Nov. 12, 2003
By Kip CarlsonOregon State sports information
As Reser Stadium reaches its 50th birthday, the Beavers' football home is set for a new look when the 'Raising Reser' campaign results in massive improvements for the 2005 season. In its first half-century, though, the arena - originally known as Parker Stadium - was never about being fancy. It's been a blue-collar stadium for a team that saw a lot of tough times during its history. Its personality stems largely from the trees inside the stadium that have grown to maturity, and the views of the Coast Range and the Oregon State campus from some of the higher seats. Not only is this the 50th anniversary of Reser Stadium's opening, but the Beavers' first home win this season was its 100th all-time victory in the stadium; OSU's record on the field entering Saturday's game against Stanford is 104-111-4. So let's look at the first 50 years ...
IN THE BEGINNING
By the late 1940s, Bell Field - the Beavers' home since 1913, and now the site of Dixon Recreation Center - had become a dilapidated collection of approximately 20,000 wooden seats. A fundraising drive was begun to build a new football stadium adjacent to brand-new Gill Coliseum in the southwest corner of campus. The preliminary engineering was done by Moffatt, Nichol and Taylor of Portland starting in 1950. Construction on the $300,000 stadium was begun by by Wall, Bertram and Sanford of Junction City in 1952, and the first game was set for Homecoming, 1953. By the time it opened with a 7-0 win over Washington State on Nov. 14, 1953, the stadium was named for Portland contractor and alumnus Charles T. Parker, who had a significant role in the fundraising and construction.
To start with, it was about 25,000 seats - 42 rows on each sideline, 15 rows in the south end zone and 18 rows in the north end zone. In the late 1950s, large bleachers in the south end zone pushed the capacity to about 28,000. After the Rose Bowl season of 1964, three of the corners (all but the ramp in the northeast) were turned into concrete seating and large bleachers were added to the north end zone, pushing the number to 33,000 seats. Prior to the 1967 season, 40 rows and a new press box were added to the west sideline and that made capacity 40,593. Then a step down, as the building of the Valley Football Center during the 1990 season reduced the capacity to 35,362 with the elimination of some north end zone seats.
NAME THAT STADIUM
The stadium's name was changed to Reser Stadium in 1999 after a significant gift to Oregon State athletics by OSU alums Al and Pat Reser of Beaveron, the owners of Reser's Fine Foods.
A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
The stadium spent its first 16 years with a grass field, and was used solely for varsity and freshman football games and a few varsity practices. That changed in 1969, when the first artificial turf and the first set of lights were installed; from then on, the stadium also became the home for practices by other sports and the marching band; intramural and club sports games; and high school football games. The Beavers didn't use the lights for a night game of their own until 1976, when they opened the season with a 28-16 loss to 19th-ranked Kansas. The first time spectators were treated to covered seats was in 1991, when the roof on the west sideline was part of the press box/skybox building project.
THE GOOD ...
In its first 16 years, Reser Stadium was as tough for visitors to win as it has been in the last few years. Through the 1968 season, the Beavers had a record of 33-10-2 in the stadium; that included a 19-4-1 mark in conference games. Oregon State had a 12-game winning streak on the field from 1962-65 and another 11-game unbeaten string from 1955-58. Now, in the last four years, OSU is 21-3 at home; that included a nine-game winning streak from 1999-2000 and a 13-3 record in Pac-10 games.
... AND THE NOT-SO-GOOD
During that little 28-year slump, one stretch from 1977-82 saw OSU go 3-21 at Reser Stadium. The Beavers also had a 10-game losing streak in the stadium from 1990-92.
THESE FANS, I LOVE 'EM
Reser Stadium crossed the 1 million mark in attendance during a 31-21 win over Utah in 1970. The 2 million mark was passed in a 33-31 win over Stanford in 1979; the 3 million mark during a 17-16 win over California in 1988; the 4 million mark in a 17-13 loss to Oregon in 1994; and the 5 million mark in a 38-9 win over Washington State in 2000. Going into the 2003 season finale against Stanford, the stadium's total attendance for OSU football sits at 5,696,933. The stadium's record crowd is 41,600 for the 1980 Civil War.
THE TOP 10 GAMES (ONE MAN'S HUMBLE OPINION)
10. (tie) Oregon State 21, Oregon 10 on Nov. 19, 1988; and Oregon State 17, California 7 on Nov. 6, 1999: Take your pick between the ends of two long, miserable streaks - 13 winless years in the Civil War, or 28 straight losing seasons.
9. Oregon State 7, Washington State 0 on Nov. 14, 1953: After being outscored 153-19 in their first six games, the Beavers win the stadium's inaugural on Chuck Brackett's 1-yard plunge late in the second quarter.
8. Oregon State 15, No. 9 UCLA 13 on Nov. 11, 1978: The Beavers knock off the Bruins on Kieron Walford's 36-yard line-drive field goal with 3:08 left; the Bruins had taken a safety a few minutes earlier when forced to punt from deep in their own end of the field, trusting their defense would hold.
7. Oregon State 31, Fresno State 28 on Sept. 12, 1981: After trailing 28-0 in the third quarter of its season-opener, OSU comes back to end a 14-game losing streak. At the time, it was the biggest comeback in Division I-A history; it was also the Beavers' only win of the year.
6. Oregon State 31, No. 8 Southern California 21 on Sept. 30, 2000: Ken Simonton rushes for 234 yards and three touchdowns as the Beavers beat USC for the first time since 1967; it pushes OSU into the national rankings and on its way to a conference co-championship and top-five national finish. Oh, yeah - and the possum's run was fun, too.
5. Oregon State 44, No. 15 Oregon 41 (2 OT) on Nov. 21, 1998: Certainly in the running for the wildest game in the stadium's history - remember the delay clearing the field of prematurely celebrating fans in the first overtime? Then Ken Simonton running into the crowd at the back of the south end zone on his game-ending touchdown run.
4. Oregon State 20, Oregon 17 on Nov. 24, 1962: The Beavers' bowl hopes were on the line when they trailed 17-6 at halftime, but OSU rallied for the win on Terry Baker's 13-yard pass to Danny Espalin early in the fourth quarter. Within the next few weeks, Baker won the Heisman Trophy and the Beavers won the Liberty Bowl.
3. Oregon State 7, No. 17 Oregon 6 on Nov. 21, 1964: Up through the end of the 20th century, this ranks as the biggest football game in the state's history - both teams had Rose Bowl hopes, Oregon was nationally-ranked and OSU had just slipped from the polls with a loss the previous week. The Beavers trailed until Booker Washington's touchdown with 54 seconds left - the first of his collegiate career - and Steve Jones kicked the winning point. Al East had blocked the Ducks' point-after try in the second quarter.
2. Oregon State 3, No. 1 Southern California 0 on Nov. 4, 1967: It's tough to put this as No. 2; maybe rank it as No. 1A. The Beavers play inspired defense, Jess Lewis chases down O.J. Simpson from behind, Mike Haggard knocks the game-winner through, California Gov. Ronald Reagan loses his bet with Oregon Gov. Tom McCall, and the Giant Killers become legend.
1. No. 8 Oregon State 23, No. 5 Oregon 13 on Nov. 18, 2000: While the rest of the country waited to find out who'd be named President, the Beavers and Ducks played the biggest game of football in the state's history - both teams ranked in the top 10, both with chances at the Rose Bowl, both entering the game with 9-1 records, and national attention all week leading up to the game. Jake Cookus intercepts - three times; Jonathan Smith connects with Robert Prescott for TDs - twice; and Ken Simonton scores - once. Huge game, convincing win, amazing afternoon.