Riggs Field

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Riggs Field was Clemson's second football field, serving from 1915 to 1941. It has now been remodelled into the university's soccer stadium. It is named for Walter Merritt Riggs, Clemson president and the first (and fourth) head football coach. Riggs can be said to be the "Father of Clemson Football" insofar as his bringing the game from Auburn to the neophyte Clemson campus is concerned. When Clemson played its first game against Furman on October 31, 1896, only two people on the Clemson campus had ever seen a football game - Riggs, and Tiger backfielder Frank Thompkins, a Tiger team plank-holder.

Laid out in 1915 to replace Bowman Field, it was placed right behind the Rudolph E. Lee-designed YMCA building, finished the following year. Players would dress inside the Y and come down the staircase from the rear portico of the structure to field level.

Dedication[edit]

Riggs Field was dedicated October 2, 1915, prior to the football game with Davidson College. A parade to the field formed in front of the main building at 3 p.m. led, in this order, by the Cadet Band, speakers, Athletic Council, Alumni, faculty, and the Corps of Cadets. "Upon entering Riggs Field, the body took a 'C' formation and poured forth a thrilling volume of patriotic Tiger yells and songs." (The Tiger, 5 October 1915, Volume XI, Number 3, page 1.) Presentation of the field to the Corps of Cadets by Dr. Walter Merritt Riggs follows. Prof. J. W. Gantt, President of the Athletic Association, introduces Dr. Riggs as "the man who has done more for the athletics at Clemson and probably more for Southern athletics than any other man." "In presentig [sic] the field to the corps of cadets, Dr. Riggs said in part; 'This magnificent field is a token of recognition by the Trustees of Clemson College of the importance of military and athletic training for the cadets. It is to be a place for the teaching of the principles of team work and fair play. On the crest of the hill stands the main Building which represents the intellectual side of life. In the immediate fore-ground we see the Textile Building. Here the brain and hand are trained to work together. Just to our left is the magnificent new Y. M. C. A. Building, standing for the development of spirit, mind, and body. In the immediate vicinity back of us are the churches, which are agents in the influencing of our spiritual natures. This large and beautiful athletic field is to stand for the development of the physical man, and, whether in real work or in play it is hoped that this field will be used as an agency in the developing of high and honorable men.'" (The Tiger, 5 October 1915, page 1.) Prof. Gantt introduces Mr. H. C. Tillman, Class of 1903 and President of the Clemson Alumni Association, who then christens the new playing field. States Tillman, "Students who have been and are to be, no matter how much we love other things, we love our athletic field best. Therefore, this field should be named for him who has done most for our athletics. Dr. Riggs is not only the father of athletics at Clemson but has coached our teams. It is not alone for gratitude, but for a sense of love and esteem that we name this field. May it bring victory to the Tigers' lair, and may it be represented by the honor and spirit Dr. Riggs has always shown. In the name of all students and lovers of Clemson, I christen this Field Riggs Field." A few minutes later, Dr. Riggs makes the initial kick-off in the first football game to be played on the new field. Clemson and Davidson play to a 6-6 tie.

Replacement[edit]

With construction underway on the new Memorial Stadium since October, 1941, the last game played on Riggs is versus Wake Forest, on November 15, 1941, with the Tigers shutting out the Demon Deacons, 29-0. Three weeks later, the Japanese Navy attacks Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, setting America's involvement in World War II in motion.

In 1973, Riggs Field was the location for a closing scene of the Burt Lancaster film The Midnight Man.

Riggs Field, with its large half-mile oval cinder track, would remain an intramural space through the 1970s, providing a site for Greek Week, Dixie Day, and the Special Olympics. In late March 1980, without informing anyone, the athletic department began grading of the historic Riggs Field site for transformation into the new soccer stadium. Dixie Day was moved to the soccer field located north of Death Valley on short notice.

The remodelled facility, seating 6,500, opened its new era on September 1, 1987 with a Men's soccer team win over UNC-Asheville, 8-0.