The Billy J. Murphy Athletics Complex, the centerpiece of the athletics facilities on the University of Memphis' Park Avenue campus, has undergone of number of improvements the past few years and the upgrades are continuing.
The Murphy Complex is used by several Tigers athletics teams, but its primary occupant is the Memphis football squad. And, in the spring and summer of 2012, the amenities the football team enjoys at the complex underwent some major renovations.
The complex's foyer area highlights the history of the Tigers football program with bowl game banners, retired jerseys and an NFL wall that lists Memphis players who have made it to the "next level." Off the foyer are the re-designed team meeting room and a recruiting lounge where coaches can host prospective student-athletes and their families.
Down the hall from the lobby is the Tigers locker room which is getting a major makeover due to a special assist from a former football standout. Thanks to a gracious financial gift from Tigers All-America and NFL All-Pro running back DeAngelo Williams in the fall of 2011, the locker room renovations are complete. Among the upgrades are new players lockers, several 27-inch flat-screen televisions suspended from the ceiling and a lounge area that has a 4-in-1 screen television.
The upgrades will continue with the athletics department "Vision for Victory" campaign, with the next project raising funds for and the construction of a 74,000-square-foot indoor practice facility. Memphis is currently raising $8 million for the indoor practice facility which will be located behind the Murphy Complex.
Also situated behind the Murphy Complex is the state-of-the-art weight room facility that spans 13,000 square feet. The weight room, which opened in February of 2011, is used only by the Tigers football program and houses top-of-the-line equipment. The $3 million addition to the Murphy Complex was made possible through private donations.
Just beyond the new football weight room facility are the Tigers practice fields that includes three 100-yard grass fields and a 100-yard EnviroTurf field that was put in by Eagle Golf & Athletics Inc. The EnviroTurf field, which was installed in December of 2009, is an exact replica of the playing surface at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium where the Tigers play their home games.
Other amenities of the Murphy Complex for the football program include a fully-equipped athletic training room, steam and sauna rooms and an equipment room. The athletic training room houses everything - including an in-ground aquatic pool for rehabilitation - to make sure all student-athletes receive the best care possible. The complex also has an indoor turf room where practices can be held if weather conditions forces the team inside.
The Murphy Complex, which opened in 1970, is named after former Memphis football head coach Billy J. Murphy. The athletics complex is situated on 140 acres and located on Getwell Avenue, which is south of the University's main campus. In addition to being the Tigers football home, the Memphis baseball, golf, soccer, softball and track and field programs also use the facility.
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
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The University of Memphis football program is very fortunate to have one of the finest football facilities in the nation in which to play its home football games. Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, "built by the citizens of Memphis," is a memorial to the veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean War. The renovated 61,000-seat facility, built in 1965 at a cost of $3.7 million by the city of Memphis and renovated in 1987 for $19.5 million, is operated by the Memphis Park Services Department.
The Tigers inaugurated the stadium in the fall of 1965 and in 45 years, have compiled a 141-122-7 record in the Liberty Bowl. The stadium features a synthetic FieldTurf playing surface, spacious locker rooms and a four-level press box, which features a stadium club for VIPs. The playing surface, which had been natural grass through the 2004 season, was replaced with the new FieldTurf surface that is used in more than 25 NCAA Division IA football stadiums.
In December of 1983, city of Memphis officials named the playing surface Rex Dockery Field in honor of the late Tiger coach who was killed in a plane crash.
In the spring of 1984, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Memphis added a new scoreboard and sound system to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium/Rex Dockery Field. The computer operated scoreboard is 100-feet long and stands 23-feet high. It has a 16' x 32' message center, and was the largest scoreboard in the Mid-South at the time.
Included in the 1987 stadium renovation were the addition of the sky-suites located on the east side of the stadium, approximately 12,000 seats in the stands and a stadium club to accommodate donors. In addition, several areas of the stadium were vastly improved, including the lighting system, playing surface, handicap seating area, concession stands and restroom facilities.
In 1999, the city of Memphis and Jumbotron entered into an agreement which placed a new 18' x 24' video scoreboard system in the south end of the stadium.
In addition to the new $850,000 playing surface for the 2005 season, the stadium has also undergone aesthetic changes over the last couple of years that have made the stadium look more like the "Home of the Tigers." Prior to the start of the 2006 season Jim McDonald of McDonald Outdoor provided several large photo wraps on the walls of the entrances to welcome Tiger fans. New graphic wraps were unveiled around the interior of the stadium during the 2008 season, and a renovation project on stadium restrooms in the lower concourse was completed prior to the start of the season.
The first step toward a major renovation project at the Liberty Bowl was completed prior to the start of the 2009 season when both locker rooms were renovated and two multi-purpose rooms were added on the concourse. One of the most notable changes is that the opposing team is now in the north tunnel and the Memphis Tigers are in the south tunnel. In addition, renovations have begun to bring the stadium into compliance with ADA specifications, which has lowered the capacity for the stadium from 62,380 to approximately 61,000.
The stadium is also the host site of the annual AutoZone/Liberty Bowl game, as well as the Southern Heritage Classic. Located near the Memphis Fairgrounds, the stadium also hosted the Tennessee-Kentucky High School All-Star game in 1994.
Throughout the 45-year history, several professional teams have called the Liberty Bowl home. In 1974, the Grizzlies of the World Football League played their one and only season in Memphis. From 1978-80, the stadium was host to the Memphis Rogues of the North American Soccer League, and later in 1984-85 to the Showboats of the U.S. Football League. Three other teams spent just one season in the Liberty Bowl including the Memphis Maniax of the XFL (2001), the Tennessee Oilers (1997) and the Memphis Mad Dogs of the CFL (1995).
The largest crowd to witness a Memphis home football game at the Liberty Bowl was the record-setting 65,885 who attended the Tigers' stunning upset of No. 6 ranked Tennessee in 1996. The Tigers defeated the Vols, 21-17, before a regionally-televised audience on CBS-TV. The entire nation, however, saw Memphis' game-winning drive when CBS carried the final five minutes nationally.
In 2004, Memphis hosted Louisville for an ESPN-broadcasted Thursday night game. A crowd of 52,384 fans came out for the game, marking the largest Tiger crowd for a non-SEC opponent. That same season, Memphis set a new home attendance average record with 41,175 fans in just five games. The previous high average was 40,622 in 2003, and that was for seven home games.