Williams-Brice with State Fair in foreground via Dennis Duszynski Flickr

Williams-Brice Stadium
Columbia, SC
Home of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks

The University of South Carolina Gamecocks have been playing football on the same site in the state capital for over 75 years. Built in 1934, the 17,600-seat, WPA funded Columbia Municipal Stadium was a fairly simple, single-tiered building that resembled a modern-day high school football field.

Aerial view of Columbia Municipal Stadium in 1934 via South Caroliniana Library

The deed to the stadium was given over to the University from the city in 1941 and the name was subsequently changed to Carolina Stadium.  In 1947, a new stand was built beyond the endzone, bringing capacity to 34,000 seats; ten years later the other end was filled in, making the stadium a 43,000-seat bowl.  The west grandstand was completely rebuilt in 1972 with two tiers of seating, bringing attendance to 54,000.  This expansion was funded by a gift from the estate of Martha Williams-Brice, wife of former Gamecock player Thomas H. Brice, and the stadium was subsequently re-named Williams-Brice Stadium in her honor.  Williams-Brice remains one of only two major college football stadiums named after a woman, the other being Marshal University’s Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, West Virginia.  In 1982, an additional deck was built above the east stand, taking attendance up to 72,400 – unlike the west stand, the east wasn’t reconstructed and it is now the only remaining piece of the original stadium.  As it stands today, Williams-Brice has a capacity of 80,250, making it the sixth largest stadium in the SEC.

Williams-Brice Stadium circa 1970s via South Caroliniana Library

Like the original, simple Columbia Municipal Stadium, the current Williams-Brice is a no-frills facility – concrete and steel with little else.  Unlike Razorback Stadium in our previous post, whose exterior façade attempts to integrate the hulking structure with the surrounding campus buildings, Williams-Brice has no exterior façade (not a traditional one with doors and windows, that is).  Alone within the state fairgrounds, two miles from the university campus, Williams-Brice’s rough-and-tumble exterior is a fitting match for this barren, industrial landscape.

The main feature of the two main grandstands is a repeating structural bay formed by vertical columns and the angled upper deck supports.  These meet about 3/4 of the way up and their line continues to the light masts high above the upper deck.  This continuous line and clearly expressed structural bay give the stadium’s exterior a pleasing rhythm, even if it is not a traditional facade with windows and doors.  Four cylindrical circulation towers at each corner of the stadium anchor it all and remind one of the circulation towers at the old Giants Stadium or San Siro in Milan.  The overall effect of the high reaching light masts anchored by the circulation ramps is one of lean strength and the result establishes a commanding presence on the Columbia skyline.

Open lots around the stadium via kwatson0013 flickr

The neighborhood around the stadium – a mix of open state fairgrounds, light industrial and warehouse buildings – comes alive on gamedays in a celebration of traditional southern tailgating that is supposedly second to none.  Williams-Brice is considered one of the loudest facilities in the country and consistently appears in the top twenty for average attendance.  Expected success this season for the Gamecocks and a new $6.5m video board should have Williams-Brice swayin’ once again.

Interior view looking east on gameday via Gamecocks Online
Interior view looking south with jet flyover via Wikipedia

Part of a series on the stadiums of the Top-10 Preseason College Football teams. Next up: No. 8 Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI