A view of the West End Zone and Lake Hartwell from the upper deck of the North stands (September 2006)
|Address||Avenue of Champions|
|Location||Clemson, South Carolina|
|Record attendance||86,092 (Clemson Tigers v Florida State) (1999)|
|Surface||Tifway 419 Bermuda Grass|
|Broke ground||October 6, 1941|
|Opened||September 19, 1942|
|Expanded||1958, 1960, 1978, 1982, 1983, 2006|
|Construction cost||$125,000 (original stadium)|
($2.35 million in 2019 dollars)
|Architect||Carl Lee and Professor H.E. Glenn|
|General contractor||A.N. Cameron and Hugh Webb|
|Clemson Tigers (NCAA) (1942-present)|
Carolina Panthers (NFL) (1995)
Frank Howard Field at Clemson Memorial Stadium, popularly known as "Death Valley", is home to the Clemson Tigers, an NCAA Division I FBS football team located in Clemson, South Carolina. Built in 1941-1942, the stadium has seen expansions throughout the years with the most recent being the WestZone with Phase 1 construction beginning in 2004 and completing in 2015 with the addition of the Oculus, the final piece of Phase 3. Phase 1 of the EastZone project is scheduled to begin in 2020.
Prior to the completion of Bank of America Stadium, in Charlotte, Memorial Stadium served as the home venue for the National Football League (NFL)'s Carolina Panthers during the team's inaugural 1995 season.
Currently, the stadium is the largest in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
The stadium was constructed against the wishes of the late and former Clemson Head Coach Jess Neely. Just before leaving for Rice University after the 1939 season, he told Frank Howard, "Don't ever let them talk you into building a big stadium. Put about 10,000 seats behind the YMCA. That's all you'll ever need." Despite this, the University decided it was time to build a stadium. They chose to build in the valley in the western part of campus. On April 3, 1941, the South Carolina General Assembly ratified an act authorizing a $150,000 bond issue for the new stadium, and the bill went to Governor Burnet R. Maybank for signature. The original 20,500 seat stadium--the lower half of the current facility's south grandstand--was constructed for $125,000 or $6.25 a seat. The stadium was designed by Carl Lee of Charlotte, N.C., a Clemson graduate, Class of 1908, and Professor H. E. Glenn of the engineering faculty. On September 19, 1942, Memorial Stadium was opened with a 32-13 victory over Presbyterian College. Much of the early construction of the stadium was done by scholarship athletes. In fact, the first staking out of the stadium was done by A. N. Cameron and Hugh Webb, two members of the football team.
In 1958, 18,000 sideline seats were added and in 1960, 5,658 west end zone seats were added in response to increasing attendance. The original cedar wood seating was replaced in 1972 by aluminum seats. As attendance continued to skyrocket, an upper deck was added to each side of the stadium. The south upper deck (Top Deck South) was added in 1978 and the north upper deck (Top Deck North) in 1983. This put the total capacity over 80,000, which made it one of the largest on-campus stadiums in the United States. The most recent expansion started in 2004 and continued through 2009. The first phase of the "WestZone" project closed in the west endzone of Death Valley, added new luxury box and club seating, and completely renovated the locker rooms. The second phase, which was completed prior to the 2009 football season, brought all football offices and team meeting rooms to the WestZone from the McFadden Building and also added dedicated football training and strength conditioning facilities. The stadium's maximum capacity is 81,500 but has seated crowds as large as 86,092.
On January 14, 2011, Clemson announced a new $50 million athletic building plan. Facility improvements for football will include building an indoor practice facility and finishing the WestZone project. The indoor practice facility, which will be located where the current practice fields are, will feature a regulation-size artificial turf football field, a coach's tower and video platforms. The building will have large garage-style doors, which can be raised to create an open-air space. The estimated cost of the project is $10 million. "The indoor practice facility will be a highly significant addition for Clemson, not only for football but also for other sports to use," Phillips said. The $15.3 million WestZone project will feature the oculus, which is the main entrance to the WestZone, a four-level museum and an expansion of the northwest concourse. Construction on the northwest concourse expansion started in April and was completed by the start of the 2011 season.
The nickname "Death Valley" for Memorial Stadium, derives both from Death Valley National Park in California as well as the location of the Clemson University cemetery on a hill that once overlooked the field--before the upper decks were constructed.
The late Lonnie McMillian, former football coach at Presbyterian College told sports writers in 1948 that he had "to take his team up to Clemson and play in Death Valley" where they rarely scored or gained a victory.
Clemson Head Coach Frank Howard began using the nickname "Death Valley" for the stadium in the 1950s.
Memorial Stadium hosted The Rolling Stones with Living Colour in 1989 for the Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour. It hosted Pink Floyd in 1994 for The Division Bell Tour. It hosted Elton John with Billy Joel in 1995 for Face to Face 1995 tour, and The Eagles in 1996. In 1997, it hosted U2 with Rage Against the Machine for the PopMart Tour.
Clemson Top Single Game Attendance Figures
In the early 1960s, the rock was given to then head coach Frank Howard by a friend, Samuel Columbus Jones (Clemson Class of 1919). It was presented to Howard by Jones, saying "Here's a rock from Death Valley, California, to Death Valley, South Carolina." Howard didn't think anything else about the rock and it was used as a door stop in his office for several years. In September 1966, while cleaning out his office, Howard noticed the rock and told IPTAY executive director Gene Willimon, "Take this rock and throw it over the fence or out in the ditch...do something with it, but get it out of my office." Willimon had the rock placed on a pedestal at the top of the east endzone hill that the team ran down to enter the field for games. On September 24, 1966, the first time Clemson players ran by the rock, they beat conference rival Virginia, 40-35. Howard, seizing on the motivational potential of "The Rock", told his players, "Give me 110% or keep your filthy hands off of my rock." The team started rubbing the Rock for the first game of 1967, in which they beat ACC foe Wake Forest, 23-6.
It is now a tradition for the Clemson Ranger Club to "protect" the Rock during the 24 hours preceding the Clemson-South Carolina game, when held in Death Valley. ROTC cadets keep a steady drum cadence around the Rock prior to the game, which can be heard across the campus. Part of the tradition began after unknown parties vandalized the Rock prior to the 1992 South Carolina-Clemson game.
In 2013, the rock was vandalized and re-installed under a protective case.
Probably the most highly publicized tradition of Clemson football is its dramatic entrance scene. The tradition of Running Down the Hill started when the football locker rooms were located in Fike Field House (located up the hill northeast of the stadium). Clemson players would literally run down the hill all the way from Fike into the stadium to intimidate opposing teams.
Today, after exiting the stadium on the west side, the players load into buses, escorted by police officers. They make their way around the stadium to the east side where The Hill is located. This scene has been shown on the JumboTron ever since it was installed in the stadium. When the buses arrive at the east side, the players get out and gather at the top of the hill and stand around Howard's Rock. Once most of the players are out of the buses and ready to go, a cannon sounds, the band launches into Tiger Rag, and the players run down the hill. In 1985, Brent Musburger referred to it as "the most exciting 25 seconds in college football."
After the end of the 2018 season the Tigers had made the run down the hill 402 times.
The Tigers run down The Hill before the Louisiana Tech game, September 30, 2006