University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field
Laidley Field has served as the home field for several of Kanawha County’s high school and middle school football and track and field teams since 1918, hosting athletic events even during the final tumultuous year of World War I. In 1923, wooden bleachers at the field collapsed injuring more than sixty people. In 1979, the old stadium was replaced by new facility which seats over 18,000. The University of Charleston (formerly Morris Harvey College) re-established its football program in 2003 and entered into an agreement with Kanawha County Schools, at which time Laidley Field became the "University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field."
Backstory and Context
HIGH SCHOOL & MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS
For many years Laidley Field was the home of several high school teams from the Kanawha Valley. Charleston High, Stonewall Jackson High School, George Washington High School, and Charleston Catholic High School have all played home games at Laidley Field. The stadium continued to host games after Charleston High School and Stonewall Jackson High School were consolidated to form Capital High School.
Laidley Field also hosts the West Virginia North-South High School Football Classic, an all-star game held every summer.
Laidley Field has not only hosted football games between middle and high school teams, college teams have also played games at the field. Morris Harvey College/ University of Charleston play(ed) home football games at Laidley Field. WVU and Marshall University have also played games here.
It was during a game in 1923 between WVU and Washington and Lee that wooden grandstands collapsed, injuring about 60 people. Local police and ambulances responded quickly, and the game soon resumed. Since the grandstand had collapsed slowly, most of the reported 960 people seated there were able to brace for the fall. The Charleston Daily Mail reported broken or fractures legs as the most serious injuries.
During the 1960’s Laidley Field was the home stadium for a semi-pro team, the Charleston Rockets. The Rockets competed in the Continental Football League, which began operations in 1965 and continued until 1969. The Rockets played in Charleston from 1965 to 1968. Future NFL All-Pro Defensive End, Coy Bacon, played for the Rockets in 1965.5
Bacon was not the only CFL alum that would go on to have a career in the NFL. Coaches Bill Walsh (San Jose Apaches/ S.F. 49ers) and Sam Wyche (Wheeling Ironmen/ Cincinnati Bengals), Quarterback Kenny Stabler (Spokane Shockers/ Oakland Raiders), and Defensive End Otis Sistruck (Norfolk Neptunes/ Oakland Raiders) are among the coaches and players who spent time in both the Continental Football League and the National Football League.6 Charleston won the league championship in 1965.7
Semi-pro football returned to Charleston in the early 1980s, when the West Virginia Rockets of the American Football Association (1977-1983) began playing at Laidley Field. The Rockets won the League Championships in 1980 & 19818, but the AFA was short-lived and the West Virginia Rockets folded.
- Dick Huffman (Charleston High- LA Rams & the Canadian Football League, CFL Hall of Fame)
- Dennis Harrah (Stonewall Jackson- LA Rams, All-Pro)
- Carl Lee (South Charleston High School- Minnesota Vikings & others- All-Pro)
- Randy Moss (DuPont High School- Minnesota Vikings & others, All-Pro).
2. "U.C. Football Decade Page", UC Golden Eagles Official Athletic Site, http://ucgoldeneagles.com/documents/2014/8/27/UC_Football_Decade_Page.pdf, accessed February 14, 2015.
3. "WVU Stats", WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, http://www.wvustats.com/sport/football/games?expand=0&GameSearchForm%5Bsite%5D%5B%5D=Laidley+Field&G..., accessed February 14, 2015.
4) Cohen, Stan (Richard Andre- Research Associate), Kanawha County Images, 1987, Charleston, Pictorial Histories Publishing Company & Kanawha Bicentennial, Inc, p. 389
5.,7. Booster Club of the Continental Football League, http://www.boosterclubcfl.com/, accessed February 14, 2015
6. Greater Northwest Football Association, "Continental Football League (1965-1969), http://www.gnfafootball.org/continentalleague.htm, accessed February 14, 2015
8. Williamson Daily News, "Horton, Rockets put out the Fire", August 31, 1981, Google Newspapers.com, http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=uJtDAAAAIBAJ&sjid=va4MAAAAIBAJ&pg=3799,3751812&dq=american-foot..., accessed February 14, 2015.
Laidley Field. My West Virginia Home. Accessed September 18, 2017. http://www.mywvhome.com/twenties/laidley.html.