Since 1921, Richardson Stadium has been a meeting place for members of the Queen’s and Kingston community, for varsity games, community sporting events and alumni reunions.
In December, Queen’s Board of Trustees approved the Richardson Stadium revitalization project.
Construction of the stadium is expected to begin after the Gaels’ 2015 football season, and be completed by the start of the 2016 season.
The revitalization of the 40-year-old stadium on Queen’s west campus is the latest phase of the Fields & Stadium project to support athletics and recreation. Previous milestones in the project have been the construction of Nixon, Tindall, and Miklas-McCarney fields.
The need for a new stadium
The original Richardson Stadium on main campus, where Tindall Field is located now, served the university from 1921 to 1971. The gift of Chancellor James Richardson, the stadium was named in honour of his brother George Taylor Richardson, BSc 1906, a prominent student-athlete at Queen’s who was killed in France while serving in the First World War.
This postcard from the 1960s shows the original Richardson Stadium on main campus
Before the creation of the George Richardson Memorial Stadium, Queen’s athletes played on the “Old Athletic Grounds” on Earl Street, described as having “an uneven playing field, a broken board fence, and an antiquated wooden grandstand seating only a few hundred.”
The facility was well used for 50 years, hosting football and baseball games, high school sports, military tattoos and community events.
The stadium (including some of the original 1921 structure) was transplanted to the current west campus location in 1971 to allow for the construction of a new arts and social science complex (now Mackintosh-Corry Hall).
After 43 years of constant use, the stadium has become outdated, and in places, completely worn out. In 2013, following an engineering report, sections of bleachers at the stadium were decommissioned and replaced with temporary seating.
A new vision
“We had a vision for a revitalized stadium to build on the Queen’s commitment to excellence,” says Principal Daniel Woolf.
A view from the stands at the old stadium. The last football game played there was on Nov. 7, 1970.
“Every new capital project needs to add to the value of the university experience. For instance, we didn’t build Chernoff Hall just for the sake of having a new chemistry building. We built it for the people it would attract – talented teachers, researchers and students. Similarly, a revitalized Richardson Stadium will give Queen’s the competitive advantage to attract talented student-athletes and coaches.”
A stadium built on philanthropy
Revitalization plans were kicked off last March with the announcement of a $10 million pledge to the stadium from Kim, Artsci’76, and Stu Lang, Sc’74. Mr. Lang, a receiver on the 1971-74 Gaels football team, had an eight-season career with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, winning five Grey Cup championship rings. This success was followed by a 25-year career with his family’s packaged-goods labeling businesses, CCL Label Canada/Mexico and CCL Label International. Today, he is the head coach of the University of Guelph football team, the Guelph Gryphons.
The Langs’ pledge was followed, in April, by a $5 million contribution from the Richardson Foundation. Other donors have since contributed to the project, bringing the total amount raised to more than $17 million.
The university will contribute an additional $3 million for infrastructure support of west campus, bringing the total funding to $20.27 million.
“We are incredibly grateful to our generous benefactors for making the dream of a revitalized Richardson Stadium a reality,” says Tom Harris, Vice-Principal (Advancement). “Without philanthropic support, this project would not be happening.”
The revitalized stadium will occupy a similar footprint (although a few metres to the east) as the current stadium, but with a number of significant improvements. New components include an artificial turf field, a state-of-the-art scoreboard with Jumbotron video screen, and capacity for television and webcasting of sporting events. New lighting, food and beverage service, and upgraded washroom facilities are part of the revitalized facility. Bowl-style seating will be installed, with improved sightlines for spectators. For die-hard sports fans, premium seating between the 20-yard lines is being planned.
Members of the Queen’s Bands perform at Richardson Stadium in 1989.
At the north end of the stadium bowl, temporary stands will be put in place, pending additional philanthropy for a planned pavilion. The proposed pavilion could house team rooms, coaches’ offices, strength and conditioning and athletic therapy areas, and other amenities. It would also have additional seating to complete the bowl design.
Richardson Stadium will be the home field for the Queen’s soccer, football and other varsity teams. But the stadium is not just for varsity teams. It will be built to suit a variety of other Queen’s and Kingston community teams and clubs.
“A revitalized stadium will be extremely beneficial to the health and wellness of all our student-athletes, from varsity teams to recreational programs,” says Leslie Dal Cin, Executive Director, Athletics and Recreation. “It will also be a great asset to our community partners.”
The facility will be available for local sports teams, community special events and provincial tournaments and championship games, boosting Kingston’s visibility as a sport tourism destination. With the board approval of the project in December, the university will begin engaging the Kingston community on a number of aspects of the project as it moves forward.
The goal in sight
As a Queen’s student, Vicki (Gilliatt) Hand, Arts/PHE’73, swam synchro. Her husband, Paul, Arts’69, MBA’73, played football. As co-chairs of the Fields and Stadium project ’s campaign cabinet since 2006, the couple has been instrumental in raising awareness and funds for Queen’s new outdoor athletic facilities – Tindall, Nixon and Miklas-McCarney Fields and now Phase 1 of the new Richardson Stadium.
“I really believe in the power of athletics to make a difference in someone’s life, particularly in university,” says Mrs. Hand. “It’s a vital complement to the intellectual training you get as a student. Whatever your sport, it instils discipline, teaches you the value of teamwork, and gives you opportunities for leadership. I’m so proud of the progress that Queen’s alumni and friends have made to support the well-being of our student-athletes and our community. I’ll be excited to see the new Richardson Stadium come to life.”
In our August issue, we’ll have a focus on Queen’s athletics, from recruitment of student athletes and the work of coaches, trainers, and sports medicine experts to Queen’s alumni careers in sport and beyond.
The Richardson Stadium field is the last of the natural grass football fields in the OUA. Conversion to artificial turf provides a superior practice/competition playing surface, cuts down on maintenance costs and makes the field more accessible for different sports.