Francis Field (Missouri)

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Francis Field
Gates to Francis Field - Danforth Campus of Washington University in St. Louis.jpg
LocationSt. Louis, Missouri
OwnerWashington University in St. Louis
OperatorWashington University in St. Louis
19,000 (previous)
Broke ground1903
ArchitectCope and Stewardson
Washington University Bears (NCAA) (1905-present)
St. Louis Stars (NASL) (1975–77)

Francis Field is a stadium at Washington University in St. Louis that was used as the main stadium for the 1904 Summer Olympics. It is currently used by the university's track and field, cross country, football, and soccer teams. It is located in St. Louis County, Missouri on the far western edge of the university's Danforth Campus. Built in time for the 1904 World's Fair, the stadium once had a 19,000 person seating capacity, but stadium renovations in 1984 reduced the capacity to 3,300 persons. It is one of the oldest sports venues west of the Mississippi River that is still in use. Francis Field now utilizes artificial Field Turf, which can be configured for both soccer and football.

Francis Field was named for former Missouri governor and president of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, David R. Francis, in October 1907.[1]


Francis Field during the 1904 Summer Olympics.

The 1904 Summer Olympics (the first to be held in the Western Hemisphere) were given to St. Louis, Missouri as a result of the efforts of David Rowland Francis, for whom the stadium and accompanying gymnasium are named. Built in 1902, Francis Field's permanent stands represent one of the first applications of reinforced concrete technology.[2] Both Francis Field and its gymnasium are U.S. National Historic Landmarks. During those games, the stadium hosted the archery, athletics, cycling, football, gymnastics, lacrosse, roque, tug of war, weightlifting, and wrestling events. At some dirt courts located outside the stadium, the tennis events took place.[3]

Following the 1904 Olympics, Francis Field became the permanent home of the Bears, who were formerly known as the Pikers. From the 1920s through the 1950s, the Bears played before crowds of as many as 19,000 people, competing against universities such as Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Boston College, with half of the spectators in temporary wooden stands. The Bears now play as an NCAA Division III team.

In July 1994, Francis Field served as a centerpiece for the U.S. Olympic Festival as 3,000 athletes were housed on the campus for the country's top amateur sporting events.

In the summer of 2004 Francis Field had its natural grass replaced with artificial FieldTurf.[4]

Notable events[edit]

Francis Field in January 2009.

Francis Field is an annual host for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event.[5]

The Francis Gymnasium was the site of four U.S. presidential debates in 1992, 2000, 2004, and 2016, plus the vice-presidential debate in 2008.[6]

In 1994, the Francis Field was again an Olympic focal point, as 3,000 athletes were housed on the Danforth Campus for the U.S. Olympic Festival.

During both the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Torch relays, the Olympic Flame passed by Francis Field on its way to the site of the Olympic Games.[7]

Francis Field hosted the 1986 AAU/USA National Junior Olympic Games, the first and second National Senior Olympic Games, and the 1985 NCAA Division III National Men's Soccer Championship.

The stadium was used by the St. Louis Stars soccer team during 1969–1970, and again in 1975–1977, before their 1978 move to Anaheim, California, as they became the California Surf.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Washington Stadium Now Called Francis Field", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p. 31, October 27, 1907
  2. ^ Debate 2000 Washington University in St. Louis[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Spalding's report of the 1904 Summer Olympics. Archived August 29, 2011, at the Wayback Machine pp. 222-9, 233-47.
  4. ^ Season Previews Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2007-06-04. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Washington University in St. Louis selected to host a 2004 presidential debate
  7. ^ Washington University in St. Louis - Historical Campus Tour
Events and tenants
Preceded by
Public Schools Stadium
Brown Stadium
California Memorial Stadium
Host of the College Cup
Succeeded by
Rutgers Stadium
California Memorial Stadium
Grant Field

Coordinates: 38°38′52″N 90°18′49″W / 38.64778°N 90.31361°W / 38.64778; -90.31361