On November 3, 2023, Memorial Stadium will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Black and white aerial view of an artist's rendering of memorial stadium.
Artist’s rendering of the proposed stadium. The Story of the Stadium book published by the University of Illinois c.1921.

On April 25, 1921, there was a mass meeting in the gym annex where athletic director George Huff announced plans for a “grand stadium” at the University of Illinois. Inspired by stadiums that were being erected at other universities around the country, he wanted to bring the idea to Urbana-Champaign.

A black and white photograph of Memorial Stadium under construction in the distance, taken in 1923.
Photo of stadium construction from a distance, 1923, taken by Keith R. Wilson. Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Ill.)—Construction photo envelope.

“The Stadium will be many things—a memorial to Illini who have died in the war, a recreational field, and an imposing place for our varsity games,” Huff said. Undergraduate students pledged $700,000 that day. Ultimately more than 200,000 students, alumni, and friends of the university would pledge approximately $1.7 million to build the stadium. All of the funds were generated through pledge drives, led by Huff. He also supervised the design of the field and athletic facilities.

Black and white photograph of the east side of Memorial Stadium under construction.
East section of U of I stadium, 1923, taken by Keith R. Wilson. Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Ill.)—Construction photo envelope.

The location for the new stadium was a matter of some debate. The Board of Trustees, Campus Architect, and Project Architect (Holabird and Root) originally considered Illinois Field, north of Springfield and east of Wright Street, as well as a site between the Illinois Central Railroad and First Street, before settling on the final location between First and Fourth streets. It was determined that this location would encourage the development of a new south campus.

A black and white photograph of the groundbreaking of Memorial Stadium. Men stand around with shovels.
Groundbreaking photo: U of I President David Kinley, behind is George Huff, and to the right is Robert F. Carr. Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Ill.)—Construction photo envelope.

The stadium opened November 3, 1923 for the Homecoming game against Chicago. There were 60,000 fans in attendance when the Illini defeated their opponents 7-0.

View from the stands of a packed Memorial Stadium on opening day, November 3, 1923.
Opening day, November 3, 1923. Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Ill.) photo envelope.

Instantly recognizable for its Georgian-style architecture, Memorial Stadium features brick and limestone stands, limestone arches, sculptural friezes, and two colonnades.

Black and white aerial photograph of Memorial Stadium during a game against Notre Dame on September 28, 1946.
At the time, a record-breaking crowd at the Notre Dame game. Photo taken by News Gazette photographer Joe Blessman on September 28, 1946. Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Ill.) photo envelope.

The stadium was officially dedicated on October 18, 1924 as a memorial to those Illini who died in World War I. There are 200 columns memorializing 187 fallen Illini with the thirteen remaining columns dedicated to unknown dead and training corps.

-Kati Haskins

Archives Assistant



Kelly, Mark. The Early History and Description of Memorial Stadium, 1984.

Memorial Stadium website, https://fightingillini.com/facilities/memorial-stadium/64, accessed 2 October 2023.

The Story of the Stadium. University of Illinois, c.1921.