was installed at the stadium in 1970, it was recommended that it be replaced every seven to eight years. IU replaced the turf prior to the 1977 season, and it was replaced again in 1987. Following the 1987 replacement a faculty committee recommended replacing the artificial stuff with natural grass.
IU didn't listen, but by the time Cam Cameron took over from Mallory following the 1996 season, the tide was starting to turn. Cameron demanded a change be made, and finally in September, 1997, the decision was made to return to natural grass. The decision, however, wasn't made because of injuries. Instead, Cameron said the turf-which once was viewed as a key to landing top recruits-was now hurting IU on the recruiting trail.
"(Cameron) said that at a school like Nebraska, which has (artificial) turf, the recruits don't worry about whether it's turf or natural grass, they are so anxious to play for a school like Nebraska," Haydn Murray, the chairman of a faculty committee to study the change, told The Herald-Times in September. "However, if you are competing against other schools, the first thing a recruit asks is if you have a turf or natural grass surface. (Cameron) said it's much easier to recruit today on a natural grass surface."
The Hoosiers didn't waste much time once the decision was final. Indiana played its final game on the artificial turf Nov. 22, 1997, and three days later it was being torn up. Private donations financed the reported cost of $935,000 to convert the field back to a natural state although IU saved $30,000 by allowing the turf to be salvaged by the firm of Ecklund Carriers of Neenah, Wis., which was tearing up the field.
Hammel weighed in on the new grass field in the September 1998 issue of Hoosier Scene Magazine.
"The grass grew green and plush in plenty of time for first use that fall," Hammel wrote. "That was 1960. The next nine years - including The Year, 1967, when that field was the home base for miracles - the field was so grassy Walt Whitman would have been pleased.
"But by the end of the '60s, grass was out. All the fashionable programs had gone to AstroTurf. All the recruits wanted to play on the carpet that made them so fast, and never got muddy, and - did I mention - made them so fast. What wasn't mentioned was that it was darned hot. And hot.
"But once in it wasn't easy to justify removal. Relative cost kept coming down as an argument for retention, then renewal. A few generations of the pseudo stuff came along - glaringly bright green when new, duller as days and years passed, but functional.
"There always was the whisper that it was dangerous to play on. It certainly seemed logical. Its surface magnified adhesion and surely meant more knee injuries. Except the NFL Players Organization spent big money to try to prove that and get the stuff outlawed, but the numbers just weren't there. No study gave satisfying proof that football on phonyturf was more dangerous than the grassy game. So, it stayed in, from 1970 on through 28 autumns in all.
"Then, in the manner of fashion, the vogue changed. Suddenly all the elite programs were going back to grass. Suddenly all the recruits wanted to play on the softer stuff.
"So competitive survival, the bogeyman that put the other stuff in, became the reason grass came back at Memorial Stadium, and whatever the reasons, I'm glad. Maybe on one of those cold, wet, gray November Saturdays, when the green of grass is replaced by the brown of mud and players are slipping and sliding and hard to identify, maybe artificial turf will come back to mind in a more positive way."
*****
Upgrades were made to the weight room in 1999 with Cameron naming the new facility after Mallory. A new video scoreboard was added to the mix that same year. Three years later, with Michael McNeely now running the athletics department, plans were set in motion to refurbish the press box for the first time since its opening. McNeely planned to spend $3.5 million to add 300 enclosed club seats and eight private luxury boxes, which would generate between $600,000-$700,000 in revenue annually for the athletic department. A president's suite was created, and the media work areas were refurbished as well.
McNeely, however, never saw the fruits of his plan. With the athletic department drowning in debt, McNeely resigned Nov. 8, 2002, after just 16 months on the job. The previous September McNeely told Trustees that the department was facing a deficit of roughly $1 million, and it was clear he was losing the support of the administration. IU vice president for Administration and Chief Administrative Officer Terry Clapacs was tabbed as interim AD and charged with pointing IU in the right direction.
Former Hoosier QB Trent Green donated most of the money for a $250,000 renovation of the Hoosiers' locker room under the west stands during the summer of 2003, providing a facelift for the facility that had opened in 1986. With the athletic department looking to cut corners, the decision was made to return to artificial turf for the 2003 season under head coach Gerry DiNardo, who took over from Cameron in 2002.
"We found that the current grass surface was very expensive to maintain and in recent years it created poor playing conditions," Clapacs said in a statement. "Our estimations showed re-sodding the field would cost about $150,000 every three years and maintenance costs of a grass field were $75,000 per year. On a life cycle this new turf is much less expensive and it is a more reliable surface."
The new surface, called "AstroPlay," featured long synthetic blades of grass with a rubber fill between the blades. The surface played and felt like natural grass without the upkeep or drainage issues. IU replaced the turf at a cost of $446,000 and trumpeted the fact the surface came with a 10-year guarantee. Natural grass once again was gone from Memorial Stadium and hasn't made a return since.
(Fun facts - There has been a rumor going around for the past few years that DiNardo helped ease the natural grass out the door. The whispers are - and these are merely whispers with no facts to back them up - that DiNardo ordered team managers to go onto the field with rakes to chunk up the sod and make the surface worse to push the administration to replace the field. Again, these could be old wives' tales, but that's the rumor around B-Town. Oh, and the 10-year guarantee on the AstroPlay certainly would have come in handy in the summer of 2008 when massive rainstorms pounded the Bloomington area. Flooding caused the turf to buckle and ripple, and a small sinkhole opened behind the south end zone. The company that had installed the AstroPlay had gone bankrupt and no longer was around to honor the 10-year guarantee. Insurance money instead was used to install the current artificial surface, which is called FieldPlay. It's a higher-quality version of the AstroPlay surface and has posed no problems for the Hoosiers since 2008.)
DiNardo was out by the 2005 season, and Terry Hoeppner was hired as the eighth head coach to try to turn the Hoosiers' fortunes around. Hep immediately dubbed the stadium "The Rock," a name that has stood the test of time for a little while now, and he added his own myth to the stadium.
Hoeppner claimed that on May 9, 2005, he left a meeting with some 50 Bloomington community and business leaders at the DeVault Alumni Center across 17th Street from Memorial Stadium just as the sun was setting. We'll let Hep tell the rest.
"It was a beautiful sight," Hoeppner said. "J.B. (Malibu Grill owner John Bailey) saw the sun set on the stadium, and he said, 'You know, that looks like a big rock.' And he was right. Considering that Bloomington is in the heart of limestone country, it was a perfect fit. All along, I felt that this program needed a unique identity, something that the players and fans could relate to."
Hep even added a solid symbol of the new name, which, of course, involved another story.
"I arrived at the stadium one morning during preseason camp around 6:30, and (IU athletics facilities worker) Prentice Parker told me about a three-ton piece of limestone that was back in the woods between Mellencamp Pavilion and The Tennis Center," Hoeppner said without explaining how anyone could look at a rock and know it weighed three tons. "We took a walk back (in the woods), and it turns out that was a remnant of the stadium construction from 1960. There are core drills in the stone that prove it."
Hoeppner had the rock, which he cleverly dubbed "The Rock," brought inside the stadium, and it has become a literal touchstone for the Hoosiers ever since. It sat behind the north goal post for the first two years of its existence before it was moved to a spot in front of the entrance to the locker room. It stayed in that spot for two seasons before being moved back to its original place of honor following the construction of the North End Zone facility, which enclosed the north side of the stadium and connected the east and west sides of the stadium to form a horseshoe.
That major construction was begun in the summer of 2007 - ground was broken for the North End Zone facility June 19, just hours after Hoeppner had passed away from complications of a brain tumor - and completed in 2009. We won't go into detail on that facility right now - it will get its own story in the next few weeks - but the addition helped bring Hoosier football into the 21st century.
Other bells and whistles were added by current AD Fred Glass for the 2009 season as we have mentioned before, and the facility, which now looks drastically different than it did when it opened in 1960, will be celebrating its 50th year next season. Although it hasn't seen as much success as the IU administration hoped it would when it opened a half-century ago, efforts continue to help the football program generate the kind of revenue needed to push Indiana athletics to new heights.
Memorial Stadium, however, isn't the only facility that has been bringing Hoosier fans joy and pain over the past few decades. Sitting just east of the east side stands is a basketball palace that has seen some of the biggest triumphs and biggest disappointments for IU in the past four decades.
That, however, is a story for another time.
Ken Bikoff can be reached via e-mail at kbikoff@insideiu.com. He suffered through a blistering Commencement ceremony on the old Memorial Stadium Astroturf and couldn't believe just how hot the turf could get.