Stainless-steel tigers stalk Princeton Stadium

Two new tigers are stalking the north entrance of Princeton Stadium.

The 7,000-pound stainless steel tiger sculptures are gifts of investment banker William M. Weaver Jr., a 1934 Princeton graduate who donated the money to construct the nearby state-of-the-art track and field stadium named in his honor.

The 9-foot tall, 16-foot long tigers arrived Nov. 16 from North Carolina. Ruffin Hobbs, a 48-year-old metal sculptor who works in the Raleigh-Durham area, created the beasts, which look ready to pounce.

"Stainless steel is so tough but it's clear that if you heat it right and shape it right, you can create a kind of movement with it," said Hobbs, who supervised the tigers' journey north and installed them in their new home.

Using fine sanders, Hobbs created iridescent patterns on the flat steel, which suggest tiger stripes in the sunlight. For claws, Hobbs used valves. The bodies of the tigers are hollow and made of mesh, so that ivy eventually can grow in them.

Hobbs works out of a historic grist mill, forging intricate, original and reproduction gates and railings and creating contemporary garden sculptures, wall murals, furniture and mobiles. He met Weaver several months ago as he waited for a ferry to Nantucket Island.

"I was just in the right place at the right time," Hobbs said. The two struck up a conversation, and Hobbs learned about Weaver's plans. When he was awarded the project, Hobbs had a little more than three months to complete it.

The statues' arrival will be celebrated in a brief ceremony before the Nov. 18 football game. They are part of a $2 million stadium landscaping project that will become known as Weaver Plaza and Walk and is to be completed by fall 2001.

"Mr. Weaver continues to be extremely generous to Princeton, and one of the creative touches that he has provided for us is this pair of tiger statues," said Vice President for Development Van Williams. "The landscaping project is a work in progress. With any kind of luck, by football season next fall, we'll have a remarkably finished look to it."

Contact: Justin Harmon (609) 258-3601