Past Times

Riddick saw its last football game 50 years ago

J. C. Knowles Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the last N.C. State football game played at the old Riddick Stadium. In 1965, Joe Hancock of the NCSU News Bureau wrote a “colorful obituary” for the stadium.

It has echoed many a victory cry in its 50-odd years. And some curses too, for that matter.

Mix in a train horn or two, add in a blast from the power plant whistle just to drown out the rousing strains of “State College Goes Fighting Along,” and you’ve got just about as colorful a subject for an obituary as you could ask for.

Today they’re closing down old Riddick Stadium, the first and only home of the football Wolfpack of North Carolina State University at Raleigh. The Pack will be appearing in modern 40,000 seat Carter Stadium next fall.

Old grads, back for Homecoming and to bid old Riddick fond adieu, will be among the staunchest supporters on hand. No wake is planned. The last chapter in the history of this noted landmark has to be a happy one, the old-timers insist.

“Growing pains” is the reason for Riddick’s demise. Little A & M College, as N. C. State University was known when football was first played at the Institution in 1892, is a full-blown university now, boasting nearly 10,000 students.

Riddick Stadium, cramped between the YMCA and the University power plant in what is known as the “old” part of the campus, must give way to much needed space for academic buildings. Too, the growing student body and demands on 20,000-seat Riddick has made the need for a new stadium imperative.

Growing pains of a different sort brought Riddick into being. N. C. State (then A&M) played its first game in 1892. From that year until 1907 home games were played, as the 1909 college yearbook relates, “on whatever part of the College ground happened to be uncultivated and without trees.” “Match” games were played on the old Fairgrounds, too.

In 1907 certain members of the faculty, alumni, and other friends of the school organized a company, contributed what they could, and then sold bonds to enclose an athletic field on College property.

This field, the forerunner to what later became Riddick Stadium, was used for both baseball and football. The first football contest was against Randolph-Macon, which the Pack won, 20-0.

It was during the 1912 season that N. C. State’s football field acquired the name, Riddick Field. The students unanimously voted to pay tribute to the “father of athletics” at the institution, popular Professor W. C. Riddick, then its vice president. “Pop” Riddick, as he was affectionately known, was president of N. C. State from 1916 to 1923.…

Wooden bleachers, which first characterized the institution’s football field, gave way to concrete stands during the summer of 1916 and steps were taken to refinance the athletic field bonds which had been sold to first establish an athletic field on the campus.

Construction of the stadium in its present form was developed in several stages. The west side was built first. Beginning in 1916 each graduating class for several years gave a section of concrete bleachers, and finally this side of the field was completed.

It was during the administration of President Eugene C. Brooks (1923-34) that Riddick Field was enlarged and the east half of the present stadium was erected.

The stadium development as it stands today was finally completed in 1938-39 with the addition of the fieldhouse. The baseball facilities were moved from Riddick in the mid-thirties. The Raleigh Times Nov. 13, 1965

The wheels of progress at N.C. State weren’t limited to the football field. Writer Jim Willis took a look at other changes on campus.

When the old grads return to North Carolina State University at Raleigh for Homecoming festivities today, many will no doubt shake their heads in amazement at what they see and hear. For they will find that over the years more, much more than the name has changed at the West Raleigh campus.

Perhaps one of the most pleasant changes some will note will be the increased number of women students. … Most alumni remember Watauga Hall as a men’s dormitory, but last year Watauga was renovated and is serving as the first women’s dormitory.…

And like a beanstalk in fertile soil, the last six years or so have brought the product of the post-war baby explosion and N. C. State’s enrollment has been pushed upwards to the 10,000 mark.…

The giant complex of what used to be the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering today totals about 3,000 acres, including adjoining research farms.…

Some new sights and sounds include revolutionary Harrelson Hall, a circular structure emphasizing the idea of a compact campus. The Burlington Nuclear Reactor Laboratories house the first university-owned and operated nuclear reactor.…

Certainly much has changed and changes must continue. The old grad might swallow deeply and wonder if he even knows the school he left so many years ago. But let him not wonder long, for the Memorial Tower still chimes on the hour to remind all who hear that it’s still North Carolina State. The Raleigh Times Nov. 13, 1965

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Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

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