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Jones AT&T Stadium has seen many changes since it opened in 1947, growing from a capacity of 20,000 to 53,744. The stadium also served as home to Lubbock’s high school football teams until the early 1960s.

Tech's "big house"

Jones Stadium quickly became a well-known city landmark

BY Doug Hensley
For the Avalanche-Journal

Jack Dale still remembers the first time he saw Jones Stadium.

“I thought it was mighty big,” said Dale, recalling that 1952 day when he drove into town and heard a Lubbock High playoff game being broadcast on the radio. “The place was packed. I think they had 18,000 people there.”

At that time, the home of Texas Tech was a mere 5 years old. In the ensuing decades, Dale would see bigger crowds, bigger games and bigger moments as the Red Raiders’ radio play-by-play man from 1953-99.

Jones Stadium became a permanent part of the Lubbock skyline in 1947. The Raiders christened the $400,000 structure for the season finale that year, thrilling a record crowd of 20,000 and securing a bowl bid with a 20-14 victory against Hardin-Simmons.

“Lubbock has been a good football town all along,” said Leete Jackson, one of the Raiders who played in that first Jones Stadium game. “I can remember when the population of Lubbock was 20,000, and we’d draw that many to a game.”

According to an A-J article, the original fundraising efforts for the stadium received a shot in the arm from former Tech President Clifford B. Jones, who donated $100,000. Subsequently, Tech named the stadium in honor of its benefactor and his wife, Audrey.

“We played in an old wooden stadium right there on University (College Avenue at that time),” said Tim Hatch, a halfback who played for the Raiders from 1947-50. “I think the old stadium seated about 12,000 people. Then we moved into Jones Stadium, and at that time, it seated about 20,000.”

Work is under way on Jones Stadium in the late 1960s when artificial turf was added to the field.

During Tech’s Border Conference days, the facility eventually expanded to a capacity of 27,000, according to an A-J article. That was adequate at that time, but when the Raiders were admitted into the Southwest Conference in 1956, the requirements changed. The school had until 1960 to expand the stadium’s seating to a minimum of 40,000.

“I have always thought Jones Stadium was a real showplace,” said Junior Arterburn, who played for the Raiders during the 1950-52 seasons. “Most of the games we played then were sold out.”

The stadium had to grow, though, and W.G. McMillan Sr., who owned a Lubbock construction business, had an idea about how to do it.

“My dad was at a football game when he leaned over and told Dean (W.L.) Stangel the stadium could be moved,” said W.G. “Bill” McMillan Jr. “He took a piece of paper out of his pocket and showed them how the stadium had been built in sections. He told them if they moved one section out, it would allow the next one to be moved and then the next one and so on.

“He said that while they were moving the stadium, they could excavate in the bottom part and save time. His original scheme was to move the stadium sections on huge rollers, and he even devised a system to support all of that steel.”

As it turned out, that’s almost exactly what happened, but the senior McMillan didn’t get a chance to participate. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer, his son said.

“They operated on him the week Tech took the bids to move the stadium,” he said. “He never did know who got the job because he died that week.”

An expanded press box and luxury boxes and suites are the latest additions to Texas Tech's Jones AT&T Stadium, home of the Red Raiders.

According to an A-J article, the subcontractor for the job was LaPlant-Adair of Indianapolis, which took on the chore of moving 10 million pounds of concrete and steel roughly 200 feet. Once the stands were moved, the field was to be excavated some 30 feet, and 22 rows of seats were built around the newly created bowl. Capacity increased to 41,500.

“Since the stadium was built originally in seven sections, the move boils down to one involving seven buildings weighing something over 1 million tons each,” Kenneth Adair, owner-operator of the company said in an A-J article.

General contractor for the project was Cain and Cain in Fort Worth. Other work at the time included construction of a pressbox and an office-dressing room building.

“I remember doing a Monterey-Lubbock High game on Thanksgiving,” Dale said. “And as soon as the game was over, a grater went right down the middle of the field. That was the beginning of the construction on the stadium.”

“We just sat there and watched it day by day,” said Arterburn, who had returned to the Tech fold as a coach at the time of the stadium expansion. “They jacked a section up, put the railroad ties down there beneath it, hooked up a truck and pulled that sucker back. They did section by section. It was quite an experience.”

The ambitious project was completed in time for Tech’s 1960 football debut in the SWC. The stadium was officially dedicated Oct. 14, 1960, when a crowd of 35,000 turned out and saw Tech drop a 14-7 decision to Baylor in the first SWC game ever played in Lubbock.

“On behalf of the thousands of men and women who love Texas Technological College and who have made this great stadium expansion possible, I hereby rededicate it to that long sought goal — Southwest Conference football competition, with all the high standards of sportsmanship and abilities thereby implied,” stadium namesake Clifford Jones told the crowd.

Like Tech and the Red Raider program, Jones Stadium continued to grow. Seating increased to 47,000 in 1972 and 50,500 five years later.

“Jones Stadium is very important to the history of Texas Tech and Lubbock,” Hatch said. “It’s very historic.”

The venerable facility received a massive upgrade in the first few years following Tech’s move to the Big 12 Conference, which occurred in 1996. The stadium continues to serve as a showpiece facility for Red Raider athletics. In 2000, it was renamed Jones SBC Stadium in recognition of a $20 million gift from SBC Communications, according to an A-J article. A few years later, the name changed to its current Jones AT&T Stadium.

Tech has added club seats, stadium suites, a new pressbox and myriad other improvements with a plan to eventually expand seating to more than 60,000, giving more and more the opportunity to share the Red Raider football experience.

“There have been a lot of great games there,” Dale said. “They’ve had a lot of really outstanding, really meaningful games.”


Previous A-J Remembers:

 

The A-J Remembers The Most Important People in Lubbock's History
 
 


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