JW Little Memorial Stadium

Attendance at football games improved in the 1920s, but the weather did not and spectators desired protection from the elements. This want was more than fulfilled three years later with the construction of Western’s first purpose-built stadium. Colonel JW Little, mayor of London from 1895 to 1897, served on Western’s original Board of Governors and became Vice-Chairman of the Board from 1908 until his death in 1913. His widow, Kate Little, left $70,000 in her will for a building at Western to honour her husband and this money was used to erect the JW Little Memorial Stadium. Well-known University of Michigan football coach Fielding Yost helped design the new facility.

First Game At Little Stadium

Western vs. Queen’s University in the first game played at JW Little Stadium, October 19, 1929. Western lost 25-2.

The 5,000-seat venue opened on October 19th, 1929, with the adulations of a thirty member band, refreshments, a prayer led by former intercollegiate rugby player Reverend John Gibson, official presentations, an impressive pep rally, and finally a dance at Hotel London.

The game on this date was also notable for Joe Breen’s home debut as head coach of the new senior intermediate team. Alas, Western was defeated by Queen’s 25-2 in the first game at Little Stadium.

Still, the stadium served as an invaluable affirmation that football at Western, and indeed the university itself, had "come of age," as the Western Gazette put it.

Aerial Photograph of UWO Campus

A hand-coloured aerial photograph of Western’s campus, including the recently built Little Memorial Stadium. This photograph, taken on October 15, 1932, shows a football game between Western and Queen’s. Western won 8-5. University College and what is now the Physics and Astronomy Building appear near the centre.

Little Stadium was expanded and improved throughout its seventy year lifetime. The stadium had natural turf, a mixture of 80% Kentucky Bluegrass and 20% Virginia Red Turf in the 1950s. An electric scoreboard was installed by radio-physics students and faculty in 1948 and live radio broadcasts from the stadium also began that year. In 1949 the radio booth was significantly expanded and the stadium’s seating capacity increased by 2,200. Additional seats were added in 1960. Temporary bleachers occasionally supplemented seating on the permanent cement stands and standing room accommodated over-flow crowds. Little Stadium was pushed to its limits when some 13,000 spectators were jammed into it for the Homecoming game on October 14, 1950. By 1999 the stadium’s normal capacity stood at 8000. For seventy-one seasons Little Stadium was improved and expanded to meet the needs of Western’s athletes and their fans.

Close-up of Little Stadium

This aerial photograph of Little Stadium, circa 1940, shows the permanent stands, track, field, and the power house in the foreground. University College and Lawson Memorial Library appear in the background.