Located in Jackson, Mississippi, Veterans Memorial Stadium is the home of the Jackson State University football team. It was originally known as War Veterans Memorial Stadium and then Hinds County War Memorial Stadium before receiving its present name.
The stadium has also served as home for the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and University of Southern Mississippi. From 1992 through 2013 it hosted the Mississippi High School Activities Association state championship football games. It is also the site where several National Football League pre-season games were played.
Construction started in early 1949 and it was opened in 1950 with a seating capacity of 21,000. Temporary seating was added and by 1953 it reached a capacity of 25,000. An expansion in 1961 upped capacity to 46,000 and in 1981 another expansion took it to its highest level of 62,512. More renovations were performed on the venue, but reduced capacity down to its current and official mark of 60,492.
The Mississippi state legislature took control of the stadium in 1960 and it remained under its supervision until 2013 when it was transferred to Jackson State.
The first football game was played there on December 9, 1950 featuring a battle between Holmes Junior College and Kilgore College. The game attracted 18,000 spectators and they saw Kilgore defeat Holmes 32-12.
The first NCAA Division I-A game was played on November 11, 1952 between Southern Mississippi and Louisville. Southern Mississippi won 55-26.
Ole Miss played its first game there on September 19, 1953, defeating Chattanooga 39-6 and on Halloween 1953 Mississippi State played there for the first time and lost to Texas Tech 27-20. Jackson State’s first game there was played in October 1967 in which it defeated Grambling State 20-14.
During the 1960s through the 1990s the stadium hosted “SEC Doubleheader Saturdays” in which Ole Miss, Mississippi State or Southern Mississippi would play a conference opponent in the morning or afternoon and one of the others would play a conference game at night. The annual Egg Bowl, which pitted Ole Miss against Mississippi State, was held there from 1973 through 1990.
Gradually during that time the two schools renovated their stadiums to the same standards of their Southeastern Conference rivals’ venues and finally they both stopped playing their games there. The last SEC team to play there was Ole Miss in 1996 when they defeated Division I-AA’s Virginia Military Institute. Ole Miss’ last conference game there was in 1993 when they beat Arkansas. Mississippi State’s last home game there was a 34-22 win over LSU in 1990. State’s last game there was the Egg Bowl that year when it lost to Ole Miss 21-9 as they played as the visiting team. Southern Mississippi played games at the stadium often, especially battling Mississippi and Mississippi State and other schools like Texas A&M there. Southern Miss played their last home game there in 1988, when they defeated Mississippi State 38-21.
The Stadium was the site of rivalry games between Millsaps College and Mississippi College that were known as the Backyard Brawl. After a gap of 40 years, the rivalry was resumed in 2000 and attracted a crowd of 10,200 that watched Millsaps defeat Mississippi College 20-19.
Veterans Memorial Stadium also served as host of the annual Capital City Classic in which Jackson State played Alcorn State University from 1993 through 2010. In 2011 the game began to alternate between Veterans Memorial and Alcorn State’s home field, Jack Spinks Stadium in Lorman, Mississippi.
Several Mississippi star football players including Archie Manning, Walter Peyton, Steve McNair, Brett Favre, Willie Totten, and Jerry Rice played at Veterans Memorial.
Besides football history, the stadium was the site of political history when it hosted a rally favoring segregation when riots broke out during attempts to integrate Ole Miss. Then-Governor Ross Barnett led the crowd in the singing of a song called “Never No Never” to show support for the continuation of segregation in Mississippi.
The stadium’s future has become unclear as Jackson State University proposed that it would construct its own stadium and leave Veterans Memorial. In the spring of 2013 talk started concerning the construction of a domed stadium that would cost as much as $200 million and would host both the school’s football and basketball teams, as well as concerts and special events. The stadium would hold 50,000 spectators for football, 17,000 for basketball, and 21,000 for concerts. It would also include 75 skyboxes and the Jackson State University Sports Hall of Fame.
If Jackson State University abandons the stadium, the University of Mississippi Medical Center has shown interest in taking over the property and constructing a medical research and treatment center there.
image courtesy of clarionledger.com