Entering its 112th season, Carson Field at Nippert Stadium is the venerable home of the University of Cincinnati football team and provides the Bearcats with one of the best home-field environments in college football.
Construction began on Nippert Stadium in 1915 and was completed in 1924. UC has used the Nippert site as a playing field since 1901, making it the second-oldest playing site in the nation for college football behind Penn's Franklin Field (1895).
Among NCAA FBS schools, Nippert is the third-oldest stadium still in use, behind Bobby Dodd Stadium (Georgia Tech - 1913), Davis Wade Stadium (Mississippi State - 1914) and ahead of Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium, which was built in 1917.
USA Today recently named Nippert as the best home-field venue in the BIG EAST Conference and ESPN's Scott Van Pelt cited Nippert as a "one of the gems of college football'.
The Bearcats have established program attendance standards over the last five seasons. UC drew a total of 30,246 fans in 2007 before setting back-to-back-to-back regular season average records with program-best clips of 31,965, 33,957 and 35,067 in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively.
Through numerous renovations, the structure situated in the middle of the Clifton campus has retained its early-century brickwork, wrought iron gates, and trim giving Nippert a comfortable old-time stadium charm and appeal, while remaining a classic showplace for college football. On Nov. 27, 2009 in a game against the University of Illinois, a crowd of 35,106 filled the stadium, setting a single-game attendance record for the fourth time in 2009.
Early-century brickwork combined with wrought iron gates and trim give Nippert a comfortable old-time stadium charm and appeal, while continuing renovations have enabled it to remain a classic showplace for college football.
The last major renovation occurred in 2005 when a new, permanent grandstand added new and improved seating in the North endzone. Underneath the structure are new game locker rooms for both the Bearcats and the visiting team.
The scoreboard features a new video board, nearly twice as large as the previous display, while the playing field is a new installation of FieldTurf, the grass-like artificial turf.
The stadium's founder was Arch Carson, who as captain and principal organizer played a significant role in starting football on the UC campus in 1885. In 1901 as physical director of the university, Carson guided the construction of the field which was later named for him -- the playing surface is still called Carson Field.
In 1916, construction began on a permanent brick-and-concrete stadium structure, which was completed, section-by-section, as funds were raised.
During the season-ending clash with rival Miami (Ohio) in 1923, Jimmy Nippert sustained a spike wound injury and died a month later from blood poisoning. His grandfather, James N. Gamble of Procter and Gamble, provided the funds needed to complete the horseshoe-shaped structure, and the James Gamble Nippert Memorial Stadium was dedicated on Nov. 8, 1924.
In 1936, the playing field was lowered 12 feet to allow spectator seating to increase to 24,000. The Reed Shank Pavilion was added in 1954 to bring the capacity to 28,000. In 1991, the capacity was upped to 35,000 through extending the upper deck, now called the Herschede-Shank Pavilion, and a new pressbox was constructed.
Artificial turf was first installed in 1970 and in 2000, the stadium became one of the first in the U.S. to utilize FieldTurf, a grass-like synthetic surface.
The stadium served as home for the American Football League expansion team, the Cincinnati Bengals, in 1968 and 1969, while their eventual permanent home at Riverfront Stadium was being constructed.
Along with this, the stadium has served as a venue for concerts by Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, NSYNC, Janet Jackson, KT Tunstall, The North Mississippi All-Stars, The Roots, the Cincinnati Opera Company and many more.
On November 2, 2008, President Barack Obama held a campaign rally at Nippert two days before the 2008 Presidential Election to an estimated 27,000 attendees.
UC president Dr. Santa Ono and director of athletics Whit Babcock jointly announced a proposed plan to renovate Nippert Stadium on Dec. 18, 2012.
"All of our expansion at this time will be in the form of premium seating," Babcock said. "This project will also include improving the fan experience on the concourse level. This will entail opening up some concourses and improving our point of sale, traffic flows, restrooms, concessions and making Nippert a little more fan friendly than when it was built in 1924."
The renovation will focus on the west side of the stadium, adding suites, club seats and loge boxes within a new press box structure. The west concourse will also be renovated, including concession stands and restrooms. The project, which is projected to cost $60-70 million, would utilize private donations and no public funds.
The new structure would be one story taller than the current press box and two-to-two-and-a-half times as long. The curvature of the facility would match that of the upper deck on the east side of the stadium and contain four levels; a photo deck, a press and operations level, suite level and a club and loge box level. Any increase in capacity, as well as a potential number of suites and club seats has not yet been finalized.
A construction timetable has not been set yet and will depend on donations and support. It is estimated that the project would take 12-18 months to complete once started.
Babcock went on to point out that approximately 71 of 76 BCS schools have made major renovations to their football stadiums or premium seating areas since 1992, when the construction of the current press box was completed at Nippert Stadium.
One thing that will not change is the name of the facility.
"The stadium will always be Nippert Stadium," Babcock said. "That is the brand of our program."
Babcock closed by saying a project update would be provided around the spring football game.
For more information, please visit www.GoBEARCATS.com/nippert_stadium.html.