University of Minnesota Memorial Stadium

What was once a glorious football stadium for the University of Minnesota and monument to World War I, all that remains of Memorial Stadium is the archway through which one entered with the dedicatory inscription in the McNamara Alumni Center. World War I was an unprecedented and highly profound experience for thousands of people affiliated with the University of Minnesota. Many students and alumni were sent overseas for military service, and on the homefront, equal numbers of staff and faculty members became involved in war work in order to support the United States in its war effort.

On November 15, 1924, Memorial Stadium was dedicated to the 9,710 University of Minnesota students, alumni, faculty, and staff who served in the war either domestically or abroad. The monument was erected with two overarching goals in mind. The first of these was to unite University of Minnesota students through the inspiring story of the university’s role in World War I. The second was to promote physical education programs for students, a concept which first began to emerge after World War I in order to rehabilitate wounded and disabled veterans.

From 1924 to 1982, Memorial Stadium served as the football stadium for the University of Minnesota, until the Gophers began to play at the Metrodome. The following decade consisted of an empty stadium over whose future the University of Minnesota’s board of regents quarreled. Various proposals were made, ranging from returning Gopher football to its original home to preserving the stadium for its historical significance, to tearing it down in order to build new, state-of-the-art athletic facilities. Ultimately, the stadium was torn down in April 1992, despite the valiant efforts of students and alumni to preserve this monument. Prior to tearing the stadium down, a ceremony was held in which the time capsule planted at the original dedication ceremony was opened and its contents finally revealed.

As one enters the McNamara Alumni Center, one cannot help but instantly notice the famous archway which they very well could have walked through while attending a University of Minnesota football game. The large arch stands at a slanted angle over the entrance to the University of Minnesota Heritage Gallery. Although the stadium is long gone, the arch is far from it, as its brick material is in excellent condition and shows minimal sign of wear.

At the top of the arch includes the University of Minnesota’s crest with its motto “Commune Viniculum Omnibus Artibus,” or, “A common bond for all the arts.” Above the school crest stands the most important part of the monument: the dedicatory inscription, which reads, “This stadium was erected by members and friends of the University of Minnesota to honor the men and women of Minnesota who served in time of war. A.D. MCMXXIV.”

As one observes the arch one cannot help but notice the progressive imagery for the time period which the inscription includes with an angel on either side of the dedicatory message embracing a man on one side and a woman on the other. The inscription’s inclusion of women is highly reflective of the Progressive Era and the social change which it brought about for gender equality through the Women’s Suffrage Movements.

However, as one observes this small portion of the stadium as a whole, one cannot help but also conclude that World War I has become a mere afterthought in American memory as early as the late twentieth century, given the University’s decision to tear down this beautiful monument.