|Location||S. 33rd and Spruce Sts.|
Philadelphia, PA 19104
|Opened||April 20, 1895|
|Owner||University of Pennsylvania|
|Operator||University of Pennsylvania|
|Construction cost||$100,000 (1895)|
|General Contractor||Turner Construction (1895)|
Day & Klauder (1922-25)
|Tenants||Penn Quakers (NCAA) (1895-present) |
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) (1958-1970)
Philadelphia Bell (WFL) (1975)
Philadelphia Atoms (NASL) (1976)
Army–Navy Game (1899-1935)
Franklin Field is the University of Pennsylvania's stadium for football, field hockey, lacrosse, sprint football, and track and field (and formerly for soccer and baseball). It is also used by Penn students for recreation, and for intramural and club sports, including touch football and cricket, and is the site of Penn's graduation exercises, weather permitting. It is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the eastern edge of Penn's campus, across the Schuylkill River from Center City. It is the home of the Penn Relays and was formerly the home field of the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League.
Franklin Field was built for $100,000 and dedicated on April 20, 1895, for the first running of the Penn Relays. Deemed by the NCAA as the oldest stadium still operating for football, it was the site of the nation's first scoreboard in 1895.
Permanent Franklin Field construction did not begin until after the turn of the century. Weightman Hall gymnasium, the stadium, and permanent grandstands were designed by architect Frank Miles Day & Brother and were erected from 1903 to 1905 at a cost of $500,000. The field was 714 feet long and 443 feet wide. The site featured a ¼-mile track, a football field, and a baseball diamond. Beneath the stands were indoor tracks and indoor training facilities.
The current stadium structure was built in the 1920s by Day & Klauder, after the original wooden bleachers were torn down. The lower tier was erected in 1922. The old wood stands were razed immediately following the Penn Relays and the new concrete lower tier and seating for 50,000 were built. The second tier was added in 1925, again by Day & Klauder, when it became the second (and the largest) two-tiered stadium in the United States.
The first football radio broadcast originated from Franklin Field in 1922. It was carried by Philadelphia station WIP. This claim is pre-empted by an earlier live radio broadcast emanating from Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, PA, on October 8, 1921, a full year before Franklin Field's claim to fame. Harold W. Arlin announced the live broadcast of the Pitt-West Virginia football game on October 8, 1921, on radio station KDKA. The first commercial football television broadcast in 1939 also came from Franklin Field.
In the university's football heyday — when Penn led the nation in attendance — the 65,000-seat stadium was expanded each fall with temporary stands to seat 78,000. Today, Franklin Field, named after Penn's founder, Benjamin Franklin, seats 52,593.
Franklin Field switched from grass to AstroTurf in 1969. It was the first National Football League stadium to use artificial turf. The stadium's fifth AstroTurf surface was installed in 1993. The current Sprinturf field replaced the AstroTurf in 2004. Franklin Field was considered a candidate to host games for the 1994 World Cup. FIFA required that host stadiums have natural grass. Had Philadelphia been selected and Franklin Field used, the stadium would have had to return to a grass surface, or perhaps use a temporary grass field as was done at two World Cup sites — Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan.
Track and field
Franklin Field has hosted the annual Penn Relays Carnival, the largest track-and-field meet in the U.S., for over 100 years.
The first Penn Relays was held in 1895. Frank B. Ellis, chairman of Penn's track committee, was looking for an event to mark the dedication of the school's then new stadium, Franklin Field. Two years earlier, during his senior year at Penn, Penn and Princeton competed in a one-mile relay race in which four runners from each school each ran a quarter of a mile. That race had been an outgrowth of intramural relay races held at Penn. Ellis and others arranged a series of relay races to take place on Saturday afternoon, April 20, 1895. 64 competitors from eight colleges, six prep schools and two high schools took part. Eight two-team races were run with Harvard beating Penn in the mile-relay feature in 3:34.4.
The Relays were featured in the April 29, 1961, premiere of ABC's Wide World of Sports.
The 2nd USSR-USA Track and Field dual meet was held at Franklin Field on July 18 and 19, 1959. Stars who competed included Parry O'Brien, Ray Norton, Al Cantello, Hayes Jones, Tamara Press, Vasili Kuznetsov, Dyrol Burleson, Greg Bell, a young Wilma Rudolph, and future long-jump great Igor Ter-Ovanesyan.
Franklin Field hosted the NCAA Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championship in June 1961, the first time the championship was held on the East Coast. Seven records were set, and the University of Southern California won its 21st team Track & Field championship.
Following the Montreal 1976 Summer Olympics and in honor of the United States Bicentennial, Franklin Field hosted The Bicentennial Meet of Champions track and field event on August 4, 1976. Montreal Olympians at the meet included Hasely Crawford, Don Quarrie, Michael Shine and Edwin Moses. The meet was also a chance for top runners including Houston McTear who had not been able to compete in Montreal to race against medal winners. 13,722 attended the event and saw Dwight Stones set a record for the high-jump and John Walker win the mile.
The University of Pennsylvania hosted the two-day 1980 Liberty Bell Track and Field Classic, an alternate to the 1980 Summer Olympics for 26 countries participating in the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics which were held in Moscow. The Liberty Bell Classic began on July 16, 1980. It was the largest international track meet held in the U.S. since the 1932 Summer Olympics in terms of the number of foreign competitors. Franklin Field hosted the track and field events where 20,111 spectators saw the final evening of competitions. In several events, the times were better than those in Moscow, such as American Renaldo Nehemiah's time of 13.31 in the 110m hurdles ahead of East German gold medal winner Thomas Munkelt's time of 13.39.
Penn football played on Franklin Field for the first time in 1895. The University of Pennsylvania was one of the top football schools in the first years of college football. Many consider Penn to have been the national champion in college football in 1894, 1895, 1897 and 1904. Other sources identify Penn as national champions in 1895, 1897, 1904 and 1908. John H. Outland played at Franklin Field for Penn in 1897 and 1898. On October 26, 1907, Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian school trounced a powerful University of Pennsylvania team, 26-6, before an overflow crowd of 20,000 at Franklin Field. Red Grange set an NCAA record at Franklin Field when he rushed for 331 yards in the University of Illinois' 24-2 victory over Penn on October 31, 1925, before 67,877 spectators.
On Saturday, November 16, 2002, ESPN broadcast College GameDay from Franklin Field prior to the game between Penn and Harvard. Both teams entered the game undefeated and the winner would capture the Ivy League championship. It was College GameDay's first broadcast from a Division I-AA college. Penn won the match-up 44-9.
The Philadelphia Eagles played at Franklin Field from 1958 through 1970. They moved to the stadium for the 1958 season after leaving Connie Mack Stadium. Franklin Field would seat over 60,000 for the Eagles whereas Connie Mack had a capacity of 39,000. According to then-Eagles president Frank L. McNamee, the Eagles did not pay rent for use of Franklin Field because Penn was a not-for-profit organization. Instead, the Eagles donated between $75,000 and $100,000 per-year to pay for maintenance and other expenses. The university collected all concessions and parking revenue.
The Eagles hosted the 1960 NFL Championship Game here, defeating the Green Bay Packers, 17-13 , in Packers' coach Vince Lombardi's only career playoff loss. Attendance for the championship was 67,325.
Two infamous incidents in Eagles history occurred at the stadium.
Santa Claus booed
During the December 15, 1968, game against the Minnesota Vikings, a Christmas show was planned for halftime. The Eagles had entered the game 2-11. Fans hated Eagles quarterback Norm Snead, owner Jerry Wolman and coach Joe Kuharich. Many fans came to the game wearing "Joe Must Go" buttons. The man meant to play Santa was unable to make it to Franklin Field due to the weather. In lieu of the original halftime show, a 19-year-old fan named Frank Olivo who had been wearing a Santa Claus costume, was invited onto the field to toss candy-canes with the cheerleaders. Frustrated by the team, the ugly wet weather, and his unconvincing beard, fans booed Olivo and threw snowballs at him. This incident is often referred to by sportscasters in denigrating Philadelphia sports fans as so mean they booed Santa Claus. The Eagles lost the game 24 to 17. Olivo continued to attend Eagles games and even dressed as Santa Claus at the Eagles' December 27, 2009, game against the Denver Broncos at Lincoln Financial Field.
Howard Cosell taken ill
On November 23, 1970, announcer Howard Cosell was apparently drunk during a nationally televised broadcast of the Eagles-New York Giants Monday Night Football game. After throwing up on color commentator Don Meredith's cowboy boots shortly before halftime, Cosell left the stadium and took a taxi back to New York City. Meredith and play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson made little mention of his departure during the second half. Later, denying drunkenness, Cosell claimed that he had been dizzy from running laps around Franklin Field's track before the game with track star Tommie Smith.
Other college football
The Army-Navy football game was played 18 times at Franklin Field between 1899 and 1935 before moving to the larger Municipal Stadium in South Philadelphia in 1936. Penn alumnus and Olympic-medalist George Orton (who had worked with Frank Ellis in managing the Penn Relays) is credited with helping to bring the game to Philadelphia in 1899.
Temple University played its home football games at Temple Stadium until the late-1970s. Temple Stadium had opened in 1928 and sat up to 34,000 for football games. Through the years, Temple had played home games at Franklin Field when anticipated crowds would exceed Temple Stadium's capacity. Temple moved its home games to Veterans Stadium in the late-1970s but the Phillies had first priority for the field for Saturdays through the duration of the baseball season which ends the last week in September. When Temple home games conflicted with Phillies home games, Temple would play at Franklin Field. This continued through the 2002 season, Temple's final year at the Vet before the Owls moved into Lincoln Financial Field as tenants of the Eagles. One of the last Temple football games at Franklin Field was a 44-21 loss to the number one ranked Miami Hurricanes on September 14, 2002. Miami's Willis McGahee rushed for 134 yards and four touchdowns in front of 33,169 fans.
Other professional football
The NFL's Frankford Yellow Jackets hosted the Dayton Triangles on September 24, 1927, at Franklin Field. The Yellow Jackets usually played their home games in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. The Triangles won 6-3.
On August 23, 1958, the first Canadian Football League game played on American soil between two Canadian teams was played at Franklin Field, as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders, 13-7.
Franklin Field hosted a United States Football League divisional semi-final game on June 30, 1984, between the host Philadelphia Stars and the visiting New Jersey Generals. The Stars were forced to play the game at Franklin Field because the Philadelphia Phillies had a game scheduled at Veterans Stadium that weekend. The Stars defeated the Generals 28-7 behind two touchdowns from RB Kelvin Bryant. A crowd of 19,038 took in the game on a warm, overcast afternoon. The game was broadcast nationally on ABC Sports.
Franklin Field was the long-time home of Philadelphia's City Title high school football championship game. The game was held at the stadium in 1938, 1940, 1941, and from 1943 through 1972, before it moved to Veterans Stadium. 40,000 fans watched West Philadelphia tie West Philadelphia Catholic 0-0 on Thanksgiving Day 1941. In 1945, 54,000 fans saw Southern beat West Catholic 18-13. The 1946 game was played before 60,000 and ended in a riot when Northeast fans stormed the field in the final minute of the school's 33-26 victory over West Catholic, prompting West Catholic fans to do the same.
The NASL Philadelphia Atoms had played at Veterans Stadium from 1973-1975. They moved to Franklin Field in 1976 which had better sight lines for soccer. Attendance was 8,400 for the home opener on May 2, 1976. They drew a season high of 25,000 for the July 17 match against the New York Cosmos which featured soccer great Pele. The team averaged 6,449 at Franklin Field for their 11 home matches in 1976. The Philadelphia Fury hosted a play-off game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on August 23, 1979, at Franklin Field when the Fury's home field, Veterans Stadium, was being used by the Phillies.
Franklin Field was one of fifteen United States stadia (and along with John F. Kennedy Stadium one of two in Philadelphia) inspected by a five-member FIFA committee in April 1988 in the evaluation of the United States as a possible host of the 1994 FIFA World Cup. On August 25, 1989, a crowd of 43,356 at Franklin Field saw the US national soccer team defeat Dnepr of the Soviet Top League by 1-0. Eric Eichmann scored the lone goal in the 12th minute of the game.
On November 30, 2004, Franklin Field was home to the first rugby league match between the United States and Australia. The United States led the World Cup-holders Australia for much of the game, but eventually lost 36-24.
The stadium hosted the Division I NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship in 1973 and 1992 and the NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse Championship in May 2007.
The stadium was the site of the speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in which he accepted the 1936 Democratic Party's nomination for a second term as president. It is estimated that a crowd of 100,000 sat through intermittent rain at Franklin Field to hear FDR's speech.
Drum Corps International held its annual Drum and Bugle Corps World Championships at the stadium in 1975 and 1976.
The 2000 M. Night Shyamalan-directed movie Unbreakable prominently features Franklin Field as one of the main locations in the film. The film's main character, played by Bruce Willis, plays a security guard at the stadium. In the 2006 movie Invincible, Franklin Field served as a stand-in for the demolished Veterans Stadium, images of which were digitally superimposed on some of the football action sequences.
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- Penn Athletics: Franklin Field
- Ivy League Sports: Franklin Field
- Stadiums of Pro Football: Franklin Field
- Turner Construction Company: Franklin Field, University of Pennsylvania
- Architectural photos of Franklin Field
- ESPN.com: Photo gallery "Oldest stadiums – Monuments to the past"
- Hagley Digital Archives: Aerial photographs of Franklin Field in 1920s and 1930s
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