I’ve always had several opinions on War Memorial Stadium.
The most unpopular was that I didn’t particularly care where the Razorbacks played their football games.
Fayetteville? Sure, that’s where the campus is.
Little Rock? Also, sure, here’s where the people live.
As a former working sportswriter and columnist, I’ve been to several dozen college and professional stadiums with several hundred, if not several thousand high school facilities.
I’ve been to War Memorial for what feels like a couple hundred games there. Those quick Associated Press gamers didn’t write themselves, or at least they didn’t then. The robots seem intent on generating 300 words on the close encounters of the athletic kind nowadays anyway.
Regardless, just about every game at War Memorial has had some sort of issue. Usually, it was the clock. It became kind of a running joke on social media. That wasn’t a point in the stadium’s favor.
The stands are fine, the press box, after some upgrades, is nice enough. Overall, nice enough is a good descriptor for War Memorial. It isn’t a colossal dump like Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium but a brown banana compared to Jerry World in Arlington.
What makes War Memorial different is the atmosphere and the former golf course turned tailgate spot.
The late Mike Leach called War Memorial the loudest stadium he’s ever coached in.
Something to do with its concrete construction and pre-game festivities enhanced crowd.
Fayetteville’s stadium has more capacity, but it doesn’t seem to have quite the same energy, at least for most games.
In the olden times, it wasn’t particularly unusual for college football teams to have multiple venues. It was kind of a southern thing as Arkansas played games in Little Rock. Ole Miss and Mississippi State played games in Jackson while Alabama and Auburn played games in Birmingham.
Sometimes it was because one stadium didn’t have lights. As was the case in Fayetteville until the 1980s.
Sometimes it was because the other venues were simply larger as the arms race to build big then build bigger on campus hadn’t started.
Playing games elsewhere was just a quirky thing some universities did that has slowly faded away as college football has become homogenized to make it more palatable for television.
While it became billed as the Great Stadium Debate, it never really seemed like much of one as the answer always seemed quite obvious – play the games in Fayetteville.
But, I suppose, games played at War Memorial will become just another thing we’ll miss when they’re gone like the cheese sticks at Shorty Small’s or seeing Better Than Ezra at Smitty’s.
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