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#STINGDAILY: 100 Year Anniversary for Grant Field

Aug 23, 2013

Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –

In the process of trolling Twitter on Thursday, a Tweet of Grant Field came up, and with it the nostalgia machine began humming.

Who knew that once upon a time Georgia Tech’s football stadium housed not only a track but also a baseball field? Here’s the Tweet/photo

Plenty of history is bubbling up with the 100th anniversary of Grant Field bearing down.

When Virginia Tech visits for a Thursday night game on Sept. 26, there will be quite a few celebrations but really the celebration is ongoing. Bobby Dodd Stadium, which houses Grant Field, is the oldest on-campus stadium in the nation.

That day will almost match the calendar with the first game ever played at Grant Field, which was Sept. 27, 1913, when the Yellow Jackets – a few years before they came to be known for a while as the Golden Tornado – beat Ft. McPherson 19-0 to christen the place.

“What we’re doing is kind of going to be a year-long celebration,” said Tech Assistant Director of Athletics for Special Projects Doug Allvine. “We’re hanging a big banner on Callaway Plaza. The pinnacle is going to be  Virginia Tech. We’ve invited back all living football All-Americans, and we’ve already received confirmations for more than half.”

There will be more written about this and there are several plans for that week, including a reception for former All-Americans and a moment at that game to recognize them.

Among former All-America players who already have confirmed that they will attend, Leon Hardeman, a member of the 1952 national championship team, is a yes.

Think of all the people who have worked on those grounds. How could John Heisman have known of all this?

Way back at the spark of the 20th century, he pressed school officials to build a football facility so that Tech could play home games on campus rather than at Brisbane Park (near present-day West Peachtree and 10th), Piedmont Park or Ponce de Leon Park (I have a photo of a Babe Ruth at-bat in that place).

Actually, Tech had played on The Flats previous to Ponce de Leon Park, but that was not a football facility so much as it was a field. And a crummy one. Eventually, Heisman’s persistence led to the construction on the same site of the original west grandstands, which are still under the present west stands.

The place has changed a bit over a century.

This is a cool photo of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill speaking at Grant Field, courtesy of Georgia Tech digital archives:

I was there when some more Brits, the Rolling Stones, played a concert in 1989. Snuck in to see the Steel Wheels tour. I missed Pink Floyd’s visit.

Not even Mick Jagger was born at the time of this photo:

Note the presence of Coca-Cola. The fine soda folks from just across North Ave. from Tech remain keenly involved with the Jackets, and in fact will issue a limited edition commemorative bottle in connection with the 100th anniversary of Grant Field.

The Institute also unveiled a commemorative 24k gold coin available encased within a plaque. Really cool.

Speaking of which, here are a few more photos:

Here is a shot of the old Heisman Gym, which sat on the north end of Bobby Dodd Stadium for much of the latter half of the 20th century, where Callaway Plaza and the North Stands now reside:

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