VANDERBILT STADIUM Year Built: 1922 | Capacity: 40,550 Photo Gallery
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Vanderbilt Stadium, an intimate 40,550-seat facility located in the heart of campus, has been the Commodores' home since 1981. The Commodores began playing home games at the current location in 1922. Dudley Field, as it was named, was the first stadium in the South to be erected exclusively for college football.
Vanderbilt dedicated its new stadium October 14, 1922, with a game for the ages. The Michigan Wolverines, a national power even in those days, came to Nashville as heavy favorites. The Commodores battled to a 0-0 tie, giving every one of the 20,000-plus fans in attendance a memory to cherish.
The game was played in a carnival-like atmosphere, with the game ball being dropped from an airplane. Vanderbilt's most momentous defensive stop of the day came as Michigan attempted a fourth-down play on the Commodores' goal line. A Vanderbilt defender, using one of the goal posts to push off of, stopped the advancing Michigan runner and squelched any hope the Wolverines had of scoring on that day.
Good play continued as the opening season at Dudley featured a Commodore squad that powered its way to an 8-0-1 season, outscoring its opponents 117-16 overall and surrendering zero points at home.
Before the dedication game, the field was named for Dr. William Dudley, Dean of the Vanderbilt Medical College from 1885 until his death in 1914. Dr. Dudley was the outstanding academic leader of his day and one of football's foremost national leaders.
Dudley organized the old Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the predecessor to the Southeastern Conference, in 1893, and in 1906 helped organize the NCAA, of which he later served as vice-president. Dudley was also one of the first advocates of changing football scoring system to make touchdowns count six points instead of five and devaluing field goals from four to three points.
From Vanderbilt's pigskin inception in 1892 until 1922, the Commodores competed at Old Dudley Field. After the new stadium was built, Old Dudley was rechristened Curry Field, in honor of Irby (Rabbit) Curry, a standout football player from 1914-16. Curry was killed in World War I while flying a combat mission over France in 1918.
Dudley Field seated 20,000 spectators in 1922, but grew in fits and spurts to host 34,000 by 1960. The open end of the horseshoe-shaped stadium was fitted with bleacher sections in 1937 and additions were made to the west side of the stadium in 1949 and the east side in 1960.
The first night game at Dudley Field took place on September 25, 1954, when Vanderbilt fell to Baylor, 25-19. The lighting system was constructed in the summer of 1954 to facilitate the arrival of the Billy Graham Crusade in Nashville.
After a $10.1 million construction project in 1981, the new home of the Commodores, Vanderbilt Stadium, was dedicated in September as Vanderbilt posted a comeback victory, beating heavily Maryland, 23-17.
The 41,000-seat stadium was completed within a span of nine months, an amazing feat considering that Dudley Field had to be, with the exception of metal stands seating 12,088, totally demolished to begin work.
The process began in December of 1980 when a giant steel ball smashed in the concrete stands around the south end zone of Dudley Field.
Perhaps the most spectacular part of the construction process came when the existing steel bleachers, the last vestiges of Dudley Field, were raised some 10 feet through the use of 22 hydraulic jacks. Each set of stands weighed approximately 400 tons.
New aluminum bleacher seats had also been installed and a new AstroTurf playing surface placed down, replacing the Tartan Turf surface that was in place since 1970.
Foster and Creighton Co., brought the project in on time at a cost of $260 a seat, a bargain price by today's standards. More than 32 million pounds of concrete and 1.4 million pounds of steel were consumed in the construction of Vanderbilt Stadium.
The home and visitor dressing rooms feature 10,000 square feet of space. Ten restrooms, seven concession stands, two vending rooms, one food preparation room and two first aid stations are also incorporated in the stadium. A 17,000 square foot pressbox, approximately eight times the size of the original, consists of four levels with two elevators.
Key Dates In Vanderbilt Stadium History
1892 Old Dudley Field serves as home until 1922.
1922 The new stadium, Dudley Field, is dedicated on Oct. 14 vs Michigan
1949 A new press box and new seats on the west side boost the capacity to 27,901
1954 On September 25, Vanderbilt plays first night game vs Baylor
1960 Seating additions to the east side expand capacity to 34,000
1963 President John F. Kennedy speaks to audience of 33,000
1970 AstroTurf installed at a cost of $250,000
1980 Dudley Field demolished and replaced by Vanderbilt Stadium
1998 JumboTron video screen installed ... Tennessee oilers play home games at VU.
2002 Dudley Field natural grass surface renovated after upgrades in 1999.
2003 North end zone bleacher section removed.
2009 Gates 2 & 3 renovated.
2011 New playing natural grass playing surface installed
2012 New artificial turf installed. New video board and berm seating in north end zone
U2 Concert - July 2, 2011
The famous rock group U2 brought its act to Vanderbilt Stadium and played to a sold out crowd over Fourth of July Weekend 2011. Watch the video of U2's famous stage, "the claw", being built in the stadium.
Dave Matthews Band - April 25, 2009
One of the nation's top touring acts for the last 15 years made a visit to Vanderbilt Stadium and attracted a sellout crowd in the spring of 2009.
The Rolling Stones - October 26, 1997
The Stones hit Nashville with the Bridges to Babylon Tour and played their biggest hits like "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", "It's Only Rock `n' Roll (But I Like It), "Tumbling Dice", and "Honky Tonk Women". The Stones surely did not disappoint.
Pink Floyd - May 8, 1994
According to Tennesseeconcerts.com, "41,000 fans packed into Vanderbilt Stadium to see Pink Floyd. They experienced a once in a lifetime event in Nashville with the latest in lasers, lights, sound, & pyrotechnics."
Billy Graham - September 19, 1954 & June 24-27, 1979
The event, which drew over 65,000 people to the old Vanderbilt Stadium, is known as the event that brought lights to the venue. Also, according to Kara Furlong of the Vanderbilt News Service, "it was one of Graham's first officially desegregated crusades in the South following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in May of that year."
Graham returned in 1979 for a four-night stand at Vanderbilt Stadium, where he drew 40,000 people per night to the stadium. Here's a link to a three-minute video of Graham at the stadium - notice that the field is open, compared to his earlier visit in 1954 (see below), when the entire place was crammed with people.
(Photo by Gerald Holly. Image courtesy of Vanderbilt University Special Collections & University Archives)
John F. Kennedy - May 18, 1963
(Photo Courtesy of Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives)
President John F. Kennedy spoke at the 90th Convocation of Vanderbilt University on May 18, 1963 and attracted over 33,000 people to the stadium.
From the Nashville Scene:
"The Banner, the conservative afternoon newspaper, wasn't inclined to exaggerate on Kennedy's behalf, so when it published an estimate of 150,000 spectators along the streets, plus the 5,000 or so at the airport and 33,000 in Vanderbilt Stadium, the staggering number were all that more believable. Nashville's population in 1963 was 400,000, meaning that almost half of the city got a glimpse of the president that day."