Named in honor of University President Cyrus Northrop, greater Northrop Field opened its doors in 1899. Prior to the stadium's construction, the University of Minnesota football played on a field south of the Armory. The grandstand consisted of chairs around the sidelines. When rates for a downtown stadium increased, the University found it a necessity for an enclosed stadium on the campus. The first outdoor ice rink for the Minnesota Gophers was the far western side of Northrop Field, which was directly in front of the FieldHouse/Armory and still stands today. This said outdoor rink was in the exact location of the University of Minnesota civil engineering building today.
Built in front of Pillsbury Hall, Northrop Field originally featured a nine-foot high board fence built by the student body, (a portion of this fence is still standing behind the Armory) and a quarter-mile track ran around the playing field. Alfred Pillsbury organized the building of a massive brick fence that was built around the original grandstand that made Northrop Field unlike any other stadium in the country at the time. The grandstand seated 8,000 fans and was 33 rows high. Additional seating in the end zones added to the seating capacity.
Minnesota Football played its first game at Northrop Field in November of 1899 against Northwestern where it suffered an 11-5 defeat. The last game was played in 1923 when Minnesota beat Iowa 20-7. Perhaps the most memorable game was a 6-6 tie with Michigan when an over capacity 20,000 fans crowded into the stadium.