Flashback: A New Home Stadium

The Brigham Young Cougars will open the 2012 football season with some highly anticipated stadium upgrades: LED video walls. In 1982, LaVell Edwards Stadium had another stadium upgrade. It was just as anticipated as the LED video walls, but much more monumental.

At the conclusion of the 1981 season, 47,163 people crammed into what was then called the BYU Stadium to watch BYU play archrival Utah. It was the largest crowd in school, and state, history. The record crowd pushed BYU’s average home attendance to over 40,000 that year. It was the third consecutive season that BYU averaged more fans in attendance than the 35,172 stadium capacity. Clearly, more seats were needed.

When first constructed in 1964, the BYU Stadium had 26,800 permanent seats in the east and west grandstands. By 1981, that number had increased to 29,730. An additional 5,442 temporary seats (removable bleachers) were used in the end zones. Sensing the growing popularity of BYU football in the late 1970’s, BYU started making plans to expand BYU Stadium.

In the 1980 media guide, BYU detailed plans to expand BYU Stadium to seat approximately 53,000 spectators by adding an upper deck to both the east and west grandstands. Each deck would seat 9,000 people. This expansion was expected to be complete for the 1981 football season. Inflation and architectural problems caused BYU to scrap these plans.

A year later, BYU had another plan in place. A plan to enclose one end of the stadium and create a horseshoe bowl was promoted at one point. In the end, over 35,000 new permanent seats were added by lowering the playing surface six feet, which allowed for additional rows of seats to be added at the bottom of the existing grandstands, and by erecting permanent bleachers large enough to seat approximately 15,000 people in both end zones.

The press box, executive box, and loges located at the top of the west grandstand were expanded and upgraded as well.

The stadium expansion started immediately following the 1981 season finale on November 21. However, the final approval of the full-scale expansion was not announced until February 9, 1982. The construction contract was valued at $12.4 million. The project involved moving approximately 40,000 cubic yards of earth, including the track surface that was scheduled to host the NCAA Championships for a third time in 1982.

When all was said and done, the new stadium could hold 65,000 people, roughly the same size as the University of Texas’ Darrell K. Royal Stadium. It was one of the largest stadiums in all of college football. Notre Dame Stadium only held 59,075 people. Bryant-Denny Stadium (known then simply as Denny Stadium), home of the Alabama Crimson Tide, had a capacity of 60,000. Doak Campbell Stadium where the Florida State Seminoles played seated just 55,246.

The first game was held September 25, 1982, against the Air Force Academy. The attendance was 64,253 people.

It was a new age in BYU football. The stadium was a symbol of how far BYU football had come in just 10 years under LaVell Edwards, and a promise that the best was yet to come.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com


  1. Excellent recap. Sadly BYU lost it's first home game in the expanded stadium back in 1982 39-38 to Air Force on a bogus roughing the passer penalty. BYU had taken over on downs had the penalty not been called. The Falcon QB given another chance tossed the game winning TD moments later. The new Stadium was in fact one of the largest in the world of College Athletics at the time. Larger stadiums were usually shared with NFL Teams or were ancient bowls like the L.A. Colosseum, Cal, Stanford, Rose Bowl and Tempe. BYU is still one of the larger stadiums and would rank in the middle of BCS venues, 6th largest in the PAC-12, 4th largest in the ACC, 5th largest in the current Big-XII. Only the Big-TEN and SEC stadiums are mostly similar size or larger and most have been expanded since 1982. I have to admit, the $40 million price tag to add an 8,000 stall parking garage (North of the Marriott) and fill in the corners would push BYU back up to where it probably needs to be as an independent program...hope that happens soon.

    1. Those are some great supporting facts about how the size currently compares.

      Most stadiums have been expanded in the last 30 years, and not just once.

      I would love to see the corners filled at LES with bleachers AND loyal fans.


Post a Comment