I happened to be in Bloomington this week, and despite the rain, I decided to check out the new and improved Memorial Stadium. The place was empty, but a drum and bugle corps called Carolina Crown was using IU as its home base for this week's championships, and the sound of a drumline warming up nearby made it feel like gameday.
I presume that most who read the blog know the nature of IU's current construction project, but for those who don't know, IU recently undertook the most significant work on Memorial Stadium since the facility opened in 1960. For most of its history, Memorial Stadium has looked like this:
This particular picture, based on the grass field, the old scoreboards, and the abominable oval IU logo, appears to be from the late 1990s. Still, the basic structure, with a large grandstand on the west (press box) side and a smaller grandstand on the east side, has been in place since 1960 (the small end zone bleachers were added later). Enclosing the north end zone has been in the discussion stage for decades, but former AD Rick Greenspan and late coach Terry Hoeppner made it happen, and IU broke ground on the facility just days after Hoeppner died in June 2007. Because of the demolition of the endzone bleachers, the expansion of the stadium will add only a few hundred seats to the official capacity. Still, the main purposes of the project were to enhance the facilities of the football program and athletic department and to raise revenue by offering premium seating. It's a bonus, of course, that IU now has a stadium that looks much more impressive than before, as you will see below.
The official IU website and Ken Bikoff of Rivals have done a great job of posting regular photo galleries of the progress of construction. Still, I wanted to show the stadium from the outside and give more of a wide view. First, here is how Memorial Stadium looks from near the intersection of Dunn Street and the 45/46 Bypass. This is the first view that most visitors to Bloomington have of the stadium (click on any of my photos for the full size version).
Here's a closer look from the same spot.
Certainly a better look than before. I now present the lovely barbed wire mentioned recently by AD Fred Glass.
Still, this gives a decent perspective of how the stadium looks from just outside the stadium grounds on the south side. Here are a couple of better looks from the same angle. In the foreground of the wider shot, you can see the sand bed for the mini football field that will be part of the Knothole Club:
Those windows at field level are the weight room, which IU is billing as the largest weight room in the country. In the shot below, you can see that IU has moved in at least some of the equipment:
I'll continue with the exterior. This first shot is looking due west. Because of the discoloration of the concrete of the older stadium, it's obvious where the old ends and the new begins, but cleaning the old and the weathering of the new will make it look like the addition has been there forever.
This may seem like a minor issue, but IU has long taken pride in the appearance of its campus and has taken steps to make the addition an integral part of the stadium. Here's a look at the north end of the stadium (and I'm kicking myself for not getting a better look at the tunnel that connects the stadium to the practice fields):
Not only does this addition tie into the existing stadium, it fits in well with the rest of the campus. While most of the stadium is concrete, the "tower" of the new building, both inside and outside the stadium, appears to be constructed from limestone. Compare this part of the stadium, which will be the first thing most visitors see of IU, to the Sample Gates, the entrance to the oldest part of the campus:
Well done. From there, let's proceed inside the stadium. It turns out that wearing a tie and acting like you belong there allows a surprising level of access.
First, here's a better look at the future Knothole Club field. I hope Glass has a plan for keeping the Nerf balls off the big boy field.
This is the northeast corner of the stadium. Again, other than the difference in weathering, this looks like the same structure.
Here's a look at how the north end zone building joins the much taller west grandstand:
A field-level look at the north end zone building. The steel "posts" on the top of the building might be the supports for a scoreboard:
Here's how the tower looks from the cheap seats in the north end:
...and the view of the field from the same spot. While Memorial Stadium has never been a great homefield advantage for IU, it's always been a good place to watch a game, and the new stands provide a nice viewing angle.
A look up the tunnel into the stadium...
And a look into the new concourse from the same tunnel. I have too much respect for construction sites to go any further. No hardhat.
A look at the tower from the new premium seating:
The Rock remains in the northwest corner of the field, but the original plans showed it behind the north goalpost:
Maybe it's always been there, but I had never before noticed this ghostly apparition of the ugliest logo IU has ever worn:
Maybe a fresh coat of paint is in order before the season. Still, Memorial Stadium has never looked better.