STORY BY ANNA ZAVELL
Opening just in time for the Drake Bulldogs to take on their Hawkeye rivals, Haskins Field, now known as Drake Stadium, was built in 1904. Drake Stadium has since become an iconic feature to campus that has grown with the years. Originally seating only 2,500 people, the field now seats just over 14,000 and attracts a large audience each April for the Drake Relays.
“It’s definitely really cool after your first-year and during Relays to stand on the blue oval where so many famous Olympians have before me,” sophomore cheerleader Rachel Berggren said.
Norman Haskins, father of Drake Law graduate Alvin Haskins, donated the land and funds to build the stadium. The stadium was built in honor of his son Alvin, who passed away in 1896. In 1909, at the request of Norman Haskins, the field underwent a name change and became Drake Stadium.
The land that Haskins donated was originally a ravine, which is what the surrounding brick building sits on. The field itself was once below ground level and the bleachers were built on the sides of hills. The terrain was not ideal for the vision Haskins had. Many engineers didn’t like the idea of even beginning construction, but they did. Workers removed the hills and dug a track from the ground, which they paved with black cinders.
It takes quite some time to prepare the Blue Oval and Drake Stadium for Relays.
“We start preparing a month in advance. We are currently looking for any damages in concrete and fixing them. We also fix seating, handrails, clean concessions, take down the football stuff, and more,” Director of Facilities Mark Chambers said. “This whole process takes about a month to six weeks, depending on weather.”
The stadium has seen a few renovations to make it more modern. The most iconic and expensive renovation occurred in 2005, when a total of $15 million was spent on Drake Stadium’s “cosmetic” appearance.
Major renovations included the widening of the track to meet the standards of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and USA Track and Field Guidelines. Additionally, synthetic turf replaced natural turf and a video scoreboard was added to keep fans updated during games.
“For me, it’s not the history of the track that makes it feel different,” junior track runner Sean Buczek said. “It’s the blue oval where I sweat, bleed and cry to get better. It’s home. That familiarity, on top of it being a world class track, is what makes competing in Drake Stadium such a novel experience.”
Drake Stadium is best known for hosting the annual Drake Relays during the last week in April. The Relays began in 1910 in front of a small crowd that has grown to around 40,000. College and high school students compete on the same track as Olympic athletes from across the nation and sometimes world.
In 2011 alone, 14 records were broken on the “Blue Oval.”
Performance on the former Haskins field has become a rich tradition at Drake.