Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
|Former names||Florida Field (1930–1989)|
|Location||157 Gale Lemerand Drive, Gainesville, Florida 32611|
|Owner||University of Florida|
|Operator||University Athletic Association|
|Surface||Natural Grass (1930–1970)
Bermuda grass (1990–present)
|Broke ground||April 16, 1930|
|Opened||November 8, 1930|
|Expanded||1950, 1960, 1966, 1982, 1991, 2003, 2008|
|Construction cost||$118,000 (1930)($1570177.60 in 2011 dollars)|
|Florida Gators (NCAA) (1930–present)
Tangerine Bowl (NCAA) (1973)
Gator Bowl (NCAA) (1994)
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (popularly known as "The Swamp") is the football stadium for the University of Florida and the home field of the university's Florida Gators football team. It is located on the university's Gainesville, Florida campus. The stadium was originally built in 1930, and has been regularly expanded, renovated and improved since then. Although it is the 12th largest college football stadium as measured by its official seating capacity of 88,548, attendance for the Gators' home football games regularly exceeds 90,000 people.
- 1 Location
- 2 One stadium, three names
- 3 Stadium history
- 4 Home field advantage
- 5 Florida Field traditions
- 6 Other events
- 7 Gallery
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is located on the northern edge of the University of Florida campus near the center of Gainesville, Florida. The stadium and its approach are bordered by West University Avenue on the north side, Gale Lemerand Drive (previously North-South Drive) on the west, and Stadium Road on the south. Just east of the stadium is the University of Florida Campus Historic District, which is the oldest portion of the campus and includes the Murphree Area student residence complex, the Florida Gymnasium, and Ustler Hall. Just west of the stadium across Gale Lemerand Drive is the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, which is the home arena for the Florida Gators men's basketball, women's basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, and swimming and diving teams. Just beyond the O'Connell Center are the football team's practice facilities and Alfred A. McKethan Stadium, home field of the Florida Gators baseball team.
One stadium, three names
The name of the playing surface has remained "Florida Field" since the stadium's original construction in 1930. In 1989, the university renamed the stadium (but not the playing surface) in honor of citrus magnate Ben Hill Griffin, Jr., an alumnus and major benefactor of the university and its sports programs.
The facility acquired the nickname "The Swamp" in the early 1990s when, in describing Florida's home-field advantage, then-coach Steve Spurrier noted that ". . . a swamp is where Gators live. We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous. Only Gators get out alive."  The nickname quickly became popular and has been commonly used ever since.
University Athletic Field / Fleming Field
Soon after the establishment of the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1906, the university's football, baseball, and track teams began competing at University Athletic Field, which was simply a grassy playing surface flanked by low bleachers located along West University Avenue immediately north of the present stadium site. Permanent bleachers were installed in 1911, and the facility was rechristened "Fleming Field" in honor of former Florida governor Francis P. Fleming. Besides the university's sports teams, Fleming Field hosted several Major League Baseball spring training games and practices featuring the Boston Red Sox, New York Giants, Philadelphia Athletics, and Boston Braves, among others.
From 1911-1930, Florida's football squads posted a 49-7-1 record at University Athletic / Fleming Field. But because of the facility's limited capacity (approximately 5000) and the relative inaccessibility of Gainesville in the early 20th Century, most "home" games against top opponents were scheduled at larger venues in Jacksonville or Tampa, with a few also played in St. Petersburg or Miami.
Gator football first earned national prominence in the 1920s, prompting incoming university president John J. Tigert to begin a drive to construct a new and larger stadium upon his arrival in 1928. With state funding unavailable at the cusp of the Great Depression, the semi-independent University of Florida Athletic Association was organized to raise funds and oversee the project. To expedite construction, Tigert and ten supporters of the Florida's athletic program took out personal loans to cover the $118,000 required to build the planned 22,000-seat football stadium.
Construction began on April 16, 1930 and immediately faced serious engineering and geotechnical obstacles related to natural ground water and drainage. The stadium was built in a shallow ravine, with the lower thirty-two rows of the east, west, and north stands below the level of the surrounding land. When excavation reached the water table, water began to pour into the construction site from the north end, miring men, mules, and mule-drawn equipment in the resulting mud. The drainage challenge was ultimately resolved by the installation of massive underground culverts leading to Graham Pond, located two blocks south of the stadium site. Problems solved, the construction team of eighty laborers and mules completed Florida Field in time for the November 8, 1930 homecoming game against Alabama, the dominant Southern Conference team of the day. Florida Field was rededicated in 1934 to the memory of Florida servicemen who died in World War I, and a plaque was placed on the outside wall behind the old north end zone as a memorial.
Expansions and renovations
Over the years, Florida Field has undergone many renovations, almost always adding more seats.
The original stadium—the lower half of the current facility—seated 21,769. The stadium was first expanded in 1949-1950 with the addition of 11,200 permanent seats were added to the west stands, which, together with temporary bleachers, almost doubled capacity to over 40,000. In 1965–1966, 10,000 more permanent seats were added to the east stands and larger bleachers were installed in the south endzone, bringing capacity to over 60,000. Construction of the double-deck south endzone in 1982 and the 1991 addition of the "Sunshine Seats" upper deck to the north endzone combined to bowl in the stadium and raise capacity to over 80,000. After a 2003 project greatly expanded club seating and added many luxury boxes, the Swamp had grown to become the largest football stadium in the state of Florida and the second largest sports facility overall behind only the Daytona International Speedway. The current official seating capacity is 88,548, although the actual attendance regularly exceeds 90,000.
Before the 2008 season, the Heavener Football Complex opened on the southwest corner of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The $28 million addition, which was funded entirely with private donations, is meant to be the "front door" of the football program and houses a museum highlighting Gator football history along with offices, meeting space, a new weight room, and other facilities for the football program
Following the Gators' 2008 BCS Championship season, large Daktronics HD-16 video boards were installed atop the upper deck of both endzones. The screen in the south endzone is 30 feet x 137 ft while the one in the north endzone is 25 feet by 75 feet. These screens are used to display statistics, replays, advertisements, and other things.
After the 2011 season, an extensive renovation of the 1950s-era concourse under the west stands improved restrooms, lighting, concessions, and crowd circulation patterns and added flat-screen displays for fan viewing.
The playing surface of Florida Field has also changed over the years. It was natural grass until 1971, when Astroturf was installed and nicknamed "Doug's Rug" for then-coach Doug Dickey. The original artificial surface was replaced with an updated version in 1980, and it remained until 1990, when newly hired coach Steve Spurrier insisted that it be removed and replaced with natural grass to help prevent player injury. In June 2012, the playing surface was completely torn out down to the substrate to improve drainage and install a Bermuda grass hybrid developed with assistance from the University of Florida's agronomy department to better resist drought, disease, and damage.
Other home fields
The Gators have played the vast majority of their home contests at Florida Field since it opened in 1930. The most notable exception is the annual Florida-Georgia game, which has been held in Jacksonville since 1933 with the two teams alternating being the official home team. The only seasons in which UF and UGA did not meet in Jacksonville were 1994 and 1995, when the old Gator Bowl was being rebuilt as Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for the NFL's expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and the contest was held at Florida Field and Georgia's Sanford Stadium, respectively.
In years past, Florida would occasionally schedule a home game in Jacksonville, Tampa, or (less frequently) other large venues around Florida. But besides the annual meeting with Georgia, the Gators have not played a regular season home contest anywhere besides Florida Field since September 1980, when they defeated the California Golden Bears in old Tampa Stadium. Not coincidentally, this game was played the season prior to Florida Field's south endzone expansion, making it the largest football venue in the state.
Home field advantage
The Swamp has acquired a reputation for being a very difficult place for opposing teams to play, and has regularly been ranked at or near the top of lists of top home field advantages and/or best game day experiences in college football.
One of the major reasons is the stadium's design. Originally built in a shallow sinkhole, the playing surface is below ground level. Various expansions over the years have enclosed the playing area on all sides with steep stands, and the fans are within a few feet of the action. One effect of this is to keep the fan's sound level "inside" the stadium, which results in sound levels on the field which have been measured at 115 decibels.
The enclosed playing area also enhances the effects of Gainesville's warm and humid fall climate. Game-day temperatures at field level have been known to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), creating a swamp-like atmosphere. (This was the impetus for a University of Florida researcher Robert Cade to develop Gatorade as a way to combat dehydration.) Furthermore, during hot and sunny day games Florida's sideline on the west side of the stadium is in the shade provided by the press box while the visiting team's sideline on the east side is exposed to the sun.
Florida Gator fans are both loyal (having sold out every home contest from 1979 until 2011) and loud, thus creating a tremendous home field advantage for the Gators. The size and exuberance of the home crowds, when combined with the stadium's close-in design of the seats, concentrates the fan noise at field level, making the Swamp one of the loudest stadiums in America.
Combined, these factors create an intimidating environment which can rattle and disrupt opposing teams, making it difficult to hear playcalls and execute assignments. Florida Field has been repeatedly ranked by various publications as being the toughest stadium in which to play for opposing teams.
The Gators' performance at home illustrates this effect. In a twenty year span beginning in 1990 (when the north endzone expansion was completed), Florida posted a 113–13 overall home record, which was the best in the nation during that time period. They were particularly dominant under Spurrier, losing only three SEC home games during Spurrier's 11 years in Gainesville.
Florida Field traditions
Like many other college football venues, the Swamp has its own unique features and game day traditions:
- Commemorated on the facade of the south end zone are the years of each of the team's Southeastern Conference championships and its 1996, 2006 and 2008 National Championships. Also included are tributes to the school's three Heisman Trophy winners, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow.
- Located on the north end zone facade, the Ring of Honor commemorates the greatest players and coaches in Gator football history. Current members are Wilber Marshall, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, Emmitt Smith, and Jack Youngblood.
- In April 2011, life-size bronze statues of Heisman Trophy winners Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, and Tim Tebow were dedicated outside the west side of the stadium along Gale Lemerand Drive.
- Painted on the four corners of the stadium are large messages stating "This is . . . THE SWAMP" (previously read ". . . FLORIDA FIELD" before the mid-1990s), "This is . . . GATOR COUNTRY", "Home of the . . . FLORIDA GATORS.", and "It's Great To Be A Florida Gator" (updated prior to the 2013 season)
- Entertainment on game days includes the "Pride of the Sunshine", the University of Florida's marching band. The Pride was the first marching band in Florida. For many years, it was recognized for its very large bass drum, known as the "Biggest Boom in Dixie." The band plays on the field for pregame and halftime and also plays instrumental version of the University of Florida fight song, "The Orange and Blue," after every Gator score.
- Albert and Alberta, one of the few mascot couples in major college sports.
- Right before the team enters the field, a short intro is played on the large video screens. A group of (real) alligators are shown gathering in a murky swamp while ominous music plays. Then the camera zooms into the gaping jaws of a large alligator while a deep voice intones "The Swamp . . . Only Gators get out alive!" as the football team takes the field.
- Jim Finch, the public address announcer at the stadium from 1966 through 2001, was known for his famously long "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere come the Gators!" call delivered in powerful baritone as the Gators ran onto Florida Field before each game, and for his succinct and even-handed style of announcing the plays during the game. Finch died in 2002, but an audio recording of his distinctive entrance call has been used on occasion, with the current PA announcer replicating Finch's call at all other games.
- George Edmondson (a.k.a. "Mr. Two Bits"), wearing his trademark yellow oxford shirt, blue seersucker trousers, orange-and-blue tie, and black-and-white saddle shoes, traveled around the stands for almost sixty years leading fans in the old "Two Bits" cheer ("Two bits! Four bits! Six bits! A dollar! All for the Gators, stand up and holler!"). Edmondson began the tradition in 1949 and "retired" to become a regular fan after his fiftieth season in 1998. However, he couldn't stay in his seat and continued to lead the cheer during pre-game festivities and (occasionally) in the stands during games. On November 22, 2008, at the last home game of the season, Mr. Two Bits was again honored with a retirement ceremony.
- Fans sway by rows while singing "We are the Boys from old Florida" at the end of the third quarter. (The University of Florida was an exclusively all-male school from 1905 to 1947.)
- Gator fans join in on shout-outs and chants such as "ORANGE" (yelled by students, mostly in the East and South stands) and "BLUE" (yelled by alumni, mostly in the West and North stands). During the pre-game, this cheer is led by Richard Johnston (also known as "Mike Man" or "Mr. Orange and Blue"), a former cheerleader who has been the pre-game emcee since 1984.
- For many years, the ship's bell of the battleship USS Florida (BB-30) was mounted at the North end zone wall of the stadium, to be rung by a nearby fan immediately upon the conclusion of a Gators victory. After the North end zone expansion in 1991, the bell was moved to the north end zone concourse for display, but was later removed during a minor renovation.
- When Steve Spurrier became the Gators' head football coach in 1990, he revived the tradition of fans and players together singing the University of Florida Alma Mater after the conclusion of home football games. Upon arriving in 2005, Urban Meyer added the singing of "The Orange and Blue," the Gators' fight song, after home victories.
The Florida football team plays only six or seven home games per season. At most other times, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is open for students to jog around the concourse, run stadium steps, or just sit in the stands, although the actual playing surface is off limits to prevent turf damage. The facility only occasionally hosts special events.
- The Swamp is the long-time home of Gator Growl, a student-produced show and pep rally held the Friday night before the annual homecoming football game. Originally a simple affair, Gator Growl has grown tremendously over the years. The program usually includes the introduction of the seniors on the football team by the head coach, live student skits, video skits (often with celebrity cameo appearances), a musical act, and a headlining comedian. Past headliners include such luminaries as Robin Williams, Dennis Miller, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal, Dane Cook, Paula Poundstone, Wayne Brady, Rodney Dangerfield, George Burns, Bob Hope, and Sister Hazel.
- Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has hosted the Florida High school football championships on over a dozen occasions.
- Florida Field has twice served as a temporary home for college bowl games when other Florida stadiums were undergoing renovations. In 1973, Florida Field hosted the Tangerine Bowl, which pitted the hometown Gators against the Miami Redskins while Orlando's Citrus Bowl was being rebuilt. The 1994 Gator Bowl between the Virginia Tech Hokies and Tennessee Volunteers was held in the Swamp while Jacksonville Municipal Stadium was being rebuilt for the National Football League's expansion Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Florida Field was once a busy concert venue, with artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Elton John, The Eagles, and Jimmy Buffett among the performers who held concerts at the stadium. However, these events have been much less common in recent decades. The university, wary of damage to the turf or the facility in general, has chosen to focus on keeping the stadium ready for sporting events; concerts are now commonly held in the nearby O'Connell Center arena. The last concert held in The Swamp (other than performances during Gator Growl) featured The Rolling Stones on November 27, 1994.
Top 10 attendance
|1||November 28, 2009||90,907||Florida State||W, 37–10|
|2||October 1, 2011||90,888||#3 Alabama||L, 10–38|
|3||November 13, 2010||90,885||#23 South Carolina||L, 14–36|
|4||September 6, 2008||90,833||Miami||W, 26–3|
|4||October 20, 2012||90,833||#7 South Carolina||W, 44–11|
|6||October 6, 2012||90,824||#4 LSU||W, 14–6|
|7||November 26, 2011||90,798||Florida State||L, 7–21|
|8||September 17, 2011||90,744||Tennessee||W, 33–23|
|9||October 9, 2010||90,721||#12 LSU||L, 29–33|
|10||September 17, 2005||90,716||Tennessee||W, 16–7|
- Buildings at the University of Florida
- Florida Gators
- History of the University of Florida
- List of NCAA Division I FBS football stadiums
- University Athletic Association
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