12 Things You Never Knew About Famous Sports Stadiums

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

12 Things You Never Knew About Famous Sports Stadiums

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    Sports stadiums are complex structures, many of which have historical or architectural quirks that the general public might now know about. 

    Fenway Park, Cameron Indoor Stadium, Lambeau Field. These are all sports venues that often carry as much lore as the teams that call them home. 

    Sure, everyone knows about the ivy at Wrigley Field and Touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame. But did you know that the first event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a helium balloon competition? 

    Here are a few little-known facts (or legends) about the most storied stadiums in America. 

    And hey, if you did know all this stuff, kudos to you. You’re a sports genius.

Honorable Mention: Red Seat at Fenway

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    This one gets an honorable mention because I think it’s relatively well-known, at least among baseball fans. 

    But in case you don’t know why there is a single red seat in the outfield stands at Fenway Park... 

    The speck of red in a sea of green is to commemorate a mammoth Ted Williams home run—502 feet to be exact—a home run that is still the longest ever hit at Fenway.

Wrigley Field Scoreboard

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    The scoreboard at Wrigley Field is famous for being, well, archaic. But despite that, the manually-operated scoreboard in center field is still charming.

    It’s also pretty big. So big, that despite its substantial distance from home plate, you would think at some point in the last 77 years (the scoreboard was built in 1937), a baseball would have hit it. 

    Well, you’d be wrong. No batted ball has ever hit the Wrigley Field scoreboard, but a golf ball has. 

    In 1951, Sam Snead teed up a ball at home plate and proceeded to smash it into the scoreboard in straightaway center, over 420 feet away, according to the Chicago Tribune's Ed Sherman.

Madison Square Garden's Rink

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    New York’s Madison Square Garden is one of the most famous venues in the world. It has been home to basketball, hockey, concerts and a host of other events throughout its history. 

    Madison Square Garden has actually had four different versions over time, but the original was home to the first artificial ice rink in North America, opened in 1879.

"The Bat" at Yankee Stadium

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    The old Yankee Stadium is no more, but like its famous baseball counterparts, it carried a lot of history in it. 

    You know about Lou Gehrig’s speech and Aaron Boone’s home run, Roger Maris’ No. 61 and Reggie Jackson’s three-home-run game. 

    But I have a less well-known structural fact for you. 

    There used to be a massive bat standing outside old Yankee Stadium, complete with the Louisville Slugger logo and Babe Ruth’s John Hancock. 

    What many fans don’t know is that the bat wasn’t for decoration—it was in fact a vent for boiler exhaust.  

Engineers of Notre Dame Stadium

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    Similar to Yankee Stadium, Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana has seen more than its fair share of historical moments. 

    But also like Yankee Stadium, Touchdown Jesus’ cathedral was designed by Osborn Engineering Company.  

    Osborn also had a hand in the design of designed Fenway Park and Comiskey Park.

Lambeau Field Concrete

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    Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, opened in 1957. Since then, it has had a facelift or two and regular additions to its seating capacity. 

    During a massive renovation project completed in 2003, then-general manager and head coach Mike Sherman made sure that concrete from the original tunnel on the north end of the stadium was moved to the new tunnel, located at the southeast corner.

Camden Yards and Babe Ruth

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    Babe Ruth played his baseball in Boston and New York, but he was born in Baltimore. 

    In fact, his father owned a bar that is no longer standing. In its place lies center field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Soldier Field's Name

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    Chicago’s aptly named Soldier Field is well-known for being an actual war memorial.

    However, the stadium’s original name wasn’t Soldier Field at all—it was Grant Park Municipal Stadium

    It was renamed to Soldier Field less than a year after opening in 1924.

Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Matchbox

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    When the legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium first opened in 1940, it was actually just called “Indoor Stadium.” Original. 

    While the following cannot be confirmed, there is a prominent story among Dukies that the original plans for Indoor Stadium were drawn up on a matchbox by Eddie Cameron and Wallace Wade in 1935.  

Wrigley Field’s Elephant Gate

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    If you’ve ever been to Wrigley Field, you might have noticed an unusually large gate in right field. 

    That gate is often referred to as the “Elephant’s Gate” because when Wrigley Field hosted a circus, it needed an entrance large enough to guide elephants through.

Michigan Stadium and Fritz Crisler’s Seat

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    Michigan Stadium was renovated in 1956 to increase seating capacity. At that time, athletic director and former head football coach Fritz Crisler said that he put in one extra seat that only he knew the location of.

    Despite the fact that Michael Florek of The Michigan Daily mostly debunked the myth in 2011, the official stadium capacity is still listed at 109,901.

Morse Code at Fenway Park

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    According to CBS Boston, there are morse code messages hidden on the scoreboard at Fenway Park. 

    The scoreboard that is situated at the bottom of the Green Monster has several vertical white stripes. On two of those stripes, the initials for Tom Yawkey and his wife Jean Yawkey are printed in morse code. 

    The Yawkeys owned the Boston Red Sox from 1933-77.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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    You may know the history behind the famous “Yard of Bricks” in Indianapolis—that is—the two-and-a-half-mile track was originally constructed entirely of bricks in 1909. 

    But did you know that the first event held at the speedway was not a car race? 

    The first official event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the U.S. National Balloon Championships on June 5, 1909. 

    You read that right. It was a competition of some sort that involved helium-filled balloons—that’s all I know.