Davis Field renovations

Idaho State University President Kevin Satterlee talks during Tuesday afternoon’s press conference at Davis Field about the extensive renovations planned for the historic venue.

POCATELLO — For the first time in over a decade, Idaho State University track and field athletes can look forward to an outdoor home field advantage.

ISU announced a $4 million renovation project for Davis Field, the school's soccer and outdoor track and field venue, during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Today Davis Field's importance in ISU's history is as little known as its breakthrough role in the history of television, particularly its status as the first place in the U.S. where a college football game was broadcast live. 

ISU officials hope that the multi-million dollar renovation project for Davis Field will give the historic facility new life and will make it a key part of the university's future success.

“For the last 88 years, this venue has been home to football games, track meets, soccer tournaments, graduations, concerts, speeches and community fundraisers,” ISU President Kevin Satterlee said during Tuesday's press conference at Davis Field. “It has always been a gathering place for Pocatello and the Bengal community and I am excited to stand here and announce today that legacy will continue. We recognize the value of this historic venue and make a commitment to its future and more importantly to the future of ISU and the entire community.”

Davis Field, in its current condition, cannot host outdoor track and field events or postseason soccer tournaments because the field is too narrow and the track itself does not meet NCAA standards. Furthermore, ISU’s soccer team experienced difficulty scheduling non-conference games on the field because it is not regulation width.

The multi-million dollar upgrade includes removing the condemned bleachers on the east side of the field adjacent to Red Hill, installing a retaining wall bordering Red Hill and then landscaping a grass hill where the bleachers were located that will extend back toward Red Hill.

People will be able to sit on this grassy hill to watch the sporting events at Davis Field.

The west side Davis Field bleachers will remain in use. 

Removing the condemned bleachers will allow for the widening of the track and soccer field to meet NCAA regulations for width. The soccer field will then be regulation size and eligible to host tournaments, championship matches and non-conference teams.

Additionally, the track will be replaced and drainage for the track and the field will be improved. The ISU track and field team will then be able to host outdoor track meets at Davis Field, including conference championships.

The field events area — for activities such as the long jump, pole vault, discus and high jump — will be moved from inside the oval of the track to a newly developed area on the south side of Davis field. This will help address safety concerns and team practice conflicts.

And lastly, the upgrade will include professional outdoor arena lights so Davis Field can be used at night, which will greatly help both the school's soccer and track and field teams, adding flexibility for scheduling games and practices, ISU said.

“This is the first step in addressing critical facilities needs in Bengal athletics, and it represents a commitment to meeting the needs of a Division I athletics program in the proper way,” said ISU Athletic Director Pauline Semons Thiros. “Track and field will once again host meets, which alleviates some travel costs and missed classes, and puts a good foot forward for ISU in the Big Sky Conference."

She continued, "Soccer is once again eligible to host championships, it improves the experience for spectators, and the venue will do much better at meeting the needs of both programs for practice and training. The project is a tremendous step forward for ISU.”

Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad spoke during the press conference on Tuesday and praised ISU for improving Davis Field.

“This is so exciting to have this kind of announcement and this kind of event happening today in Pocatello,” Blad said. “It just shows the commitment Idaho State University has to our community.”

Though ISU's soccer team uses Davis Field for home matches, the last time ISU hosted a track and field event outdoors at the facility was in 2007. Since then the ISU track and field team has made Holt Arena its home venue. Once the Davis Field improvements are completed that will obviously change. 

Originally named the Spud Bowl and constructed in 1936, Davis Field was renamed after William E. "Bud" Davis, ISU's president from 1965 to 1975.

“Nearly 90 years ago, construction began on the original Spud Bowl, one of the first federally funded projects at Idaho State,” Satterlee said during Tuesday's press conference. “Imagine, right here where we are standing right now, teams of workers and horses leveling the dirt and building rock walls — most of the rock quarried from stones taken right here behind us off of Red Hill. The iron gates … were designed by one of our own, Abe Lillibridge, an engineering instructor whose name is now on our engineering building.”

Satterlee added, "In 1936, this venue became the home of Idaho State football. Standing here I can’t help but imagine the impact this venue has had on generations of our students. Davis Field is home to countless memories, victories, accomplishments and traditions."

Moreover, Satterlee said Davis Field was the site of the first live television broadcast of a college football game.

Satterlee said, "It was at this location in September of 1941 where a group of our own students designed and built a transmission and receiving system for a television broadcast. The first ever broadcast (of a college football game) from a school campus was from this location. It was also the first ever live television broadcast done west of the Mississippi River.”

Not only will the upgrades benefit ISU student athletes, the improvements will also provide the community with a state-of-the-art outdoor venue to host athletic and community-oriented events.

“We will have a facility that everyone can enjoy and be proud of,” Satterlee said. “Make no mistake, today is about much more than all of that combined. Today, we embark on a mission as a university to reinvest in ourselves. Idaho State University is investing in our future and that investment starts here today.”

Reporter Shelbie Harris can be reached at 208-239-3525. Follow him on Twitter: @shelbietharris.