If someone could go back in time and look at War Memorial Stadium in 1948, you probably wouldn't recognize it. The stadium has gone through many renovation projects and expansions that changed the look of the stadium over time. No one would have guessed that millions of people have walked through the gates of the stadium over 60 plus years to witness miracles and history.
The stadium opened in 1948 with a natural grass surface and two large grand stand seating areas on the east and west sides. The north and south sides of the stadium were open and looked more like amphitheatre seating than a football stadium. War Memorial Stadium opened with an original seating capacity of just over 31,000. Expansion has allowed the stadium's capacity to grow to over 54,000. The once open areas on the north and south sides of the stadium have now been closed with additional seating. All concession stands and restrooms have been completely renovated. The press box, once voted the best press box in the country, will be torn down, rebuilt and reopened in 2010. The stadium is over 60 years old but continues to grow and stay a vital part of Central Arkansas.
War Memorial Stadium was originally built as a tribute to Arkansans who had given their lives in the service of their country during the two great World Wars. It has grown, over time, as a living tribute to all Arkansans who have served and paid the ultimate price for their country. Military personnel have been honored over the years through programs, tributes and monuments. The Sturgis Plaza opened in 2008 on the Westside of the stadium as a place of remembrance and reflection. The plaza was the centerpiece of the celebration of War Memorial Stadium's 60th anniversary and re-dedication.
No event in the stadium's history has drawn more Arkansans together than University of Arkansas football games. The stadium's first event in 1948 was a Razorback football game, and War Memorial Stadium has since hosted nearly 200 Razorback football games. The stadium's tailgating atmosphere is one of the best in college sports, expanding west to the War Memorial Golf Course. Conference and even National Championships have been decided on the field at War Memorial Stadium. Arkansas won or shared 11 Southwest Conference championships and several West Division titles in the Southeast Conference since 1948. No game was more memorable than the 2002 game between Arkansas and Louisiana State University. LSU needed a win to stay in the conference and national title hunt. Arkansas drove down field late in the fourth quarter and Matt Jones found Decori Birmingham for a touchdown and David Carlton's extra point gave the Razorbacks a 21-20 victory over heavily favored LSU in what has been dubbed the "Miracle on Markham". The rivalry between LSU and Arkansas has develop to the point where a trophy was created for the winning team to keep until the next game. The Boot was designed and titled after the shape that's formed from Arkansas/Louisiana's position on the map.
The University of Arkansas isn't the only Arkansas college to play games at War Memorial Stadium. Arkansas State University has its own history of games at the stadium along with the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Arkansas also has a strong core of teams from the NCAA Division II powerhouse Gulf South Conference that play games at War Memorial Stadium.
And in the pros, War Memorial Stadium welcomed the National Football League to Little Rock in 1949, when the Philadelphia Eagles played the Los Angeles Rams. Former Arkansas Razorback, Clyde "Smackover" Scott played in the game for the Eagles.
War Memorial Stadium is also the home of the Arkansas Activities Association High School State Football Championship Games. The 2005 6A state championship game set the record for highest attendance for any high school title game. Little Rock Catholic High School plays all its home games at War Memorial Stadium. Neighboring schools, Benton and Bryant, play its game every year at War Memorial Stadium. The game is known around the state as "The Salt Bowl" and is considered the state's biggest and most competitive rivalry. The game routinely draws 20,000 fans for this Saline County Showdown.
Sports aren't the only events to make history at War Memorial Stadium. Concerts such as the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel & Elton John, the Eagles, George Strait and N'Sync have graced the stage at the stadium, drawing nearly 40,000 fans for each show. The Reverend Billy Graham hosted an event at War Memorial Stadium that drew 270,000 people over the course of a week. Bob Hope's event, "Hope across America", drew 49,000 fans in 1991.
From show stopping entertainment to miracles on the gridiron, War Memorial Stadium has been home to history. The Stadium is Arkansas' most beloved venue for over 60 years and will continue to bring the best in sports and entertainment while serving a memorial to the great state of Arkansas.