November 18, 2010
By Chris Dell
When SMU hosts Marshall on Saturday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, it not only will conclude the Mustangs' 2010 regular-season home slate, but it also will conclude the tenth anniversary celebration of Gerald J. Ford Stadium and The Boulevard.
The history behind Ford Stadium and the Boulevard began on Sept. 2, 2000, when the new facility hosted its first Mustang football game against the University of Kansas. The first tailgate took place before the stadium’s grand opening and featured the procession of the band and cheerleaders into the team’s new home just before kickoff.
Since then, “Boulevarding,” as it is now famously known, has continued strong, attracting thousands of fans on game days. It was designed to create a collegial feel for home football games, allowing students and alumni to enjoy the entire game day experience on campus.
Boulevarding starts about four hours before the game on Bishop Boulevard and the Main Quad from Dallas Hall to Mockingbird Lane. It includes tents with red and blue awning that have been reserved by student groups, football players' parents and alumni, as well as the Law, Business and Engineering schools. There also are elaborately equipped grilling set-ups.
For entertainment, bands perform on the steps of Dallas Hall and Owen Arts Center and there is an area with activities for children and families. And the Mustang Band and the Mustang Alumni Band perform, leading everyone into the stadium to the strains of "Pony Battle Cry."
SMU President R. Gerald Turner said the idea for The Boulevard came from the University of Mississippi, where he served as chancellor until 1995. Ole Miss fans prepare for football games on “The Grove,” which is a 10-acre area of open space and trees in the middle of campus, much like The Boulevard.
SMU's on-campus tailgate was made possible by the construction of Ford Stadium. The Mustangs played home games at the Cotton Bowl in the late ‘90s, but many fans lamented that the experience wasn’t the same as it would be if games could be played on the site of the old Ownby Stadium. In 1998, alumnus and trustee Gerald J. Ford donated $20 million for the construction of a new 32,000-seat facility, which ultimately cost $56.8 million and took less than two years to complete.
In the last 10 years, a new chapter has been written in SMU football history, and it would not be the same without its two famous icons: Ford Stadium and the all-day tailgate that takes place at its front doorstep.
Learn more about the history of Ford Stadium.
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