In a recent poll of Lone Star Conference fans, our very own Memorial Stadium was voted top venue in the league. This really does not surprise me, but as the athletic program continues to revive traditions and revamp facilities, it is important to take a look at what we can to improve our campus crown jewel. (Not really, but hey, this is Texas remember?)
First, to understand our stadium, it is important to understand the history behind the stadium. The lopsided structure of the stadium has always been there. When Memorial Stadium was built, the west side stands were for 10,000 fans and the east side had seating for 2,000 fans. Memorial Stadium was named in honor of the World War II soldiers who had fought and died that were University students. There is a plaque that is still at the front of the stadium that commemorates them and their names. It is an important part of school history, and we will get into the name later.
When I first came to Commerce as a student in the fall of 2005, the Memorial Stadium was…….well pretty bad. In fact it was a joke for college stadium. It was one sided, had a grass surface, old locker rooms (and I mean OLD), a scoreboard that was 15 years old at least, and aside from the mediocre teams, the reason there was a total lack of a game day atmosphere was because of how bad the Stadium was. I might say the worst part was the horrific chain link fence around the stadium. It was embarrassing, but it was just like the state of the Football program, shabby and uncared for.
After the 2005 season, the athletic department closed the stadium to lay down safeplay turf. It was a major improvement from what had been, and then the horrendous and pathetic excuse for a fence around it was replaced with an iron boundary that was nice. So here is a brief history of the stadium and the rennovations.
Fall 1949-Ground breaks for Memorial Stadium and University Fieldhouse.
Fall 1950-Lions play their first game in front of a packed out stadium of 12,000 fans on a cool Fall night, losing to former rival North Texas 42-20.
November 1972-The first ever postseason game is played at Memorial Stadium with the Lions routing the number 1 team in the nation, Central Oklahoma 54-0 to advance to the N.A.I.A. National Champions Bowl.
December 1972-The ETSU Lions win the National Championship on the Memorial Stadium grass by a score of 21-18 over Carson-Newman College after the NAIA decides to host the title game in Commerce.
Fall 1973-The President’s suite was added, as well as 4 others giving 5 special viewing areas in all for University dignitaries and boosters.
October 1977-Lion Kicker Tom Hay knocks through an extra point and Texas A&I’s winning streak of 46 games came to an abrupt end.
Spring 1979-The University announces that due to the growing distance between LSC schools and the desire to move the conference tennis championships back to Commerce, the visitor section would be torn down and replaced with tennis courts, reducing capacity to 10,000 fans and all seating would be on the west side of the stadium.
Fall 1980-Memorial Stadium hosts the NAIA National Semifinals where the Lions fall to Elon College 14-6. The Lion football team was quarterbacked by future All-Pro Wade Wilson.
Fall 1991-The University and the stadium hosts it’s first ever NCAA postseason game as the Lions defeat Grand Valley State 36-15 in the first round of the NCAA Division II finals.
Fall 1992-A new ticket booth and scoreboard are built.
Spring 2006-The University athletic department installs a Fieldturf surface, removing the natural grass and soccer game lines are drawn. A new digital scoreboard is installed and the chainlink fence is removed and replaced with an Iron fence. The track is replaced by an All-Weather surface track, and a mural is painted on the press box that reads HOME OF THE LIONS.
Spring 2010-The east side of the stadium is totally rebuilt with 3,500 seats, including a reserve section and a new press box with concession stands, brand new restrooms, and a new ticket booth on the east side. A new video jumbotron scoreboard is built and replaces the old scoreboard which is moved to the University Soccer Complex to serve as the scoreboard at that field. The stadium capacity is raised to 13,500.
Summer 2013-The University athletic department redoes the track surface and also puts in new turf that features the world’s largest on field logo that attracts attention from all over the country and the world.
Fall 2014-The tunnel under the home section is renovated and create space for vendors to sell University athletic apparel, where murals are put up by corporate sponsor Good Sport honoring former Lions Tevin Moore, Bob Bounds, Gary Compton, Billy Watkins, and Ernest Hawkins for their record setting careers in Commerce.
So, there is a timeline of what the stadium has undergone the past 60 years, so with the above being mentioned, the question is, what would you like to see added, removed, or changed to Memorial Stadium?
So, let’s get to it.