Kenan Memorial Stadium

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Kenan Stadium

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Carolina football plays its home games at Kenan Memorial Stadium, one of the most picturesque athletic venues in America. Kenan Stadium has been the home of the Tar Heels since 1927 and the thrill of playing in or attending a game there is as exhilarating now as it was when it was first constructed.


Considering its majestic setting among the Carolina pines, many observers say Kenan Stadium is the most beautiful football facility in the country.

The stadium's beauty, charm and simple elegance have not been diminished with the expansion project that added nearly 8,000 seats, a state-of-the-art football facility, chancellor's box and preferred seating box. The renovation and expansion project was financed through a combination of private contributions through the Educational Foundation and bonded indebtedness from the athletic department through the sale of revenue-generating bonds. The Educational Foundation and its members have committed more than $50 million to the project.

Considering its majestic setting among the Carolina pines, many observers say Kenan Stadium is the most beautiful football facility in the country. One national sports magazine rated Kenan one of the five best places in America to watch a college football game. For scenery, atmosphere and charm, it cannot be surpassed.

The stadium has been expanded several times since its completion in 1927. In each instance, though, great care was taken to keep its fundamental beauty intact. The addition of the Frank H. Kenan Football Center and the North Side Stadium Preferred Seating Box have further enhanced the stadium's status as a campus landmark.

"Kenan Stadium brings back so many memories," says Head Coach John Bunting. "So many players have given so much of themselves on that field. I had some great times as a player in Kenan Stadium and as head coach, I want to help produce many more memories for our fans. In my opinion, it is the best place to experience college football."

The Kenan Football Center houses the Carolina football program, including the locker rooms, weight room, training room, equipment room, players' lounge, computer labs and study areas, 100-plus seat auditorium, coaches' offices, theater and Hall of Honor.

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The Hall of Honor, located on the ground floor, is a multi-media history of Carolina football. Photographs, awards, trophies and artifacts detailing the rich and storied history of the sport in Chapel Hill are on display. The 18 Carolina players who have been honored by placing their names and numbers on display in the stadium are also featured in the Hall of Honor. Special plaques, flags and an audio-visual presentation on each player are highlighted.

The James A. Heavner Theater was made possible by a special gift by the former executive producer of the Tar Heels Sports Network and president of Vilcom. The theater is a 30-person mini-theater equipped with surround sound and seven dramatic videos presenting the history of UNC football.

A number of rooms in the Kenan Football Center have been dedicated in the honor or memory of Carolina's benefactors, fans and athletic personalities. They include the Brinkley Lounge, the fourth floor reception area named for Harvey M. Brinkley Jr.; the Don McCauley/Paul Miller Head Coach's Suite; the Norman M. (Buddy) Black Jr. Lounge, the fourth floor hospitality area; the Oscar Davenport/Chris Keldorf Quarterback Meeting Room as given by Bob Biggerstaff; the Jo Allison Clary Smith Weight Room; the Carolina Football Players' Locker Room, named in behalf of the more than 400 former Tar Heels who donated more than $2 million to the project; Koury Box North, box seating on the north side of the stadium named for Maurice J. Koury; the John W. Pope Academic Support Facility; the John W. Pope Stadium Box, a stadium box on the north side; the John W. Swofford Auditorium and the Jimmy W. Garrell coaches meeting room.

The expansion project, in which great care was taken to ensure that the surrounding environment would be altered as little as possible, ties the north and south concourses to either end of the lower deck via the third level of the Kenan Center, making fan movement around the stadium much easier.

The football center is named in honor of the late Frank H. Kenan, one of the school's most generous benefactors. Kenan was a Durham resident and chief executive officer of Kenan Transport Company in Chapel Hill. He passed away at age 83 in 1996.

Kenan, a 1935 Carolina graduate, was the great-great-grandson of General James Kenan, a member of the University's founding board of trustees. An Atlanta native, Kenan had a tremendous impact on the growth of the

University. He served on many campus boards, including the Board of Visitors and the Educational Foundation Board of Directors.

In recent years the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, of which he was a trustee, has donated more than $100 million to schools in the state's consolidated university system, including Carolina, NC State and the N.C. School of the Arts. Among other things, the trust funds 92 William R. Kenan Jr. Professorships at 56 colleges and universities nationwide.

He served on the steering committee of Carolina's Bicentennial Campaign, the University's largest fund-raising effort. Gifts by him, his family and the trust during the campaign exceeded $31 million. The largest portion of that was targeted for the business school. In 1991 the school was renamed the Kenan-Flagler Business School after a $10 million gift.

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The preferred seating box that rises above the second deck of the grandstand on the north side of the stadium has outdoor seating for almost 1,200 spectators. That includes the Chancellor's Box on the second level of the box 45 feet above the ground. The fourth level, 68 feet high, has outdoor seating for more than 1,000, plus concessions and a 7500 square foot lounge. There is a smaller lounge and food prep areas on the third floor.

The Kenan Football Center and preferred seating box are the predominant changes in a multi-year renovation plan that began in 1995. A new playing field was installed that spring. The new turf includes an improved drainage system beneath the field that drains through the field itself rather than off the sides of the field as in the past. Prior to the 1996 season the restrooms and concession stands were expanded and renovated.

Another significant stadium expansion took place prior to 1988 and involved adding 2,000 choice seats between the 40-yard lines where the press box and chancellor's box formerly stood. A new press box was constructed on top of the upper deck on the stadium's south side. It is a one-level elongated structure, running from 10-yard line to 10-yard line.

Also part of the 1987-88 project were a permanent lighting system, a chancellor's lounge on the north side of the field and a football lettermen's lounge on the south side. The lights are part of a General Electric low-mount system which minimizes the height of the lightpoles. Cost of the entire project was $7 million. It was funded by private gifts and bonds.

William Rand Kenan Jr. deserves the credit for originally making the stadium a part of the University. He was born in North Carolina in 1873 and graduated from Carolina in 1894. An international industrialist, Kenan discovered carbide and made monumental progress in the field of chemistry. During his business career he was president of The Florida East Coast Railroad, The Florida East Coast Hotel Company, The West Palm Beach Water Company and the Florida East Coast Car Ferry Company.

He was a director of Florida Power and Light Company and built the first power plant in Miami in the early 1900s.

The stadium was built as a memorial to his parents, William R. Kenan and Mary Hargrave Kenan. Construction began in November 1926 and was completed the following August. Complete cost of the stadium and accompanying fieldhouse was $303,000.


"The facilities are beautiful. The additions in the football center, the hall of fame, weight room, locker rooms and meeting rooms are as fine as any I've seen on any college campus. I wish I could go back to my college days and get recruited to Chapel Hill. This a beautiful place."
- Kansas City Chiefs President Carl Peterson

Originally, the stadium was to be built through funds raised by alumni donations and by June 1926, a group of nearly 40 alumni had contributed $27,926. At this time, however, a copy of the prospectus and plan of financing the stadium came into the hands of Mr. Kenan who expressed an interest in the proposal. Kenan was considering establishing a memorial to his parents and the pressing need for a stadium and the possibilities of the beauty, dignity and permanence it presented, suggested to him that the benefaction he contemplated may well take the form of a memorial stadium. The Stadium Committee immediately endorsed his proposal and on the very day in November 1926 on which Kenan visited the planned site, he announced his financial gift to build the stadium.

Mr. Kenan remained very interested in Kenan Stadium throughout his lifetime. In the 1950s he gave a $1,000,000 contribution to construct a second deck on the stadium. After Mr. Kenan's death in 1965 the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, which was established by his will, donated $1,000,000 to enlarge and modernize Kenan Fieldhouse.

In 1988 the Kenan Trust made another $1,000,000 gift to complete the new chancellor's box on the North Side. Another lasting memory of William R. Kenan Jr. is the Kenan Athletic Scholarship Endowment valued at over $1,000,000. Each year a student athlete is awarded a full scholarship from this fund.

Besides giving the stadium to the University, Mr. Kenan also sponsored and financed the famous Kenan Professorships. He was awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. by his alma mater in 1944.

In the first game played there, Carolina defeated Davidson, 27-0, on November 12, 1927.

Carolina's all-time record at Kenan Stadium is 240-142-16. The most points scored by the Tar Heels in Kenan came in the third game played there as Carolina whipped Wake Forest, 65-0, in the 1928 season opener.

The Tar Heels have a 42-17 mark at Kenan Stadium in the last 10 seasons.

As originally built, the stadium seated 24,000. However, in 1963 the benefactor added portable stands and then an upper deck to the permanent stands, which increased capacity to 48,000. That was expanded to 50,000 in 1979, 52,000 in 1988, 57,500 in 1997 and 60,000 in 1998.

At the East end of the stadium is the Kenan Fieldhouse, home of the Student-Athlete Development Center. A 20,000 square foot building, it is a one-of-a-kind facility. For study purposes, it contains a language lab, video room, computer lab, theatre-style lecture hall, several reading rooms and numerous tutorial rooms. UNC's academic counseling staff has the advantage of using the most modern techniques in assisting student-athletes.

Capacity crowds have come to be expected at Kenan. In 1997, the Tar Heels played in front of a record-shattering crowd of 62,000 on Nov. 8, 1997, as fifth-ranked Carolina battled No. 2 Florida State. The largest crowd to watch a game prior to the most recent major expansion was 54,300 as Carolina defeated N.C. State, 31-17, in 1994.

The 1983 season saw another first in the stadium -- a game played under artificial lights. The Carolina-Duke game was played in the late afternoon so it could be televised throughout the ACC area. Portable lights were brought in since the second half was played after sunset. Portable lights were also used in the 1987 Clemson game which was televised nationally by ESPN.

The 1991 season opener versus Cincinnati and the Clemson game, which was televised nationally by ESPN, were the first true night games ever played at Kenan Stadium.

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