SoonerSports.com  Stadium History

1929 Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
  Stadium History

Oklahoma Memorial Stadium's rich heritage has not hindered its evolution, a never-ending growth fueled by the Sooners' overwhelming popularity. Almost since its inception, the stadium has been a work in progress. View a map of OU's current campus with approximate locations of all four of the Sooners' home fields.
     
 Stadium Growth
 Year
Capacity
 Additions & Changes
 2004  82,112  Suites completed on east side
 2003  81,207  East upper deck
 1998  72,765  Decreased for disability seating
 1980  75,004  South end zone facility
 1975  71,187  West upper deck
 1957  61,826  South end zone bleachers
 1948  55,647  North enclosed, field lowered
 1928  32,000  Permanent east stands built
 1925  16,000  Permanent west stands built
 1923  ~500  Bleachers on east side
 
 Home Win Streaks
 Wins
 Streak
39
 2005 Tulsa to 2011 Ball State
25
 1947 Iowa State to 1952 Nebraska
21
 1972 Utah State to 1975 Iowa State
21
 1953 Kansas to 1957 Colorado
20
 1976 Kansas State to 1980 Kentucky
19
 2002 Alabama to 2004 Nebraska
19
 1998 Iowa State to 2001 Texas A&M
19
 1985 Iowa State to 1988 Kansas
15
 1966 Nebraska to 1969 Kansas
11
 1957 Okla. State to 1959 Okla. State
 
The original University football field was located on the prairie north of the present Holmberg Hall. OU's first game in 1895 was played there against the Oklahoma City Town Team. Later Oklahoma teams played about 100 yards east of the first field at a spot also unnamed. Both of these early fields consisted solely of a smooth wire fence stretched along both sidelines.
  
In 1905, in Bennie Owen's first season as coach, Boyd Field was laid out just west of the present Field House. It was named for the University's first president, Dr. David Ross Boyd. A grandstand seated 500 and the field was surrounded by a thick Bois d'Arc hedge that was the despair of small boys trying to see the game without paying admission.
 
 
In 1921, University of Oklahoma students started a movement for construction of a student union. In 1922, Norman's YMCA building burned to the ground and its officials joined forces with the University in a movement for a student union. Since a stadium was also needed, the Board of Regents in 1925 appointed trustees for a combined stadium/union memorial fund.
 
The first choice for the stadium/union was an orchard area across Asp Street west of the old Boyd Field. In the original architect's drawings, the north end of the proposed structure was strikingly similar to the present Oklahoma Memorial Union, which eventually was constructed separately when head coach Bennie Owen suggested it would be best to raise funds for a separate union and stadium.
 
View Original 1922 "Stadium for Oklahoma" Campaign Pamphlet (PDF)
 
The very first game played at the current site of Owen Field took place on October 20, 1923, before the stadium/union plan got under way. OU defeated Washington University of St. Louis, 62-7, before a few loyal fans on a bitterly cold day.
 
In 1925, the first contest (a 7-0 win over Drake) was played in front of the red tile, brick and reinforced concrete stands on the west side of the field. The 16,000-seat Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, named in honor of University personnel who died in World War I, was erected at a cost of approximately $293,000.
 
 
The stadium was dedicated at that year's homecoming game against Kansas. It was a cold, wet day and the muddy field was named after Owen, who became a charter member of the National Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
 
The biggest crowd to see a game in Owen Field's west stadium was 16,235 in 1926 when Owen's Sooners upset undefeated Missouri, 10-7. The east stadium was finished prior to the 1929 season and a new record throng of 18,346 saw Nebraska manhandle Coach Adrian Lindsey's Sooners, 44-6. With both sides finished, the stadium seated approximately 32,000.
 
Oklahoma was hit hard by the twin calamities of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl in the 1930s. From 1937 to 1942, the stadium served as a makeshift dorm for young men struggling to find resources to attend the state's leading university. The students were housed in several renovated rooms on the second floor. The University paid the utility bills, a fraternity donated a stove and OU President Bizzell supplied the refrigerator.
 
In early fall and late spring, the push-out windows didn't generate enough ventilation. Many students preferred sleeping in the bleachers or on the cool grass of Owen Field.
 
The Depression cut football attendance until 1938 when Coach Tom Stidham's all-victorious Sooners beat Nebraska, 14-0, before an Owen Field crowd of 28,091. In 1940, Nebraska's Rose Bowl juggernaut beat Oklahoma, 13-0, and a new record mob of 33,377 (bleachers added) were on hand.
 
That record stood until 1947, Bud Wilkinson's first year as head coach, when the Sooners and Kansas tied, 13-13, and the crowd went 34,547. In 1948, when Missouri invaded, practically the whole state stormed Owen Field to see the first of the young Minnesotan's many brilliant Sooner teams and 39,297 were counted, including standees.
 
 
OU President George Cross led a fight for expanded seating and in 1948, the outdoor track that surrounded the field was moved east across Jenkins Avenue (present site of John Jacobs Field). The gridiron was excavated six feet which provided room for 7,500 ringside seats. The north end of the stadium was enclosed and a press box was added. Capacity now stood at 55,647.
 
"They'll never fill it," the skeptics cried but Wilkinson's undefeated 1949 Sooners filled it with 60,145 on hand for the Santa Clara game (a 28-21 OU win). Additional hundreds were turned away.
 
In 1957, green grandstand bleachers were added to the south end of the field, enabling the stadium to hold 61,826 fans. Oklahoma's famed Sooner Schooner first rolled across Owen Field during the 1964 season.
 
In July, 1970, the original natural grass surface which had been in place since 1948 was removed and artificial turf was installed. The turf was used as a recruiting tool and to enhance the speed advantage Oklahoma held over opponents. During the Wishbone era, artificial turf was was as much a part of the offense as the triple option.
 
In time for the 1975 season, an upper deck and new press box were constructed on the west side of the stadium. Another 8,436 seats were added at a cost of $5.7 million. Capacity for that year's National Championship season was 71,187.
 
 
Before the 1980 season, the old green bleachers in the south end zone were replaced with a permanent facility which boosted capacity to 75,004. In addition to improved seating, the complex included coaches' offices, the weight room, meeting rooms, a training room, the equipment room and two locker rooms.
 
The tartan turf was replaced with super turf before the 1981 season. That turf was ripped up and Owen Field returned to natural grass in time for the 1994 season.
  
  Modern History

A stadium master plan was approved by the OU Board of Regents in June of 1994. Construction of nine west side suites began in April, 1995, and was completed that year. Eight of the suites seat 12 and the President's suite seats 24. Subsequent improvements in 1997 included the installation of stadium lights to allow night games, a new scoreboard and a video screen.
 
Stadium capacity was decreased to 72,765 prior to the 1998 season to provide more wheelchair seating.
 
The Barry Switzer Center, named after the former OU head football coach, opened in April, 1999. That complex includes a sports medicine facility with the latest equipment and technology to better accommodate OU's student-athletes; the Robin Siegfried and Family Strength and Conditioning Facility, which will accommodate more than 400 athletes; new locker rooms; new coaches offices; the Anderson All-American Plaza and the OU Touchdown Club Legends Lobby.
 
In 2002, OU enacted plans to upgrade the entire stadium through four phases. Phase I replaced all stadium seating; expanded and renovated the north end athletics offices and Prentice Gautt Academic Center; expanded the stadium with the east side suites and upper deck (total: $75 million).
 
Phase II included a second level of suites on the east side, renovation and expansion of the Santee Lounge and club seats;, fan amenities on the east concourse; and expansion and improvements to the team meeting rooms in the Switzer Center (total:$ 9 million).
 
 
Phase III included fan amenities on the west side, expansion and improvements to the coaches' offices and Legends Lobby of the Switzer Center (total: $12 million). All phases included improvements to disability accessibility to the stadium and support facilities.
 
For Phase IV, OU's football facilities -- especially those which the student-athletes use daily -- were further upgraded in 2009. Improvements included a 9,000 square-foot football locker room including grooming areas, cold plunge hydrotherapy pools and players' lounge, a 10,000 square-foot athletic training space to include additional hydrotherapy for all teams, a 6,500 square-foot equipment room, a 4,000 square-foot team meeting room equipped with the latest technology, sound, and video equipment, and seating for more than 200 added to the more than 8,000 square feet of existing team meeting rooms.

The upgrades also included expansion of HD and other technology-driven enhancements to the SoonerVision studio and production facilities. The final phase of the stadium project totaled $15 million, bringing the total for all improvements to the stadium and its support areas to more than $125 million since 1998.
 
Today, Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is one of America's most recognized college football cathedrals. Situated on the east side of the Norman campus, this historical facility is the largest sports arena in the state and ranks among the 15 largest on-campus facilities in the nation.
 
A record crowd of 85,709 -- the largest crowd to witness a football game in the state of Oklahoma -- jammed the stadium on November 5, 2011 to watch Coach Bob Stoops' Sooners beat Texas A&M, 41-25.
 
  Field Locations

The original University football field (1) was located on the prairie north of the present Holmberg Hall. OU's first game in 1895 was played there against the Oklahoma City Town Team. Later Oklahoma teams played about 100 yards east of the first field at a spot also unnamed (2). Both of these early fields consisted solely of a smooth wire fence stretched along both sidelines.
 
In 1905, in Bennie Owen's first season as coach, Boyd Field (3) was laid out just west of the present Field House. It was named for the University's first president, Dr. David Ross Boyd. A grandstand seated 500 and the field was surrounded by a thick Bois d'Arc hedge that was the despair of small boys trying to see the game without paying admission.
 
The very first game played at the current site of Owen Field (4) took place on October 20, 1923. Oklahoma defeated Washington University of St. Louis, 62-7, before a few loyal fans on a bitterly cold day.
 




 
  Stadium Records

 Individual Bests
 Rushing Yards  274, Mike Gaddis vs. Oklahoma State (1989)
 Rushing Attempts  53, Steve Owens vs. Iowa State (1969)
 Rushing Touchdowns  5, DeMarco Murray vs. North Texas (2007)
 5, Steve Owens vs. Nebraska (1968)
 Passing Completions  41, Kliff Klingsbury of Texas Tech (2000)
 By OU: 37, Josh Heupel vs. Baylor (1999)
 Passing Attempts  61, Kliff Klingsbury of Texas Tech (2000)
 By OU: 54, Josh Heupel vs. Baylor (1999)
 Passing Yards  468, Sam Bradford vs. Kansas (2008)
 Passing Touchdowns  6, Landry Jones vs. Tulsa (2009)
 5, Sam Bradford vs. Nebraska, Washington & Cincinnati (2008)
 5, Sam Bradford vs. North Texas & Miami (2007)
 5, Jason White vs. Texas A&M (2003)
 5, Josh Heupel vs. Indiana State (1999)
 Receiving Yards  269, Dezmon Briscoe of Kansas (2008)
 By OU: 206, Manuel Johnson vs. TCU (2008)
 Receptions  12, Manuel Johnson vs. TCU (2008)
 Receiving Touchdowns  4, Jermaine Gresham vs. Texas A&M (2007)
 Punting Average (Minimum 3)  56.33, Mike Keeling vs. Kansas (1981)
 Punt Returns for TD  3, Antonio Perkins vs. UCLA (2003) - NCAA Record
 Punt Return Yards  277, Antonio Perkins vs. UCLA (2003) - NCAA Record
 Tackles  19, Daryl Hunt vs. Vanderbilt (1977)
 Interceptions  3, by two players
 Sacks  5, Cedric Jones vs. Texas Tech (1994)
 Team Bests
 Rushing Yards  768 vs. Kansas State (1988)
 Passing Yards  468 vs. Kansas (2008)
 Total Yards  829 vs. Kansas State (1988)
 Points  79 vs. North Texas (2007)
 First Downs  38 vs. Kansas State (1988)
 Longest Plays
 Rush  96, Jeff Frazier vs. North Texas (1995)
 Pass  99, Troy DeGar of Tulsa to Wes Caswell (1996)
 By OU: 86, Boyd to McDaniel vs. West Virginia (1958)
 Field Goal  60, Tony DiRienzo vs. Kansas (1973)
 Punt  87, Joe Wylie vs. Kansas State (1970)
 Punt Return  96, Darrell Royal vs. Kansas State (1948)
 Kickoff Return  100, Buster Rhymes vs. Kansas State (1980)
 100, Mack Heron of Kansas State (1968)
 
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