Hornet Stadium currently seats just over 17,000, down from its original 26,000 capacity following the 1992 renovation. The stadium remains the University’s most impressive athletic facility and one of the largest in the Big Sky Conference.
Until 1995, it was also one of a small handful of stadiums in the country shared by collegiate programs and professional football organizations. The Sacramento Surge of the World League played there in 1992, and the Sacramento Gold Miners of the Canadian Football League played the 1993 and 1994 seasons in Hornet Stadium before moving to San Antonio in 1995.
Following an historic agreement signed December 15, 1991, Sacramento State and Surge owner Fred Anderson entered into a partnership that brought the eventual 1992 World League champions to Hornet Stadium. The renovation project, a key component of that agreement, was one of the most unique ever undertaken on an athletic facility in California. Construction began in early January of 1992. Just 10 weeks later, the 6,000-seat facility was transformed into a magnificent 26,000-seat stadium, featuring dramatic upgrades throughout the venue.
The Surge hosted the Montreal Machine in a preseason game Mar. 14, barely three months after the first shovel pierced dirt in January. Renovations included the increase in seating capacity via temporary bleacher construction (more than quadrupling the capacity of the stadium); a new press box with seating for over 120 media, game personnel, and VIP guests; complete utility upgrades on the grounds, a new state-of-the-art lighting system suitable for network television broadcasts, and a new scoreboard with message center.
Hornet Stadium hosted its first Hornet football game September 5, 1992 against Montana State, the first Division I football opponent ever to play at Sacramento State. In addition to six Surge games in 1992, including one playoff contest, the stadium hosted a major concert for the first time ever when Phil Collins and Genesis played before 20,000 fans in June of that year.
Following the dissolution of the World League in 1992, Surge owner Fred Anderson purchased the expansion rights for the first Canadian Football League team on American soil, the Sacramento Gold Miners. The Gold Miners began play in Hornet Stadium in June of 1993 following minor renovations to the facility, including a new playing surface and the removal of end zone seating to accommodate the large CFL field.
The Gold Miners were the "descendants" of the Sacramento Surge of the original World League of American Football. A handful of players from the Surge, including their quarterback David Archer, slotback Rod Harris and defensive tackle George Bethune played for the Gold Miners. The Gold Miners were the first CFL American team and set a record their first season for most wins by a first-year CFL team (the record was broken by Baltimore in 1994).
Their all-US cast took some time to learn the intricacies of the Canadian game, going 6-12 in their first season, and just missing the playoffs in 1994 by going 9-8-1. The team was ably led by QB Archer. Other standout players included Mike Oliphant and Mike Pringle.
They made CFL history in 1993 on three occasions: Their first game on July 7, when they lost to Ottawa, 32-23 marked the first ever regular-season game between a Canadian team and a team based outside of Canada. On July 17, they hosted Calgary and lost, 38-36. It marked the first regular-season CFL game played between a Canadian and American team on American soil. On July 24, they recorded their first win vs Saskatchewan, 37-26 and became the first American team to win a regular-season CFL game.
The Miners had very competent management working under owner Fred Anderson, perhaps the only truly dedicated US CFL owner. Anderson's sidekick Tom Bass oversaw the operation, run by coach Kay Stephenson and GM Tom Huiskens. As with the team, it took Stephenson some time to adapt to the Canadian game, but he was eventually successful.
The problems in Sacramento, however, were hard to overcome. Since the San Antonio club that was also supposed to be a part of the 93 expansion had folded prematurely, the Miners were the only American team in the CFL during the 1993 campaign. They had to market themselves, receiving no assistance from the league. Also, competition from the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford University hurt attendance. Rickety Hornet Field kept fans away--it was made up mostly of temporary grandstands with no real stadium amenities (facilities were threadbare, only port-a-potties were provided for fans). Fred Anderson wanted to change this situation by building a new stadium in Sacramento for the Miners and his minor-league baseball club. He planned to complete a project that had been started several years earlier to lure the Raiders to Sacramento, but had ended up being mothballed. Anderson, however, could not come to terms with the local governments, and ended up moving to San Antonio after the 1994 season.
Attendance hovered around the 15,000 range in Sacramento, but it was widely known that as many as 2,000 of the 15,000 per game were given free tickets.
Years in league: 1993-1994
Owner: Fred Anderson
Colors: Aqua and Old Gold
Overall Regular Season Record: 15-20-1
Overall Playoff Record: 0-0
1993: 6-12 (16,979)
1994: 9-8-1 (14,226)