Chapter 108

Uncle Charlie Gets To See His Creation

Work on the stadium progressed through the early summer, and timelines were met. The west side stands were completed during the 3rd week of June and the east side was scheduled to be finished two weeks later. It was announced that there would be enough money to complete the two sides, but the enclosure on the south end would have to wait another year. Temporary bleachers would be put up for the Kentucky game to accommodate the crowd.

The attitude was, "No problem. We'll have another successful year and complete the enclosure after the season." The college wanted to pay as it went, and therefore the decision was to defer, but not forget, the plan for the completion of the horseshoe.

Uncle Charlie was involved with his umpiring duties and Centre couldn't start practice anyway until September 10 due to a ruling by the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The coach may have not been in Danville as the stadium went up, but he had gotten everything so organized that his presence really wasn't necessary.

Finally, he had an off day after a game in Cincinnati and decided to take a late train down from Cincinnati on September 11. When he arrived, it was dark and he was tired and headed straight to the Gilcher Hotel.

Early on the morning of the 12th, he rose early and walked over to the new stadium.

We all had heard that Uncle Charlie was in town and would tour the stadium in the morning. I got up early and raced to the field because I wanted to see what he thought when he saw it.

The gate wasn't locked and there was still dew on the grass which had gotten really thick and beautiful. As I remember, everything was completed, even the cinder track was laid, and the stadium could have been used, it was that finished.

Suddenly I saw the Chief, Uncle Charlie, Ben Cregor and Coach Kendrick walking up to the stadium. They all stopped outside of the fence and just stood there, letting Uncle Charlie take it all in. The sun was barely up, but I could see him clearly, standing there, with his hat on that he always wore, just staring at the stadium, looking one way and then another, and then a big smile came across his face and he walked out onto the field and said, "It's beautiful. Magnificent. Beautiful. Magnificent."

The east side of the new stadium as Uncle Charlie saw it on the morning of September 12, 1923

I was out on the field when he walked toward me and he said, "What do you think, Red Roberts' son?"

And I said, "Uncle Charlie, I think it's beautiful and magnificent, too." And he said, "It is, indeed. Beautiful. Magnificent."

The Danville "Messenger" carried a story the next morning which I still have in one of my scrapbooks about what Uncle Charlie thought when he first saw what his vision had inspired.

Coach Moran saw the Centre stadium for the first time today and he was enthusiastic in expressing his pleasure and pride in the fine memorial to athletics. Since the first day that Uncle Charlie arrived in Danville, it has been his ambition to see a model stadium on Cheek Field. While many thought such a thing impossible, Coach Moran mapped out his plans and had faith that a stadium could be built here.

"It's a fine thing for Centre, Danville, and Kentucky," said Uncle Charlie, "and it was made possible by the contributions of the loyal friends of the college. It is a real testimonial to clean athletics and the Centre spirit, and no one can appreciate it more than I do. Its potentialities for Centre, for Danville and Kentucky, for the entire South and country are beyond any estimate that can be made. "

The new stadium showing the west side stands. Seating was from goal line to goal line. Old Main is in the background.

You know, Uncle Charlie got that stadium built. As I got older and looked back on it, I came to realize even more how important Uncle Charlie was to the college, not only as a coach, but as a wonderful role model for his players. You know, many of them later went into coaching, and it is a testament to him that they continued with his philosophy not only in coaching, but in life.

I think it would have been appropriate to name the stadium for Uncle Charlie. ­Moran Stadium at Cheek Field- something like that. A lot of colleges did that. He was the person who had the idea and was the driving force behind raising the money.

I later appreciated that if Centre didn't feel it was able to name the stadium after Uncle Charlie, at least it oversaw the placement of a Kentucky Historical Marker near the entrance. I went up for Homecoming and the dedication in 1968. Several of the players were there including my friend Army Armstrong, the 1921 team captain, who had invited me to stay at his home and attend the dedication of the marker the next day.

I was the only Centre non-player who was invited except for Edgar Newlin, the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Danville, who presided over the ceremony. Army had invited me because he and I were both members of the Board of Trustees and he also knew that I had been the greatest supporter of the team maybe ever and had traveled all over country to watch them play, including to Boston and the 1922 Harvard game. 

Red Robertson, far left, at the 1968 dedication of the Historic Marker near the entrance of the stadium which Uncle Charlie had made possible. By earning his letter in baseball in 1924, he could legitimately claim to being a "Praying Colonel."

Since my father shared his experiences of a century ago with me, much has changed over the years on the campus in Danville as he knew it. The 1923 stadium, such a point of pride when it was completed, now is no longer. The east side stands were demolished long ago when it was seen that they would no longer be needed to accommodate the crowds which Centre's games drew at the time.

The demolition of the east side of the stadium

Very recently, in early 2022, the west side part of the stadium met the same fate and was torn down. In the site where so much of the history of Centre took place, a new, world class 135,000 square foot athletic and wellness complex is being constructed under "The Initiative for Wellness and Athletic Excellence" banner. A new football stadium with a state-of-the-art press box along with locker rooms, and a 5,000 square foot strength and performance center, will assure that Centre remains at the top of whatever part of the football world it chooses to continue occupying. 

The new athletic complex with the stadium, top left. The large building to the right is the indoor, multiuse practice field.

Locker room

Strength and performance center

For a complete realization of Centre's plans for the future regarding wellness and athletics, access the site below.