November 4, 2009
When the doors opened at Texas Tech University in 1925, only a few buildings stood on the vast amount of barren land. There were no paved roads, sidewalks, bike paths or beautifully manicured landscapes. Students walked to class along trampled cow paths, trying to avoid the occasional goat head. As for me, a playing field for the newly established Matador football team, I was merely an uncultivated field with undiscovered potential.
As I lay dormant that first year, the football team held its first game against McMurry College of Abilene, October 1925 at a make-shift field at the Lubbock Fair Grounds. Almost 5,000 people turned out to watch the exciting event. But even that field was not in pristine shape. Before the game a group of students used brooms to sweep away most of the stickers from the field so as not to injure the players.
A year later in 1926, I was still only a small area of land on the north end of campus next to College Avenue (now University Avenue). But my fate was soon determined. My soil was turned and a small wooden structure known as the Tech Stadium was built, establishing a lasting foundation for the future home of Red Raider Football.
Through the years, my façade would undergo many major reconstructions to accommodate the growing number of Red Raider fans, but my foundation has remained sound.
In 1936, Lubbock businesses helped to expand seating to 12,000 by enlarging the stadium to a horseshoe shape. It was dedicated on Sept. 26 during the Texas Tech-Texas Christian University game. This was also the first appearance of the Saddle Tramps, founded by Arch Lamb, and fans also saw the first version of the Masked Rider streak onto the field in a blaze of glory.
The class of 1938 donated the first neon Double T sign which was affixed to the east side of Jones Stadium. It was the largest neon sign in existence at the time.
The 1943 graduating class graciously donated an electric scoreboard to help light the way for future Red Raider wins.
In 1945, resigning President Clifford B. Jones established a living trust of $100,000 to go toward the building of a new stadium, just northwest of the old field. The Board of Directors of the college voted to name the new facility in honor of the former president and his wife Audrey.
Concrete, iron and steel replaced the wooden benches. The stadium cost $400,000 to build and seated 18,000. Administrators dedicated the stadium on Nov. 29, 1947 at the season-ender game between Texas Tech and Hardin Simmons in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 20,000.
Expansion projects continued during the next 10 years, adding another 7,000 seats.
The Southwest Conference (SWC) admitted Texas Tech as a member in 1956. The requirements for the prestigious honor included an even larger playing field. Texas Tech had until 1960 to expand the stadium’s seating minimum to 40,000.
The $2 million stadium construction and excavation began in 1959 with the addition of a press box and office-dressing room building. The second phase of construction proved to be an engineering feat of the times. The stadium stands were originally built in seven sections which contractors hoisted onto steel rollers and moved along railroad tracks more than 200 feet. The field was then excavated 28 feet. Workers installed 22 rows of seats, creating a bowl shape and increasing capacity to 41,500.
The newly renovated Jones Stadium was finished by the start of the 1960 season and officially dedicated during Texas Tech’s first SWC game against Baylor on Oct. 15.
Over the next 20 years Jones Stadium increased seating to 47,000, and in September of 1970, saw the original grass field replaced with artificial turf.
When Texas Tech moved to the Big 12 Conference in 1996, the stadium received yet another upgrade to increase seating. In 1999, Phase I of the west side renovations began.
In 2000, Jones Stadium was branded with a new name, Jones SBC Stadium, in recognition of a $30 million gift from SBC Communications. The dedication was made at Texas Tech’s first home game on Aug. 26, against New Mexico.
Phase II of the total $84.9 million renovation to the west side was revealed in 2003. Texas Tech fans toured the state-of-the-art, Spanish Renaissance structure at the grand opening held during the Oct. 4 game against Texas A&M. The four-story building which rose above the existing arena included 54 luxury suites, a club level and press box. It added 10,000 seats to the stadium bringing the capacity to 55,000.
2006 proved to be a busy year for the stadium. The old Astroturf was replaced with new FieldTurf made to look like natural grass. The stadium also was given a new name after a merger between SBC and AT&T Communications. Jones AT&T Stadium became the first collegiate athletic facility to don the AT&T brand.
In a Daily Toreador article from that year, Texas Tech Athletic Director Gerald Myers said the new name adds to the prestige of the university, raising the stadium to a different level.
“It’s just an exciting time,” said Myers. “Our mission is to continue to build this stadium, increasing the seating capacity here, to build out the east side so it will be comparable to the west side, and to make this one of the outstanding stadiums.”
Even today, I continue to undergo change for the betterment of the Texas Tech community. In August of 2008, the Texas Tech Board of Regents approved a $25 million expansion of the east side. Construction began after the last game of the football season. The renovations, which mirror the Spanish Renaissance architecture of the west side, will add more than 500 club seats, 20 new suites and new office space.
"The growth of Texas Tech in the last eight years has been astounding,” said Mike Leach, Red Raider head coach. “I don’t know of any school that has had the opportunity to expand its stadium three times in that period. A lot of credit has to go to the football players and coaches and athletics and to the university administration for our progress."
The 2008 football season was one for the record books for Texas Tech.
The highly publicized matchup between the Red Raiders and the Texas Longhorns boasted a record attendance of 56,333 during the November 1 game. The 39–33 victory marked the 500th win for the Red Raider football program and the first win over a number one-ranked team. The win pushed the Red Raiders into the number two spot in the BCS rankings.
For the first time in 20 years, the gridiron was used for something other than football, when Jones AT&T Stadium hosted "The Bob Dylan Show" on Aug. 8, 2009. Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson were the featured performers. Ironically, it was Nelson who last headlined a concert in the stadium in 1987.
2009 also marked 85 years of Red Raider football. The season opener was held on Sept. 5 against North Dakota. The Red Raiders trampled the Fighting Sioux 38-13.
On Oct. 24, new stadium seating debuted at the Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M game. The $6 million addition to the upper-level northeast and northwest corners added more than 6,000 in new seating, putting the total around 59,000. The development made Jones AT&T Stadium the seventh largest stadium in the Big 12 Conference.
"Jones AT&T stadium is a tough place to play,” said Chris Cook, assistant athletic director of media relations. “With the new seating, we’ve just added 6,000 more opportunities to make this an even harder place to play."
The entire construction project is scheduled to be finished by the 2010 season.
"The completion of the east side will make Jones AT&T Stadium one of the most attractive football facilities in the country,” Myers said. “It will be a source of pride for students, alumni and fans."
Many legendary greats have graced my turf from E.J. Holub, Donny Anderson and Gabe Rivera to Wes Welker and Zach Thomas, to Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell. I take pride at each home game as the hooves of the Masked Rider gallop down the field and the Goin’ Band from Raiderland marches out playing to the crowd. I represent spirit, pride and tradition. I am Jones Stadium. I am Texas Tech.
Historical information from the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Lubbock Avalanche Journal, Daily Toreador and "The First Thirty Years-A History of Texas Technological College" by Ruth Horn Andrews. Images courtesy Artie Limmer and the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library.