In the first installment, the reality of the 1960s that necessitated a new football stadium was discussed. It would be unforgivable too, to complete any article about Tech football without a thankful nod to UVa; they play their role well and often seem to be a vital cog in our football success.
With those few home games in 1965, the legend of Lane began. The original Lane Stadium was finally “completed” in 1968, seating 35,000 at a total cost of $3.5 million. There was, in the mid-1960s, an “earn it before you spend it” approach to financial matters which meant the construction funds or pledges needed to be in hand before work was done. Edward H. Lane of Altavista led the effort to raise the funds necessary to build the stadium.
It was the start of a future that couldn’t be foreseen in the early 1960s when the stadium was designed, but the venue has evolved and mirrored the progress of the football program.
Through the 1970s, our football record was undistinguished. In the first 15 years after Lane was constructed, Tech had 7 winning seasons and 8 losing seasons. Over those 15 years, however, the number of graduates was increasing with every passing year. Tech was becoming more popular. It was clear that more seating capacity would be needed. In 1980, 12,500 seats were added to the top of the original East Side.
While the East Side grew and other infrastructure jobs were completed, the West Side press box remained the same. The area under the press box was enclosed for Golden Hokie seats, but the three floors above were unchanged. Water would leak into the press box after a rain. Bathrooms were small. The elevators were slow. The view, however, was simply magnificent when standing outside on the top of the press box.
A Freudian clue of the Football Office’s priorities back then might have been the food. Press writers and reporters had a very nice buffet luncheon on their level while the President’s Box guests “enjoyed” sandwiches in wax paper bags, individual salted peanut bags, freshly popped popcorn, sodas and an ersatz brownie that was really some type of mysterious fruit bar. Those fruit bars had that “Cooked at Owens” taste.
More than new seating on the East Side, the addition of lights marked a significant step forward for the university. In November 1982, UVa again came to the aid of Virginia Tech. The first night game ever at Lane Stadium was played on national TV. Two firsts for the Hokies: lights and national TV. And true to form, Tech beat UVa 21-14.
The lights were rented for that game, but it was clear permanent lighting would be needed. Originally the lights were of the type you would see at any high school field, more rudimentary and vertical than the horizontal lights now along the top of the stadium. There was more shadow on the field with the first style than with the lights in use now.
In 1992, Worsham Field was dedicated to honor the support and contributions of Wes and Janet Worsham. To this day, Wes is evident on the sidelines supporting the team at all Tech games. No chest bumps with players yet, but it can only be a matter of time! No longer just Lane Stadium, it was now Lane Stadium/Worsham Field. Ed Lane had company.
Over the years smaller projects were implemented such as removing the small sections of bleachers in the South End Zone, adding new bleachers in the North End Zone, adding a new scoreboard in the North End Zone, creating space for wheelchair seating and installing a state-of-the-art playing field/drainage system. Amid all these additions, Hokie Stone was making its well-received introduction.
The two major addition projects, however, were the South End Zone in 2002 and the West Side Expansion in 2005.
The South End Zone structure arguably was the most important addition to Lane Stadium. At a cost of $37 million, 11,000 seats were added. The more important parts of the structure were the first luxury suites, a spiffy visitors’ locker room and a media center. While the spectator seats were important, the other elements gave Tech a more professional image for visiting teams and the media. Tech was no longer viewed as just a beautiful school off of I-81 in the mountains. Rest assured, too, that visiting players can easily hear “Let’s Go” – “Hokies” just before “Enter Sandman” cranks up.
The largest addition to date was the West Side expansion in 2005. At a cost of $52 Million, a new “press box” was constructed that includes a new President’s Box, private club seating, offices for athletic fund staff and student academic counseling, a new ticket office, the Athletics Hall of Fame and concession areas. It is a magnificent addition that bespeaks Tech’s commitment to student-athletes, alumni and visitors. It towers over the stadium and the playing field solidly clad in Hokie Stone. The addition is first-class. It is also worth noting that the snacks and nibbles in the old President’s Box have evolved into excellent cuisine.
Game day has become a term that is full of enthusiasm. Tailgating, seeing good friends, meeting new friends, the bands, the crowds, fall colors, (did I mention tailgating yet?), the Corps of Cadets, the “wildlife” of the student section, turkey legs, “Skipper,” flyovers and Thursday night fireworks are all part of the exciting experience of being there.
The home crowds enjoy the beautiful fall weather, but also the cold winds, rain and snow in late fall. Lane Stadium/Worsham Field fans are known to our gridiron rivals, the media and opposing fans as a loud, supportive collection of faithful Hokies. The noise level is evident not only to the opponent, but also to the entire country enjoying the games on TV.
Lane Stadium has given us all wonderful memories in spite of a few eggs we have laid over the years (VMI, JMU, Cincinnati 1995 and Miami 2005 come all too quickly to mind). You should make your own list, but my memories include:
- Beating Miami in 1995, the first time after 12 tries dating back to 1953.
- Seeing Bear Bryant and Alabama visit in 1969, although we didn’t win.
- September 2003 as we instructed Texas A&M about the joy of playing in a hurricane.
- “Enter Sandman,” “Tech Triumph” and the “Alma Mater.”
- The magical Michael Vick years when we went 22-2 and played for the MNC.
- Lee Corso’s pre-game BCA Game forecast draws lightening and rain to a rental car.
- More magic when we took Syracuse to the woodshed 62-0 in 1999.
- Taylor to Coale versus Nebraska.
- September 2009 as we taught Miami the joy of playing in a heavy, steady rain.
- “Skipper” announcing another score.
- Being the “Kings of ESPN’s Thursday Night” with a record of 17-4.
- Dominating the ACC in football since we joined in 2004.
- The loudest moment ever in December 2001 versus Miami, even though we lost by 2.
- The fireworks on a fall evening after a score.
- Flyovers of the B-52, B-1 and B-2 bombers.
The Home of the Hokies is in place, a testament to the leadership of Ed Lane and Wes Worsham. It is also a testament to Frank Beamer and the assistant coaches’ leadership with so many players who have come to Blacksburg and who now send their sons. A recent ESPN.com article by Gene Wojciechowski quoted Coach Beamer as staying at Tech because it was an opportunity to “… change the status of the program.” Coach Beamer and his staff have indeed changed the status and culture of Virginia Tech football and even perceptions of the university.
We enter our 48th season at Lane Stadium with a reputation as a tough place to play as borne out by the on-the-field performance over many decades.(1) It has become a special place to every Hokie and many viewers all over the country because of the accomplishments of our teams and the activities that surround every game.
Today, 66,233 is the number to remember. Let’s start jumping!! Even if “inside”!!
(1) The previous installment noted that the home game football success rate over the years at Miles Stadium was 71%. That tradition has continued as shown in the following data:
Era (Years): Home Record (Winning Percentage)
Sleepy Sixties & Seventies (1965–1977): 33-21-4 (57%)
The Dooley Years (1978-1986): 41-16-1 (71%)
The Frank Beamer Years (1987-2011): 122-32-1 (78%)
Big East Years (1991-2003): 63-16-1 (78%)
ACC Years (2004-2011): 46- 7 (87%)
Overall Lane Stadium Record: 196-69-6 (72%)
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.