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Western Illinois University - Football
Western Illinois University - Football mobile


Hanson Field, home of the Fighting Leathernecks, is nestled in the heart of the Western Illinois University campus. Named after former Leatherneck football, basketball and baseball coach and athletics director Ray "Rock" Hanson, the stadium, then located at the far north end of campus, was dedicated on Sept. 23, 1950. As Western Illinois has expanded, Hanson Field now rests directly in the center of campus, just north of the University Union and east of the Leslie F. Malpass Library. Western Hall, home to the Western Illinois Department of Athletics, is located to the north, while academic buildings and residence halls are located, west, northwest and southwest.

The stadium has seen several renovations throughout the years, most recently the installation of Matrix Turf during summer 2011. Matrix Turf is one of the field surfaces used at Cowboys Stadium by the Dallas Cowboys, installed by Hellas Construction. The Hanson Field renovation project also includes: removal of the current grass surface and the track and field jump pits, installation of Matrix Turf and renovation of the field events area. The installation of a javelin runway, four new pits for long jump and triple jump, and redesigning the discus/shot put area will take place. Total cost of the project is $1.3 million.

The east side received a $5 million face-lift prior to the 2007 season. The renovation to the student seating section, funded largely by a facilities enhancement and life safety fee at the request of student leaders, included new bleachers, increased seating capacity, a new entrance, restrooms and concession stands.

Hanson Field now officially seats 16,368 fans; however, the extensive hillside surrounding the playing field allows for thousands more to enjoy a game. Some local residents can view the field from their homes on Stadium Drive, which borders the stadium to the east. A record crowd of 19,850 watched the Leathernecks defeat Central Michigan on Oct. 20, 1973.

In 2001, the stadium received a new main entrance, decorated by an iron gate, brick pillars and an arch displaying the words "HANSON FIELD." The only natural grass field in the conference is surrounded by an eight-lane, all-weather track and field facility, renovated through a $518,000 project in 2002.

A $150,000 gift from Western Illinois alumnus Al Boyer along with other private donations and support from Musco Lighting of Oskaloosa, Iowa, provided broadcast-quality lighting at Hanson Field in time for the 2002 opener. The $175,000 project included removal of Hanson Field's original light standards and installation of new directional lighting. Three 80-foot galvanized steel poles behind the east stands and two 90-foot galvanized steel poles behind the west stands now provide unobstructed sight lines for spectators. The system consists of 80 2,000-watt metal halide fixtures equipped with Musco's trademarked glare control technology.

The stadium has two permanent sculptures on display. Near the southwest entrance, inside the stadium, is a life-size bronze sculpture entitled "Excellence on Winged Feet." It honors former track and field coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist Lee Calhoun. The other is a concrete bulldog which guards the main entrance and is often painted by student groups.

Hanson Field has provided a rich, winning tradition for the Leathernecks, who hold an outstanding 211-99-7 record at home. The first game played at the stadium was against Central Michigan in the 1950 season opener. Western won that game and went on to win its first eight games at the facility.

As part of the St. Louis Rams' summer training camp for nine years, two NFL scrimmages have been held on Hanson Field. On July 29, 2000, Hanson Field was the site of a Super Bowl XXXIV rematch as the Rams and Titans hosted a scrimmage. Four years later the Rams held a series of practices with the Chicago Bears.