Jordan-Hare Stadium, the nation’s seventh-largest stadium, is in its fifty-eighth year as home to the Auburn Tigers.
On football Saturdays in Auburn, Jordan-Hare Stadium becomes Alabama’s fifth-largest city. More than 75,000 season tickets were sold to Auburn home games in each of the last six years.
Named for Ralph “Shug” Jordan, Auburn’s all-time winningest football coach, and Clifford Leroy Hare, a member of Auburn’s first football team, president of the old Southern Conference and longtime chairman of Auburn’s Faculty Athletic Committee, Jordan-Hare Stadium has a capacity of 85,214.
The all-time record crowd for a football game in the state of Alabama, 85,319, was set in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Dec. 2, 1989 when Auburn defeated unbeaten, untied and second-ranked Alabama 30-20 in the first Auburn-Alabama game played on the Plains.
What is now Jordan-Hare Stadium was first opened and dedicated on Nov. 30, 1939, at the Auburn-Florida game. Babe McGehee, now an Auburn resident, scored the first touchdown in what was then called “Auburn Stadium,” catching a pass from Dick McGowen. McGowen, who later coached at Auburn for Jordan, kicked the extra point and Auburn tied Florida, 7-7.
That first stadium held 7,500 seats and consisted of what is now the bottom part of the lower west stands. When the stadium was renamed "Cliff Hare Stadium" in 1949, 14,000 seats—the present lower east stands—had been added, raising capacity to 21,500.
Jordan became head coach in 1951 and the stadium that was to bear his name underwent three major expansions in 15 years. More than 40,000 seats, virtually half of the stadium’s present capacity, were added while Jordan was the coach.
Cliff Hare Stadium became Jordan-Hare Stadium in 1973. It was the first stadium in the country to be named for an active coach.
The history of Auburn Football can be seen by standing in the middle of the playing field and looking at various additions. The original stadium consisted of the bottom half of the lower west stands and later the east stands. Jordan teams added the top half of the lower west stands and the north and south end zone seats.
Players such as William Andrews, Joe Cribbs and James Brooks brought about the west side upper deck in 1980 and the success of Pat Dye-coached teams led the addition of the east side upper deck and luxury suites in 1987.
A football attendance record for the state of Alabama was set in the very first game of the “new” stadium when 80,000 fans came to see Auburn defeat Texas 31-3 in the season opener. Two more 80,000-plus crowds came to Auburn that season and within two seasons Jordan-Hare Stadium - and Auburn - held every major football attendance record in the state of Alabama.
Overall, Auburn has played 255 games in Jordan-Hare Stadium, winning 205, losing 43 and tying seven for a winning percentage of .818 against some of the nation’s best teams in college football.
Auburn’s longest home winning streak is 30 games covering a period of nine years. It began with a 3-0 win over Clemson in 1952 and ended with a 14-12 upset loss to Kentucky in 1961.
Source: Auburn University Media Relations
The History of Jordan-Hare Stadium
by Van Plexico (vplexico (at) gmail.com)
If football is truly a religion in the American South, then Jordan-Hare Stadium is a grand cathedral.
To this special place, the faithful roll in for games like pilgrims headed to Mecca. More than a simple sports arena, the structure holds a special place in the hearts of Auburn people, as the scene of some of the happiest memories of their lives. It indeed borders on a level of spirituality, the attachment of these people to this stadium.
Located in the heart of the campus, this grand edifice has grown along with the University around it, and now ranks among the top facilities of its kind in the nation. With over 85,000 in attendance on football Saturdays, the stadium ranks as the fifth largest city in Alabama, directly ahead of, of all places, Tuscaloosa. (A television commentator once noted that if the University of Alabama learned of this, they would begin busing people into Tuscaloosa immediately.)
Though the feelings elicited by the structure are clear, the reasons for its existence are somewhat more complex. How has a world-class sports arena, capable of holding nearly three times the population of its host city, sprouted up over the past
sixty years on the plains of east Alabama? Fragments of the answer can be found in a number of places, including Atlanta, Montgomery, Columbus and Birmingham. Ultimately, however, the answer lies in the vision of a handful of men who, over the years, believed in the potential of Auburn's football program, and who worked to bring the dream to fruition.
I. BUILDING A DREAM: "LET'S PUT AUBURN ON THE MAP!"
Before 1939: Drill Field and Drake Field
Before the Tigers came to claim Jordan-Hare as their home, the teams played on two other on-campus fields. Both now lie under concrete, asphalt, and floral arangements. In the shadows of the chemistry lab building between Samford Hall and Foy Union, currently a park and parking lot, Auburn hosted football games from 1892 until the 1920s. Abandoning the "drill field," the Tigers moved to Drake Field, currently the site of the upper Haley Center parking lot, next to the Eagle's Cage.
Athletic Director Emeritus, Jeff Beard, a student at the time, helped assemble the temporary bleachers at Drake Field. "Each year bleachers were erected ten rows high on each side of the field." He recalls, "They held approximately 700 people, the seating capacity for our home games. We had one home game a year."
By the late 1930s, crowds were too large to be adequately accomodated in the temporary bleachers at this location, and Auburn found itself forced to play most of its games on the road, usually in Birmingham's Legion Field, Montgomery's Cramton Bowl, Mobile's Ladd Stadium, and Memorial Stadium in Columbus, Georgia. From this unhappy situation, with the team forced to play home games far from home, came the seeds of the mighty edifice which now graces the Auburn campus.
As the end of the 1930s neared, Auburn leaders understood they simply had to build a home stadium for their wandering team. "There was a terrible need for a stadium...if we were going to compete with the rest of the schools in the Southern Conference," says Jeff Beard. "Coach Meagher realized something had to be done. He continued to improve the team and the schedule." The team's success "began to give Auburn people the feeling that Auburn should have a home stadium to play in and that Auburn's facilities needed to be improved."
As early as 1934, the university's Physical Plant had considered building a "concrete stadium to put Auburn on the map," though with the lingering effects of the Depression, nothing had come of it. By 1937, the decision had been made to build, should the funds be available. Moving to a third site, preparations were begun for the construction of a permanent facility, Auburn Stadium. A young Jeff Beard, helping to survey the area, drove in the first stake to mark off the future stadium. Auburn has played on this site ever since.
By 1938, the economic situation had improved to the point that Auburn President Dr. L.N. Duncan could report the approval by PWA Secretary Ickes of "the most ambitious building program ever undertaken by the Alabama Polytechnic Institute." Among items included in the $1,446,900 PWA-funded project was the construction of a $60,000 stadium unit, which included erection of concrete stands, engineering work to prepare the area, and completion of a modern track facility.
Engineering work was indeed needed at the new site. A meandering stream at the bottom of the valley had to be diverted and filled in. In addition, before a stadium and field could be built there, the previous tenants needed evicting. These inhabitants consisted of a herd of goats, belonging to the dean of the school of veterinary medicine, which grazed in the valley. These goats exhibited a severe nervous condition, one which would be duplicated by supporters of many visiting teams over the years.
The original grandstand, "Auburn Stadium," was designed by Arnold G. Wurz, who passed away in 1989, just weeks before the stadium's fiftieth anniversary. The name choice, "Auburn Stadium," is significant in that it reflects the tendency of all associated to refer to the team and school as "Auburn," even in the 1930s. The school was actually designated Alabama Polytechnic Institute and officially became Auburn University only in 1960.
1939: Auburn Stadium
By November of 1939, Coach Jack Meagher, who had coached the team on tiny Drake Field, at last had a stadium of his own, modest as it was. Having played Florida in a number of different cities over the previous years, the Gators seemed a good opponent with which to christen the new, 7,290-seat facility. "People wondered what we were going to do with that many people coming to town," Beard says. Restrooms in particular were a concern, as the town itself had only two gas stations at the time.
The field house, now Petrie Hall, was also under construction and not completed in time for the game. Florida players were forced to dress in uniform in their hotel in Opelika before riding to the stadium. Incidents such as this over the years further complicated Auburn's efforts to move important games to the campus.
Auburn and Florida tied, 7-7. The game was a success. The original 7,290 seats remain today as the lower half of the west stands. Only a year later 4,800 wooden bleachers were added to the east side, demonstrating the viability of a home field and dispelling the doubts of the naysayers. Auburn Stadium was a success, and it seemed there was nowhere to go but up.
II. THE EARLY YEARS
1949: Cliff Hare Stadium
Despite the stadium's success, only twelve home games were played there between 1939 and 1949, as Auburn continuted to struggle to convince other teams to travel to East Alabama. "We began to play more important games at home," Beard remembers, but notes that most were still played at other sites. "The only advantage we had playing on the road had to do with financing. We could still make more money by playing in the bigger stadiums on the road."
To make matters worse, in the final three years of the decade, the team won only three games. Fortunately, even in the lean times, the seats had been filled. With such an obvious financial incentive, by the end of 1948, the time had come for expansion.
In a press release issued on New Year's Eve, 1948, the Board of Trustees of A.P.I. "authorized President Ralph Draughon to contract for the construction of 13,000 additional seats at the Auburn Stadium." The wooden bleachers on the east side were to be replaced with concrete seats and the west stands expanded to bring the total capacity to 21,500. The Board also voted to name the newly expanded facility Cliff Hare Stadium.
Dr. Clifford Leroy Hare served as State Chemist and dean of the School of Chemistry and Pharmacy at A.P.I., as well as faculty chairman of athletics. He also played backup quarterback on Auburn's very first football team, in 1892. The caption in the 1934 Auburn-Georgia game program calls Cliff Hare "one of the most beloved characters connected with athletics in the South." He seemed the perfect choice for whom to name the stadium.
David Housel, writing in the 1973 Auburn Football Illustrated, tells of Shug Jordan's long afternoon talks with the aging Cliff Hare. "Fesser Hare told me how he and Dr. Sanford--for whom the stadium in Athens is named--used to come to Auburn every year after the Auburn-Georgia game in Columbus and divide the money. They would sit down in the Hare kitchen, take the money out of an old cigar box, and spread it across a marble table top and say, 'a dollar for you and a dollar for us' until the game proceeds were divided equally between the two schools." From these experiences, Hare saw the advantage of a larger stadium in Auburn at least as clearly as anyone else.
Jordan's First Years: Success Breeds Growth
With the arrival of Coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan in 1951, the stadium's growth was assured. Quickly reversing the Tigers' football fortunes, Jordan took the team to two straight bowl appearances. Success on the field quickly led to financial success.
"In 1955 we had been to a couple of bowl games and we were feeling good," Beard states. "Coach Jordan was building a good program and we had some money jingling in our pockets so we decided to build the west stands up to fifty-four rows high."
The reasoning was actually a bit more complicated that that. The Board of Trustees, in a resolution dated April 29, 1955, gave a number of factors which weighed into the decision. The resolution stated:
* "It appears more feasible, economical, and advantageous to plan the scheduling of more football games on a home-and-home basis...
* "To accomplish this on a satisfactory basis it appears that approximately 30,000 stadium seats should be available at Cliff Hare Stadium, which would permit us to negotiate for games with almost every member of the Southeastern Conference...
* "By having a stadium of proper capacity at Auburn and by scheduling more home-and-home games, we would benefit materially from stadium rental fees which we pay when playing away from Auburn..."
In addition, the resolution called for a new press box "to replace the existing temporary and inadequate press box section." Clearly, this matter was of some importance to the Board and the president. Draughon and Beard had come to realize that by playing at Auburn, they could save the money they were paying Columbus and other cities to rent out their stadiums. Draughon stated that the project would be "started as early as possible...in order to have facilities ready by the opening of the football season."
The resolution was adopted without dissent, although in a bow to the true mission of the college, a resolution adopted several weeks later took pains to note the expansion was actually "for the benefit of the college and the students in attendance thereat."
A memorandum from Beard to Draughon, dated June 3, 1955, shows that Batson-Cook Company of West Point, Georgia, won the contract to build the additions for $275,000.00. Beard remembers that the crews "walked off the job on the last day of August. The stadium was complete."
With the capacity of the stadium having reached 34,500, Auburn could host four home games in 1955. This, Beard says, "was a great feeling for those of us who were tired of traveling. Four games showed us what a great advantage it was to play at home." The commitment had at last been made to bring Auburn's opponents to the campus to play. Even so, still no major rivals would play in Auburn. Beard and Jordan next would turn their attention to this problem, with their focus first on Georgia Coach Wally Butts.
III. BECOMING A COMPETITIVE ARENA: 1955-1970
Making Room for Georgia
The year 1957 saw Auburn reach the pinnacle of football success, going undefeated and winning the national championship. Coach Jordan had demonstrated that the Tigers were a force to be reckoned with, and this gridiron success provided leverage in Auburn's negotations with other schools.
The first to be persuaded to come was Georgia. "This was pretty hard to do because Coach Wally Butts loved to play in Columbus," Beard remembers, "...but we kept working on it until we got the game changed."
Georgia won the first game played in Athens in 1959, ironically with Georgia guard Pat Dye, later Auburn's coach, recovering a fumble to win the game for the Bulldogs. The next year's game would be played in Auburn, and Jordan and Beard realized they would need still more seats in the stadium.
The time had come to close in one of the end zones, connecting the two stands at one end. A memorandum from L. E. Funchess, Director of the Campus Planning Committee, to Beard, dated March 3, 1960, reports approval of the plan to close in the south end zone, at a cost of nearly a half-million dollars. The bleacher seats which had stood there were moved to the north end, providing still more seats. A large scoreboard replaced the previous one which had been built by an engineering class years earlier. In addition, dressing rooms were built under the new stands.
An overall plan for the stadium's development began to take shape with the 1960 expansion. The sidelines stands had been built into hillsides, so the closing of the endzones would have blocked air circulation within the stadium. To remedy this, risers were left out of the lower seats in the south end zone. This, along with construction of a continuous interior concourse, was modeled on the Rice Stadium in Texas. The concourse allowed direct access for first aid vehicles and transports to any point within the stadium.
The project was a success. The Georgia game sold out quickly, (with Auburn winning this time,) and both Georgia and Auburn officials were pleased with the results of their new arrangement. The city of Columbus, however, felt betrayed, a sentiment to be reflected in Birmingham nearly thirty years later.
Horseshoe to Bowl
Winning seasons and bowl invitations continued through the 1960s, and thoughts quickly turned to another expansion. Beard sums up the feelings of Auburn's leaders at the time: "Adding...seats had enabled us to have a representative home schedule and collect the stadium rental that would be so vital to the future of the program." With this in mind, and in view of the continued sellouts in the horseshoe-shaped Cliff Hare Stadium of the 1960s, plans moved forward for the complete enclosure of the stadium by 1970.
The Board of Trustees, on October 25, 1968, unanimously approved a proposal to begin study for enlarging Cliff Hare Stadium, "due to the continued increase in student enrollments and the demand for football tickets at home games in Auburn." The Board went to great lengths to specify that this was contingent on acquisition of funding, which must not come from the school's general funds.
The Board agreed by June of 1969 that "it appears necessary and advisable to enlarge the capacity of Cliff Hare Stadium, enlarge the present press box facilities, and construct a new running track facility." (The south end zone construction in 1960 had produced an unintended consequence: It obscured part of the fine running track which had surrounded the field, saddening Auburn's track coach, Wilbur Hutsell. The coach feared visiting track teams might hide fresh runners under the stands to sneak in during a race. The new track would be named in Hutsell's honor.) The resolution also called for modification and enlargement of the dressing facilities.
The June resolution noted that an act had been passed in the first special session of the 1969 state legislature "to permit such construction and to make provisions for the financing of same." With the money no longer a major concern, plans moved ahead quickly. In the mean time, the Board's Naming of Buildings Committee recommended that the former field house, which would be sealed off from the stadium by the north stands enclosure and which was being renovated for classroom and lab use, be named for the late Dean George Petrie, who had connections with both the sciences and athletics at Auburn.
The Monsanto Company, on March 24, 1969, proposed in a memo to Coach Beard the installation of AstroTurf in Jordan-Hare. Their letter lists the cost of covering Auburn's playing field in artificial turf at $212,500.00. Turf had become popular among colleges in the late 1960s, but despite consideration, Beard and Jordan rejected the idea. They had misgivings about the safety of the artificial surface. "It turned out that we were right," Beard says.
Expansion plans were finalized at a Board meeting on November 22, 1969. The Trustees were clearly enthusiastic about Auburn football: "Dr. Philpott (the university president) reviewed several details concerning Auburn's invitation to play the University of Houston in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl on December 31, 1969." When Philpott noted the presence of Coach Jordan and Coach Beard, the Trustees broke out in wild applause. The Board unanimously approved a nineteen year bond issue to finance the north stands construction, and then gathered around Dr. Philpott to look at an artist's conception of the finished stadium.
Auburn added an additional detail to the north end zone enclosure, one that made school officials proud. "It was something that had not been done in any of the stadiums we played in," Beard says. "We made provisions for wheelchairs and handicapped spectators. This really attracted a lot of attention in the state."
The final cost of the addition, including the relocation of Hutsell Track, was just over one and a quarter million dollars. Tiny Cliff Hare Stadium had grown into a full-fledged bowl, and time had come to honor the coach whose success enabled the growth to occur.
"Today's game will be Auburn's first SEC game in newly-named Jordan-Hare Stadium, which was dedicated in pre-game ceremonies." So wrote Buddy Davidson in the official program for the Ole Miss game of 1973. The honor recognized "Jordan's lasting contributions to Auburn football." Auburn's stadium had become the first in the nation to be named for an active coach. Jordan would coach the remainder of that season and two more before retiring after the 1975 season.
Writing in the program for the dedication game in 1973, David Housel, current athletic director and former sports information director, reflected back on the competitive advantage Auburn had gained with its fine home stadium. He called the newly-christened Jordan-Hare Stadium "perhaps the hardest place in the country for a visiting football team to win. Bar none." He supports this bold statement with a little history: While the facility was known as Auburn Stadium, from 1939 to 1949, Auburn did not lose a single game of its twelve played there (with two ties.) During the Cliff Hare Stadium period, from 1949 to 1973, Auburn posted a record of 80-13-1, which included a run of thirty straight wins at home (with thirteen shutouts.) Housel points out that many of these wins came against such powers as Georgia, Florida, and Georgia Tech. Auburn would enjoy a similar run during the 1980s under Coach Pat Dye, and again in the mid-1990s under Coach Terry Bowden.
Housel also wrote of the monetary advantage for visitors playing in Jordan-Hare.
He described Jordan-Hare as "an extremely popular place to play football" in the South, despite Auburn's considerable home field advantage. "The reason," he explains, "is money, the greenstuff without which an athletic program cannot function." With a tremendous season ticket base and consistently large crowds, even the smallest visiting school enjoys a healthy payday, "one of the largest in the United States," according to Housel.
IV. JORDAN-HARE: FIFTH-LARGEST CITY IN ALABAMA
1980: The West Deck
Despite a slight decline in on-field fortunes during the 1970s, two more rivals, Georgia Tech and Tennessee, finally made the trip to the Plains. Both had played Auburn's home game in Birmingham's Legion Field for a number of years, a situation used by Alabama to argue that Legion Field was a "neutral site" for the Auburn-Alabama game.
Jordan-Hare was an unqualified success, selling out despite a dearth of championships and Sugar Bowl trips. With six home games a year by 1970 and revenues increasing, thoughts once again turned to expansion. An upper deck would be added to the west stands by 1980, credited by the Auburn Media Guide as due to the exploits of players such as James Brooks and Joe Cribbs. For whatever reason, the stadium's success despite the Tigers' mediocrity and probation during the late 1970s proves that Auburn had finally come into its own.
The Trustees of 1977 were slightly less enthusiastic over the prospect of expansion than their counterparts of earlier years had been. When Coach Lee Hayley, Chairman of the Stadium Expansion Committee, presented the recommendation of the committee for an upper deck and lighting to be installed, "a lengthy discussion ensued." Finally, Coach Jordan, who by now served as a Board member, motioned for a vote, and the Board authorized preliminary working plans by only a six to three majority. The days of instant unanimous votes for stadium growth had ended.
The Board discussed the possibility of authorizing the president to develop a bond plan for funding the additions on June 5, 1978. Once again Coach Jordan motioned for a vote, and the Board approved the measure, eight to one. The matter came to a head on November 29, 1978. Once again, Coach Jordan asked for a vote of the Trustees, and by a margin of only four to three, the Board authorized the expansion. The resolution stated that expansion and lighting of the stadium were "felt to be in the best interest for a quality athletic program at Auburn University." The resolution went on to defend its position on the grounds that the move was "recommended by a special committee," and had obtained the approval of the Auburn Alumni Executive Committee. Approval at last obtained, construction began before the year was out.
The Auburn Bulletin reported specifics on the new addition in late 1979. The completed stadium held over 72,000 people, and cost approximately $7 million. The deck towers 150 feet over the field, and projects twenty feet out over Donahue Drive. The article describes the west deck's combination of press and television area, president's and athletic director's boxes, concession and reception areas, and a deck of over 10,000 new seats. Light stands were incorporated into the west upper deck while three light towers stood 140 feet over the east stands. These three towers would stand only seven years before making way for the east deck.
The lights would not be used until Auburn's first night game, September 19, 1981, against Wake Forest. The stadium itself, however, opened in renovated form to begin the 1980 season and was an immediate success.
1987: The East Deck
Soon after the west deck was completed, Auburn hired a new head football coach and athletic director: Patrick Fain Dye. A tough competitor who had coached at Alabama under "Bear" Bryant and played at Georgia under Wally Butts, Dye understood the importance of making Auburn's home game with Alabama a true home game.
Jordan-Hare, though at this point holding over 72,000 fans, still trailed Birmingham's Legion Field in capacity. Dye knew that a stadium larger than Alabama's would be a lever with which he could move the heretofore intransigent Tide. Almost immediately after taking the reigns at Auburn, he set out to make that goal a reality.
In late 1984, with a feasibility study completed, Dye's proposal came before the Board. Though the west deck had only been completed four years earlier, the Trustees voted (with no totals listed) to establish a budget of not more than $15 million for the project, with none of the funds to come from "the general fund, student fees, nor the full faith and credit of Auburn University." The resolution specifically mentions Dye's recommendation, as well as the demand for additional seats in the stadium.
On July 2, 1985, the Board met in a special called meeting in Foy Union, on the Auburn campus, with much of the administration and the media present, in order to clarify the financial aspects of the expansion. The new resolution pledged funds from revenue-generating sports, executive suite revenue, other concessions, and a portion of student fees to underwrite the stadium bond issue. On September 20, by a vote of eight to one, the Board approved issuance of $30,115,000 in bonds.
Clearly the Alabama game figured prominently in the actions of the Trustees as well as in those of Dye. On December 21, 1985, (significantly only days after Alabama had defeated Auburn on a last-second field goal, in Birmingham, and on an Auburn "home" year,) the Board voted unanimously to "endorse the recommendation of the Athletic Director [Dye] and the President of Auburn University and instructs that a contract be negotiated with the University of Alabama to have the Alabama game played in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium when Auburn University is the home team." The resolution specifically pointed out the planned increase in seating capacity of Jordan-Hare, and declared that "it is in the best interest of Auburn University to play this game in Jordan-Hare Stadium." The Trustees had taken the step of resolving the game site a vital matter to the University itself, in effect firing a warning shot over Alabama's bow that Auburn was determined to resolve the matter, one way or the other.
With the posturing and paperwork complete, construction of the east upper deck began. This expansion also saw installation of the mammoth scoreboard, complete with animated display screen and massive public address system, over the south stands. Jordan-Hare, one of the few stadiums in the country with absolutely no interior advertising, could not allow a scoreboard which contained advertising. The Coca-Cola company proposed in 1985 to erect the new scoreboard, free of any advertising, for $1 million. Coca-Cola made the offer contingent on the right to sole distribution of Coke products in the stadium for the next ten years. The Board agreed.
The eighth expansion, it would bring the stadium's capacity to its current level of 85,214. In addition to the deck of seats, more than a thousand scholarship donor seats and seventy-one luxury executive suites were built.
These skyboxes, expected to be leased by corporations entertaining clients, would figure significantly in the funding of the expansion. Sixty-five of them hold twelve persons and rented (in 1987) for $24,000 a season. Four would hold eighteen guests and rent for $36,000 per year. One would hold thirty people and rent for $48,000 a year. The University uses the seventy-first. The suites are carpeted, with theater seats, a kitchenette, bathrooms, heat and air conditioning, and a closed-circuit television. Food and alcoholic beverages are available in the suites as well.
In addition to the suites and a new section for high school recruits, former Associate Athletic Director Oval Jaynes saw other benefits to the 1987 expansion: "[It] will allow Auburn to move ahead with its scholarship donor program. Last season 160 scholarship donors had to sit in the stands rather than in the special section on both sides of the press box." Jaynes noted that the scholarship program was nearly deemphasized in the early 1980s because many new donors, who were giving $3,000 a year, could not be guaranteed sideline seats. Room had existed for them within the stadium, but older season ticket holders would have had to be relocated to the end zones. This would not have been a popular move.
Pat Dye called the east upper deck "the most positive step we have taken for our total athletic progam since we've been at Auburn." He went on to predict that the new income would benefit all aspects of athletics at Auburn, as well as providing much-needed seats for scholarship donors. "It will also give us room to grow in the future. This is the result of four years of coming together by the entire Auburn family, students, faculty, alumni and friends."
The Auburn Tigers kicked off the 1987 season in newly-expanded Jordan-Hare Stadium against the University of Texas, who had been added to the schedule prior to the season in order to provide a "name" opponent for the opener. Over 80,000 fans filled the stadium, the largest crowd ever to witness a football game in the state of Alabama at that time. By the end of the season, the stadium had been nearly filled twice, against Florida and Florida State.
The next season, against Georgia, it sold out. Yet the story still lacked an ending.
On December 2, 1984, Auburn's Sports Information Department had issued a press release first announcing the expansion of the stadium. Dye's unannounced goal was to bring Alabama to Auburn, and five years to the day after the announcement, he would have his wish.
V. SIXTY YEARS AND GROWING
"The Last Brick in our House"
The Florida game in 1989 hosted the commemoration of Jordan-Hare's fiftieth anniversary. Florida was chosen because it had been the very first opponent, way back in 1939, to play in Auburn Stadium. This should have been the premiere event of the season, yet another game that year attracted much more attention from all concerned. On December 2, Alabama would be coming to Auburn.
By the late 1980s, with all of Auburn's other opponents now playing in Auburn, Alabama's longstanding argument that Legion Field represented a "neutral site" had lost much of its grounding. No longer a second home for the Tigers, as it still was for the Tide, Legion Field only served as a home field for Auburn once every two years. Even then, the tickets were split down the middle, with half to Auburn and half to Alabama. The only real sign that it was a home game for Auburn was the fact that on odd years the team wore blue jerseys.
Jordan-Hare Stadium was now the largest football facility in the state, and the Tide could no longer deny the truth: They must play the Tigers in Auburn. A change of coaches and athletic directors in Tuscaloosa in 1987 smoothed the way, but the move had at this point become inevitable. Former Tide Coach Ray Perkins had said, "It won't happen," shortly before leaving the Capstone for Tampa Bay in 1986. A scant year later, on paper at least, it happened.
The move would be incremental, with 1987 seeing the last of the fifty-fifty split of tickets at Legion Field. The next year would be a true Alabama home game in the stadium that had always been home to them anyway. At last, in December of 1989, Auburn's nemesis, the Crimson Tide, finally visited Jordan-Hare Stadium. The fact that Auburn won the game almost takes a backseat to the fact that it was played there at all.
It was an event unlike any before on the Plains. Pat Dye, referring to the completion of the second upper deck two years earlier and the subsequent capitulation of Alabama to come to Auburn, called that day, "the last brick in our house." The task was completed. Auburn finally hosted all of its home football games. As one observer put it, this was "the story of how a people and a football program wandered across the Southeast in search of a home, and how they came to find that home."
The Tide had one final degredation in store for their rivals. They insisted that although the 1989 game could be played in Auburn, the 1991 Auburn home game must be played in Birmingham. Exhausted with the bickering, Auburn agreed, simply to put the matter to rest. Thus in 1991, Auburn came to decorate Alabama's beloved Legion Field in orange and blue, or as close to it as the Tide-oriented electronics on the scoreboard could come. A giant AU was painted on the cheap AstroTurf at midfield, a pale mockery of the one gracing the lush grass of Jordan-Hare. Alabama won the game, but Auburn fans almost didn't care. It was over. Legion Field from then on was just another place to visit.
Jordan-Hare's story has been one of constant growth and expansion from the beginning. What of the future? How soon until Jordan-Hare expands again?
Until the 1990s, the stadium averaged an expansion every eight years, and is now among the top ten on-campus facilities of its kind, yet may still lack the capacity to meet the demand for seats. In 1990, for the second year in a row, Auburn sold all 75,000 season ticket books and turned away still more applicants. Ticket manager Bill Beckwith envisioned the addition of more enclosed and air-conditioned club level seats, which would sell for more than $2,000 apiece, in the south end zone. "The revenue from those additional club level seats could be used to fund future construction of an upper deck in the south end zone to handle the overflow of students and demand for regular tickets." The stadium is designed in such a way that the upper decks can be connected above either end zone stand, as are the decks at Tennessee and Georgia. With student ticket purchases up by 4,000 between 1985 and 1989, demand for seats only increases.
The 1990 sellout was achieved without the added "hook" of a home Alabama game, as there had been for the first time in 1989. Beckwith found this aspect "particularly gratifying." For many years, officials and supporters of the University of Alabama claimed Auburn was incapable of supporting a major football program without the draw of playing Alabama every year. Many felt Jordan-Hare would fall far short of selling out its many seats on years without a visit by the Crimson Tide. Consistent sellouts since 1989 prove that Auburn football has become a tremendous draw in its own right. "We have reached the point where we no longer need something like the Alabama game to help us sell out," Beckwith says.
"We've gone up to a higher level. Auburn football is selling itself."
Addendum 1: 1996
The World's Largest Classroom: Dr. Kicklighter Fulfills a Dream (or a least an idle fancy)
On June 3, 1996, squirrels knocked out Auburn's campus electricity (they were forever getting into the transformers and blowing them up), just as Dr. Joseph Kicklighter prepared to administer final exams for his freshman history class. As he later put it, he was "fulfilling my lifelong fantasy to teach in the stadium" when he led his 325 students out of their darkened classroom and across the street. There, in the bright sunshine, he turned Jordan-Hare Stadium into the world's largest classroom.
Addendum 2: 1998
Murals, Upgrades and Ads
As part of an overall stadium upgrade prior to the start of the 1998 season, and in conjunction with upgrades to Plainsman Park (the baseball facility), the long ban on interior advertising gave way to a "corporate sponsorship package" that included a variety of ads for companies such as Alabama Power and HealthSouth. During this time, the concourses were somewhat upgraded, including the addition of small televisions overhead along the concourse, and the interior of the stadium experienced a new paint job.
This overhaul also included the addition of a big-screen television to the scoreboard (all the big programs were adding them that year), within an attractive display filling nearly the entire width above the South Stands. The display included pictures of past Auburn greats such as Bo Jackson, Tracy Rocker, Pat Sullivan, and Pat Dye, above featured advertisers' logos. The stadium's sound system enjoyed an upgrade that year, too-- a custom-built, computer-driven system that fills a small room and is capable of directing roughly the same level of sound to any point within the stadium (though admittedly, at times, this fluctuates due to wind conditions and computer readjustments).
Ten giant murals covering Auburn's football history were added to the
exterior of the East Stands.
Addendum 3: 2001
Reconfiguring the Locker Rooms and Restoring the End Zones
The capacity of Jordan-Hare Stadium actually increased by a relatively small amount, to 86,063, prior to the 2001 season, as Coach Tommy Tuberville ordered the locker rooms reconfigured. This operation moved the visitors' locker room from underneath the South Stands to a new location in the northeast corner, giving the visitors a new tunnel from which to emerge onto the field. The home locker room was dramatically upgraded and expanded, and a new tunnel was added, allowing Auburn's team to come onto the field from the center of the South Stands. A giant "AU" logo in the center of the home locker room floor was declared off-limits to foot traffic by that year's seniors, and has been roped off ever since.
Addendum 4: 2003 and Beyond
A North Upper Deck?
The plan assembled during the Dye years had called for the eventual enclosure of each end of the stadium by connecting the Upper East and Upper West decks across the end zones. Had this been done, Jordan-Hare would surely have surpassed even Neyland Stadium in Knoxville in capacity, given the wider distance between the decks in Auburn. The University came very close during the 1990s to enclosing the south end in this manner, which would have taken the capacity to 91,714, making it the fourth-largest stadium in the country at that time, but for various reasons this never came to fruition.
A study after the 2002 season, however, revealed that scholarship seating and additional skyboxes were the real items in demand, not more general seating. In response, Auburn prepared new plans to build a free-standing smaller deck and skybox enclosure above the North Stands within the next couple of years, in a configuration similar to what Florida added to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the 1990s. This addition
would take Jordan-Hare's capacity closer to 90,000, though probably not much over that total. The section numbers 62-99 have never been assigned within the stadium, and some will probably be used for numbering within this new deck.
At the end of the 2004 season, work began on a compromise solution to the
need for more skyboxes. The existing Upper East deck was expanded
slightly, lengthening it at each end. This provided more space underneath
for additional skyboxes, while also adding a relatively modest number of Upper
East deck seats above. The stadium's capacity following this project
Between the 2006 and 2007 seasons, a major renovation of the walkways and
related facilities underneath the stadium was set to overhaul the appearance and
capacity of the pedestrian areas. A major portion of this project was to
include the addition of many new, and much-needed, women's restrooms.
The evidence shows the main motivation for expanding the stadium over the years has been to persuade larger or more prestigious schools to come to Auburn to play Auburn's home games. This in turn increased Auburn's prestige and share of the profits. Unfortunately, accomplishing this was never easy. Visitors such as Georgia and Tennessee and especially Alabama much preferred to play at nearby neutral sites, especially if as many or more seats were available there.
To bring the teams to Auburn, the stadium was expanded. To secure the Alabama game, Pat Dye virtually forced through a second deck only seven years after the first was added. Eventually all of the teams, even the Crimson Tide, could no longer refuse to come.
Yet even as Auburn's stadium grew to a size competitive with the others, Auburn still needed fans buying tickets and sitting in the seats. Anyone can build a large stadium only to have it stand half-empty on game day. Auburn built a large stadium to attract big home games, but for the program to be successful, the seats had to be filled. To fill the stadium, the team's success on the field became a priority. The Tigers have indeed been successful on the field. The one factor has fed the other. The teams have been competitive, the fans have come, and the stadium has grown.