Wichita State to celebrate Veterans Field on Veterans Day
Before Cessna Stadium was built on the Wichita State University campus, Veterans Field was where the Shockers played football.
This year on Veterans Day, WSU plans to hold a Veterans Field celebration in Cessna Stadium at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 11.
In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Champions Club in Charles Koch Arena.
Veterans from throughout Sedgwick County and south-central Kansas are encouraged to attend this special ceremony in their honor. Special reserved parking for the event will be available on the northwest side of Cessna Stadium. Everyone is asked to enter on the west side of Cessna Stadium.
The program will include the presentation of colors, rededication of the original Veterans Field plaque, moment of silence, the singing of the national anthem, recognition of veterans, and remarks by several people, including WSU President Don Beggs. A flyover also is planned, weather permitting.
There are at least eight known Wichita State retirees/employees who are veterans of World War II.
Fairmount College, now Wichita State University, located athletic facilities next to 17th Street at what was then the southeast corner of campus. A football field was surveyed and tennis courts constructed. In 1909, a wooden gymnasium called “The Barn” was built. The first permanent structure, Memorial (later Henrion) Gymnasium, was erected as a tribute to Fairmounters who gave their lives in World War I.
Eventually the gymnasium was expanded and permanent bleachers were constructed for the football field. The entrance arches for “U of W Stadium” still stand today as part of the Henrion Hall art complex.
The university began looking for a new stadium site, and the obvious spot was the corner of 21st and Hillside. Plans were developed for a “U” shaped concrete stadium, open on the south and partially recessed in the ground. President William Jardine obtained $52,502 of federal Works Progress Administration funds, and ground was broken on Jan. 6, 1941.
By September 1942, however, with the bowl excavated, foundations poured and a quarter of the west bleachers completed, work was halted by World War II.
After the war, the university reactivated the project as a memorial to the 17,800 men and women from Sedgwick County who served during the war, building it in sections as funds became available.
Veterans Field was completed for the 1948 football season, seating 15,000 with facilities for the press, concessions stands and locker rooms.
On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, the stands were packed, and even a loss to the University of Nevada did not detract from the halftime program when Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine veterans unveiled the plaque. The stadium was dedicated to “members of the armed forces from Sedgwick County who served our nation with honor and distinction in World War II.”