The Best Laid Plans


A FRIEND AND I walked onto the litter-strewn field of Harvard Stadium just a couple of hours after The Game last Saturday, as darkness descended over Cambridge. The 40,000 spectators who had packed the grandstands were gone. The teams and the bands had left. Even the goalposts had been carried away.

But we had come on a mission--to make sure the stadium itself was still there.

Most people who had sat on the hard concrete bleachers that day probably didn't give much thought to the 79-year old stadium. Not many doubted that it would withstand the extravaganza. But some wondered. And Athletic Director Jack Reardon must have been one of them.

It was Reardon who had said just last fall about the 1980 Yale Game: "The stadium was really packed. And I was glad when it was over that everyone was safe."

It seemed that the venerable stadium--the oldest reinforced concrete structure of its kind--was falling apart. "There are parts where it's so corroded that you can hit the steel beams with a hammer and it crumbles," Reardon had said.

And while the thousands of fans jumped and screamed and drank their beers two years ago, at least one administrative planner had thought "it was conceivable we could lose a whole section at some time."

So Reardon and several University planners launched a project last fall to repair the disintegrating structure. The University allocated $7 million for a complete renovation. Steel support beams were to be replaced. Acres of concrete slabs were to replace the weather-worn grandstands. A new press box was to be built.

AND ALL OF THIS, Reardon assured, was to be done in time for last Saturday's Harvard-Yale Game.

Sure, Mr. Reardon, we all thought, Sure it will.

Those who had witnessed the last chapter in the saga of athletic facility renovations--the conversion of Briggs Cage--wondered whether we could ever take Reardon and his planners at their word. The department had planned to celebrate the completion of that 2.5 million project at a Basketball season opener last November, in which The Crimson would play President Bok's alma mater, Stanford.

But strikes and design problems and material shortages delayed the completion of the Briggs Cage renovations until last spring, and the Basketball team played out its season in the decrepit Indoor Athletic Building.

Skeptics looked around. What would happen, they wondered, to The Game? Some suggested playing it at Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro. Others looked to Boston University's field. A few cynics even mentioned the possibility of holding the contest a second consecutive year at the Yale Bowl. After thinking about that possibility, Reardon got the renovation moving.

The construction crew worked steadily through the summer, removing concrete and steel, and installing new materials. And by the beginning of the season this fall, they had installed enough seats to hold the crowds at each pre-Yale game.

But the job wasn't done. Those who attended games early this season looked to the end-zone area, where several seating areas were still missing. Functional, maybe, but no match for 40,000 Yale game loonies.

But the Athletic department continued to assure us that the project would be complete for the game. And when the masses crossed the Anderson bridge Saturday afternoon, they found that the planners and the architects and the construction in workers had indeed succeeded. They had kept their promise. And a capacity crowd filled the structure and jumped and screamed and drank.

My friend and I sat down on the Harvard bench right on the 50 yard line. We sipped on a couple cans of Coke that had been left there, and looked around at the sturdy grandstands that surrounded us in the darkness. The football team had won quite a victory that day, but so had a few other people involved with Harvard athletics.

For a change, a Harvard planning story had an irrevocably happy ending.