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The skies were colored in purple and gray as the sun began to set. Outside, the weather was overcast and cool. Inside the stadium, the tension was as thick as the summer San Francisco fog rolling across the Golden Gate Bridge.
As we edged closer to kick off, the noise of the roaring crowd sent goosebumps down my spine and created a ringing in my ear. There was something special about this place. There was something different about this night.
This wasn’t just an ordinary game between two teams. Sixty minutes of football would change the lives of many people for the next 365 days. This wasn’t a game between South Carolina and Clemson – this was a clash of cultures in a beautiful state of disunion.
While this was just one game of a 12 game football schedule, Williams-Brice Stadium has been home to the the University of South Carolina Gamecocks team since 1934.
This stadium has swayed, shaken, and roared for many years as fans have cheered on the team each Autumn in the capital city of South Carolina. Tailgating, Cockabooses, garnet and black, and plenty of history has been made here.
Welcome to Williams-Brice Stadium.
The history of Williams-Brice Stadium
Originally built in 1934, the stadium held 17,600 people and was called Carolina Stadium. It was built by the Works Progress Administration and has seen numerous expansions and renovations over the years.
In the 1940s, the stadium was expanded to 34,000 as one end of the end zone was filled in giving it a horseshoe shape. In the late 1950s, the stadium was expanded again to a capacity beyond 43,000. In 1970, the grass surface was replaced with AstroTurf.
In 1971, an endowment from Martha Williams-Brice allowed the stadium to be renovated and expanded. The west grandstand was completely rebuilt and an upper deck was added creating a capacity of 54,000.
Martha’s husband, Thomas H Price played football for South Carolina from 1922-24. On September 8, 1972 the stadium was renamed in her honor – Williams-Brice Stadium. It is only one of two stadiums in the country named for a woman.
In 1982, the east grandstands added an upper deck as capacity was increased to 72,400. At the request of Gamecocks coach Joe Morrison, the AstroTurf was removed and replaced with grass again during the 1982-83 offseason.
As a Gamecock fan, I attended my first football game in 1984 sitting underneath the upper deck. An quote from Joe Morrison about Williams-Brice stated “If it ain’t swayin’, we ain’t playin’.” In those days, the USC marching band would play “Louie, Louie” and the upper deck would literally sway as the fans jumped up and down.
Since that time, a number of renovations and expansions have taken place to reinforce and expand the stadium. The upper deck still sways a little and the stadium now holds 80,250.
Recently, a new scoreboard a south end zone upper deck was added along with a new press box and suites. There are plans to add even more seats in the future which will push capacity to near 88,000.
The culture of Williams-Brice Stadium
More than just a stadium, this place has seen magical moments, Heisman Trophy seasons, the longest losing streak in South Carolina football history, and record setting wins.
Currently, the stadium is the 20th largest in the country. Nearly every year, the Gamecocks and Williams-Brice Stadium rank in the top 20 in attendance. Even during the 1999 season when the team went 0-11 during a 21 game losing streak, Williams-Brice Stadium still finished 14th in college football attendance.
South Carolina Gamecock fans are passionate and some of the most loyal, diehard fans in the country.
Since 1984, the Gamecocks have one of the most exciting entrances in college football. As the sounds of rooster crows and Also sprach Zarathrusta play over the speaker system, the noise from the crowd becomes deafening. Known as “2001″ by Gamecock fans, the song builds to a crescendo before the Gamecock football players rush on the field under a billowing cloud of smoke.
“2001″ has been named one of the best entrances in college football by numerous publications and polls. Regardless of where it ranks, this is one of the most exciting entrances in college football.
See the “2001″ entrance beginning at the 2:25 mark
Along with the entrances, the atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium is electric. Games against Clemson send the fans into a frenzy. However, the atmosphere here has stood the test of time as it ranks as one of the 30 best stadiums in the country and one the top 10 student sections.
Passion runs deep at the University of South Carolina. However, no mention of Williams-Brice Stadium would be complete without exploring the culture around the stadium.
Before and after games, tailgating is a huge part of college football game days. RVs will park and party for the weekend. People pay lots of money to tailgate in the many parking lots around the stadium.
While the farmer’s market and state fairgrounds are the prime areas to enjoy some Carolina tailgating, one of the most unique tailgating spots in the country can be found at a Cockaboose.
These train cars are set up with kitchens and rooftop seating for a luxury tailgating experience. Located on the train tracks that run behind the stadium, you can enjoy good food, satellite TV, and conversations with southern accents in style.
Enjoy a little southern hospitality and cooking before or after a big game. If you want lots of crowds and even more fun, enjoy tailgating and a game during the weekend of the South Carolina State Fair.
The College Football Travel Tour Stadiums – Williams-Brice Stadium
Located on the corner of George Rogers Blvd and Bluff Road, the stadium is located just a couple of miles from the University of South Carolina campus. The stadium sits directly across from the state fairgrounds so there are a number places to park. Get there early for the tailgating and make sure you don’t miss “2001″ as the Gamecocks take the field.
If you are ever in Columbia, SC during football season, check out a South Carolina Gamecocks football game at Williams-Brice Stadium. Like many college football stadiums in the South, this is more than a football stadium or a game – it’s a cultural experience.
Williams-Brice Stadium photos
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