Grant Field Turns 100

A century on the Flats

Grant Field Turns 100

Alae Risse Leitch doesn’t remember the exact year of her first Georgia Tech football game. But she vividly recalls riding the train to Atlanta with her dad and seeing her uncle’s red hair as he flew up and down Grant Field in a Yellow Jacket uniform.

Her train had to stop along the way for coal to make sure it made it to town. Uncle Red ­– David Barron – didn’t always wear a helmet on the field.

Leitch thinks she was 6 or 7 years old that day. That means it was about 1920.

Sisters: Alae Risse Leitch (left) has attended games at Grant Field for 10 decades. She and her sister, Jo Atchison, are season ticket holders
Sisters: Alae Risse Leitch (left) has attended games
at Grant Field for 10 decades. She and her sister,
Jo Atchison, are season ticket holders

Nine decades later, Leitch is still coming to Yellow Jacket football games as a season ticket holder. And this fall, when she celebrates another birthday next week on October 1, she’ll reach the same milestone as her old friend: Leitch and Historic Grant Field turn 100 years old this season.

“The stadium used to have a few planks for seats,” the Decatur resident says. “We wore hats and gloves in the stands, even while sweating during those hot September games. I remember ruining a lot of good clothes.”

Leitch got married in 1936 and soon bought season tickets. Her younger sister, Jo Atchison, eventually did the same, and now the siblings are regulars at the stadium. Between the two, they’ve missed only a handful of home games since the 1950s.

“Even though we used to dress more sedately in the 1940s and ‘50s, I think the fans were more passionate then than they are today,” said Atchison, who attended her first game in 1932 and hasn’t missed a home game since giving birth to her oldest son 52 years ago.

Along the way, the 86-year-old Atchison and her sister have seen Grant Field grow up before their eyes. The facility is the oldest on-campus stadium in NCAA Division I-A.

The first football season on the current site actually took place in 1905, but it wasn’t until 1913 that the stadium got its name. Donor John Grant made a $15,000 gift to improve athletic facilities, and the field was named Hugh Inman Grant Field in honor of John’s deceased son. The field was framed by concrete stands on the west (2,808) and wooden stands on the east (2,496). The wood was replaced by concrete in 1914.

"We wore hats and gloves in the stands, even while sweating...I remember ruining a lot of good clothes." —Alae Risse Leitch

The south stands were completed in 1925 and capacity grew to approximately 30,000. The 1930s brought coach Bobby Dodd to Georgia Tech and Franklin Roosevelt to the stands. The president attended several games with Georgia Tech President Marion Brittain.

By 1967, capacity had reached 58,121 as second decks were added to the east and west stands. Since then, the stadium has added another level to the north stands, leveled the U-shaped south seats and hosted the 1996 Olympics. The field, which has gone from grass to artificial turf and back to grass, shifted in 2002 – 30 feet north and 15 feet west to make room for the current configuration. Capacity is now 55,000, which includes two seats in section 124 for the sisters.

“Bobby Dodd was my favorite coach, but I don’t have any favorite players memories,” Leitch admits. “I just like to watch football.”

Atchison, however, does have one memory that stands out from the rest.

“I remember us running back a kickoff for a touchdown and beating Georgia,” she reminisces. “I don’t recall the year. But then again, any time we beat Georgia is a good day at Grant Field.”

The first ever game at Grant Field was held on September 27, 1913. On September 26, 2013, Georgia Tech commemorated the 100-year anniversary during a game against Virginia Tech. To view a photo gallery of the celebration, please visit the Ramblin' Wreck Photo Center.

Grant Field Then and Now