Daily Dose: College Football Stadiums

Add to TwitterCollege football stadiums aren’t often lauded as great architectural achievements; still, there are a few whose designs can alter and enhance the experience of the games – for both players and spectators. Michigan’s imposing Big House, Oregon’s deafening Autzen Stadium and Florida’s challenging Swamp all deliver unique game-day conditions.

UMich brick façade renovation

The Big House (University of Michigan Stadium) could aptly be renamed the Big Brick House, thanks to recent expansions and renovations that are slated to finish up this year. Hand laid brick – 1.2 million to be precise – was used to build an extensive arcade wall and rusticated lower level that makes visual reference to the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. A blend was created specifically for Michigan’s stadium and the layout computerized by designer Dave Lacovic to ensure the bricks were placed to create the most aesthetically pleasing effect.

Michigan crowd

The $227 million renovation also included expanding the stadium’s official capacity to 109,901, though it frequently tops 111,000 with band members and stadium staff in attendance. Built in 1927, the original capacity for this “Carnegie Hall of Sports” was a more modest 72,000. Michigan continues to dream big, as they’ve left the north and south ends open for future additions.

Autzen Stadium

Oregon’s Autzen Stadium doesn’t even approach Michigan’s capacity, but it can still pack a punch. Crowd noise; attributed to steep stands, proximity to the field, an overhanging roof and rowdy fans; has been measured at 127.2 decibels. To put that in perspective, a jet take off at a distance of 100 meters merits 130 dB. The human pain threshold is 120 dB. Yep. In 2003, a Michigan columnist wrote,

Autzen’s 59,000 strong make the Big House collectively sound like a pathetic whimper. It’s louder than any place I’ve ever been, and that includes The Swamp at Florida, The Shoe in Columbus, and Death Valley at Louisiana State. Autzen Stadium is where great teams go to die.

Ouch. The noise doesn’t seem to be keeping anyone away, however. Autzen has had a solid streak of 71 ticket sell-outs since 1999.

Gator fans

Last on our list is The Swamp in Gainesville, home to the Florida Gators. It’s known as one of the most difficult places to play, with a distinct and measurable home field advantage. (The past 20 years have shown a 113-13 home record, the best in the nation). Because the stadium was built on a shallow sinkhole, the field lies slightly below ground level. This – coupled with steep stands – only augments the warmth and humidity of Florida in the fall. And though it can’t quite match Autzen’s volume, The Swamp’s noise level is certainly disrupting and can make playcalls easy to miss. Last in this lineup, but not to be underestimated!

What are your favorite stadiums for college football? Let us know!

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Masonry Edge Storypole magazine, Vol 4 No 4. “The Big Brick House.”


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