Michigan State football: History behind Spartan Stadium

Spartan Stadium has been home to many legendary Michigan State football players like Bubba Smith, Kirk Gibson, Lorenzo White, Le’Veon Bell and Kirk Cousins, but you can find information about all these players anywhere. What about Spartan Stadium itself? Each of those players were molded in the stadium and made history in the stadium, so let’s talk about just that - Spartan Stadium.

Spartan Stadium History

Before its current name, Spartan Stadium was known as College Field when it was built in 1923, and it was called that until 1935. In that year, the name was changed to Macklin Field after former Michigan State Coach John Macklin, who led the team to a 29-5 record between 1911 and 1915. In 1948, the stadium became known as Macklin Stadium. The lower half of Spartan Stadium is actually the original structure with renovations. At first, the capacity was 14,000, but in 1936 the track was removed from the stadium, and they added the north and south end zones. After that renovation, seating capacity increased to 26,000.

Michigan State joined the Big Ten in 1948, and the school knew it would be getting more attendance, so seating increased from 26,000 to a whopping 51,000. The Spartans gained national attention after winning a national championship in 1952, and the school decided to add an additional 9,000 seats in 1956. The following season, the east and west sides of the stadium were double-decked increasing attendance to 76,000. In that same season Michigan State changed the stadium name one last time, to its current name of Spartan Stadium.

A modern scoreboard was added to the stadium in 1973, and TartanTurf replaced the field’s original natural grass as well. In 1978, AstroTurf replaced the TartanTurf. In 1994, Spartan Stadium made improvements to sight lines, field security, handicap access and club seats reducing the capacity from 76,000 to 72,027. In 1998, the Spartans upgraded their sound system and added a 21-foot-by-27-foot Mitsubishi Diamond Vision video board to the south side of the field, and a message board to the north side. Although Michigan State has one of the top turfgrass programs in the country, the Spartans decided to go back to natural grass in 2002. The most recent renovations and expansions were completed in 2005 when a new press box, 24 luxury suites and 862 club seats were added to the east side of the stadium making it the tallest building in East Lansing.

Historic moments at Spartan Stadium

Spartan Stadium has become home to many memorable games such as the 1966 “Game of the Century” with No. 1 ranked Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Michigan State, one of the most anticipated games in school history. The 2011 “Rocket” game where Michigan State faced off against Wisconsin and won on a Hail Mary pass thrown by Cousins and caught by Keith Nichol. And who could forget the “Little Giants” game where the Spartans beat Notre Dame on a last-play fake field goal, which routed the Spartans their first Big Ten Championship in 20 years.

As historic and beautiful as Spartan Stadium is, it is just a glimpse of beauty and history that surrounds all of Michigan State’s campus as well as all of East Lansing. From the Red Cedar to the Breslin Center then onto the St. Mary Cathedral, the entire area of East Lansing is filled with beauty. I couldn’t imagine Michigan State football playing in a more beautiful area.