FRANKLIN FIELD

 


Workmen laying bricks on south wall
of Franklin Field circa 1922.


1908 Army-Navy game at Franklin Field

S. 33rd and Spruce Sts.
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Broke ground 1895
Opened April 20, 1895

Owner University of Pennsylvania
Operator University of Pennsylvania

Surface Field
Grass (1895-1969)
AstroTurf (1969-2004)
Sprinturf (2004-)

Track
Cinders (1895-1987)
Rekortan (1988-)

Construction cost $100,000 (1895)
Architect Frank Miles Day
Charles Klauder
General Contractor Turner Construction

Capacity 30,000 (1918)
60,658 (Eagles capacity 1958-1970)
60,546 (1989)
52,593 (current)

Tenants
Penn Quakers
(Baseball, 1895-1924?)
(Football & Track and Field, since 1895)
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) (1958-1970)
Philadelphia Bell (WFL) (1975)
Philadelphia Atoms (NASL) (1976)
Temple Owls (Division I-FBS) (1990s-2002)

On October 11, 1959, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell died after suffering a heart-attack at Franklin Field during the last two-minutes of the game between the Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.

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.

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.

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.


 

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, football field, and 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.[5] Franklin Field was considered a candidate to host games for the 1994 World Cup. FIFA required that host stadiums have natural grass.

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.[30] The Triangles won 6-3.

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.