The first football games played at Michigan Agricultural College weren’t played in a dedicated stadium, but a multipurpose area with a few rows of wooden stands originally intended for baseball and track spectators. The first concrete stadium, Macklin Field, was built in 1923, and provided seats for 13,064 fans. Photo courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications.
As Michigan Agricultural College expanded, the popularity of football grew with it; expansion was needed to accommodate the growing number of spectators each game brought to Macklin Field. Recovery efforts from the Great Depression yielded help from the Works Progress Administration, and a project to enlarge and renovate the stadium began in 1935. The football field was lowered six feet, and the stadium’s capacity was doubled to 27,000 seats. Photo courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.
A postcard of Macklin Stadium from 1955. In 1948, even more seating was added, as well as the concourse. This addition brought along a name change, as Macklin Field became Macklin Stadium. Additional expansions in following years included an upper deck, an updated press box and more seating. By 1957, the stadium had capacity for over 75,000 fans and received its current name: Spartan Stadium. Photo courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.
While tens of thousands of fans flock to Spartan Stadium each home game, millions more have visited the stadium via their television screen. The first Spartan football game filmed in color was played against Notre Dame on Oct. 15, 1955, as part of five color television shows broadcast by NBC from campus. While 52,007 fans attended the game in person, 50 million viewers watched the Spartans win 21-7. Photo courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.
The Fighting Irish and Spartans have competed against one another in many memorable games, but none as momentous as the Game of the Century. Considered one of the greatest games in college football history, the 1966 game between Michigan State and Notre Dame put the stadium above capacity with 80,011 fans in attendance. MSU was awarded its second consecutive national championship, and Jimmy Raye became the first Black quarterback from the South to win a national championship. Photo courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications.
In addition to incredible football, Spartan Stadium has also hosted some historic concerts. The Rolling Stones performed during a 1994 concert — the first of only two in the history of the stadium. Renovations to the stadium were made that included a tunnel just large enough for the band to bring in the stage and lighting equipment. The show opened with a performance by Lenny Kravitz and concluded with an encore of the song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” as well as fireworks over the stadium. Photo courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.
In 2011, the stadium hosted rock band U2’s “U2 360°” tour, performing to a crowd of 65,000 attendees. The concert opened with Florence and the Machine, and the unique 360° stage saw the stadium transformed into a high-tech concert venue, featuring a cylindrical video system of interlocking LED panels and a steel structure rising 150 feet from the floor over a massive stage with rotating bridges. Photo by Derrick L. Turner.
In 2005, an expansion project added nearly 3,000 seats, including 24 suites and a 193-seat press box. Additionally, the original “The Spartan” statue was relocated to the atrium of the new structure. The 200,000-square-foot addition also houses the MSU Alumni Association, University Development and other campus units. Photo courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications.
The need to renovate and expand has proven to be important to the evolution and progression of the stadium, including more accessible seating. To better accommodate the needs of student fans, a 2015 project added 20 wheelchair locations along with additional companion spaces to the student section. Photo by Gregory Kohuth.
One of just four collegiate football fields in the country to win Sports Turf Managers Association Field of the Year honors twice (2005 and 2016), Spartan Stadium installed a new playing surface for the 2019 season. The project, which took place in the spring of 2019, replaced the modular field system with a conventional grass field. The modules were first installed in 2002 when Spartan Stadium returned to natural grass for the first time in 33 years. Photo courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spartan Stadium wasn’t able to host its usual number of fans for the 2020-21 football season. Along with in-person family members of student athletes and athletics staff, the team was cheered on by cardboard cutouts, including this section of furry friends.
Spartan Stadium also took on a practical role during the pandemic, offering a location for COVID-19 testing for members of the MSU community. Though testing at the stadium is no longer offered, it served as a critical resource keeping Spartans safe during an incredibly challenging year. Photo by Derrick L. Turner.
Through the pandemic, Spartan Stadium served as the backdrop for commencement, as the class of 2021 celebrated their accomplishments in a year like no other. All in-person commencement ceremonies were held outdoors. Photo by Derrick L. Turner.
Through a century of change and triumph, the one thing that remains the same is the dedication and passion of Spartans towards their team. GO GREEN! Photo by Nick Schrader.