Memorial Stadium

IrishGoph55

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anyone of you ever attended a game there? was it that bad? could it have been renovated?
 

Bayfieldgopher

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Yes.

It was old, the classic horseshoe shape built with bricks that had bench seats and rickety bleachers in the west end zone, and in need of improvements. I still remember the smell of hot dogs and cigar smoke in the concourses. And Jules Perlt on the PA was a classic. Often times he would announce the scores in a somewhat backward fashion. For instance if Iowa was the big favorite over Illinois, he would announce "Iliinois 17...............Iowa 30".

There was talk about renovations but Giel and others made the decision to play off campus and become third class tenants in the dome.

This is a very good read. https://shamasportsheadliners.com/memories-endure-from-memorial-stadium/
 

xyz1

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You can renovate anything if you've got the money and willingness to spend it, but given the realities of the time that was very unlikely to happen.

It had a definite sense of history by the time I attended one game each year from 77 to 79, but even by 70s standards it wasn't much of a stadium. The locker rooms were in the basement of Cooke Hall, there was a single scoreboard of the type you'd see at a high school, there was a severe shortage of bathrooms, and a large number of the seats were in the bowl end and very far from the field.
 

Ski U Master

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Avoiding the Metrodome would have been great, but I don't think I would trade TCF for a rennovated Memorial Stadium at this point. I've been to lots of other CFB stadia from the same era as Memorial and they are all dumps. Dumps with history and a great old vibe, but restrooms are bad, concourses are cramped, seating and views are not good.
 

RememberMurray

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To me as a young kid, the disembodied gravelly voice of Jules Perlt was Gopher football... along with the afore-mentioned smell of hot dogs and cigars.

I still remember Jules Perlt half-growling, half-booming out, "DUNGY the ball carrier..."
 

Pete smith

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Avoiding the Metrodome would have been great, but I don't think I would trade TCF for a rennovated Memorial Stadium at this point. I've been to lots of other CFB stadia from the same era as Memorial and they are all dumps. Dumps with history and a great old vibe, but restrooms are bad, concourses are cramped, seating and views are not good.
I saw the Gophers play USC with O.J.Simpson. The grass was 7 inches tall - the backs all had lowcut shoes but you couldn’t see them. Warmth excuse, only had 1 lawnmower and it was broke. O.J. Had over 200 yards by halftime . Min.. forgot long grass will also slow down the defense. Type of stadium that we built a fire in the parking lot at halftime because it was so cold.
 

salzie

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Which one??

HA

Wasn't it pretty similar to Purdue's stadium?
 

GopherDog1

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I attended many games there from 1972 to when the dome was built. Memorial was classic but when I went to the Airforce game at TCF I noticed they really captured the brick feel and that made me happy. When I attended the DQ Club social a few years ago I was very impressed and I realized that Memorial Stadium would have a hard time making that standard and competing at the present Big Ten level. I am certain that with TCF at 10 years old and the Gophers on the rise we are better off than if they tried to update Memorial Stadium. Build some decks on TCF if needed!!! I get a feel for Memorial when I attend a basketball game at The Barn. That is very simiar to what I guess Memorial would be like these days.
 

A_Slab_of_Bacon

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Avoiding the Metrodome would have been great, but I don't think I would trade TCF for a rennovated Memorial Stadium at this point. I've been to lots of other CFB stadia from the same era as Memorial and they are all dumps. Dumps with history and a great old vibe, but restrooms are bad, concourses are cramped, seating and views are not good.
I was there after they abandoned it.

Like there was not much there to build on / renovate. I mean you COULD but man ... I'm pretty sure if you were to try to get what TCF has you'd have to either just raise it and build TCF or you'd spend more building "AROUND" what was a fairly unusable shell.
 

GopherDog1

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Cigar smoke still brings me back to Memorial Stadium. Jules Perlt's voice was fantastic but todays voice is good too. We are good to go and if you want to see a Memorial era dump right in town go to UST's Stadium. That captures the dump feel just right, it is tiny but it is similar.
 

Lincoln gopher

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Memorial was a dump, but I got to see some good games in the late 70's. Tony Dungy and company beating UCLA and of course the victory over #1 Michigan. Working at the Big Ten/Brickhouse across the street was a great time on football Saturday's.
 
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I attended my first game there as a kid in 1979 and went to two or three games per season that year and in 1980 and 1981 until it closed. The stadium stood there for a many years after Gopher football moved to the Metrodome because there were facilities like weight rooms, racquet ball courts, offices, and so on that were still needed and could not be easily replaced. As a kid I participated one summer in a multi-week day youth sports program that was run by the U of M. We got to play flag football, kickball, softball, soccer, and other games on the Memorial Stadium field and track. The Gophers were already at the Dome by then, so the place was showing a lot of neglect, but it was really cool to be on the field and also to see those other facilities under the stands. We used the gyms and pool in Cooke Hall as well.

The stadium could definitely have been renovated, but such a project would have been expensive and honestly I have my doubts about whether it would have fixed some of the many issues facing the stadium or whether any fix in the mid 1980s would have been good enough to stand the test of time or perhaps lead the Gophers to seek shelter at US Bank Stadium later, merely postponing our Metrodome issues a generation or so.

Here are the problems the place faced.

- The bench seats were narrow, uncomfortable, and lacked leg room. I doubt a 1980s renovation could have solved the legroom issue because it would have meant re-profiling the concrete, but new benches were a must with perhaps a few sections of chair back seats near midfield on the home side. Beating the narrowness problem by widening the assigned spot for a seat on a bench, in practice taking a 30 seat row down to 24 on the same length bench, might have had the unwanted effect of losing capacity in the sections with good views of the field.

- The sightlines were terrible. Legend has it that when Notre Dame prepared to build its stadium, Knute Rockne told the architects that something like Memorial Stadium was exactly what he didn't want. One issue was the running track which pushed the seats back from the field. In recent years some stadiums with tracks have removed them and then dug down to lower the field and improve the sightlines. If we still had Memorial Stadium now, perhaps that would eventually happen or would have happened recently, but in the 1980s that sort of thing was unlikely even if the track & field team no longer used the stadium.

Apart from being pushed back from the field, the rise of the seating bowl was far too shallow. It made seeing over the person in front of you hard, even if the person in front of you wasn't very tall. The nature of the horse shoe shape with the curving U and the track widening things out meant that there were far more seats in the enclosed end than there should have been. They were also far away due to the track and efforts to shift the field in that direction over the years created the thing you see at Northwestern with seats facing straight on to blank spots beyond the end zone at the open Cooke Hall end. It was a mess and a renovation that created better views was going to be very costly.

- There were no luxury boxes. This would eventually be something that could be remedied either by putting them in a ring around the top or in a tower structure like so many colleges have. This would also have enabled the replacement of the ancient and completely out of date press boxes. The question again is what would this cost and would that cost be worth it?

- The concession stands and restrooms were awful by modern times. These were fixable. I attended a game between the Gophers and Illinois at Memorial Stadium in Champaign in 2001, a point at which that stadium has been renovated many times and had another big one coming a few years later. It was by no means perfect and not at TCF Bank Stadium levels, but you could see where they had crammed in extra stands, kiosks, and restrooms where they could and tried to keep things clean and as modern as a stadium of that age and the money available would allow.

- The Gophers would have needed vastly improved facilities with locker rooms for them and the visitors within the stadium as well as improved weight and training facilities. Some of the other things taking up space in the stadium would have had to go elsewhere. Once again, the questions are about how much this would cost and whether it would be worth it.

- A new scoreboard with a replay board could have gone in the end zone with the bleacher section there reduced in size or removed altogether since we hardly needed the capacity. The one at the top of Cooke Hall could have remained for tradition, but the days of relying solely on a board like that were over well before the stadium closed.

- General upkeep needed to be better. The place seemed old, worn out, and dirty. An open to the air stadium in this climate was going to get beat up, but it looked like basic maintenance was being neglected.

It all goes back to money. The Metrodome cost the U of M nothing to build. What would a renovation of Memorial Stadium have cost circa 1984 or 1985 had the team come back to campus or never left in the first place? LSU expanded its stadium and performed some other improvements ahead of the 1978 season at a cost of $11,500,000. Tennessee expanded Neyland Stadium in 1980 for about $7,500,000. Those numbers seem quaintly small now, but were big bucks at the time. Could and would the U of M been able to get the money from the legislature and donations?
 
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WAGopher

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081975A1-B482-42DD-A5E6-A8CACB8D5EAE.jpg

Memorial stadium was a shallow bowl similar to Michigan stadium, but with an open send and extra field space to accommodate room for an Olympic size running track. The larger field space greatly increased the distance the seats were from the field of play, especially in the bowl end. There was some discussion to lower the field and add seats to bring fans closer to the game, but it would have been difficult to do since the seat rows nearest the field already had only about a 4” drop between them. Near the top the rows had what seemed to be more than a 12” drop. In the attached picture you can see how far away the fans were from the game.
 

Schnauzer

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I saw two Gopher football games in Memorial Stadium when I was a kid. One of them was a loss to Oregon State and the other was a victory over some mid-major.

I remember the sea of red MTC busses parked outside and how large it seemed to me. My dad really impressed me when he told me the capacity was bigger than the Vikings in the Met.

The stadium was very similar to Purdue’s stadium. Just a classic horseshoe and as others have said, it was dumpy and really showing its age.

It was a weird set of events that led from Memorial, to the dome, to TCF but in the end we lucked out. The new stadium is on campus and addresses all the major flaws of both dome and Memorial. All it needs is for some fans to show up. It has such a beautiful collegiate look with all the arches and brick. Yet it equals the beauty with functionality and comfort. I think of this every time I visit other college stadiums and sit with my knees in my chest and wait an eternity to get into a bathroom.

 
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We might be better off in the long run in some ways for losing Memorial Stadium, going to the Metrodome, and returning to campus in the modern TCF Bank Stadium.

Here is an aerial view of Memorial Stadium at Kansas. It is remarkably similar in design to our Memorial Stadium. The running track is gone now, but they didn't lower the field, they just expanded the artificial turf over it to eliminate the psychological effect of the track being there without actually changing the sightlines. Ask yourself if this is what you'd have wanted here?

 

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highwayman

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To me as a young kid, the disembodied gravelly voice of Jules Perlt was Gopher football... along with the afore-mentioned smell of hot dogs and cigars.

I still remember Jules Perlt half-growling, half-booming out, "DUNGY the ball carrier..."
Jules announcing “there’s a squirrel on the field” and calling out the yard lines as it sprinted for the end zone.

The usher in the bowl end zone seats who looked like Colonel Sanders.

Shagging pregame field goals in the same end zone and having my nose broken by one by Steve Goldberg that ricocheted off the bench seating.

Rick Upchurch with a brilliant punt return against OSU.
 

t-docious

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Avoiding the Metrodome would have been great, but I don't think I would trade TCF for a rennovated Memorial Stadium at this point. I've been to lots of other CFB stadia from the same era as Memorial and they are all dumps. Dumps with history and a great old vibe, but restrooms are bad, concourses are cramped, seating and views are not good.
agreed. didnt realize how good we had it until I went to Camp Randall last year. What a dump. I would have figured that they would have done some upgrading of that place by now. The Bifs in the middle of the concourse I was like wow what year is it?
 
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One of the games I attended was the day of or the day after a late season snowfall. There was a guy behind an end zone dressed as Darth Vader, possibly because the halftime show was Star Wars music. Kids started throwing snowballs at him and he had to run for cover.

On another occasion, they had a car circling the field on the running track as part of a plug for whatever auto dealer was a sponsor. As it passed the student sections, all manner of debris was tossed at it from the stands and the driver hit the gas to get out of harm's way sooner.
 

A_Slab_of_Bacon

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agreed. didnt realize how good we had it until I went to Camp Randall last year. What a dump. I would have figured that they would have done some upgrading of that place by now. The Bifs in the middle of the concourse I was like wow what year is it?
JEBUS....
 
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agreed. didnt realize how good we had it until I went to Camp Randall last year. What a dump. I would have figured that they would have done some upgrading of that place by now. The Bifs in the middle of the concourse I was like wow what year is it?
I haven't gone on the road with the Gophers in several years, but have been to Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State (for that game!), and Wisconsin. All of these are older stadiums that have had some sort of renovation. Northwestern was by far the worst, mainly because visiting fans end up on the erector set stands opposite the main grandstand which looks like it has had some investment in it by comparison. Wisconsin was indeed a dump. Ohio State's renovations seem to have made the place pretty nice, but I was in a happy mood so that might cloud my judgment. Illinois did what they could, but the place was old and the smallish space of concourses limited what could be done. I recall Iowa being dumpy, but we sat in the old end zone opposite the student section that has since been replaced with something much nicer. It is possible they weren't doing more than the bare minimum by then ahead of the new project.
 

salzie

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agreed. didnt realize how good we had it until I went to Camp Randall last year. What a dump. I would have figured that they would have done some upgrading of that place by now. The Bifs in the middle of the concourse I was like wow what year is it?
Camp Randall has cool environment for game day, but sucks. It's very crowded tight rows. Not sure which is more uncomfortable kinnick or Randall. Memorial stadium (Nebraska's) has horrible traffic flow and not enough entrances to sections, takes forever to filter 90K fans. I think seats have a bit more room than Wi/Ia though
 

MplsGopher

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Yes but I believe Kansas has since committed to spending $300M to completely renovate their Memorial Stadium.

TCF cost $2xxM I believe. So I guess it would’ve been similarity either way. I like TCF, I think it’s perfect for our program.
 

salzie

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Yes but I believe Kansas has since committed to spending $300M to completely renovate their Memorial Stadium.

TCF cost $2xxM I believe. So I guess it would’ve been similarity either way. I like TCF, I think it’s perfect for our program.
I think our final tab was just over 300 million. I think it's nice stadium for 300
 

short ornery norwegian

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As others have said, it was bench seating. limited leg room. no amenities. but, back then, most stadiums were somewhat similar, so it's not like we were comparing Memorial to US Bank Stadium. a place like US Bank back in the 60's would have seemed like science-fiction. I also went to a couple of games at Camp Randall in High School, and the WI stadium was similar to Memorial in a lot of respects.

As a younger kid, just being at a big-time college football game was enough of a treat that you really didn't mind the surroundings. 1st game at Memorial was the OJ Simpson game in 1968. Went there three times in High School on Band Day, when High School bands got in cheap, sat in the end zone, and played along with the marching band at halftime. Later on, when I was in college (at Augsburg), I made it over to a few Gopher games. I saw the Gophers beat Warren Moon and the U of Washington. Saw some other games like Ohio U and teams of that ilk, which did not leave a lot of impressions on me.

Even with the lack of amenities, going to Memorial still felt more like a college football game then it did at the Metrodome. AT the Dome, you were always aware that the Gophers were tenants - it was not THEIR stadium.
 

GopherDog1

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I went to Lincoln last year to see the game and I was somewhat dissapointed. Place is patched together here and there with consessions stands and video boards in weird places. A classic place to watch a game but really cramped and far away from the field are the visitors seats.

TCU level crowds at TCF will really bring back the atmosphere. Memorial had atmosphere but the crown in the middle of the field was so high that players legs were out of sight on the opposite sidelines if you sat near the field especially with the synthetic turf they had in there before the last grass field was installed. It was not going to compete with what we have now at TCF.
 

Lakeville Goldy

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I never made it to a game there myself. Unfortunately, my folks did (still do) not like going to sporting events. I went to two Twins games as a kid, no other pro or college game.

Regarding renovation, there were a handful of issues.

First off, the structure of the stadium wasn't in great shape. Just to keep it viable for use they were going to have to put a good chunk of money into it ($10 million if I remember right, compared to a total cost of $55 million for the Metrodome just to put that money into perspective).

As others have mentioned, the base design was flawed by modern standards. So now they would have put $10 million into a stadium with awful sight lines, no boxes, few bathrooms... Probably would have cost more to fix those issues than building a new stadium.

Timing couldn't have been worse with a brand new stadium just a couple miles from campus. Not to mention, a complete cheapskate mentality at the U, especially towards athletics. Nobody could have justified spending the kind of money it would have taken to completely rebuild Memorial to even come close to Metrodome standards. As awful as the Metrodome was, it was seen as a much better alternative than reworking Memorial. Had the issues come up a few years earlier, I wonder if they would have band-aided it. Really didn't have another option, as Bloomington would have been unthinkable. Chances are, we'd be whining about what a dump our stadium is right now had they done that.
 

Sanford97

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I was 13 when Memorial was torn down in 1992. I still remember that shortly before the final demolition my dad took me over to the stadium to have a final look. I still remember him pointing at it while looking at me sternly and saying "Mark my words. In 20 years they will regret tearing this stadium down." Sure enough, it was only 17 years later that TCF opened.
 

e.bigelow

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This thread has been an excellent read. My Dad, Mom and Grandparents all attended the U and saw games at Memorial Stadium. I have heard their stories about Memorial Stadium from their time in College so I appreciate hearing all these. I wasn't fortunate (or unfortunate?) enough to be able to attend games at Memorial (only the dome as a kid in the 90's and college in 2000's and TCF), but really enjoy reading about other peoples experiences there and seeing the old photos. Thanks to all who share! :)
 

GopherPD

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My brother ran track at the U late 60's early 70's. Went to a lot of meets at Memorial. Wasn't great for track either but saw the Gophers win the Big 10 meet in 1968. Indoor meets at the field house were worse, really a dump, made Memorial Stadium and Williams Arena look like the Taj Mahal. Saw plenty of football games as well, always enjoyable. Best was 1977 Michigan game when I was in college next door at Augsburg. Gophers won 16-0, Michigan was #1 in the country, the original Marion Barber had a great game and after the game went into Stub and Herbs and watched Scout LeDoux boxing against Leon Spinks on the CBS sports spectacular. In those days one network had college football and there was usually one game a week on TV. That was the last time the Gophers beat Michigan at home.
 
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I went to Lincoln last year to see the game and I was somewhat dissapointed. Place is patched together here and there with consessions stands and video boards in weird places. A classic place to watch a game but really cramped and far away from the field are the visitors seats.

TCU level crowds at TCF will really bring back the atmosphere. Memorial had atmosphere but the crown in the middle of the field was so high that players legs were out of sight on the opposite sidelines if you sat near the field especially with the synthetic turf they had in there before the last grass field was installed. It was not going to compete with what we have now at TCF.
Nebraska has made some improvements and expansions to the two sideline grandstands, but a day of reckoning is coming for the two large end zone stands. You have two gigantic, bare bones, steel frames with concrete risers atop them and thousands upon thousands of bleacher benches exposed to the elements. I've not been, but have heard through the years that the amenities in those end zone stands are next to none with long concession and restroom lines and, as you mentioned, an egress time that suggests clearing the place during an emergency would be very problematic.

The official capacity is 85,458 and they still claim sellouts for every game despite the recent downturn in team performance. I don't know if that is a false sellout streak that the school perpetuates out of pride, if lots of sold seats go unused or if they really pack the house for every home game. The money the team leaves on the table by continuing to have two such basic stands amazes me. I'd assume at some point one or both would be replaced or heavily renovated. However, the team has a lot problems.

They can't afford to lose capacity in season, so it would be a case, should this ever occur, of fixing one stand at a time, starting construction right after the final home game (with that game in mid November and the team finishing with a pair of road games), starting the new season on the road or at least ensuring the team is off or on the road on Labor Day weekend, and racing against the clock to make it by the home opener. Doing something with the larger north stand is made especially difficult by having the athletic department offices in a tacked on structure at the rear. Better sightlines, more premium seating, and better amenities (leg room, concessions, restrooms) would be the goal.
 
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