Memorial Stadium was built in 1923 as a memorial to Illinois men and women who gave their lives for their country during World War I. Their names appear on 200 columns that support the east and west sides of the stadium.
Donations of approximately $1.7 million by more than 200,000 students, alumni and other friends of the university made the construction of Memorial Stadium possible. The Athletic Association (now known as the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics) later allocated $509,805 to the project for the construction of the south stands and other stadium additions. The drive was needed to add seats for the over 30,000 fans who were turned away from games.
The stadium opened Nov. 3, 1923, when Illinois defeated Chicago, 7-0, in a Homecoming victory. The stadium was dedicated officially Oct. 18, 1924, a day that Illinois not only defeated Michigan, 39-14, for a Homecoming victory, but Harold E. "Red" Grange accounted for six touchdowns in what remains the single greatest performance in Memorial Stadium history. In the first 12 minutes of that game, Grange ran for a total of 265 yards and scored four times against a Michigan team that had not lost in its last 20 games. He had his hands on the ball only six times and left the field before the end of the first quarter.
In the third quarter, Grange returned and ran 13 yards for his fifth touchdown, and in the final period he passed to Marion Leonard for his sixth score of the day. In 42 minutes of playing time, Grange gained a total of 402 yards, carried the ball 21 times and also completed six passes for 64 yards. Legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg called it "the most spectacular single-handed performance ever delivered in a major game."
A press box was added atop the west balcony in 1967, then the Ray Eliot Varsity Room, a training table and trophy display area at the southeast corner of the stadium that was built with funds donated by friends of the Athletic Association, was constructed. A million-dollar 1972 renovation project added aluminum seating and other improvements, then installation of the first artificial turf and a new lighting system was made possible through a 1974 Golden Anniversary campaign drive. The locker rooms and training facilities also underwent a facelift in 1977.
The 1994 season represented the 70th anniversary of Memorial Stadium's dedication and the historic Illinois-Michigan game. To celebrate the event, Red Grange's wife, Mrs. Margaret Grange, attended the Fighting Illini's Oct. 22 game against Michigan. She helped dedicate The Grange Rock, which sits at the north end of Zuppke Field near the Illinois locker room, as a tribute to her husband. The rock came from the same Indiana stone quarry that produced the stadium's granite columns.
During the 1980s, Memorial Stadium saw 27 consecutive sell-outs. The singlegame attendance record is 78,297 for a 1984 victory over Missouri.
In April 1985, $7 million worth of improvements began. Out of this project came installation of a new AstroTurf artificial playing surface and expansion of the football headquarters in the northeast corner of the stadium. An airtight vacuum dome completely covering the field of Memorial Stadium, more commonly known as "The Bubble," was inflated for the first time in December 1985 for the purpose of practice during the winter months. It was used for the last time during the spring season of 2000, when the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility was completed.
In 1986, Memorial Stadium was nominated among 62 other sites – including Soldier Field, Wrigley Field, the Rose Bowl and Yale Bowl – to become a national historic landmark.
The portion of the field's AstroTurf between the goal lines was replaced in the fall of 1989 after vandals burned a 40-yard swath in the middle of the field in the early-morning hours of Sept. 24. Employees from AstroTurf Industries began removing the damaged turf and padding on the 26th and worked around the clock to install a new surface in time for Illinois' Oct. 7 game against Ohio State.
Memorial Stadium underwent major renovations between November 1991 and August 1992. The $18 million project included the replacement of all the concrete bleachers in both upper decks as well as the replacement of the top 25 rows of the main stands. The stadium's electrical and drainage systems were also brought up to code and new restroom facilities, for both men and women, were installed in the corner towers and great halls. The project was financed through the issuance of revenue bonds by the UI Auxiliary Facilities System.
Before the start of the 1994 season, a new color matrix scoreboard was added to the north end of Zuppke Field. Renovations to the stadium surface came in the summer of 2001 with the replacement of the field's AstroTurf with AstroPlay, an artificial surface with a grass-like, non-abrasive, polyethylene fiber matrix filled with special rubber granules. The Illini played on the new surface for the first time in the 2001 home opener against Northern Illinois.
Construction took place in the winter of 2002 on the expansion of the football complex and a new state-of-the-art video replay scoreboard. Locker rooms and meeting rooms were expanded and a new sports medicine facility was built on the first floor of the Irwin complex.
In 2008, the University of Illinois unveiled a completed Memorial Stadium 'Renaissance' project that encompassed two years of work and over $121 million. The renovations to the north end zone were completed in August 2007 and the west structure, along with refurbishing of the east great hall. Among the renovation on the west side was the addition of luxury suites, indoor and outdoor club areas, and a refurbishment of the concourses. An outdoor club space, the Colonnades Club, was added under the west balcony and allows for indoor game-day hospitality, as well as outdoor chair-back seats for game viewing. In the west balcony, a three-level structure was built to house two floors of suites and an indoor club space, as well as a new press box for media seating and game day operations. The indoor club, which seats 200, has been named the "77 Club" to honor the retired number of Illinois gridiron legend Harold "Red" Grange. The premium seating areas also serve as ChampaignUrbana's premier event space, and have hosted weddings, banquets, receptions and meetings since their opening.
Also added underneath the newly enclosed north bleachers during the Illinois Renaissance project, the Illinois football complex got an expansion and refurbishing of the weight room, training facilities and meeting space. The entire project was conducted while keeping the stadium in a functioning capacity for the Illinois football team during the time of construction. The architectural firm HNTB of Kansas City, Mo., designed the renovation and Hunt Construction Managers handled the construction.
Prior to the 2012 season, a new FieldTurf Revolution surface and banners commemorating Illinois' national championships, Big Ten championships and bowl appearances were installed. The turf features the Block I logo inside an outline of the state of Illinois at midfield, similar to the design at center court of the State Farm Center floor, and alternating shades of green every five yards. For the 2013 season, a new high-definition video display measuring 36 feet tall by 96 feet wide was installed in the south horseshoe. In addition, two LED ribbon displays measuring more than 420 feet in length were added to the fascia between the seating decks on each side of the field, and additional video displays measuring 17 feet by 10 feet were mounted to the northeast and southeast towers.
Memorial Stadium has been the site of many other events, including the firstever "Farm Aid." Farm Aid was organized by Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and was held on September 22, 1985, before a crowd of 80,000 people. It raised over $7 million for America's family farmers. Performers included Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and many more.
Since 1999, the University of Illinois has played host to the Illinois High School Association's championship games during Thanksgiving weekend. Starting in 2012, the IHSA finals will only be hosted at Memorial Stadium in evennumbered years after the Big Ten adjusted the conference schedule to have a regular-season game on Thanksgiving weekend. In 2002, Memorial Stadium served as the home field for the Chicago Bears while Soldier Field underwent major renovations.
Many lots are pass only lots. There are some lots available for game day purchase. These lots are Lot 44, 48, 49, and the lots in Research Park.
Parking lots are open to patrons starting at 7:00 a.m. and remain open until 10:00 p.m. on game days. This excludes any night games that Illinois might have in which parking lots will close 1 hour after the completion of the game.
Handicap Parking and ADA Shuttle Lot
Golf Cart Shuttle Service
Ticket Sales/Pass Gate Location
Will Call Tickets are to be picked up at the Athletic Ticket office located on the west side of the State Farm Center.
Press Will Call is located at the Athletic Ticket office located on the west side of the State Farm Center.
University of Illinois player guest tickets are located at the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility located NE of Memorial Stadium at the corner of Peabody and Fourth Streets.
Visiting player guest tickets are located at the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility located NE of Memorial Stadium at the corner of Peabody and Fourth Streets.
Lost and Found
First Aid rooms at Memorial Stadium are located under section 105 on the east side, and in the southwest corner of the Great West Hall south of Gate 24. Ambulance Services are on site during all home football games.