RALEIGH — For 30 years, Riddick Field House was at the center of N.C. State football – the spot where 20,000 pairs of eyes focused as the Wolfpack charged onto Riddick Field to face challengers and win titles.
But the last time that happened was almost 50 years ago, when the team relocated to 54,000-seat Carter-Finley Stadium. Since then, Riddick Field has been paved over and its bleachers dismantled.
Now, the two-story, white masonry field house stands in the way of progress.
“The university has big plans for Riddick Field. It’s a site that has a lot of potential for the university, ” said Abie Harris, an architect at the university for 30 years, before retiring in 1998. “The field house would be just out of scale and a hurdle to other development.”
The structure, built in 1936, will come down in early March to clear the way for future plans and create a safer path for walkers between the north and central sections of campus, Kevin MacNaughton, associate vice chancellor for facilities, said Friday.
A study by the university’s Environmental Health and Public Safety division determined that the old field house creates a safety hazard by obscuring sight lines into the pedestrian tunnel leading under a set of railroad tracks to Reynolds Coliseum, Tally Student Center and residence halls along Cates Avenue. It is one of just three paths allowing walkers to traverse the tracks on central campus, between Pullen Road and Dan Allen Road.
Students concerned about the loss of the field house started a Facebook page on Tuesday to save the field house and received more than 200 “likes” by late Friday.
“I’d be a little upset,” said senior graphic design major Ian Thomas, 21, walking past the building this week. “So much of N.C. State seems to be moving to Centennial Campus, and they’re tearing down some of the best older buildings.”
‘It was great’
Harold “Bud” Deter has fond memories of the field house. Deter played football for State, scoring the last three points in Riddick Field history when he kicked a field goal for a 3-0 Pack win over Florida State in 1965.
“The opposing team had lockers at the field house,” Deter said. “And later there were classrooms on the top floor. I took some classes there.”
Deter said his best memories were of the moments just before kickoff, when the suited-up team would leave Reynolds, walk through the railroad tunnel and come out from the field house to cheering crowds. “You could hear the band playing and fans yelling. It was great,” he said.
Deter said he keeps a piece of the old stadium as a memento of his football career, and he understands it’s time for the old field house to go.
So, apparently, do many others. Bob Hughes grew up near the university and made money selling soft drinks to fans at Riddick Stadium in the 1950s but doesn’t have any particular fondness for the field house.
“It’s just an old building,” Hughes said Thursday at the Players Retreat restaurant, the quintessential Wolfpack hangout. “The action was out on the field.”
Hughes’ friend, Jack Michaels, whose father was defensive line coach for the Wolfpack during the 1950s, said he associates the field house with the campus police, who once had offices in the building.
Students walking past the field house recently on their way to Central Campus had little knowledge of the classically-styled building, some calling it “cool” and others “really old.” An editorial in the student paper, The Technician, on Wednesday called the field house an eyesore, adding “you can’t swing a wrecking ball on main campus without hitting a building we’d like to tear down.”
Its best features include a “nice tripartite window over the tunnel” and decorative cross-gable, according to Raleigh architectural historian Ruth Little. Those items may show up at a Habitat Restore shop soon, as the university plans to donate usable materials when the building comes down, MacNaughton said.
MacNaughton said the university also plans to preserve the large block ‘S,’ N.C. State’s logo that adorned the side of the field house, and has placed a plaque near Stinson Drive outlining the history of the university’s original stadium.
When the field house is gone, the site will be landscaped and tended until money is available to move to the next phase of development. A two-story parking deck is planned in place of the former field, and a road running between Dan Allen and Pullen, parallel to the railroad track, will be built across the field house site to help traffic move better throughout campus.
The long-term goal is to create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, he said. “We’re doing the study now, and will proceed as funds are available,” MacNaughton said. “We’d like to see it come together in the next decade.”