Williams-Brice Stadium is the 20th largest college football stadium in the NCAA with a current capacity of 80 rabid Gamecock fans. The stadium originally opened back in 1934 as Columbia Municipal Stadium and at that point only 17,600 fans could be in on the game day experience. It says everything about the growth of college football, especially in the south, that the stadium today is so massive.
Originally built with stands just on the sidelines, one end was filled in the 1940s, turning it into a horse shoe and almost doubling capacity to 34,000. The other end was then filled in more than a decade later, boosting the capacity to 43,000, and the bowl shape we associate with Williams-Brice Stadium today was born. The stadium name was developed in the next round of expansion in the 1970s when grass was replaced by AstroTurf, it was later replaced again with grass, and the main grandstand was rebuilt complete with an upper deck. The money for this came from the estate of Martha Williams and Howard Brice, hence Williams-Brice Stadium.
In the last decade another $30 million of improvement have been poured into the stadium. An upper deck in the south end zone includes “The Zone”, an 11,000-square-foot banquet facility located with a perfect view of the field. Also upgraded in this project were the box seats, executive suites and player training facilities. The result is one of the best stadium experiences in the country for those high rollers who can afford premium seating.
In 1983 the easy upper deck was brand new. During games, specifically a 38-14 destruction of USC, the upper deck would sway by as much as a foot. While shock absorbers have been put in to lessen this effect this part of the stadium will still move a little when the fans are on their feet and getting into the game. Several other parts of the stadium have also been known to vibrate at some of the decibel levels generated during tight conference affairs.
As with any SEC school the Gamecocks are all about pageantry on game day. In many ways South Carolina has had to up the ante in this way as bouncing around between the Southern Conference and the ACC they were a little late to the party. The result of this though is spectacular.
Take the Cockabooses for example. In 1990 a Columbia businessman named Ed Robinson decided that if the team wasn’t up to scratch then the tailgating would be. He helped finance 22 cabooses from the Illinois Central Railroad, along with a spur of track, and put them just southeast of the stadium. These have been sold off to people (for as much as $300,000 when one went up for sale recently) and are all completely customized on the inside with air conditioning, running water and whatever the individual fan decided to put in this home away from home.
The Gamecock Walk is another tradition not to be missed if attending a game at Williams-Brice Stadium. This always occurs two hours and 20 minutes before kickoff and the area will be thronged with South Carolina fans welcoming their charges into the facility. It is a great way to get yourself ready for the game.