Plans for a new Hayward Field were released earlier this week. The current structures will be torn down and replaced with an all-new modernized facility. Of course, this brings mixed feelings: the new will be good and probably necessary, but the old will be sorely missed. The iconic east grandstand makes Hayward Field the oldest stadium in NCAA Division I track and field, and it will lose that title once construction begins this June.
Like many things, “oldest track stadium” is dependent on criteria. The oldest track facility is Yale’s DeWitt Cuyler Field, which has been the site of Bulldog track and field since the 1870s. But I would not call those metal bleachers a stadium, nor does any of its permanent seating structure date from anywhere near the 19th century.
In terms of significant still-existing permanent seating structures ordered by when they first hosted a track meet, here are the ten oldest NCAA Division I track stadiums.
HAYWARD FIELD (OREGON DUCKS)
Hayward Field opened for the 1919 football season, but did not host a track meet until May 14, 1921. The Ducks lost to rivals Oregon State by a score of 71 to 60, but in true Hayward Field fashion that very first meet saw an American Record: Oregon’s Arthur Tuck broke his own javelin record with a throw of 193’ 1”.
The west grandstand was not built until 1925 and was torn down and replaced in 1973. Among the most remarkable changes that came to Hayward over the years was the conversion to “wide-radius” turns in 1987; the 500-ton east grandstand was moved 36 feet east to accommodate the wider track.
FRANKLIN FIELD (PENN QUAKERS)
The NCAA calls Franklin Field its oldest stadium still in use for football since the Quakers started playing here in 1895 but the oldest part of the current stadium is far newer than that. The facility was built for the first running of the Penn Relays that April, and those wooden stands were removed and replaced with the now-familiar brick structure in 1922, first hosting a track meet at the 1923 Penn Relays. The second deck was added over the summer of 1925. Besides the Penn Relays, Quaker home meets, and conference championships, Franklin Field has hosted the USA Championships (1926, ’41), the NCAA Championships (1961, ’76), the USA vs Soviet Union dual meet (1959), and a post-Olympic invitational (1976) and alternate Olympic competition (1980). The largest track and field crowds at Penn have been to see editions of the Penn Relays featuring Usain Bolt (2010) and Paavo Nurmi (1929).
MEMORIAL FIELD (DARTMOUTH BIG GREEN)
Dartmouth has played football at this site since 1893, but the existing permanent structure as built in 1923 and first hosted a track meet in 1924. It is named for the students and alumni who died in World War I.
CHRISTY MATHEWSON – MEMORIAL STADIUM (BUCKNELL BISON)
Mathewson Stadium is off the beaten path and holds “only” 13,200, but it is a well-preserved beauty that hosts multiple invitationals every spring. It manages to cram a lot of usable space into its old horseshoe shape, and while the throws are held outside the stadium they are literally just outside of it. It hosted its first track meet in 1925 and was originally named Memorial Stadium for those lost in World War I.
EDWARDS STADIUM (CAL BEARS)
When it opened for the Cal-USC dual on April 2 1932, Edwards Stadium was a stunning new creation: a stadium built just for track meets, the first of its kind in the United States. Its best days are behind it and it needs structural work but it is still a beautiful and spacious facility. It hosted one USA championship, eight NCAA championships, two USA vs Soviet Union duals, and a large number of high-level invitationals.
DRAKE STADIUM (DRAKE BULLDOGS)
The Drake Relays were first held in 1910 at a site called Haskins Field, but the first edition in the current brick structure was in 1926. The first Relays drew just 100 fans, but the crowds swelled to 10,000 by 1922 and a new facility was sorely needed. Seating capacity was 18,000 until 2006, when the track was converted to the “wide-radius” layout which required the removal of more than 3,000 seats. Yes, Drake is the kind of place where track and field calls the shots, not football. That redesign has allowed Drake to host NCAA and USA championships; it is in effect the alternate host of those meets when Oregon is either unable or unwilling to do so.
BROWN STADIUM (BROWN BEARS)
Brown Stadium’s first track season was also 1926, but I am not certain as to the date of the first track meet held there. I suspect it was later than Drake Stadium’s first meet since the Midwestern and Northeastern tradition at the time was for the outdoor season to open at the Penn or Drake Relays and everything else to be held in May and June. It features an unusual trapezoid-shaped main grandstand.
ZABLE STADIUM (WILLIAM AND MARY TRIBE)
Originally known as Cary Field, it hosted its first track meet in 1936 and still hosts the annual Colonial Relays.
DAVIS FIELD (IDAHO STATE)
Davis Field’s first track meet was in the spring of 1937. Back then it was also the football stadium and was known as the Spud Bowl. Idaho State’s cold spring weather means it doesn’t get a lot of use as a competitive venue, but it will host this year’s Big Sky championships.
KIDD FIELD (UTEP MINERS)
Kidd Field opened for the 1938 football season and hosted its first track meet in 1939. It was the host stadium of the Sun Bowl, the oldest of the second-tier college football bowl games, until it was replaced in 1963 by the adjacent stadium of the same name which left Kidd Field to the track team. It hosted stops on the early-70s ITA pro tour on multiple occasions, drawing more than 10,000 fans each time. Its biggest moment came at one of those meets on May 10, 1975, when Brian Oldfield perfected his new rotational shot put technique and set a stunning world record of 75’ 0” (22.86m).
LATE EDIT: I have been reminded that Villanova Stadium first hosted a track meet in 1928. The question is to whether or not it is still in use as a competitive venue. It has hosted conference championship meets four times since 2011 but has hosted no other meet since 2006. All of the others above host at least one regular-season meet every year. You be the judge.