Cary Field

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Cary Field in Zable Stadium, 2008

Cary Field, now the location of Zable Stadium, is so named to honor T. Archibald Cary of Richmond and his father, John B. Cary. Father and son were members of the Board of Visitors. T. Archibald Cary donated $1,000 to the College of William and Mary for athletics via a letter dated January 4, 1907.(Folder" Buildings and Grounds, 1907-1911, Office of the President, Lyon G. Tyler Records) In another letter to the president dated October 19, 1907, Cary noted the grounds were still not ready despite his gift. The new, enclosed field was completed in time for baseball season in 1909. In 1909, Cary had donated a total of $2665.00 to the effort. About $170 was appropriated to paint and stain the grandstand and fence of the newly named Athletic Field that same year.

Repairs to the grandstand at Cary Field in 1910 cost about $100. A cinder track for the field was constructed in 1921, and a gift of a new scoreboard on the left field from Prof. and Mrs. Frederick Juchhoff replaced an earlier makeshift scoreboard on the centerfield fence. Bright Farm was purchased by the College in October 1923 and served as a new athletic field adjoining Cary Field, with a 1/4 mile cinder track with 220 yard straightaway, two football gridirons, and two baseball diamonds.

In 1927, electric lights were used on the field, and grandstands changed from one line of stands along the west side of the field to a horseshoe arrangement taking in the north, west, and east sides. Some sections were as high as 14 rows, and seated approximately 5000 people.

Plans were made in 1928 for a freshman athletic field to be located on west side of Cary Field. The old grandstand on the baseball field was torn down as it was condemned as unsafe. Instead, the bleacher stands from the football field were to be used.

Stadium Construction

In 1935 J. Binford Walford, the College Architect, drew plans for a new stadium. The plans were for a concrete stadium faced with brick that would be dedicated in September that same year. There would be space for a ladies' lounge, locker rooms, showers, field room, storage, wash rooms, and a heating plant below the seats of the east section. There would also be space under the west section just for storage. While William & Mary petitioned the Public Works Administration for funding to construct a number of buildings on campus, tax-payer dollars could not be used for the construction of athletic facilities. Rumors still persist to this day that in order to secure funding, William & Mary masqueraded the construction of the football stadium as an agricultural exposition or amphitheater.

A fire in 1948 on the left side of the stadium burned for two hours and cracked the concrete under the stand. However, the damage to the stadium was not too serious.

The stadium was renovated between 1979 and 1980, including concrete masonry restoration and seating, backrests for five sections in the west stands, new metric rubbertex track, an underground draining and sprinkler system, and reconstructed locker rooms.

Stadium Expansion Controversy

In the 1970s there were demands from some football supporters and members of the Board of Visitors to expand the stadium further to seat 30,000 and secure a place for the university as a “big-time” athletic program. Williamsburg residents, students, faculty, staff, and alumni worked against the expansion including forming an opposition group, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Society. The outcry included boycotts of classes, rallies, the protest song “Ode to Cary Field” was written by a student, a Save the Charter Day event, a lawsuit, and other actions. Polls revealed 87% of students and 92% of faculty opposed further expansion of the stadium, but the Board continued to push for stadium expansion. The need for a larger stadium became a moot point after 3 years of discord when in December 1981 the NCAA lowered William & Mary from Division I-A to I-AA in football.

Zable Stadium

In 1990, Walter J. Zable, Class of 1937, president and chief executive officer of the Cubic Corporation, and his wife Betty C. Zable, Class of 1940, made a $10-million gift to William and Mary. The stadium at Cary Field was named the Walter J. Zable Stadium by the Board of Visitors in his honor.

Board of Visitors Excerpts

February 9, 1909
The following was adopted, That the thanks of the Board be extended to Mr. T.A. Cary of Richmond, a former member of this body, for his generous gift of $2665.00 to the College in the interest of athletics That the athletic field be named the Cary Athletic Field in honor of the Donor and his distinguished Father John B. Cary, an esteemed alumnus of the College and former member of the Board.

Material in the Special Collections Research Center


  • University Archives Buildings File (2007), Cary Field, Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary.
  • Office of the President, Lyon G. Tyler Records, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary.

Need help?

To search for further material, see Finding Materials in the SCRC for an introduction to the SCRC Collections Database, card catalogs, Flat Hat-William & Mary News-Alumni Gazette index, etc.

Questions? Contact the SCRC at or 221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary (hours).

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fire, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the SCRC's collections and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the SCRC's access tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.