Home of Harvard Football and Lacrosse Harvard Stadium Notes
- Harvard Stadium Football History
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The First & The Finest
Nestled in a spectacular setting next to the Charles River and with the Boston skyline on the horizon, Harvard Stadium ranks among the nation’s finest college football facilities.
Built in 1903, it is also the nation’s first stadium built for college football. Harvard Stadium is a horseshoe containing architectural elements of a Greek stadium and Roman circus and is considered an engineering marvel, as it was the world’s first massive reinforced concrete structure and the first large permanent arena for American college athletics. With a seating capacity of 30,323, Harvard Stadium is praised for its outstanding sightlines for fans.
Harvard Stadium once accommodated as many as 57,166 spectators when steel stands were built in the north end zone. Those stands were removed in 1951.
It Changed The Game
The close proximity of the stands to the field at the Stadium led to one of the most successful innovations in football history. In 1906, debate raged about the sport’s roughness and several colleges had dropped football in favor of rugby. When the football rules committee met to discuss changes, Walter Camp proposed widening the field by 40 feet. However, that idea would require considerable alterations to the Stadium. Ultimately, the committee adopted the forward pass.
Harvard Stadium is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and is one of just four athletic arenas to be so designated. The Yale Bowl (built in 1914), the Rose Bowl (built in 1922) and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (built in 1921) are the other three.
A Gift From The Class of 1879
The Stadium, a 25th-anniversary gift of the Class of 1879, was constructed in four-and-a-half months at the cost of just $310,000.
Prior to the Stadium’s opening, Harvard played its home football games at a number of sites. Jarvis Field, where the Littauer Center now stands, was the setting for the Crimson’s inaugural contest against McGill (1874) and its first intercollegiate game against Tufts (1875).
After several seasons of playing home games at the South End Grounds, Harvard returned to Cambridge in 1881 and played at Holmes Field, now the sight of Langdell Hall. Football, and most of the school’s outdoor teams, moved to Soldiers Field in 1894.
Entering the 2020 season, Harvard has played 719 games in Harvard Stadium since Nov. 14, 1903 (an 11-0 loss to Dartmouth). The Crimson’s all-time Stadium record is 454-231-34 (.601).
More Than Harvard Football
Track and field, rugby, lacrosse, soccer, professional football and even ice hockey have also been played at Harvard Stadium, which is also home to the Crimson men’s and women’s lacrosse programs.
The then-American Football League Boston Patriots called Harvard Stadium home for two years from 1970-71.
The Stadium also hosted Olympic soccer competition in the summer of 1984 (Cameroon, Canada, Chile, France, Iraq, Norway and Qatar all competed), and was the site for the university’s 350th anniversary celebration in 1986.
The U.S. track and field Olympic trials were held here in 1916 and 1920.
Historic, Yet Modern
The last major renovation of the Stadium infrastructure took place in 1984, and recent structural testing confirms that Harvard Stadium will be as functional well into the 21st century as it was in the early 20th.
In recent years, the playing field was recentered to improve the view for fans seated in the closed end and accommodate the 1998 construction of the Murr Center.
Perhaps the most dramatic change to Harvard Stadium took place as part of a 2006-07 upgrade to the facility that included replacing the natural grass surface with FieldTurf, the addition of lights to allow for nighttime use of the field and the installation of a removable dome-like “bubble,” that allows for year-round use of the facility.
In 2007, the Crimson hosted Brown in the first night game in program history at the Stadium, and 2008 saw the addition of a video board and updated public address system. Harvard replaced the FieldTurf surface again during the summer of 2015.
-updated March, 2020