"The Cock Pit"
|Former names||Columbia Municipal Stadium (1934-1940)|
Carolina Stadium (1941-1972)
|Location||1174 George Rogers Boulevard|
Columbia, SC 29201
|Record attendance||85,199 (October 6, 2012 vs University of Georgia)|
|Surface||Grass (1934-1969, 1984-Present)|
|Broke ground||May 14, 1934|
|Opened||October 6, 1934|
|Renovated||1970, 1996, 2008, 2012|
|Expanded||1949, 1957, 1972, 1982, 1997|
($2.19 million in 2020 dollars)
$30 million (renovations)
|Architect||Robert L. Sumwalt|
JHS Architecture (renovations)
|South Carolina Gamecocks (NCAA) (1934-present)|
Williams-Brice Stadium is the home football stadium for the South Carolina Gamecocks, the college football team representing the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. It is currently the 16th largest on-campus college football stadium in the NCAA and is located on the corner of George Rogers Boulevard and Bluff Road adjacent to the South Carolina State Fairgrounds.
Carolina football teams consistently attract standing-room-only crowds to Williams-Brice Stadium. The atmosphere on game days has been voted "the best" by SECsports.com (See 9/15/05 and 9/17/07 at ), and has been noted as being among the loudest environments to play in by opposing players.The stadium has been the site of many concerts, state high school football championships, and various other events. It hosted the annual Palmetto Capital City Classic between Benedict College and South Carolina State University until the last game in 2005.
The stadium is sometimes called "The Cock Pit" by Gamecock fans and local media, and the name has been commonly used by these groups since at least the early 1970s when the university held a fund-raising campaign to raise money for an AstroTurf playing surface, called "Carpet the Cockpit".
The stadium was originally built in 1934 with help of federal Works Progress Administration funds as Columbia Municipal Stadium. It was built to replace Melton Field, an aging wooden structure that was located where USC's Thomas Cooper Library stands today. All USC football games except for the annual Thanksgiving matchup with Clemson had been played at Melton Field. The Clemson game was played at the South Carolina fairgrounds at the location that became Williams-Brice Stadium. Williams-Brice originally seated 17,600 people in what roughly corresponds to the lower level of the current facility's east and west grandstand seats. In 1941, the stadium was deeded to USC and renamed Carolina Stadium.
One end of the stadium was filled in during the 1940s, turning it into a horseshoe. Capacity was almost doubled, to 34,000. More than a decade later, the other end was filled in, turning the stadium into a bowl. Capacity increased to 43,000.
Williams-Brice Stadium was sold out prior to the start of each of the last seven college football seasons and consistently ranks in the top 20 in average attendance and the top 15 in total attendance. For the 2008 season, the stadium was 17th in average attendance and 13th in total attendance.
On October 6, 2012, the stadium's single-game attendance record was set when 85,199 fans watched the #6 Gamecocks beat #5 Georgia by the score of 35-7.
The stadium is considered one of the loudest venues in the country[by whom?]. During a game against Florida in 2001, ESPN announcers indicated that they had to shout to hear each other's comments inside the press box.[attribution needed]
ESPN's GameDay crew has broadcast its show four times (2001, 2004, 2005, 2006) from the State Fairgrounds across the street from the stadium. (In 2010, 2012, and 2014, GameDay was broadcast from The Horseshoe on campus.) ESPN also used a photo of the stadium in its advertising to promote its GameDay show throughout the 2005 college football season.
The stadium's first major renovation began in 1970, when the grass surface was replaced with AstroTurf. From 1971 to 1972, the west grandstand was completely rebuilt, with the addition of an upper deck. Capacity increased to 54,000. The renovation was funded by the estate of Martha Williams Brice and Thomas Hardin Brice, who left some of their estate to USC for stadium renovation and expansion. Her late husband, Thomas Hardin Brice, played football for the Gamecocks from 1922 to 1924. In their honor, the expanded stadium was officially renamed Williams-Brice Stadium on September 8, 1972 by a bequeath from their nephews Tom and Phil Edwards.
In 1982, the east grandstands were finally double-decked, increasing capacity to 72,400. However, unlike the west grandstand, the east grandstand was never rebuilt, and is the only remaining portion of the original 1934 structure. During the 1983-84 offseason, at the urging of new coach Joe Morrison, the university removed the AstroTurf and replaced it with natural grass.
Over the last 10 years[when?], nearly $30 million of renovations and improvements have taken place at Williams-Brice Stadium, bringing the official capacity to 80,250. The addition of the upper deck in the south end zone includes "The Zone," which is an 11,000-square-foot (1,000 m2) banquet facility located in a prime seating location. The box seats, executive suites, and athletic training facilities at the stadium have also been upgraded. Just prior to the 2008 football season the stadium underwent a complete upgrade to the main sound system. During this upgrade the school added a large array of subwoofers under the scoreboard to enhance the "feel" of their entrance music (the theme song to 2001: A Space Odyssey). Installation of this system was done by local Columbia company ACS Sound and Lighting.
To open the 2012 season, the stadium featured a new Daktronics 36 foot high by 124 foot wide high definition video board, the 3rd largest in the SEC. Also unveiled was a new 52 acre tailgating area, landscaped with over 650 trees and featuring a 100 foot wide pathway, called the "Garnet Way", that the team, band, and cheerleaders now walk through as they enter the stadium.
In 2015, the surface parking lot surrounding the stadium was replaced with a landscaped promenade named "Springs Brooks Plaza", named for the family of Robert H. Brooks. The project included a half-mile of ornamental fencing, planting of 340 trees, and the installation of 220 light poles and 38 benches. Also added were a restroom building and a 12,000-square-foot structure housing ticket sales and a merchandise store in addition to a command center for EMS and police. The project expanded the number of ticket windows from five to eight, enlarged the student entrance and relocated parking for television trucks to improve the flow of pedestrian traffic.
The new east upper deck created some controversy during the 1983 season. Fans reported it was noticeably swaying--as much as a foot by some accounts. The swaying was especially pronounced during a game in which the Gamecocks routed Southern Cal 38-14. Joe Morrison was subsequently quoted as saying, "If it ain't swayin', we ain't playin'"--a phrase that eventually made it onto bumper stickers and other items, and is still a popular saying today. Giant shock absorbers were installed under the east upper deck for the 1987 season; however, during the 1988 season, many spectators reported seeing a ripple effect across the east upper deck when the marching band played the song "Louie Louie." The university indicated that the sway or ripple was safe. To this day, the east upper deck still sways when fans jump up and down. In addition, several parts of the stadium have been known to vibrate due to the decibel levels generated during a typical game.
The Gamecocks won their first game at the stadium in 1934, beating Erskine 25-0, and have compiled an overall record at the stadium of 256-177-16 (including a homecoming record of 45-29) through the 2009 college football season. Some of the biggest wins for the Gamecock football program occurred at the stadium, including:
Top-ten crowds at Williams-Brice Stadium
|October 6, 2012||Georgia||35-7||85,199|
|November 17, 2001||Clemson||20-15||85,000|
|October 11, 2001||Florida||17-54||84,900|
|September 11, 2004||Georgia||16-20||84,300|
|September 13, 2014||Georgia||38-35||84,232|
|September 14, 2002||Georgia||7-13||84,227|
|October 28, 2000||Tennessee||14-17||84,200|
|November 30, 2013||Clemson||31-17||84,174|
|September 29, 2001||Alabama||37-36||84,100|
|November 22, 2003||Clemson||17-63||83,987|
In 1995, the Carolina Panthers of the NFL proposed Williams-Brice Stadium as their original home while their permanent stadium was under construction in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, athletic director Mike McGee nixed the idea when he noted that the Gamecocks should be the only major football team in town. Despite the overwhelmingly negative public reaction to his comments, McGee maintained that he was acting in the best interest of the Gamecocks.
A string of natural disasters hit in 1996, including a drought in the Great Plains and Hurricane Bertha in the Carolinas dealt substantial blows to family farm income and made it harder than ever for farmers to make a living from their land. Farm Aid coordinated a farmer to farmer haylift in which farmers from the Carolinas sent hay out to drought stricken farmers in Texas and Oklahoma. Farm Aid '96 was held in Columbia, South Carolina. As Farm Aid founder Willie Nelson stated at the news conference, "We are proud to hold Farm Aid '96 in Columbia, South Carolina, a region with a rich agricultural tradition and hard working men and women who struggle every day to make a living on the land. We hope this concert will remind the nation that we need to change the way we think about the food we eat and the people who grow it. It's important that we have someone there growing the food who cares for the land." The concert took place on October 12 and included Columbia's own Hootie and the Blowfish (who jammed onstage with Willie), Neil Young, the Beach Boys, John Mellencamp, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Deana Carter, Grand Old Opry star John Conlee, Rusted Root, and Jewel. Once again, TNN: The Nashville Network, televised the show.
On April 26, 2008, Knoxville native Kenny Chesney played there with Brooks & Dunn, LeAnn Rimes, and Gary Allan as part of his Poets and Pirates Tour. Chesney started his Poets and Pirates Tour at Williams-Brice Stadium. During the introduction of his set, his boot got caught between a hydraulic lift and the lip of the stage surface, which crushed his foot.
In 1993, the stadium was the setting for The Program, a college football movie starring James Caan, Halle Berry, Omar Epps, Craig Sheffer, and Kristy Swanson. The stadium was also featured in overhead footage for the final scene in the 1998 football comedy, The Waterboy.
Promise Keepers held one of their ministries at Williams-Brice on October 2-3, 1998.