Rogers Field (Washington State)
|Former names||Soldier Field (1892-1901)|
|Owner||Washington State University|
|Operator||Washington State University|
|Opened||1892, 1895 (football)|
|Closed||1970 - November|
|WSU Cougars (1892-1969)
(Pacific-8 Conference, NCAA)
Idaho Vandals (1969-70) - NCAA
Rogers Field was an outdoor athletic stadium in the northwest United States, on the campus of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. It was the home venue of the WSU Cougars football and track teams until severely damaged by a fire in April 1970. Demolished in early 1971, Rogers Field was replaced by the concrete Martin Stadium, which was built on the same site and opened in 1972.
Originally built in 1892 for track and field and named "Soldier Field", it hosted its first football game in 1895, when WSU defeated its Palouse neighbor Idaho 10-4. In 1902, the stadium was renamed for Governor John R. Rogers, who died in office the previous December. In its early years, it also hosted Cougar baseball, with home plate in the southeast corner. The final structure was completely rebuilt in 1936.
The 23,500-seat wooden stadium had a horseshoe-shaped grandstand, open on the west end, with a 440-yard (402 m) running track. The press box sat at the top of the south sideline's grandstand, and the playing field was natural grass, at an elevation of 2,530 feet (770 m) above sea level. The field was unlit, but plans were in place to install AstroTurf for the 1970 season. The running track was cinder until replaced by an all-weather rubberized surface in early 1968.
During what came to be its final WSU season in 1969, Rogers Field was also the home for the neighboring Idaho Vandals. Idaho's Neale Stadium, also wooden, had been condemned during the summer of 1969 due to soil erosion and was to be rebuilt with concrete grandstands, ready in 1970 (or 1971). Idaho played its limited Palouse home schedule in 1969 (3 games) at Rogers Field, and due to delays in their project had planned on playing there again in 1970 (4 games). During the ten-game schedules of the late 1960s, the WSU football team split its usual allotment of four home games equally between Spokane and Pullman (2 games each).
A suspicious fire in 1970 significantly damaged the south grandstand and press box of Rogers Field late on Saturday, April 4, the first day of spring break. A definitive cause of the blaze was not determined, but was widely believed to have been arson. A track & field meet with Oregon State had been held at the stadium earlier in the day. Idaho's idle (and condemned) Neale Stadium had burned less than five months earlier in November 1969, also a suspected arson which burned its south grandstand and press box. The two-year-old all-weather track was saved by students, mostly track athletes, who jumped the fence prior to the arrival of the fire department. The track sections nearest to the fire were watered down to keep them cool, and the highly-flammable foam landing pits (pole vault and high jump) were quickly moved to the grass infield.
Prior to the fire the WSU Cougars had planned to play three home games, all in the Pac-8, Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane in 1970, which was installing AstroTurf that summer. The two scheduled for Pullman were Idaho in mid-September and Oregon State in mid-November. Various sites were considered, including Husky Stadium in Seattle and Civic Stadium in Portland, but WSU played all five games in Spokane. Despite another one-win season and low turnout for the USC and Oregon State games in November, WSU set a home attendance record in 1970.
Requiring less seating capacity, Idaho opted to stay put on the Palouse in 1970 and played its four home games at the partially destroyed stadium in Pullman.
The game between the teams, the so-called "Displaced Bowl," was easily won by WSU on September 19 in Spokane. It ended a ten game losing streak for Jim Sweeney's Cougars, dating back to the 1969 season opener. As WSU's home opener, the game drew 27,200 spectators, at the time the largest for football in Spokane outside the Apple Cup.
The victory over Idaho was the only one for WSU in 1970, as their next win came in the third game of the 1971 season. With the new stadium in Pullman under construction in 1971, the Cougars again played their full home schedule in Spokane, four games, but waited waited until the last one on October 30 to post a home victory. WSU defeated Oregon, led by quarterback Dan Fouts and running back Bobby Moore (later Ahmad Rashad). The 31-21 win evened WSU's record to 4-4 and 2-2 in the Pac-8, with visions of a possible league title and Rose Bowl appearance. It followed a Cougar upset of defending Rose Bowl champion Stanford by a point on the road; that was Stanford's only conference blemish in 1971, and they repeated as Rose Bowl champions. November was not as fortunate for WSU, which went winless on the road against USC, Oregon State, and Washington to finish at 4-7.
Poor weather in the spring of 1971 caused delays in the construction of Idaho's new stadium, and the Vandals played "home" games at Bronco Stadium in Boise and at Joe Albi in Spokane in September. After a three-year absence, the UI Vandals returned to campus in Moscow on October 9 at their new "Idaho Stadium," originally an outdoor venue with natural grass. The debut game was a Vandal victory over Idaho State, and Idaho won eight straight games and finished at 8-3, their best football record to date. Artificial turf was installed the next year, and the stadium was enclosed three years later in 1975, renamed the Kibbie Dome.
Martin Stadium, the new concrete football stadium in Pullman, opened on the site of Rogers Field in 1972. It had a modest seating capacity of 22,600, a running track, lights, and an AstroTurf playing field. The first game in Martin Stadium was on September 30, a disappointing 19-point loss to the Utah Utes of the WAC, with 20,600 in attendance. Following the 1978 season, the running track was removed and the field level was lowered 16 feet (5 m), allowing a seating capacity expansion with thirteen new rows of seats. The revamped Martin Stadium debuted in mid-October 1979, with an inspired victory over the UCLA Bruins.
The last Apple Cup in Spokane was played in 1980, but the Cougars continued to play several home games there through the 1983 season. The WSU academic calendar was changed from a delayed semester to the traditional semester schedule in 1984. With classes starting four weeks earlier in late August, WSU students were now on campus for the entire football season, and the Spokane games were eliminated.
- "Fast blaze ruins Pullman stadium". Spokesman-Review. April 6, 1970. p. 1.
- "Baseball Practice". Washington State University Libraries. City of Pullman Image Collection. c. 1916-26. Retrieved February 16, 2014. Check date values in:
- "Martin Stadium". Washington State University Athletics. Facilities. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
- "Fire muddles Rogers Field plans". Spokesman-Review. April 6, 1970. p. 10.
- "New rubber track for Cougars". Spokesman-Review. June 23, 1967. p. 19.
- "Invitational field to test new track". Spokane Daily Chronicle. March 29, 1968. p. 18.
- "Late night fire destroys portion of Neale Stadium on Idaho campus". Lewiston Morning Tribune. November 24, 1969. p. 16.
- "WSU results". College Football Data Warehouse. 1965-69. Retrieved February 16, 2014. Check date values in:
- McCartan, Richard (January 20, 2002). "Remembering Rogers Field". CougFan.com. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
- "Rogers Field fire". Washington State University Libraries. City of Pullman Image Collection. 1970. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
- "Renovation of Albi Stadium progresses: turf is down". Spokesman-Review. July 8, 1970. p. 7.
- Brown, Bruce (April 8, 1970). "WSU may play football in Seattle". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 41.
- "WSU continues talks with Seattle officials". Spokane Daily Chronicle. April 9, 1970. p. 37.
- Johnson, Bob (November 17, 1970). "Gates start rumors". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 17.
- Brown, Bruce (November 23, 1970). "Youth lifts WSU hope". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 31.
- "Idaho selects Rogers for home grid frays". Spokane Daily Chronicle. April 20, 1970. p. 16.
- Missildine, Harry (September 20, 1970). "Cougars roar back, swamp Vandals 44-16". Spokesman-Review. p. 1, sports.
- Brown, Bruce (November 1, 1971). "Another big hurdle facing Cougars". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 17.
- Missildine, Harry (October 24, 1971). "Cool Cougs earn 'sweet' victory;...". Spokesman-Review. p. 1, sports.
- Brown, Bruce (November 22, 1971). "Success has limitation". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 29.
- Missildine, Harry (November 21, 1971). "Washington wins weirdly". Spokesman-Review. p. 1, sports.
- "Thunder chickens, Bunce find California 'guilty'". Spokesman-Review. November 22, 1971. p. 13.
- "WSU results". College Football Data Warehouse. 1970-74. Retrieved February 16, 2014. Check date values in:
- "First two Vandal grid games shifted from Neale Stadium". Lewiston Morning Tribune. July 10, 1971. p. 10.
- "Idaho officials told stadium will be ready". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. August 27, 1971. p. 17.
- Missildine, Harry (October 1, 1972). "Utah beats Cougars 44-25". Spokesman-Review. p. 1, sports.
- Brown, Brunce (October 2, 1972). "Mistakes sink Cougars". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 21.
- Washington State.scout.com - a history of Rogers Field
- Washington State University Athletics - Martin Stadium
- Washington State University Libraries - aerial photo of Rogers Field from east, 1961