(UNC postcard collection)
The stadium opened in 1927 and originally held 24,000 people. The North Carolina architectural firm of Atwood & Nash
designed the stadium. It was originally named for the parents of William R. Kenan, Jr.
, a UNC alumnus (class of 1894).
(Most of the following information is from Wikipedia:)
Funding for the stadium was originally supposed to come from alumni donations. William R. Kenan, Jr. got word of the initial plans and donated a large gift to build the stadium and an adjoining field house. Kenan persuaded UNC to build the stadium as a memorial to his parents, William R. Kenan and Mary Hargrave Kenan.
Ground was broken for the stadium in November 1926, and was completed in August 1927. It was officially opened on November 24, 1927. During its first game, the Tar Heels defeated Davidson College 27-0, with the first touchdown in the new stadium by Edison Foard. This game at Kenan Stadium brought in 9,000 spectators. It was officially dedicated to the Kenan family on Thanksgiving Day in 1927
in front of 28,000 fans, after the Tar Heels beat the Virginia Cavaliers 14-13.
Kenan Stadium in 1927 (image via UNC)
The original stadium—the lower level of the current stadium's sideline seats—seated 24,000 people. However, temporary bleachers were added to the end zones to accommodate overflow crowds, allowing Kenan Stadium to accommodate over 40,000 people at times.
Kenan Stadium circa 1940 (image via UNC)
The stadium was first expanded in 1963, when Kenan (who died in 1965) donated $1 million to double-deck the sideline seats and add permanent bleachers to the end zones, expanding capacity to 48,000. A seating adjustment in 1979 boosted capacity to 50,000. In 1988, the old press box and chancellor's box were replaced by 2,000 seats between the 40-yard lines, expanding capacity to 52,000.
Part of the 1987-1988 project were a permanent lighting system, a chancellor's lounge on the north side of the field and a football lettermen's lounge on the south side. The stadium's biggest renovation project to date took place from 1995-1998.
William R. Kenan, Sr., to whom the stadium was originally dedicated, "was the commander of a white supremacist paramilitary force, which massacred scores of black residents in Wilmington, on a single day in 1898
." Due to his racist history, in 2018 the University removed the plaque on the stadium mentioning him, and designated the stadium as named in honor of William R. Kenan, Jr.