Alamo Stadium has been more than a sports facility since it opened in September 1940, less than 15 months before the phrase “Remember Pearl Harbor” became a rallying cry for a generation of Americans.
The Grand Dame of high school stadiums in South Texas, the “Rockpile” became a San Antonio landmark long before Dec. 7, 1941 became a distant memory and the 20th century receded into history.
That’s why Saturday night’s rededication of newly renovated Alamo Stadium, which is owned by the San Antonio Independent School District, was so poignant, uplifting and exhilarating.
“The renovation of Alamo Stadium represents a rebirth, a renewal, for the San Antonio Independent School District,” SAISD superintendent Sylvester Perez said. “Our students deserve to compete in a first-class facility. We’re very proud of Alamo Stadium and grateful to the SAISD community that made all this possible.”
The $35 million in combined improvements to Alamo Stadium and adjacent Alamo Convocation Center, which reopened in January, is part of a $515 million bond package SAISD voters overwhelmingly approved in November 2010. The ACC is the home venue for SAISD volleyball and basketball teams, and the district’s athletic offices are also in the building.
Alamo Stadium, which has a seating capacity of about 20,000, is a football, track and soccer facility.
“We have the best facility of its kind in the entire state,” SAISD interim athletic director Frank Arnold said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Lanier will play Central Catholic on Thursday, Aug. 28, in the first game at Alamo Stadium since renovation work began in December 2012.
Saturday night’s ceremony was an emotional experience for Jim Gaffney, a 91-year-old former Brackenridge football player. Gaffney was a senior reserve halfback when the Eagles beat Houston Reagan 19-2 in the second game of a doubleheader that christened the stadium on Sept. 20, 1940. Corpus Christi defeated Jefferson 14-0 in the opener.
Sitting in a front row near the 50-year-line on the west side of the stadium, Gaffney stood and waved to the crowd of about 2,000 after he was introduced by Perez.
“When they called out my name and told me to stand up, it took my breath away,” said Gaffney, who graduated from Brack in 1941.
Gaffney, a World War II veteran who became a San Antonio policeman and detective, went down on the field after the ceremony and walked on the artificial turf.
“It’s beautiful, just beautiful,” he said. “Whoever did this deserve a lot of credit. They did a great job. Alamo Stadium has always been a special place to me. Just standing here on the field brings back a lot of memories. Alamo Stadium was huge 74 years ago. It took my breath away back then, too.”
A few moments later, Gaffney sat on a folding chair as he posed for photos and described what it was like to play in the stadium-opening doubleheader 74 years ago.
“It was exciting and we knew we were making history,” Gaffney said. “We loved it. It’s a pleasure to be here after so many years, and it’s just a pleasure to see this place look like it does now.”
Gaffney brushed away tears as he recalled his coach, George “Red” Forehand, and teammates. Gaffney is believed to be the only living member of Brack’s 1940 team.
“Coach Forehand nicknamed me ‘Spike’ because I played hard,” Gaffney said. “I’m thinking of the guys I played with and what they would think if they could see Alamo Stadium now. Coach Forehand was a very nice person and set a good example for everybody. He was a very good coach.”
Nicknamed “The Rockpile” because it was built on the site of an abandoned quarry, Alamo Stadium has an alluring mystique that has captured the hearts of young and old for generations. From its limestone walls to its rustic look, the stadium is a unique piece of architecture.
Although Alamo Stadium is owned and operated by the SAISD, all San Antonians with even a casual interest in sports lay claim to it. That’s what sets the Rockpile apart.
Located on Tuleta Street, just north of downtown off Highway 281, Alamo Stadium is a San Antonio treasure that transcends sports.
“Alamo Stadium is such an icon in
“It’s not only the facilities and all the look and the bleachers, but all the history that goes with it. All the beauty of the natural stone. They kept a lot of the original architecture, which really makes this a unique stadium.”San Antonio that we couldn’t be happier to be involved with this,” said Gary Joeris, president of Joeris Contractors, which headed the renovation of the stadium and ACC. “It’s right in the heart of San Antonio, right here off the main thoroughfare to downtown. What a great stadium.
The people in charge of the renovation did an outstanding job of maintaining the integrity of the structure while making much-needed improvements to its infrastructure.
A project of the Works Progress Administration, Alamo Stadium stands as a monument to one of the programs President Franklin D. Roosevelt created to help pull the country from the throes of the Great Depression.
Even the mural on tiles above the stadium’s westside entrance, showing scenes throughout San Antonio, was painted by WPA artists.
“That’s a lot of history there,” Perez sai
In the end, Alamo Stadium was built at a cost of just less than $500,000. The SAISD kicked in about $110,000. I’d say the school district has gotten a good return on its investment.
I’ll see you at the Lanier-Central Catholic game on Aug. 28.