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Courtesy: Toledo Athletics

Glass Bowl: One of America's Great Football Stadiums

Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Release: 10/03/2007
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The Glass Bowl, today one of the premier college football facilities in the country, had a humble beginning. Built by the Works Progress Administration in 1936, it was one of 65 projects undertaken by the WPA in Ohio that year.

Workers used picks, shovels and wheelbarrows to carve out a site for the structure south of campus, removing more than 13,000 square yards of earth from a natural ravine. The work was done entirely by manual labor, as bulldozers and other machinery were not available.

The project was paid for with $272,000 from the federal government and $41,558 from the city of Toledo and the university. The 300-man crew needed over one year to complete the work.

The new stadium had many modern features, including a press box, a one-story wooden structure with five windows located on the east side. Two stone towers, which still are in use today, were built on the north side and were used as locker rooms and at one point served as living accomodations for 12 players.

Originally known as University Stadium, it initially had a seating capacity of 8,000, which was increased to 11,500 in 1940. The largest pre-war crowd was 9,500 for a 13-7 Rocket victory over 12th-ranked Marshall in 1938.

The stadium fell into disrepair following nearly four years of vacancy (1942-45) during the war, when football was discontinued at UT. In 1946, Wayne Kohn, a Libbey-Owens Ford engineer, conceived of the idea of using glass to rebuild the stadium. Glass blocks were installed throughout the stadium and a glass electric scoreboard was built in the south end zone. A new two-tier press box of blue vitrolite and glass blocks was also constructed. Lights were installed, beginning the tradition of night football at UT.

The newly renovated stadium was officially named the Glass Bowl in honor of Toledo's primary industry. The Glass Bowl Dedication Game was played on Dec. 7, 1946 as a post-season game vs. previously undefeated Bates College. Toledo won the game, 21-12. Three more post-season "Glass Bowl Games" followed in 1947-49.

Seating capacity was increased to 12,800 in 1949, and to 15,900 in 1966.

Further stadium improvements were sparked by the outrageous success of the famous 35-0 Rockets of 1969-71. A second deck on the east side brought official seating capacity to 18,500. A major improvement followed in 1974 when Astroturf was installed for the first time at a cost of $404,000. Another $525,000 was spent to upgrade the seats and locker rooms, and to install permanent fencing that enclosed the entire stadium. A new $120,000 electronic message board followed in 1975. In 1978, a new lighting system was installed. In 1979, an extensive concrete replacement, in addition to new restrooms and concession stands, was built on the west side.

Improvements to the stadium and the increase in seating capacity could not keep pace with demand, however. Jammed with standing-room-only crowds, spectators headed for higher ground and at many games ended up sitting on the stone wall surrounding the field. In fact, UT led the nation in percentage of attendance from 1982-84 and had an incredible rating of 135.1 percent in 1982. One of the most memorable games was the Bowling Green contest on Oct. 23, 1982, when 31,369 people jammed into the Glass Bowl to see the Rockets' 24-10 victory.

By the 1980's, the Glass Bowl's age, combined with its frequent overflow crowds, necessitated change. That change began on May 25, 1989, when the first shovels of dirt were turned at a festive ground-breaking ceremony, signaling the beginning of the $18.5-million renovation of the Glass Bowl.

The old wooden pressbox, which had a capacity of 53, was replaced by a new three-level press tower that seats 1,070. The tower houses a modern media communication center that seats over 100 media personnel, 45 private suites and a 300-seat stadium club.

The second part of the renovation project was the construction of the Larimer Athletic Complex. The headquarters for the Rocket football team, the Larimer Athletic Complex is located at the north end of the stadium. The structure contains a state-of-the-art strength and conditioning facility, locker room, sports medicine center, equipment room, academic resource center, offices and meeting rooms.

One of the most appealing aspects of the Glass Bowl renovation was the way in which the architects introduced a modern look while keeping the flavor and atmosphere of the old stadium intact. The two towers and the stone outer wall remain, giving the Glass Bowl a look and feel unlike any other football stadium in America.

Within the community, financial support for the project has been tremendous. Over 90 percent of the renovation cost has come through donations from the private sector, and through the leasing of the suites and seats in the stadium club.

In recent years, new additions have helped keep the Glass Bowl one of the nation's sporting jewels. In 1999, a giant video scoreboard was added to the north end zone. A new Field Turf playing surface was installed prior to the 2008 season.

With all the changes to the Glass Bowl over the years, one thing has remained consistent-UT's winning tradition. The Rockets have won more than 68 percent of their games in the Glass Bowl since it opeded in 1937, and more than 75 percent since the 1990 renovation.

Glass Bowl Facts
Last Major Renovation: 1990
Cost to Build in 1937: $313,558
Cost to Renovate in 1990: $18.5 million
Original Seating Capacity: 8,000
Current Official Seating Capacity: 26,248
Largest Crowd: 36,852 (2001 vs. Navy)
Private Suites: 45
Stadium Club Seating: 300
Media Seating: 108
Surface: Field Turf

Largest Crowds In The Glass Bowl
1. 36,852 vs. Navy (2001)
2. 36,502 vs. Northern Illinois (2001)
3. 34,950 vs. Minnesota (2001)
4. 34,900 vs. Marshall (2000)
5. 33,040 vs. Indiana State (1994)
6. 32,726 vs. Weber State (2000)
7. 31,981 vs. Bowling Green (2004)
8. 31,711 vs. Pittsburgh (2003)
9. 31,458 vs. Bowling Green (1994)
10. 31,369 vs. Bowling Green (1982)

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