The Stadium Complex in South Philadelphia is a mecca for area sports fans. How about a baseball game? Check. Football? Yep. Basketball? It’s covered. And eating contests? Oh, my . . . .
Philadelphia Municipal Stadium, renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium in 1964, stood here for over 65 years. It hosted a variety of sporting events and received notoriety as a venue for Army-Navy football games. Big touring bands often stopped by. The Beatles and Barbra Streisand both performed here in 1966. Live Aid occupied the venue in 1985, proving that nothing rocks like a good cause.
Designed by the Simon & Simon architect firm, workers still had their work cut out for them when this picture was taken. They labored hard to complete it in time for the 1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition, which celebrated the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the 50th anniversary of Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition. Over 10 million people participated in the event where they saw, among other things, an 80-foot replica of the Liberty Bell strung with 26,000 light bulbs.
That same year heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey faced challenger Gene Tunney in the first of their two fights. A record 120,557 people reportedly attended the event. Boxing proved especially appealing to an urban-industrial society in which the idea of rugged individualism appeared under attack. The sport allowed spectators to live vicariously–if only briefly–through two fighters duking it out in a display of manliness that would have made Theodore Roosevelt weep. Tunney established an early edge over Dempsey, landing a couple of hard punches. “Thereafter[,]” the challenger later recalled, “it was a methodical matter of outboxing him, foiling his rushes, piling up points, clipping him with repeated, damaging blows, [and] correct sparring.” Tunney’s diligence and careful training paid off; he won by decision after ten rounds.
In succeeding years, the city allowed the stadium to fall into disrepair. Mayor Wilson Goode condemned it in July 1989, shortly after a Grateful Dead concert (there is no apparent correlation between the two events). Demolition commenced three years later. The Wachovia Center, opened in 1996, now occupies the site.
- “John F. Kennedy Stadium.” 28 June 2006. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JFK_Stadium (accessed 7 July 2006).
- Tunney, Gene. “My Fights with Jack Dempsey” in Emra, Bruce, ed. Sports in Literature: Experiencing Literature and Writing Through Poems, Stories, and Nonfiction. Lincolnwood, Illinois: National Textbook Company, 1991. Online at http://www.genetunney.org/sportsliterature.html (accessed 7 July 2006).