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Kezar Stadium
Wfm kezar stadium
Location 755 Stanyon St.
San Francisco, California 94117
Broke ground 1924
Opened May 2, 1925
Owner
Operator City and County of San Francisco
Surface Grass (1925-Present)
Construction cost $300,000 (original construction)
Architect Willis Polk
Tenants San Francisco 49ers (National Football League) (1946-1970)
Oakland Raiders (American Football League) (four games in 1960)
Capacity 59,942 (1925-1989
9,144 (1990-present)

Kezar Stadium is a stadium located adjacent to Kezar Pavilion in the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. It is the former home of the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL, and of the San Francisco Dragons of MLL. It also served as the home of the California Victory of the USL First Division before the club folded. It also hosts amateur and recreation sports leagues, as well as numerous San Francisco high school football games (including the City Championship, known popularly as the "Turkey Bowl").

HistoryEdit

In 1922, the San Francisco Park Commission accepted a $100,000 gift from the estate of Mary Kezar. The gift was intended to build a memorial in honor of Kezar's mother and uncles, who were pioneers in the area. After the City and County of San Francisco appropriated an additional $200,000 the stadium was built in a year. Kezar Stadium was constructed on the site of the old Park nursery and stable yard, built in 1873-74. Also on the site was John McLaren's beloved Rhododendron Dell. The stadium was laid out east–to–west, an unconventional layout for football. It was a classic single tier bowl shape, mostly 60 rows deep, with a six lane track between the stands and field. But the southern side of the stadium was placed too close to Lincoln Street, which meant that part of the stands between the goal lines were as little as 18 rows high. Because of this, and the track surrounding the field, only 17,000 of the 59,000 seats were between the goal lines, and the majority of those were staring into the Sun. In addition, the San Francisco Athletic Club was directly across Lincoln Street, and patrons often got a free (and close up) view of the action, simply by looking out a window, until a 30ft high wall was erected at the back of the grandstand.

Dedication ceremonies were held on May 2, 1925, and featured a two-mile footrace between Ville Ritola and Paavo Nurmi of Finland, who were two of the greatest runners of their day.

1930sEdit

The stadium had many uses in the 1930s. In addition to track and field competitions, Kezar Stadium also hosted motorcycle racing, auto racing, rugby, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, boxing, cricket and football. The stadium was also the home field of several local schools such as Santa Clara University, University of San Francisco, St. Mary's College of California and the now defunct San Francisco Polytechnic High School. In 1926 the Stadium also became the home of the East-West Shrine Game.

American footballEdit

View over Kezar stadium from Mt. Olympus in San Francisco

Kezar Stadium as seen from Mt. Olympus.

In the 1928 city championship game between San Francisco Polytechnic and Lowell High School a crowd of over 50,000 people saw the matchup between the bitter cross-town rivals. That game still holds attendance records for a high school football game in Northern California.

Stanford University played four of its home football games at Kezar, one in 1928 and three in 1942. In 1940, Kezar Stadium hosted the first-ever major college football double header, which featured Stanford–San Francisco Dons and Santa Clara–Utah.[1]

Kezar Stadium was also the home to two different professional football teams. The San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders both began their existence at the stadium. The Niners started play in 1946, and remained until 1970. The Raiders played at Kezar for their first four home games of their first season of 1960, before being evicted because of excessive wear on the field. They moved their games to the brand new Candlestick Park, which had been built by a part owner of the Raiders. The Raiders played there during the remainder of their first season and their entire second season, before Frank Youell Field was built as a temporary facility in Oakland. The 49ers made a permanent move to an expanded, more modern and accessible Candlestick Park in 1971 after losing the 1970 NFC Championship Game to the Dallas Cowboys, 17-10, on January 3, 1971, in their final game at Kezar Stadium. Kezar was also the home field for the San Francisco Stingrayz womans Professional Football team from 2003-2005, until the Stingrayz had to cut their season short due to a bus accident which they lost a number of players due to injuries. The Stingrayz was one of the first womans tackle football teams in the Bay Area in the Independent Womans Football League.

File:Kezar 1971.JPG

1970sEdit

Dirty HarryEdit

Several scenes from the film Dirty Harry were filmed there later in 1971. The film's fictional antagonist, the Scorpio Killer, worked as the caretaker at the stadium.

ConcertsEdit

With the loss of professional football in the 1970s the stadium became an outdoor concert venue with many well known acts of its time performing there. Its proximity to the Haight-Ashbury District probably helped with the stadium's transformation to a concert venue. Noted musicians who performed at Kezar included Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, Jefferson Starship, Tower of Power, Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Carlos Santana, The Crunchees, Waylon Jennings, and Neil Young.

Demolition and reconstructionEdit

Beginning in June 1989, Kezar Stadium was demolished and rebuilt with a much smaller seating capacity of 9,144, although several thousand more can be accomodated on grass berms around the periphery. The upgrades included an eight-lane, all-weather track and a large grass athletic field suitable for soccer, football and lacrosse.[2] A replica of the original concrete arch bearing the name "Kezar Stadium" was built on the west side of the stadium as a tribute to the original structure. Except for special events, the stadium and field is now open to the public without charge.

The claim was that the field and track configurations remained the same. But this claim is in error: a tunnel that linked the stadium to nearby Kezar Pavilion (where the locker rooms were) still exists. The entrance to the tunnel was exactly on the longitudinal axis of the original stadium, but now it is more than 50 feet to the south of the current axis. This means the stadium axis was rotated about five degrees counterclockwise in the 1989-90 reconstruction. Evidence of this can be seen in aerial photos online.

Another common error is that the stadium was rebuilt because of damage in the Loma Prieta earthquake. In reality the project to dismantle the stadium started in June of 1989, and the earthquake was on October 17 of that year, after most of the dismantling was completed. However, the reconstruction was delayed by almost a year, due to more pressing needs.

In 2004 the 49ers returned to Kezar, to hold a public practice session during training camp. This session was attended by almost 10,000 people.

Soccer and other sportsEdit

With the 2006 West Coast expansion of Major League Lacrosse, Kezar Stadium once again became a home to a professional team, the San Francisco Dragons. In October 2006, United Soccer Leagues (USL) and Spanish Football club Deportivo Alaves announced that the new pro soccer team, named California Victory, played their 2007 home games at Kezar. The Victory played in the USL's First Division, one level below Major League Soccer. However, Alaves later withdrew their support and the team folded.

In 2004 it served as the home of the San Francisco Freedom, the city's Pro Cricket team.

Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, a nearby Catholic high school uses the field for their home football games. Saint Ignatius College Preparatory and Archbishop Riordan High School also use the field occasionally for their home football games. Kezar has also been the host of several Northern California Semi-pro football championship games.

In April 2010, Stanford University held its spring football game at Kezar.

Women's soccerEdit

In recent years, the stadium has also served as home to Premier Division teams of Golden Gate Women's Soccer League (GGWSL).

College lacrosseEdit

Kezar is also the home to the annual San Francisco Fall Lacrosse Classic, an NCAA Division I fall ball game started in 2009 to benefit the Bay Area Youth Sports Foundation. The first event was between Brown and North Carolina. It was the first Division I men's lacrosse played in Northern California. North Carolina beat Brown 13-5 in front of a crowd of more than 4500. Special certificates marking the occasion were presented to each team on behalf of the Mayor, SF Board of Supervisors, and the City and County by Director of San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department Phil Ginsburg. The 2010 event features storied lacrosse powerhouse Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame took place on Saturday, October 16, 2010.

Gaelic FootballEdit

Kezar was home to the San Francisco GAA football league.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Ron Fimrite, A Melding Of Men All Suited To A T, Sports Illustrated, September 5, 1977.
  2. Kezar Stadium at Ballparks.com

External linksEdit

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