|Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field|
|File:Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.jpg|
|Location||Stadium Road, Gainesville, Florida 32611|
|Broke ground||April 16, 1930|
|Opened||November 8, 1930|
|Expanded||1950, 1960, 1966, 1982, 1991, 2003|
|Owner||University of Florida|
|Operator||University Athletic Association|
|Surface||Natural grass (1930–1970)|
Bermuda grass (1990–present)
|Construction cost||$118,000 (1930)($1570177.60 in 2011 dollars)|
|Former names||Florida Field (1930–1989)|
|Tenants||Florida Gators (NCAA) (1930–present)|
Tangerine Bowl (NCAA) (1973)
Gator Bowl (NCAA) (1994)
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (popularly known as "The Swamp") is the football stadium for the University of Florida and the home field of the university's Florida Gators football team. It is located on the university's Gainesville, Florida campus. The stadium was originally built in 1930, and has been regularly expanded, renovated and improved since then. Although it is the eleventh largest college football stadium as measured by its official seating capacity of 88,548, attendance for the Gators' home football games regularly exceeds 90,000 people.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is located on the northern edge of the university's campus, bordered by West University Avenue on the north side, Gale Lemerand Drive (previously named North-South Drive) on the west side, and Stadium Road on the south side. On the east side are the Racquet Club fitness center, Florida Gym and Murphree Hall, one of the oldest residence halls on campus. Directly across Gale Lemerand Drive from the Swamp is the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, the indoor home arena of the Florida Gators men's basketball, women's basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, and swimming and diving teams. Just beyond the O'Connell Center are the football team's practice facilities and Alfred A. McKethan Stadium, home field of the Florida Gators baseball team.
One stadium, three names
The name of the playing surface has remained "Florida Field" since the stadium's original construction in 1930. The university renamed the stadium, but not the playing surface, in honor of citrus magnate Ben Hill Griffin, Jr., an alumnus and major benefactor of the university and its sports programs, in 1989.
In the early 1990s, in describing Florida's home-field advantage, then-coach Steve Spurrier noted that ". . . a swamp is where Gators live. We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous. Only Gators get out alive."  Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has been commonly known as "The Swamp" ever since.
From the establishment of UF in Gainesville in 1906, the university's football and baseball teams played their on-campus home games at Fleming Field. This facility was simply a grassy field flanked by low bleachers and was located along University Avenue immediately north of the present stadium site. Because of the limited fan capacity of Fleming Field and the relative inaccessibility of Gainesville in the early 20th Century, some Gators home games were hosted in Jacksonville, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and even the Madison Square Garden corporation's former winter sports facility in Miami.
After the Gator football team earned its first national prominence in the 1920s, new university president John J. Tigert began the drive to construct a new and larger stadium facility shortly after accepting his position in 1928. In the midst of the Great Depression, Tigert was determined to build a permanent football stadium without state funds. Tigert and ten friends and supporters of the university's athletic program took out personal loans to cover the $118,000 required to build the original 21,769-seat facility.
Construction began on April 16, 1930, and immediately faced serious engineering and geotechnical obstacles related to natural ground water and drainage. The stadium was built in a shallow ravine, and the lower thirty-two rows of the east, west and north stands were built below ground level of the surrounding land. When excavation reached the water table, water began to pour into the construction site from the north end, and men, mules and mule-drawn equipment became mired in the resulting mud. The drainage challenge was ultimately resolved by the installation of massive underground culverts leading to Graham Pond, two blocks south of the stadium site. Problems solved, the construction team of eighty laborers and mules completed "Florida Field," as it was first known, in time for the November 8, 1930 homecoming game against Alabama, the dominant Southern Conference team of the day. Florida Field was rededicated in 1934 to the memory of Florida servicemen who died in World War I, and a plaque was placed on the outside wall behind the old north end zone as a memorial.
Expansions and renovations
Over the years, Florida Field has undergone many renovations, almost always adding more seats. First, 11,200 permanent seats were added to the west stands in 1949–1950, which, together with temporary bleachers, yielded 40,116 seats for fans. Then 10,000 more permanent seats were added to the east stands in 1965–1966, and temporary bleachers added to the south end zone in 1966, to bring total capacity to 62,800. With the permanent enclosure of the south end zone in 1982, the addition of the north end zone upper decks in 1991, and expanded club seats and luxury boxes in 2003, the Swamp had grown to be the largest football stadium in the state of Florida, and the second largest sports facility in the state behind only the Daytona International Speedway. The current official seating capacity is 88,548, although the actual attendance has averaged over 90,000 since the addition of the new skyboxes, in 2003.
Before the 2008 season, the Heavener Football Complex opened on the southwest corner of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The $28 million addition, which was funded entirely with private donations, is meant to be the "front door" of the football program and houses a museum highlighting Gator football history along with offices, meeting space, a new weight room, and other facilities for the football program
Following the Gators' 2008 BCS Championship, new video replay boards were installed in both end zones before the start of the 2009 season. The new scoreboards feature all-digital screens with high-definition resolution.
After Will Muschamp's first season as Florida's Head Coach in 2011, an extensive renovation of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium's west concourse began and is scheduled for completion by August of 2012. Renovations include improved restrooms, lighting, concessions, graphics in addition to new flat-screen displays and an improved crowd-circulation design.
The playing surface of Florida Field has also changed over the years. It was natural grass until 1971, when Astroturf was installed and nicknamed "Doug's Rug" for then-coach Doug Dickey The original artificial surface was replaced with an updated version in the mid-1980s. It remained until 1990, when newly hired coach Steve Spurrier insisted it be removed and replaced with the current natural grass surface. During the 2011-12 football season the natural surface underwent significant wear and damage. In June of 2012 work began to remove the old Tifway 419 Bermuda hybrid turf, rework the field substrate, and install a Bermuda grass hybrid called Celebration Bermuda that should be more resistant to drought, disease, and damage.
Other home fields
The Gators have played the overwhelming majority of their home contests at Florida Field since it opened in 1930. The most notable exception is the annual Florida-Georgia game, which has been held in Jacksonville since 1933 with the two teams alternating being the official home team. The only seasons in which UF and UGA did not meet in Jacksonville were 1994 and 1995, when the old Gator Bowl was being rebuilt as Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for the NFL's expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and the contest was held at Florida Field and Georgia's Sanford Stadium, respectively.
In years past, Florida would occasionally move a home game to Jacksonville or to Tampa every few years. But besides the annual meeting with Georgia, the Gators have not played a regular season home contest anywhere besides Florida Field since 1980, when they defeated the California Golden Bears in old Tampa Stadium.
Home field advantage
The Swamp has acquired a reputation for being a very difficult place for opposing teams to play, and has regularly been ranked at or near the top of lists of top home field advantages and/or best game day experiences in college football
One of the major reasons is the stadium's design. Originally built in a shallow sinkhole, the playing surface is below ground level. Various expansions over the years have enclosed the playing area on all sides with steep stands, and the fans are within a few feet of the action.
The enclosed playing area also enhances the effects of Gainesville's warm and humid fall climate. Game-day temperatures at field level have been known to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius), creating a swamp-like atmosphere. (This was the impetus for a University of Florida researcher Robert Cade to develop Gatorade as a way to combat dehydration.) Furthermore, during hot and sunny day games Florida's sideline on the west side of the stadium is in the shade provided by the press box while the visiting team's sideline on the east side is exposed to the sun.
Florida Gator fans are both loyal (having sold out every home contest from 1979 until the first game of the 2011 season, when the streak ended against Florida Atlantic University) and loud, thus creating a tremendous home field advantage for the Gators. The size and exuberance of the home crowds, when combined with the stadium's close-in design of the seats, concentrates the fan noise at field level, making the Swamp one of the loudest stadiums in America.
Combined, these factors create an intimidating environment which can rattle and disrupt opposing teams, making it difficult to hear playcalls and execute assignments. Florida Field has been repeatedly ranked by various publications as being the toughest stadium in which to play for opposing teams.
The Gators' performance at home illustrates this effect. From Spurrier's arrival in 1990 until the end of the 2009 season, Florida posted a 113–13 home record, which is the best in the nation during that time period. The Gators enjoyed a 37–5 home record under Urban Meyer from his arrival in 2005 until his retirement after the 2010 season.
Florida Field traditions
Like many other college football venues, the Swamp has its own unique features and gameday traditions:
- Commemorated on the facade of the south end zone are the years of each of the team's Southeastern Conference championships and its 1996, 2006 and 2008 National Championships. Also included are tributes to the school's three Heisman Trophy winners, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow.
- Located on the north end zone facade, the Ring of Honor commemorates the greatest players and coaches in Gator football history. Current members are Wilber Marshall, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, Emmitt Smith, and Jack Youngblood.
- In April 2011, large bronze statues of Heisman Trophy winners Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, and Tim Tebow were placed and dedicated outside the west side of the stadium along Gale Lemerand Drive
- Painted on the four corners of the stadium are large messages stating "This is . . . THE SWAMP" (previously read ". . . FLORIDA FIELD" before the mid-1990s), "This is . . . GATOR COUNTRY", and "Home of the . . . FLORIDA GATORS."
- Entertainment on game days includes the "Pride of the Sunshine", the University of Florida's marching band. The Pride was the first marching band in Florida. For many years, it was recognized for its very large bass drum, known as the "Biggest Boom in Dixie." The band plays on the field for pregame and halftime and also plays instrumental version of the University of Florida fight song, "The Orange and Blue," after every Gator score.
- Albert and Alberta, one of the few mascot couples in major college sports.
- Right before the team enters the field, a short intro is played on the large video screens. A group of (real) alligators are shown gathering in a murky swamp while ominous music plays. Then the camera zooms into the gaping jaws of a large alligator while a deep voice intones "The Swamp . . . Only Gators get out alive!" as the football team takes the field.
- Jim Finch, the public address announcer at the stadium from 1966 through 2001, was known for his famously long "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere come the Gators!" call delivered in powerful baritone as the Gators ran onto Florida Field before each game, and for his succinct and even-handed style of announcing the plays during the game. Finch died in 2002, but an audio recording of his distinctive entrance call has been used on occasion since
- George Edmondson (a.k.a. "Mr. Two Bits"), wearing his trademark yellow oxford shirt, blue seersucker trousers, orange-and-blue tie, and black-and-white saddle shoes, traveled around the stands for almost sixty years leading fans in the old "Two Bits" cheer ("Two bits! Four bits! Six bits! A dollar! All for the Gators, stand up and holler!"). Edmondson began the tradition in 1949 and "retired" to become a regular fan after his fiftieth season in 1998. However, he couldn't stay in his seat and continued to lead the cheer during pre-game festivities and (occasionally) in the stands during games. On November 22, 2008, at the last home game of the season, Mr. Two Bits was again honored with a retirement ceremony.
- Fans sway by rows while singing "We are the Boys from old Florida" at the end of the third quarter. (The University of Florida was an exclusively all-male school from 1905 to 1947.)
- Gator fans join in on shout-outs and chants such as "ORANGE" (yelled by students, mostly in the East and South stands) and "BLUE" (yelled by alumni, mostly in the West and North stands). During the pre-game, this cheer is led by Richard Johnston (also known as "Mike Man" or "Mr. Orange and Blue"), a former cheerleader who has been the pre-game emcee since 1984.
- For many years, the ship's bell of the battleship USS Florida (BB-30) was mounted at the North end zone wall of the stadium, to be rung by a nearby fan immediately upon the conclusion of a Gators victory. After the North end zone expansion in 1991, the bell was moved to the north end zone concourse for display, but its clapper was removed.
- When Steve Spurrier became the Gators' head football coach in 1990, he revived the tradition of fans and players together singing the University of Florida Alma Mater after the conclusion of home football games. Urban Meyer added the singing of "The Orange and Blue," the Gators' fight song, in 2005.
Even big-time college football teams play only six or seven home games per season. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is mainly a place for fitness-motivated students to jog or run stadium steps during the time when no events are scheduled. However, the stadium does occasionally host events other than Florida Gators football games.
- The most regular special event in The Swamp is Gator Growl, a student-produced show and pep rally always held the Friday night before the annual homecoming football game. Originally a simple affair, Gator Growl has grown tremendously over the years. These days, the usual program includes the introduction of the seniors on the football team by the head coach, live skits, video skits (always with celebrity cameo appearances), a musical act, and a headlining comedian. Past headliners include such luminaries as Robin Williams, Dennis Miller, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal, Dane Cook, Paula Poundstone, Wayne Brady, Rodney Dangerfield, George Burns, Bob Hope, and Sister Hazel.
- Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has hosted the Florida High school football championships many times over the years.
- Florida Field has also served as a temporary home for college bowl games when other Florida stadiums were undergoing renovations. In 1973, Florida Field hosted the Tangerine Bowl, which pitted the hometown Gators against the Miami Redskins while Orlando's Citrus Bowl was being rebuilt. The 1994 Gator Bowl between the Virginia Tech Hokies and Tennessee Volunteers was held in the Swamp while Jacksonville Municipal Stadium was being rebuilt for the National Football League's expansion Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Florida Field was once a busy concert venue. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Elton John and Jimmy Buffett are among the performers who held concerts at the stadium in the past. However, these events have been much less common recently. The university, wary of damage to the turf or the facility in general, has chosen to focus on keeping the stadium ready for sporting events; concerts are now commonly held in the nearby O'Connell Center arena. The last concert held in The Swamp (other than performances during Gator Growl) featured The Rolling Stones on November 27, 1994.
Top 10 Attendance
|1||November 28, 2009||90,907||Florida State||W, 37-10|
|2||October 1, 2011||90,888||#3 Alabama||L, 10-38|
|3||November 13, 2010||90,885||#23 South Carolina||L, 14-36|
|4||September 6, 2008||90,833||Miami||W, 26-3|
|4||October 20, 2012||90,833||#7 South Carolina||W, 44-11|
|6||October 6, 2012||90,824||#4 LSU||W, 14-6|
|7||November 26, 2011||90,798||Florida State||L, 7-21|
|8||September 17, 2011||90,744||Tennessee||W, 33-23|
|9||October 9, 2010||90,721||#12 LSU||L, 29-33|
|10||September 17, 2005||90,716||Tennessee||W, 16-7|
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