Why ‘The Swamp’ at UF is so strong

My wife wonders, from time to time, about my ability to hear.

It could be more than just “selective auditioning”. It could be the result of “acoustic trauma”, probably the result of too many happy Saturdays spent in The Swamp.

This is how fans of the University of Florida football team refer to Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, home to the Fightin’ Gators since 1930.

Perhaps feeling the stadium’s name was too long after it changed from “Florida Field” to “Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field” in 1989, Spurrier himself coined the nickname “The Swamp” when he was hired to become the team’s “head ball coach” in 1990. Spurrier had been a star player in the 1960s as the first of three Gator Heisman Trophy winners.

The stadium got a lot louder after that. Spurrier transformed a lackluster football program, winning a national championship and the school’s first six official Southeastern Conference championships during his 12 years as a coach.

With a – frequently exceeded – capacity of 88,548 seats, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is noisy for reasons other than the enthusiasm of the spectators and the success of the teams.

The original iteration of the stadium, designed by Rudolph Weaver, could only hold 22,000 people, but it was built into a natural ravine that placed those seats below ground level. It was difficult to build because groundwater seeped into the playing surface during construction and had to be carried to Graham Pond through underground pipes.

More buildings in Florida that I like

No. 14: Lundy’s ‘Blue Pagoda’ drawn in watercolor (1956, Sarasota)

No. 106: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian House (2013, Lakeland)

In addition, the stands were placed close to the touchlines of the football pitch. As the stadium has expanded over the years, new stands have been installed at an acute angle, bringing fans closer to the action. Now the stadium is almost completely closed, trapping much of the noise from the crowd inside. It’s been measured at nearly 115 decibels in moments like, say, a touchdown by legendary Gator quarterback Tim Tebow against Florida State in 2009. Or Doug Johnson’s 62-yard pass to Jacquez Green that sparked one last minute, behind-the-scenes win over top-ranked Florida State in 1997 – possibly my craziest moment ever.

“Take any heavy metal album, crank it up, then put your speakers in a tin basement. It’s like a library compared to ‘The Swamp,'” the famed writer once wrote. of college football Ivan Maisel. Especially that day.

I really have to remind my wife of this fact the next time she questions my hearing ability. (She still wore earplugs inside Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, so named in 2016 to honor the now-retired coach).

“Florida Field”, as it was called during my UF student days in the early 1970s when football losses were as common as wins, has been expanded many times, most recently in 2003 by the group DLR. It is now the 12th largest stadium for college football and the second largest athletic facility in Florida after Daytona International Speedway.

The only running done at The Swamp, “where only the Gators come out alive” (although some Seminoles have achieved this feat several times), is on foot.

With a – frequently exceeded – capacity of 88,548 seats, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is noisy for reasons other than the enthusiasm of the spectators and the success of the teams.

Architecturally, the stadium is beautiful although a bit pedestrian. It is inspired by the brick facades found throughout campus, but it lacks the dynamic, progressive forms found in stadiums such as Beijing Olympic Stadium or AT&T Stadium in Arlington. , in Texas. It’s more in the language of “contemporary corporate” design. It impresses the visitor with its size if not its style.

The venue occasionally hosts large concerts, including a highly attended 2019 Garth Brooks show, but to protect the field, it is a rarity. Brooks’ gig was the first big show there in 25 years since the Rolling Stones rocked the stands on their “Voodoo Lounge” tour in 1994.

Now this would have damaged my hearing.

“Florida Buildings I Love” is Harold Bubil’s tribute to the Sunshine State’s built environment. This story was originally published on March 25, 2017.

Bonny J. Streater