For more than six decades the fortunes of the Tarleton Texans have played out on the gridiron at Memorial Stadium.
Guided by the likes of former coaches W. J. Wisdom, Earl Rudder, Buddy Fornes and current head coach Todd Whitten, the Texans built a legacy of excellence, much in the confines of their home arena.
Playing host to opponents from the Pioneer Conference, the Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association and, most recently, the Lone Star Conference, the venerable facility has witnessed championship seasons, postseason bowl invitations, and players who have excelled and advanced into the professional ranks.
In addition, legendary track coach Oscar Frazier fielded teams that dominated university-hosted competitions at Memorial Stadium, winning 19 conference or state titles, while training athletes who achieved state, national and even Olympic honors.
Memorial Stadium also has been the venue for Friday night heroics, hosting home football games for the five-time state champion Stephenville Yellow Jackets, as well as innumerable school playoff battles.
The stadium owes its very existence, as well as upgrades and additions over its 65-year life, to the generosity of local supporters of Tarleton’s athletic programs.
In the late 1940s, during the administration of President E.J. Howell, local leaders and influential alumni forged a committee to collect the $100,000 necessary to build the stadium. While early efforts proved fruitful, gathering $55,000 within the first year, the drive stalled before being brought back to life by Mary Hope Westbrook, head of the English Department. Westbrook assumed leadership of the group, which then met its funding goal.
Architectural drawings and plans for Memorial Stadium, named in memory of 179 former students and faculty members who had died in World War II, were submitted in late spring of 1946.
By October 1948, crews began construction, bulldozing eight acres to make way for the stadium. The initial structure, made of reinforced concrete, seated 6,000 fans in 32 rows of steel bleachers. In 1950, a regulation cinder track was installed around the football field and, in 1951, the building opened.
Several rounds of upgrades, most funded by university benefactors, have occurred over time. A major renovations in 1977, financed by a then-ambitious $475,000 local fund-raising drive, added the now-iconic berm on the east side, replaced the old steel seats, extended the bleachers on the west side and built the press box. A $2 million project, which began in 1988, expanded seating to 7,600, added concession areas and built the current field house. In addition, track and field facilities were renovated and named for legendary track coach Oscar Frazier.