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Year Opened: 1923 | Field Surface: Artificial Turf
The football team called Illinois Field home in the early days, but by the beginning of the 1920s it was considered an insufficient host to the Fighting Illini's crowds of supporters. In 1923 a new facility, fittingly called Memorial Stadium, was constructed in honor of the Illinois men and women who gave their lives during WWI. The names of those men and women appear on the 200 columns that serve as the structural support and visual remembrances outlining the east and west sides of the stadium.
Memorial Stadium staged its first official game Nov. 3, 1923, against the University of Chicago. Though the stadium was still under some construction, the Illini took a 7-0 victory for their first homecoming victory in their new house. It wasn't until Oct. 18, 1924 that the stadium was officially dedicated. Hosting the homecoming game once more, Illinois demolished Michigan, 39-14.
Records are made to be broken, of course. however, that tilt against Wolverines in 1924 showcased what remains the greatest performance by an Illinois player. The legendary Harold "Red" Grange accounted for six touchdowns that day. In fact, in just the first 12 minutes of play Grange ran the ball for 265 yards and scored four times. He totaled 402 yards on the ground by game's end and also completed six passes for 64 yards to go along with his six scores.
Grange Rock is located near the northeast end zone. Made from the same stone quarry as the columns supporting the stadium, it was dedicated in 1994 and players touch it for luck on their way to the field.
Changes certainly occur in the landscape of stadiums this historic, none more unique than "The Bubble," a domed covering that was constructed and first inflated in December 1985 with designs on allowing the team to hold winter practices on the gridiron regardless of weather conditions. The air was finally let out of "The Bubble" concept after 2000, when the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility was built.
The single-game attendance record of 78,297 was established in a 1984 victory over the Missouri Tigers.
Memorial Stadium was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986, along with Soldier Field, Wrigley Field, the Rose Bowl and the Yale Bowl.
It hosted the NFL's Bears during the 2002 season, while their Soldier Field home was being renovated.
Source: University of Illinois
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