Renovated arch in SUB reveals past campus life

Director of Student Activities, Matt Burchett, and others decided to bring the Carroll Field Championship Arch back to life once realizing students were unaware of the glory days of the once-iconic sign, which is now on display at the SUB. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer

Hung in the Bill Daniel Student Center by Common Grounds and the food court is a new historical addition to campus — the original Carroll Field Championship Arch.

Long before the Bears began playing football at McLane Stadium, many athletic events were hosted at Carroll Field from 1902 to 1940. Formally known as Lee Carroll Athletic Field, the space was located between what is now the Carroll Science Building and Waco Creek from Fifth to Seventh Street.

The field was a central gathering spot for campus life and hosted games and competitions for a variety of sports, including football, baseball and track. A 27-foot championship arch was added to the field’s entrance after a successful 1922 football season. This arch was an important monument for students and was finally reintroduced to campus last week as it was hung in the SUB to be seen by Baylor students, staff and visitors.

Matt Burchett, director of student activities, said displays will also be put up near the Arch around homecoming detailing the field’s history. They will include information about the Baylor vs. TCU football rivalry, the first homecoming celebration and significant student-athletes who played on Carroll Field.

Burchett said he sees this spot as a central place where the Baylor community and visitors can learn more about the university’s traditions and history.

“There’s not many places on campus where we’ve told our story in a narrative format like this one,” Burchett said. “It provides a unique opportunity for us to share the story of Carroll Field, the first football stadium on campus. It’s a significant part of our history and it’s fun to be able to tell this story and have the physical sign inside the facility.”

The idea to reintroduce the Baylor community to the historic sign came about after the 2014 opening of McLane Stadium when Burchett and others realized many students were unaware of Carroll Field’s history, so the sign came out of storage and renovation began.

“We started this process a few years back, and the first step was to identify how to keep most of the original sign intact and tell our story in a way that’s true to our history,” Burchett said. “We were all able to share a vision about it, especially after we built McLane and heard students talk about how football is finally on campus, but we were actually coming back to campus. We realized that we never told the story of Carroll Field, which gave us a unique opportunity to share about the significant moments that happened on that piece of property.”

Todd Copeland, director of advancement communications at Baylor and author of “The Immortal 10: The Definitive Account of the 1927 Tragedy and Its Legacy at Baylor University,” said he hopes the Championship Arch and inclusion of historical displays will encourage the Baylor community to remember the university’s long-standing traditions.

“I hope the arch will deepen their appreciation of the qualities that connect the Baylor family across generations — the passion for excellence, the joy of being part of a community that values education and leadership and a genuine care for one another,” Copeland said. “Our football team has played seasons in three different centuries. Because those traditions have been around long enough for so many thousands of Baylor students to enjoy, they serve to unite us in a strong, common spirit of Baylor pride.”

Burchett said a replica display will be located outside the arch’s original location, marking the monument’s placement with bronze plaques. He hopes these new campus additions encourage the community to tell the story of Carroll Field and the impact it has had on the university.

“It pulls together time-honored traditions of our university,” Burchett said. “Those stories are typically only told a few times a year, and this is an opportunity to share that with a broader audience in a more tangible way every day that the SUB is open, which is really exciting for us.”