On Thanksgiving Day in 1927, UNC was thankful for a new stadium

Field Pass for the dedication game at Kenan Stadium, signed by C.T. Woolen. From the Department of Athletics Records (#40093) University Archives.

Field Pass for the dedication game at Kenan Stadium, signed by Charles T. Woollen. From the Department of Athletics Records (#40093) University Archives.

40093_DepartmentOfAthleticRecords_AlumniLetter

Letter from an alumnus to Dr. Foy Roberson, 1926. From the Department of Athletics Records (#40093), University Archives.

The final football game of UNC’s 1925 season was against the University of Virginia, as was tradition. It was played at UNC, on a field that could hold around 2,5o0 spectators. However, 16,000 spectators came to the game. The lack of space was a persistent problem, and UNC was unable to play many of the more prominent Universities in the South because of it. After the 1925 UNC-UVA game, alumni began actively corresponding with each other about the need for a new, larger stadium and ways provide the new stadium at no cost to the University. Dr. Foy Roberson, who later became secretary of the Stadium Committee, stated in one of his letters to a fellow alumnus that “We purposely placed the meeting in Durham, because we did not want the people over the State to feel that the movement was being sponsored by the University itself.”

Initially, the plan was to build a stadium for 33,500 people on a budget between $475,000 and $500,000. The initial architectural plans for the stadium also allowed for later additions if necessary without compromising the uniformity of the design. The money was to be raised by having alumni and friends of the university subscribe to stadium seating. The subscription would give alumni guaranteed seats for the “Big Games” for a set number of years. The greater the donation, the better the seats and the longer the term the seats would be reserved for. However, this subscription plan was never needed.

William Rand Kenan, Jr. had always intended to make a donation to the University of North Carolina as a memorial to his parents. Kenan recognized the need for a much larger stadium and worked with the Stadium Committee and the University Athletic Council to make it happen in time for the Thanksgiving Day game in 1927. Most of the correspondence concerning the stadium during the planning and construction was between Mr. Kenan and the Graduate Manager of Athletics, Mr. Charles T. Woollen.

Photo of Kenan Memorial Stadium concept drawing in L'As a French Magazine (from the Department of Athletics of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1919-1997, #40093, University Archives)

Photo of Kenan Stadium concept drawing in L’As, a French sports magazine. From from the Department of Athletics Records (#40093) University Archives.

Kenan decided to use the existing architectural plan, with the option to later expand the seating, decided upon by the Stadium Committee, but with a capacity of 24,000 and on a budget of $275,000. This budget included a memorial to Mr. Kenan’s parents. However, during construction they decided to add a Field House which “…not only provides excellent quarters for the teams, but makes it possible for us to extend hospitality to visiting teams in a way that we have not been able to do in the past.” (Letter to Kenan from the Secretary of the University Athletic Council October 8, 1927,┬áin the Department of Athletics Records #40093, University Archives).

The addition of the Field House put the final cost of the Stadium at $303,190.76, which Mr. Kenan paid for in its entirety. The stadium was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24, 1927 where the Tar Heels beat the University of Virginia Cavaliers, 14-13.

 

 

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2 Responses to On Thanksgiving Day in 1927, UNC was thankful for a new stadium

  1. George Johnson says:

    What would we have done without the Kenan’s ? Their love for this University was expressed then by William Rand Kenan and continues today in a very meaningful way.
    Carolina and Chapel Hill would be a lesser place without the Kenan’s.

  2. Patrick Sarsfield says:

    I’m moving in 4 days and my e-mail will change…not sure of the new one yet

    My dad, Dix R. Sarsfield, left me lots of UNC memorabilia. One is two “slick” copies of the football stadium on Thanksgiving day in 1927. I believe each is taken from a separate angle using a wide-angle lens. Because they have been rolled up in a cardboard tube for many decades, they’re in remarkably good condition. Any interest in having them to keep in university archives? If not, I’ll have them framed for my son who is also a UNC grad. Regards, Patrick D. Sarsfield ’59

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