Boone Pickens Stadium
Boone Pickens Stadium has been home to the Oklahoma State University Cowboys football team in rudimentary form since 1913, and as a complete stadium since 1920. The facility is the oldest football stadium in the Big 12 Conference but was left largely neglected and enjoyed only modest renovations throughout its near-century of existence.
With the resurgence of Cowboy football sparked by the 2001 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners in the annual Bedlam Series game and the subsequent 2002 Houston Bowl season, interest grew for a major overhaul of Lewis Field. An ambitious fund-raising project for the renovation dubbed "The Next Level" became the flagship effort of the Oklahoma State athletic department.
Oklahoma State, then known as Oklahoma A&M, first began playing at the current site of Pickens Stadium in 1913. Originally known simply as "Athletic Field," it was renamed Lewis Field in 1914 after Laymon Lowery Lewis, a former dean of veterinary medicine and of science and literature and one of the most popular figures in the school’s history. In addition to his duties as dean and instructor at OAMC, Lewis served as the school’s acting president in 1914. Under his brief administration, OAMC established the first school of commerce and marketing in the nation and developed experimental stations around the state. In addition to naming the field after him, the students also dedicated the 1914 yearbook, its first, to Lewis.
The school built a permanent 8,000-seat grandstand–roughly corresponding to the lower level of the current facility’s north grandstand–in 1920. The stadium originally was positioned in the traditional north-south direction, but was reoriented east-west to avoid the strong prevailing winds. It remains one of a handful of major stadiums in the United States with goals at the east and west ends. Because of this, the sun becomes an advantage to the team defending the west end zone during sunny afternoon games, because the team defending the east goal has to look directly into the bright sunlight.
The university planned to build a horseshoe-shaped stadium, similar to Ohio State University’s Ohio Stadium, in the 1920s to be called War Memorial Stadium. These plans were scrapped before any construction of the proposed stadium started, and the first addition to Lewis Field came in 1924 with the first steel and concrete portion of the current stadium built on the south side. During the 1929–1930 seasons, 8,000 permanent seats were built on the north side for an overall capacity of 13,000. In 1947 the south stands were increased from 20 to 53 rows and capacity climbed to nearly 30,000. For the first time, a permanent press box was then added.
Prior to the 1950 season, 10,600 seats were added to the north stands, increasing capacity to 39,000 (including temporary endzone bleachers). After the 1971 season the cinder track was removed, lowering the field 12 feet and making the space between the field and the stadium retaining walls among the smallest in college athletics. Twenty rows of permanent seats were also added to both sides of the stadium. This expansion, including complete conversion to an artificial turf playing surface, cost $2.5 million and was financed through private donations.
Press box construction was completed in 1980 at a cost of $1.8 million. The press box has seating for more than 200 members of the print media, with separate levels for radio/television broadcasters, photographers and VIP seating on the first level capable of handling 300. A lighting system for night games was installed in time for the 1985 season and cost approximately $750,000.
The all-time attendance record for Lewis Field is 51,458 for the Bedlam Series game in 1979.
Lewis Field was officially renamed Boone Pickens Stadium during a halftime ceremony at the 2003 football game versus the University of Wyoming. The stadium’s name was changed to honor OSU alumnus T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oilman and entrepreneur who founded Mesa Petroleum Company in 1956 and served as its CEO from 1956 to 1996. Pickens donated $165 million overall to the university, the largest single donation for athletics to an institution of higher education in American history, to create an “athletic village” on campus.
Pickens’ gift helped build the west end zone at Boone Pickens Stadium, a multi-purpose indoor practice complex, new soccer, track and tennis facilities, a new equestrian center, a new baseball stadium and new outdoor practice fields. During the 2003 football season, OSU broke ground on a $260 million upgrade to Boone Pickens Stadium which included a brick exterior, to match the modified Georgian architecture of the OSU campus, and a connection to the Gallagher-Iba Arena. The stadium turf was replaced in 2005. Boone Pickens Stadium was the second NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision program to install the Desso Sport System’s Football Pro Artificial Grass Surface. The first installation was at University of Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium, also in 2005.
The funds used for the expansion of the stadium have been a topic of controversy and discussion among students and the public, including the city of Stillwater. The athletic village came under intense scrutiny within the community and garnered statewide attention. In 2005 and 2006, OSU held "town hall meetings" to allow members of the community to express their concerns. At one meeting in the Stillwater Public Library, Commissioner Hank Moore told OSU President David Schmidly, the meeting’s moderator, that OSU’s actions in implementing the athletic village under the Campus Master Plan contradicted the principles of democracy.
Another hotly contested issue between the Stillwater city commissioners and OSU administrators was the closing of Hall of Fame Avenue, the street running parallel with the north side of the stadium. At the same meeting, Moore said OSU broke a trust agreement with the city on the closing of the street. In January 2007, an agreement was reached regarding Hall of Fame Avenue granting the city ownership, which could revert back to OSU if the city opens a roadway specifically to replace it.
During Spring Commencement exercises at the stadium on May 6, 2006, President George W. Bush gave the commencement address, becoming the third U.S. president to speak at an OSU commencement (following George H. W. Bush and Richard Nixon).
The attendance record for Boone Pickens Stadium is 58,516 for the game against the University of Texas on Oct 31, 2009.