The History of Boston’s Football Stadiums, Large and Small

Boston may be a predominantly baseball city, but we certainly love our football too! And not just the five-time Superbowl champion New England Patriots; Boston is home to a variety of other football teams too.

In this article, we take a look at the history behind Boston’s football stadiums, from smallest to largest, and admire some of their incredible architecture and design. So, read on, and find out the amazing stories behind your favorite teams’ football stadiums!

Henry G. Steinbrenner ’27 Stadium

MIT Engineers Football Stadium

Image Courtesy of dcbeaneconstruction.com

Capacity: 1,000

Surface: Field Turf

Steinbrenner Stadium is home to the MIT Engineers football, lacrosse, soccer, track and other varsity teams. The football team plays at the NCAA DIII level. The stadium, created for the prestigious institute of technology, was created thanks to a generous donation from George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees. The venue was dedicated in 1978 to George’s father, Henry, who won the national championship for the 220 yard hurdles as an undergraduate at MIT. Although primarily for the college, Oneida F.C., a now defunct Cambridge rugby and soccer team, also used the stadium.

Bentley University Football Stadium

Bentley University Falcons Football Stadium

Image Courtesy of bentleyfalcons.com

Capacity: 4,800

Surface: Field Turf

Bentley University Football Stadium lies on the South Campus of its namesake. This stadium is home to the Bentley Falcons NCAA DII Football team, among other varsity sports sponsored by the school. Intramural sports for the school are also played on this field. The Falcon’s first game at the NCAA Varsity level was in 1988, but Bentley had been fielding a club team since all the way back in 1972. In fact, records of Bentley football team date all the way back to 1919, in a game where the Falcons beat MIT 7-0. Although exclusively bleacher seating, thousands can be accommodated for big games against Northeast 10 Conference rivals.

Ellis Oval

Tufts University Jumbos Football Stadium

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Capacity: 6,000

Surface: Grass

Ellis Oval and its Zimman Field are home to Tufts’ Jumbos, whose blue-and-brown clad football team fights it out in NCAA’s DIII NESCAC conference. Originally known as “Tufts Oval”, this venue is the oldest on our list. The grounds were established in 1894, but many major renovations have made it the icon it is today. Tufts football is unsurprisingly one of the oldest programs in the country, with their first recorded season in 1874. The stadium was named after Frederick M. Ellis, a former student athlete, coach and professor at the school, in 1969. The venue once hosted games between the U.S. and Norway women’s national soccer teams.

White Stadium

White Football Stadium

Image Courtesy of panoramio.com

Capacity: 10,000

Surface: Grass

This is the one stadium on our list not affiliated with a college athletics program or major league team. However, the facility is often used by Boston Public Schools for various athletic events, including football. It’s full name is actually the George Robert White Schoolboy Stadium, for the prominent Boston philanthropist of the same name. The stadium was built in 1945 with a total cost of $2 million. The first event it ever hosted was a football match up between local high schools Roxbury Memorial and Boston Latin. Since then, the complex has hosted a variety of Boston public events, including many concerts such as the 1974 Uptown in the Park event. The stadium also hosted rallies for the Black Panther party in the ’60s and ’70s. White Stadium was incorporated into Boston’s plans for a 2024 Olympic bid.

Harvard Stadium

Harvard University Crimson Football Stadium

Image Courtesy of wikipedia.org

Capacity: 30,323

Surface: Field Turf

America’s first college has an equally iconic football stadium. Home of the Harvard Crimson FCS football team and more recently, the Boston Cannons Major League Lacrosse team, this stadium is an architectural icon because of its design. Prior to the creation of the venue, reinforced concrete was only used horizontally in construction. Harvard professor Lewis Johnson, who was a consultant to the design team for the stadium, recommended the concrete design. Many doubted his advice, but as we know, the complex stands proudly to this day. In fact, Harvard Stadium is the nation’s oldest permanent concrete structure for intercollegiate athletics and a designated National Historic Landmark. Harvard Stadium was built in just four months in 1903 with a price tag of $310,000.

The stadium’s impact on football extends beyond its design. When President Theodore Roosevelt created a committee to make the dangerous sport of football safer through regulations, the suggestion of widening the field was shut down because of Harvard Stadium’s fixed dimensions. Instead, the forward pass was legalized. Thus, this venue is partially responsible for both the modern dimensions for a football field and the forward pass.

Alumni Stadium

Boston College Eagles Football Stadium

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Capacity: 44,500

Surface: Field Turf

The Boston College Eagles originally played most of their games at other iconic Boston venues and football stadiums, including Fenway Park and what is now BU’s Nickerson Field. Alumni Field had existed since 1915, but simply didn’t have the capacity to handle larger crowds. As pressures to designate a permanent location built up, it was decided in the late 1950’s that a stadium would be built at the Alumni field site. $350,000 was raised to fund it’s construction. The first game played there was on September 21, 1957 against Navy with John F. Kennedy in the crowd. The original stadium also housed a track and only seated 26,000; since then the track has been removed and seating expanded to the current capacity. Alumni Stadium was host to Boston College’s golden years, including Doug Flutie’s legendary Hail Mary.

Gillette Stadium

New England Patriots Gillette Football Stadium

Image Courtesy of stadiumsofprofootball.com

Capacity: 66,829

Surface: Field Turf

Last but certainly not least is the home of our one and only New England Patriots. The Patriots had played at other venues, including Harvard and Alumni stadiums, until they built their first home, Foxboro Stadium, in 1971. However, the franchise soon outgrew the venue, and the last game played there was the infamous Snow Bowl against the Raiders in 2002. Proposed football stadiums included a South Boston Megaplex including a convention center and a replacement for Fenway Park, and alternate locations in Hartford and Providence. Owner Robert Kraft was ready to build in Hartford, but after plans were delayed, he announced in 2000 that construction would return to the Foxboro location. The Hartford stadium was scaled down and moved to East Hartford as a home for the UConn Huskies.

When designing the stadium, Kraft demanded an impressive entrance gate. After 200 unsatisfactory designs, the now-iconic lighthouse and footbridge (designed after Boston’s Longfellow bridge) were incorporated into the plans.

The new complex in Foxboro, unlike the other proposed football stadiums, was to be entirely funded by Kraft. It cost $325 million. CMGI Stadium, as it was originally named, was ready in time for the start of the 2002 season. Gillette purchased the naming rights after the dot.com bubble burst scarred CMGI, and retains those rights through 2031.

Since then, renovations have installed turf in place of grass and created the popular Patriot Place retail area. We eagerly await the next decades in Gillette Stadium’s history, in which many more wins are to be had and banners to be hung.

Loved the history of these iconic football stadiums? Check out our sports page for more about the teams that play in them!

 

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