Washington University’s tradition-rich Francis Field, now 105 years old, is one of St. Louis’ registered historic landmarks. The field’s first use came in 1904 for the Third Olympic Games, the first international games to be held in the Western Hemisphere. Built in 1902, Francis Field’s permanent stands represented one of the first applications of reinforced concrete technology. Francis also featured a third-of-a-mile track—a track that was used through the early 1980s.
Following the 1904 Olympics, Francis Field became the home for Bear football contests. During the University’s halcyon days of pigskin—the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s—the Bears played major college football as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. There were even floodlights back then, an innovation quite revolutionary at the time. At the height of its day, Francis Field seated close to 20,000 fans with a large section of wooden stands erected on the north side of the field.
Francis Field has been the site of several great football contests, including the St. Louis University-Washington U. Turkey Day games, which drew thousands of fans. It also has been the home for the NASL’s St. Louis Stars in the ’70s, the 1986 AAU/USA National Junior Olympic Games, the First and Second National Senior Olympic Games, and the 1985 NCAA Division III National Men’s Soccer Championship. In July 1994, Francis Field served as a centerpiece for the U.S. Olympic Festival as 3,000 athletes were housed on the Danforth Campus for the country’s top amateur sporting event.
In 1984, Francis Field underwent its first major facelift in nearly 80 years when the distinctive old wings of the stadium, which jutted out on an angle from either end, were demolished. The seating was reduced to 4,000, and a new press box, a concession stand and ticket window, and a synthetic, eight-lane, 400-meter track were added.
In 2003, Francis Field underwent a major renovation. The stadium was resurfaced with new concrete on top of the existing structure, improving its appearance. The stadium was made accessible to the disabled with the addition of two ramps and a new seating area, and the press box was expanded with the roof being repaired. In 2004, FieldTurf was installed as the artificial playing surface for the Bears football and men’s and women’s soccer teams.