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Twilight in the End Zone: NC State to Demolish Its Historic Riddick Stadium Field House

Photo credit: Jesse Dotson

Photo credit: Jesse Dotson, GNR Special Correspondent

In an ironic reversal of its construction, NC State University’s old Riddick Stadium has disappeared bit by bit over the decades since Carter-Finley Stadium was erected as its replacement in 1966. First, the East Stands were demolished in 1968 and replaced by a campus parking lot. Then in 2005 the West Stands met the same fate, and were replaced by the new SAS Hall.

And now, barring the success of a last-ditch ‘Hail Mary pass,’ the venerable Riddick Field House itself will fall to the wrecker’s ball early in March over spring break.

Riddick Field and Its Namesake

The first NC State football game was held in 1892 at at the State Fairgrounds, then located across Hillsborough St. from campus. Track events also took place at the fairgrounds. Early baseball games were held in Pullen Park in a clearing known as Red Diamond.

Realizing the need for a central sports facility for college athletic events, alumni and faculty raised money to establish an athletic field on campus in 1907. It was built in the flat, low-lying area behind the dormitories then lining Pullen Rd. Its modest amenities included wooden bleachers and a grandstand.

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

A football scrimmage at Riddick Field about 1914.

In 1912 students voted to name the stadium Riddick Field in honor of Wallace Carl Riddick (1864-1942). He had been appointed professor of mechanics and applied mathematics in 1892, and became the university’s first professor of civil engineering in 1895. Riddick later went on to serve as NC State’s first football coach (1898 -99), and as president of the university 1917 -1923. From 1923 until his retirement in 1936 he was Dean of Engineering. Dean Riddick died in Raleigh in 1942, having loyally served NC State for 50 years.

Riddick Field Becomes Riddick Stadium

In 1916, the wooden bleachers on the west side of the field were replaced with a poured concrete grandstand. The West Stands were built in stages, with the graduating senior classes donating the money needed to build one section at a time until it was complete in 1923. Construction started on the East Stands in 1924 and was finally completed in 1935. A two-story Field House addition in the south end zone completed the stadium complex in 1936. The Field House was designed in a modified neo-Georgian style of solidly-built poured concrete.

Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center

Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center

The aerial photo above shows the completed Riddick Stadium as it appeared in the late 1930s. Below is a view of the Field House about 1940.

Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center    Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center

Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center

Another view of the Field House taken about 1950 shows the State College marching band and an ROTC Unit. By this time loud speakers had been mounted on the roof.

    Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center

Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center

Riddick Stadium Field House — The Twilight Years

The central campus stadium was home to the football and baseball teams until 1966, when Carter-Finley Stadium was completed in West Raleigh. Baseball games were relocated to Doak Field off Sullivan Dr., also in 1966. After old Riddick was vacated, its importance to the university quickly diminished. The East Stands were torn down in 1968 and a parking lot was paved over the former ball field. At some point, the distinctive cupola on the Field House roof was removed.

In the ensuing 35 years both the remaining West Stands and the Field House itself were appropriated for various uses, including Campus Police Headquarters, the Facilities Planning and Design, Facilities Operations Customer Service Center, Materials Management and Fire Protection units.

The oldest part of the stadium, the West Stands, was demolished in 2005 to make way for SAS Hall, the university’s new home for mathematics and statistics. The large ‘NCS’ monogram which had adorned the central pediment since the 1950s was recently salvaged for posterity’s sake.

The Field House in 2010, following its service as a staging area for architects and engineers during the construction of SAS Hall.

Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center (Ed Funkhouser)

Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center (Ed Funkhouser)

The Future of the Field House?

A week ago a group of NC State students initiated a valiant effort  to save the historic Field House and restore it for adaptive use. They created a facebook page, Save The Field House, to muster support for the old building’s preservation.

In recent weeks a number of lame excuses for its destruction had been bandied about by university officials — ‘it’s an eyesore;’ ‘it has no current use;’ ‘it doesn’t fit in with the aesthetics of the new development around it;’ and my favorite: ‘it creates a safety hazard by obscuring the line of sight of the pedestrian tunnel under the tracks.’ Humbug!

In truth, the old Field House had historic significance to the NC State campus, and promised excellent potential for adaptive reuse.

On Monday the student group met with the University Architect and learned the ultimate reason for demolition:

Though historic and old, the Field House is in the right of way (which we already knew) of the railroad tracks, but what we did not know is that a light-rail line is planned as a railway expansion. This will be in same space as the Field House.

Though we suggested using private money to restore the Field House before it absolutely had to be torn down, as it would have to be in 10 years or so anyways, it was best to move forward and do the dirty work.

(Read the full statement on the Save The Field House page.)

Many thanks to the ‘Save the Field House’ students for recognizing the intrinsic value of preserving campus landmarks for adaptive reuse, and for their ‘Hail Mary’ preservation effort. Sadly, though, NC State’s historic Field House will soon exist only as a fond memory.

Photo credit: Jesse Dotson, GNR Special Correspondent

Photo credit: Jesse Dotson, GNR Special Correspondent

Author’s note: The Riddick Field House will soon be in the company of another recently destroyed campus landmark, the 1959 modernist architectural specimen — the G. Milton Small Bookstore. (Read about the campaign two years ago to  Save the Bookstore.)

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