From High School Park to 65,000-plus
From High School Park to 65,000-Seat Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
A Look Back at Nearly 100 Seasons of U of L Home Football Fields
The University of Louisville's recent announcement that it will expand Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to a capacity of about 65,000 is one of several milestones in the history of U of L's home football fields.
The Cards have gone from sharing a field with a high school team to playing in three different baseball stadiums to having the nation's largest all-chairback, on-campus stadium. Now they embark on the second expansion of that stadium in less than 10 years.
The school has not completed fundraising or set a construction schedule yet, but it's not a stretch to think the expansion will be finished before the Cards kick off the home portion of their 100th season of football in September 2018. (U of L began playing in 1912 but didn't field a team in 1917-1920 and 1943-1945, making 2015 their 97th season of football.)
U of L Home Football Fields
1912 - High School Park / Maxwell Field
Louisville played two home games during their first football season, both on Male High School's home field, High School Park, located at the corner of Brook and Breckinridge Streets.
Central University, now known as Centre College, was the opponent for Louisville's first home game on October 17, 1912. Lester Larson coached the Cards to a 23-6 win. The Louisville Times described the rain-soaked crowd as "a fair-sized turnout of the followers of the two elevens."
High School Park was renamed Maxwell Field in 1939. Louisville continued to play some home games there until at least 1941.
1913 - Eclipse Park
Beginning with their second season, U of L played the majority of their home games in Eclipse Park at the corner of 7th and Kentucky Streets until the stadium burned down in 1922. Eclipse Park was the home of the Louisville Colonels minor league baseball team, establishing a U of L tradition of playing many of their home games in baseball stadiums for the next 85 years.
Louisville's first game in Eclipse Park was a 48-0 win over Bethel College from Russellville, Kentucky. The Louisville Times reported that the game was "slow and marred by a good many needless 'time outs.'"
1923 - Parkway Field
Parkway Field was located near the intersection of Brook Street and Eastern Parkway adjacent to U of L. Another stadium built for baseball, this became U of L's primary home field from 1923 to 1954.
1924 - Manual Stadium - Capacity 14,021
While Louisville played most of their home games from 1923 to 1956 at Parkway Field, the Cards played some home games during that era at Manual Stadium. Two of the most notable opponents to play U of L there were Vanderbilt in 1941 and Florida State in 1954.
Manual Stadium is located on East Burnett Avenue near Eastern Parkway.
1957 - Fairgrounds Stadium - Capacity 20,600
Frank Camp's U of L team, led by senior halfback Lenny Lyles moved into the new State Fairgrounds Stadium for their home opener against Toledo on October 5, 1957. The attendance of 6,500 was described by Johnny Carrico of The Courier-Journal as "somewhat under expectations," but attendance increased to 12,500 for U of L's next home game against Dayton.
Louisville beat Toledo 48-20, getting three touchdowns from Lyles who went on to become college football's leading scorer that season. Lyles was later named "The Fastest Man in Football" when he played with the Baltimore Colts.
1973 - Fairgrounds Stadium Expansion - Capacity 37,500
In 1973 the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center expanded Fairgrounds Stadium by adding stands on the east side of the stadium, increasing capacity by almost 17,000.
U of L's press guide touted the expanded stadium by noting that "the 'Astromud' of past seasons will be just an unpleasant memory to the visiting teams that will now play on a $300,000 carpet of Astroturf."
While standing-room crowds prior to the expansion pushed the attendance at some games to as high as 24,000, the new east stands allowed for crowds in the mid-30,000s. Only four home games had crowds larger than 30,000, though, prior to Howard Schnellenberger's arrival as head coach in 1985.
The first game in Fairgrounds Stadium after the expansion was against Wichita State. A record crowd of 28,631 saw T. W. Alley's Cards win 24-10, led by Walter Peacock's 192 rushing yards.
1982 - Cardinal Stadium - Capacity 35,500
Fairgrounds Stadium was renamed Cardinal Stadium in 1982. Remodeling to accommodate the Louisville Redbirds minor league baseball team improved the stadium but lowered its capacity by 2,000.
Bob Weber's U of L team beat Western Kentucky 20-10 on September 4, 1982, in the first game played in the remodeled and renamed Cardinal Stadium.
1989 - Cardinal Stadium with bleachers in north end zone - Capacity 40,000 (unofficial)
After the Cards achieved an 8-3 record in 1988, Louisville's fan base continued to grow. A 1989 home schedule that included only 4 games created enough demand for tickets that Louisville added bleachers in the north end zone to accommodate larger crowds.
The 1989 home opener against West Virginia on September 23, 1989, set a new attendance record of 39,132. Schnellenberger's Cards lost the game 30-21.
Louisville's 41-season record in Fairgrounds Stadium / Cardinal Stadium was 134-88-2 (0.603).
1998 - Papa John's Cardinal Stadium - Capacity 42,000
During his 10-season tenure at U of L Schnellenberger continually pushed for a new football stadium, and many fans shared his dream of getting a bona fide football stadium for Louisville's up-and-coming program.
When Schnellenberger left U of L for Oklahoma in late 1994 some fans were concerned that support for a new stadium would dwindle and that it would never be built, but after a decade of dreaming Louisville fans finally got their wish with the opening of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in 1998.
Head coach John L. Smith and offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino started their U of L careers with a 68-34 loss to Kentucky in the first game played at PJCS on September 5, 1998.
2010 - Papa John's Cardinal Stadium Expansion #1 - Capacity 55,000
In 2010 Louisville expanded PJCS by adding an upper deck above the east side of the stadium. This expansion increased capacity by 13,000 and added more suites and a second club area.
The Charlie Strong era at U of L began with a 23-16 loss to Kentucky on September 4, 2010, in the first game played in the expanded stadium.
TBD - Papa John's Cardinal Stadium Expansion #2 - Capacity 65,000 (estimate)
This rendering released by U of L shows the proposed expansion that would increase capacity by about 10,000 with new seating constructed in the north end zone.
Louisville's 17-season record in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is 81-27 (0.750).
UofL announces Papa John's Cardinal Stadium expansion. STORY: http://t.co/rr2APPptMy | PHOTOS: http://t.co/rr2APPptMy pic.twitter.com/lvK5UGEIBG- LouisvilleFootball (@UofLFootball) August 28, 2015
Record-breaking home crowds:
17,211 - Sept. 23, 1967, vs. Southern Illinois (Won 26-0)
22,657 - Nov. 7, 1970, vs. Memphis State (Won 40-27)
24,000 - Nov. 4, 1972, vs. Tulsa (Lost 28-26)
28,631 - Oct. 6, 1973, vs. Wichita State (Won 24-10)
34,077 - Sept. 13, 1975, vs. Western Kentucky (Lost 21-17)
36,124 - Sept. 16, 1978, vs. Maryland (Lost 24-17)
36,914 - Sept. 21, 1985, vs. Western Kentucky (Won 23-14)
39,132 - Sept. 23, 1989, vs. West Virginia (Lost 30-21)
40,457 - Sept. 5, 1991, vs. Tennessee (Lost 28-11)
42,643 - Sept. 5, 1998, vs. Kentucky (Lost 68-34)
42,660 - Sept. 1, 2002, vs. Kentucky (Lost 22-17)
42,681 - Sept. 5, 2004, vs. Kentucky (Won 28-0)
42,692 - Nov. 3, 2005, vs. Pittsburgh (Won 42-20)
42,704 - Sept. 16, 2006, vs. Miami (Fla.) (Won 31-7)
43,217 - Nov. 2, 2006, vs. West Virginia (Won 44-34)
55,327 - Sept. 4, 2010, vs. Kentucky (Lost 23-16)
55,386 - Sept. 2, 2012, vs. Kentucky (Won 32-14)
55,428 - Sept. 1, 2014, vs. Miami (Fla.) (Won 31-13)