Doak Campbell Stadium
Home of the Florida State University Seminoles
Moving along, our tour of stadiums of the top 10 College Football teams continues with Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida, home of the No. 7 ranked Florida State Seminoles. Currently the largest stadium in the ACC, the on-campus facility had humble beginnings – built in 1950 with a capacity of just 15,000. Similar to the early versions of Williams-Brice Stadium, the first iteration of Doak Campbell was two sets of bleachers on the southwest end of the Florida State campus. Named after then University President Doak S. Campbell, the stadium was renovated in 1954, 1961 and 1970 to bring capacity to 40,500 and renovations in the 1980s brought the capacity to 60,000. But throughout this expansion, the stadium remained essentially an assembly of bleacher seats – one set added when needed – never a true building. Not only did this not match with the rest of the campus’ red brick, neo-gothic aesthetic, Pensacola Street divided it from the rest of the Florida State campus and in 1992 an effort was undertaken to remedy both these situations.
Spurred on in part by the success of the football team in the 80’s under head coach Bobby Bowden, as well as rising student enrollment, the University hired Barnett Fronczak Architects to develop a master plan for all the university athletic facilities and the creation of a new academic center and university offices in and around Doak Campbell Stadium. Barnett Fronczak’s first move was to break Pensacola Street and create a pedestrianized area to merge the two parts of the campus. Second, they enclosed the Doak Campbell Stadium seating bringing capacity up to 82,000. Third, they placed four academic buildings at primary axes of the stadium to house university offices, classrooms, lecture halls, locker rooms, training areas, retail shops, and the “premier private club for Florida State University and the Tallahassee community”. These four buildings are clad in red brick and use “colloseum, religious and fortress elements” to better forge a link between this now massive stadium and the nearby campus.
Doak Campbell Stadium is said to be the largest continuous brick structure in the world and I don’t know if that is a good thing. The brick, the roof turrets, it all seems a bit much. While I respect the effort to make the stadium more of a building, with program and function outside of gameday, the buildings are sprawling and out of scale, as if they tried to hide the stadium behind a University-themed façade and it all just got out of hand – have a look in streetview if you don’t believe me.
From the inside of the stadium, everything is pleasant enough. The single-tiered bowl is a simple, egalitarian scheme, although the line of the bowl is unfortunately broken by an underwhelming scoreboard and football offices in the northwest endzone.
The incredible success of Florida State’s football team is a fairly recent phenomenon, taking place primarily in the 1980’s and 90’s – unlike older, more sucessful programs. This perhaps explains Doak Campbell’s expression as a faux-traditional campus building. Though heavy-handed and relentless, the renovation of the stadium was an impressively ambitious plan whose outcome made Doak Campbell, unlike many modern football stadiums, a building to be used year-round, a commendable plan which should set a precedent for better use of future stadium developments.