Just hearing the name “Lane Stadium” brings forth many wonderful memories. It’s hard to know where to start trying to recount the growth of the “Home of the Hokies” over the last 50 years. Can the Lane Stadium/Worsham Field Fiftieth Anniversary really be only three years away?
Perhaps a quick walk back in time would provide the context for what has become the showcase for Virginia Tech football and a nationally recognized venue.
Most of you know Pritchard, O’Shag, Lee, and Peddrew-Yates Halls. You may remember the “Pritchard Prairie” as a scene of countless volleyball games and Spring sunbathing. Life was good!
But older alumni remember that area as the site of Miles Stadium. Miles Stadium was our home football field for almost forty years – from 1926 through 1964. It held 17,000 (sometimes) avid (sometimes) Hokies, but our crowds back then pale in comparison to today’s “Enter Sandman” crowd. The total student body back then was only about the size of the Class of 2012.
Tech’s strong home field reputation began in Miles Stadium. In those years at Miles, the Hokies only played 95 home games but won 71% of them. You can see from the limited number of home games over 40 years, Tech was on the wrong side of a lot of “2 for 1″ contracts.
The day Tech defeated then 10th ranked Florida State 20-11 is still a clear memory. Fred Biletnikoff, now a NFL Hall of Famer, spiked the ball in extreme frustration when he scored a FSU touchdown late in the game. Until that lone touchdown, the Hokies totally controlled FSU. Not surprisingly, the defense set the tone for the day on FSU’s first drive, which ended with only a field goal.
But over time, VPI was becoming Virginia Tech. New students were arriving, new curricula and degree programs were being added, participation in the Corps of Cadets was no longer mandatory and, heaven forbid, women were arriving at Tech.
The need for a new football venue was necessary, because Miles Stadium was a prime building site needed for student housing. A new location, almost to Christiansburg it seemed, was selected. The future “Home of the Hokies” was born.
In the Spring of 1964 Lane Stadium construction began. The original design was two bowed structures with ten (10) sections on each side. Lane Stadium, Indiana University’s Memorial Stadium and Groves Stadium at Wake Forest all had the same design. Even today Groves Stadium is often referred to as “Little Lane.”
The West Side with the original press box was built first along with the center section of the East Side. Students sat in bleachers on the East Side.
Student tickets in those days were “first come, first served” except for the section reserved for the Corps of Cadets. A good seat required early arrival unlike the “fashionably late” student arrival of today.
The 1965 season, our first season in Lane Stadium, produced a 7-3 record, but was not a particularly notable home schedule with only three home games — William & Mary, Villanova and UVa. Obviously all eyes were on the game with the Wahoos on October 23, 1965. My recollection, while becoming fuzzier with each passing year, is that it had been rainy the night before – umbrellas (yes, you could bring one into the game) were stuck upright in the mud under our seats.
The game took on extra significance because it was Dedication Day for Lane Stadium. Half finished, Lane was already better than old Scott Stadium. ‘Hoo grads scurried out of the woodwork to Blacksburg. They came to see the new stadium, but carried a sure knowledge that the Mighty ‘Hoos would spoil the Dedication. UVa’s traditional loss to Duke had been accomplished earlier in the season, but they had somehow managed to defeat UNC-CH. The ‘Hoos descended with confidence on Blacksburg that Fall day.
On October 23, 1926 VPI defeated UVa 6-0 at the Dedication of Miles Stadium. Thirty-nine years later to the day, on October 23, 1965, VPI defeated UVa 22-14 at the Dedication of Lane Stadium.
The university’s athletic program stepped off that October afternoon in 1965, reflecting our growing university and the inevitable evolution into “Virginia Tech” from the former days as “VPI.”
Next Installment: Lane Stadium grows into Lane Stadium/Worsham Field
William G. Foster, Jr. is a member of the Class of 1965, a former member of the Board of Visitors and is now President of the Smithfield-Preston Foundation in Blacksburg.