Laird Stadium

Laird Stadium, with a seating capacity of 7,500 for football and outdoor track meets, is one of the largest NCAA Division III stadiums in the country. When it was built in 1927, there was some thought that Carleton would join the Big Ten conference, which accounts for the stadium's relatively large size.

Carleton won its opening contest against North Dakota State University, 29 to 0, and in 1936 the football team traveled to West Point to play the Army team. But only twice in the stadium’s history has it ever been filled to capacity: in 1953, when President Eisenhower came to give a campaign speech; and in 1977, when Carleton and St. Olaf played in the Liter Bowl, the first and only NCAA-sanctioned metric football game in history.

The brainchild of Carleton chemistry professor Jeffrey Mohrig, the Liter Bowl integrated the metric system in virtually every facet of the game. The field was 100 meters long and 50 meters wide (109.36 and 54.68 yards, respectively), and there were metric meter lines, metric down-chains, metric end zones—even the football used was 29 centimeters long (within NCAA regulation).

The Carleton community embraced the idea with widespread enthusiasm and came up with numerous gimmicks to bolster excitement throughout the game, including wearing T-shirts that read, “Drop Back 10 Meters and Punt,” and donning uniforms as team “cheer-liters.” Ushers worked their way through the stands as “meter maids,” and the halftime program honored General Ulysses S. Gram, skier Jean-Claude Kilo, and baseball’s Harmon Kilogram. Despite the Carleton spirit, St. Olaf won decisively, 43 to 0.

All of this was undertaken within the climate of serious public discussion about a United States switch to the metric system—the Liter Bowl was to be an example of how simple such a switch would be. But talks of the switch stalled, and the United States today remains on the imperial system. Nevertheless, “We can look back now 35 years later on a day that the sun warmed the football field (to about 21 degrees–Celsius), 10,000-plus people packed Laird Stadium, and Carleton College and St. Olaf made their marks on history one meter at a time."

Images

Laird Stadium Construction ca. 1926

Laird Stadium Construction ca. 1926

The family of William H. Laird donated $100,000 toward the construction of Laird Stadium, hence its name. | Source: Carleton College Digital Archives View File Details Page

Laird Stadium ca. 2010

Laird Stadium ca. 2010

Today, Laird Stadium has a fully equipped gym beneath the bleachers. | Source: Carleton College Digital Collections View File Details Page

Slogan Banner

Slogan Banner

Students suggested that the Big Ten league should also adopt a metric system for its football games. | Source: Carleton College Digital Archives View File Details Page

Metric Game T-Shirt

Metric Game T-Shirt

Getting into the spirit of the metric game, students wore T-shirts and held meter sticks as they cheered. | Source: Carleton College Digital Archives View File Details Page

Linesmen Measuring the Metric Field

Linesmen Measuring the Metric Field

This picture was taken in Laird Stadium during the game. West Gymnasium can be seen in the background. | Source: Carleton College Digital Archives View File Details Page

Carleton Professor of Chemistry, Jerry Mohrig

Carleton Professor of Chemistry, Jerry Mohrig

Because of this game, Professor Mohrig received a new title, "Meterman." | Source: Carleton College Digital Archives View File Details Page

Halftime Entertainment

Halftime Entertainment

Performers use large labeled boxes to explain the metric system to the crowd. | Source: Carleton College Digital Archives View File Details Page

Contemplation

Contemplation

The football team captains from Carleton and St. Olaf study the difference between a yard and a meter. | Source: Carleton College Digital Achives View File Details Page

Comparison of Metric to Original Field

Comparison of Metric to Original Field

At 109 yards, the 100-meter field was slightly larger than the conventional field. | Source: Carleton College Digital Archives View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Tanner Fliss, “Laird Stadium,” NorthfieldHistorical, accessed June 26, 2017, http://northfieldhistorical.org/items/show/58.
Tour navigation:  Previous | Tour Info | Next
comments powered by Disqus

Share this Story