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John F. Kennedy Stadium

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Title: John F. Kennedy Stadium  
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Subject: Baker Bowl, Shibe Park, Army–Navy Game, Live Aid, Philadelphia Quakers (AFL)
Collection: 1926 Establishments in Pennsylvania, 1992 Disestablishments in Pennsylvania, American Football League (1926) Venues, Army–navy Game, Defunct College Football Venues, Defunct National Football League Venues, Defunct Ncaa Bowl Game Venues, Defunct Soccer Venues in the United States, Defunct Sports Venues in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Demolished Sports Venues in Pennsylvania, Event Venues Established in 1926, Former Music Venues in the United States, Philadelphia Eagles Stadiums, Soccer Venues in Pennsylvania, South Philadelphia, Sports Venues Completed in 1926, Sports Venues Demolished in 1992, World Football League Venues
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John F. Kennedy Stadium

John F. Kennedy Stadium
Former names Sesquicentennial Stadium (1926)
Philadelphia Municipal Stadium (1926-1964)
John F. Kennedy Stadium (1964-1992)
Location S Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19148
Owner City of Philadelphia
Capacity 102,000 (for American football)
Surface Grass
Opened April 15, 1926
Closed July 13, 1989
Demolished September 19-September 24, 1992
Architect Simon & Simon
Philadelphia Quakers (AFL) (1926)
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) (1936-1939, 1941)
Liberty Bowl (NCAA) (1959-1963)
Army–Navy Game (NCAA) (1936-1979)
Philadelphia Bell (WFL) (1974)

John F. Kennedy Stadium (formerly Philadelphia Municipal Stadium and Sesquicentennial Stadium) was an open-air stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that stood from 1926 to 1992. The South Philadelphia stadium was situated on the east side of the far southern end of Broad Street at a location that is now part of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex. Designed by the architectural firm of Simon & Simon[1] in a classic 1920s style with a horseshoe seating design that surrounded a track and football field, at its peak the facility seated in excess of 102,000 people. Bleachers were later added at the open (North) end. Each section of the main portion of the stadium contained its own entrance, which displayed the letters of each section above the entrance, in a nod to ancient Roman stadia. Section designators were divided at the south end of the stadium (the bottom of the "U" shape) between West and East, starting with Sections WA and EA and proceeding north. The north bleachers started with Section NA.

The field was 110 feet (34 m) wide and 307 feet (94 m) long. It was built of concrete, stone, and brick on a 13.5-acre (55,000 m2) tract.[2]


  • Opening and names 1
  • Football 2
  • Other sports 3
  • Other events 4
  • Concerts 5
  • Closing and demolition 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Opening and names

JFK Stadium was built as part of the 1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition. Originally known as Sesquicentennial Stadium when it opened April 15, 1926, the structure was renamed Philadelphia Municipal Stadium[3] after the Exposition's closing ceremonies. In 1964, it was renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium in memory of the 35th President of the United States who had been assassinated the year before.


The stadium's first tenants (in 1926) were the Philadelphia Quakers of the first American Football League, whose Saturday afternoon home games were a popular mainstay of the Exposition. The Quakers won the league championship but the league folded after one year.

The Frankford Yellow Jackets also played here intermittently until the team's demise in 1931. Two years later the National Football League awarded another team to the city, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles had a four-season stint as tenants of the stadium before moving to Shibe Park for the 1940 season, although the team did play at Municipal in 1941. The Eagles also used the stadium for practices in the 1970s and 1980s, even locating their first practice bubble there before moving it to the Veterans Stadium parking lot following the stadium's condemnation.

The stadium became known chiefly as the "neutral" venue for a total of 41 annual Army–Navy Games played there between 1936 to 1979, and from 1960 to 1970 it served as Navy's home field when they played Notre Dame. It also hosted the Notre Dame-Army game in 1957, marking the only time the Cadets have hosted the Fighting Irish outside of New York or New Jersey.

A.F. “Bud” Dudley, a former Villanova University athletic-director, created the Liberty Bowl in Philadelphia in 1959. The game was played at Municipal Stadium and was the only cold-weather bowl game of its time. It was plagued by poor attendance; the 1963 game between Mississippi State and NC State drew less than 10,000 fans and absorbed a loss in excess of $40,000. The Liberty Bowl’s best game was its first in 1959, when 38,000 fans watched Penn State beat Alabama, 7-0. Atlantic City convinced Dudley to move his game from Philadelphia to Atlantic City's Convention Hall for 1964. 6,059 fans saw Utah rout West Virginia in the first Bowl Game played indoors. Dudley moved the game to Memphis in 1965 where it has been played since.[4]

The stadium hosted Philadelphia's City Title high school football championship game in 1939 and 1978. St. Joe's Prep defeated Northeast, 27 to 6, in 1939. Frankford beat Archbishop Wood, 27 to 7, in heavy rain in 1978.[5]

The stadium was home to the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League in 1974; the team played at Franklin Field in 1975. In 1958 the stadium hosted a CFL game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Ottawa Rough Riders with proceeds from ticket sales going to local charities.

The stadium was also host to what many call the first Super Bowl. On September 16, 1950, the AAFC Champion, Cleveland Browns, were matched against the two-time defending NFL Champion, Philadelphia Eagles. It was the first NFL game for the Browns who had won four straight AAFC Championships. This was a matchup of the vaunted Cleveland offense led by quarterback Otto Graham against the stout Philadelphia defense which had not allowed a single point in the last two NFL Championship Games. Philadelphia was the head of the professional football universe at the time. In addition to being defending NFL Champions, Philadelphia native, Bert Bell, was NFL Commissioner and the league offices were in Philadelphia. The game was moved from the Eagles' home at Shibe Park to accommodate the ticket demand for the game. It was played before the largest crowd ever to see an Eagle game or an NFL game. The 71,000+ in attendance almost doubled the Eagles' prior attendance mark of 38,000+. Many thought Mr. Bell had scheduled this game of defending league champions to teach the upstarts from the new league a lesson. Instead, the lesson was imparted by the Browns who won the game 35-10 and went on to win the NFL Championship that first year in the league.

Other sports

On September 23, 1926, an announced crowd of 120,557 packed the then-new Stadium during a rainstorm to witness Gene Tunney capture the world heavyweight boxing title from Jack Dempsey. Undefeated Rocky Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott at the stadium in 1952 to win boxing's heavyweight championship.

On June 26, 1957, a 150 lap NASCAR convertible race was held at the Stadium, which was won by Bob Welborn in a 1957 Chevrolet.[6]

JFK Stadium hosted Team America's soccer match against England on May 31, 1976, as part of the 1976 U.S.A. Bicentennial Cup Tournament. In the game, England defeated Team America, 3-1, in front of a small crowd of 16,239. England and Italy had failed to qualify for the 1976 European Championship final tournament and so they joined Brazil and Team America, composed of international stars playing in the North American Soccer League, in the four team competition. Because Team America was composed of international players and was not the American national team, the Football Association does not regard England's match against Team America as an official international match.[7]

JFK Stadium was one of fifteen United States stadia (and along with Franklin Field, also 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.[8] By the time the World Cup was held in 1994, JFK Stadium had already been demolished two years prior.

Other events

The Philadelphia Flyers won their second Stanley Cup on 27 May, 1975, and celebrated with a parade down Broad Street the next day that ended at the stadium. Five years later, the Philadelphia Phillies won their first World Series on October 21 of that year. The following day, the team paraded the exact route. In 1981, The Rolling Stones announced their World Tour via a press conference at JFK.[9] Through 1989, the Broad Street Run course ended with a lap around the track at the stadium.


JFK Stadium holding one of Amnesty International's Human Rights Now! concerts. September 19, 1988.

JFK Stadium occasionally hosted rock concerts, including the American portion of Live Aid on July 13, 1985.

The Beatles played their second and final Philadelphia concert here on August 16, 1966.

Judy Garland gave her last concert in America here in 1968.

Peter Frampton, Gary Wright, Yes, and the Pousette-Dart Band played the "1976 Bicentennial Concert" here on June 12, 1976, to 130,000 fans.

Led Zeppelin was scheduled to conclude their 1977 US Tour at the stadium, but the final 7 concerts of the tour were cancelled, due to the death of Robert Plant's 5-year-old son Karac. The original Led Zeppelin never played in the US again, although the surviving members performed at Live Aid.[10]

Peter Frampton returned from a 7-month lay-off and played with Lynyrd Skynyrd, The J. Geils Band and Dickey Betts & Great Southern, before 91,000 fans, on June 11, 1977.[11]

On June 17, 1978, The Rolling Stones performed before a crowd of 100,000 fans. Opening acts included Bob Marley's former bandmate Peter Tosh and Foreigner. After The Stones finished their dispirited 45 minute set, disgruntled concert goers, many of whom had waited through 12 hours of drizzle, began throwing anything they could get, onto the stage that was shaped into the "tongue" logo. Damage to the stage was estimated at a million dollars as smoke came pouring out marring an otherwise great day of vintage Rolling Stones.

Another all-star show was staged at JFK on July 30, 1978 that featured the Sanford-Townsend Band, Bob Welch, Steve Miller, and Fleetwood Mac. The Bob Welch and Steve Miller sets were marred by PA system problems. The Fleetwood Mac set was marred by the unreliable vocals of Stevie Nicks, who was disinterested at best and off-key or off-tempo at worst. The rest of the band was strong however, especially Lindsey Buckingham's guitar work and Christine McVie's vocals.

The Rolling Stones opened their 1981 American Tour ("Tattoo You") with two shows at JFK Stadium, on September 25 and 26, 1981. (The Stones pre-opened the tour with a warm-up show at the Sir Morgan's Cove club in Worcester, Massachusetts, on September 14, 1981.) Mick Jagger met the press at JFK Stadium on August 26, 1981, to announce the tour.

Blondie concluded their Tracks Across America Tour here, on August 21, 1982. They disbanded shortly thereafter, due to guitarist Chris Stein being diagnosed with a rare life-threatening disease, pemphigus and The Hunter having sold very poorly. They did not perform live again for 15 years, until 1997. Genesis was the headliner and used the open air stadium for one of their spectacular nighttime laser and fireworks shows. The show started at 3pm and also featured Elvis Costello & The Attractions, A Flock of Seagulls, and Robert Hazard & The Heroes.

The Who performed at the stadium on September 25, 1982, early into their (then) Farewell Tour which also supported their album It's Hard. Opening acts for the show were Santana and The Clash. A total of 91,451 were in attendance, one of the largest ticketed single-show, non-festival stadium concerts ever held in the U.S., as documented by Billboard.[12]

Journey headlined a concert June 4, 1983. The show featured Bryan Adams, The Tubes, Sammy Hagar and John Cougar (as John Mellencamp was referred to at the time). This show provided the majority of the concert footage for an NFL Films produced documentary, called Journey, Frontiers and Beyond.

Live Aid was primarily a dual-venue concert held on July 13, 1985. The event was held simultaneously at JFK Stadium (attended by about 100,000 people) and at Wembley Stadium, in London (attended by 72,000 people), as well as other venues in other countries. Musical acts that appeared in Philadelphia included Madonna, the former members of Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and Bob Dylan, accompanied by Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, of The Rolling Stones. Phil Collins performed at Wembley Stadium, travelled by helicopter to Heathrow Airport, flew to Philadelphia via Concorde supersonic jet and performed at JFK Stadium.

U2 performed at the stadium on September 25, 1987, during their Joshua Tree Tour, in front of a crowd of 86,145 people.

Pink Floyd held a concert on September 19, 1987, in front of a crowd in excess of 120,000 (general admission was sold on the field), but the show was not sold out (RoIO Prism).

The stadium played host to The Monsters of Rock Festival Tour, featuring Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica and Kingdom Come, on June 11, 1988.

The stadium also played host to Amnesty International's Human Rights Now! Benefit Concert on September 19, 1988. The show was headlined by Sting and Peter Gabriel and also featured Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Tracy Chapman, Youssou N'Dour and Joan Baez.

It was not known at the time, but the stadium's last event was the Grateful Dead's concert on July 7, 1989, with Bruce Hornsby & The Range as their opening act. Fans at the show recall concrete crumbling and bathrooms in poor shape. The Dead closed the show with "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"; it would be the last song played at the stadium.[13] In 2010, the concert recording was released on a CD/DVD combination, titled Crimson White & Indigo.

On August 28, 29, and 30, 1989, In preparation for opening their 1989 Steel Wheels tour in Philadelphia (Veterans Stadium, August 31, 1989), the Rolling Stones set up their stage inside JFK Stadium for two full dress-rehearsal performances on August 28 and 29, 1989. A few dozen fans were allowed to enter the stadium to attend these rehearsals.

Closing and demolition

Six days after the Grateful Dead's 1989 show, then-Mayor Wilson Goode condemned the stadium due to multiple findings by city inspectors that the structure was structurally unsafe and a potential fire hazard. Just hours before the concert, city inspectors discovered piles of combustible materials, numerous electrical problems, and crumbling concrete. There had been reports of falling concrete for some time before then. The Grateful Dead concert was allowed to go ahead due to strict no-smoking regulations that had been enacted some time before.[14] Renovating and repairing the stadium was quickly ruled out, and it was demolished on September 23, 1992.[15][16]

The 1993 Philadelphia stop for the Lollapalooza music festival was held at the JFK Stadium site on July 18, 1993. The site was an open field as construction had not yet begun on the then still tentatively named "Spectrum II" (Wells Fargo Center). This was the show at which Rage Against the Machine did not play, in protest of the Parents Music Resource Center.[17]

The Wells Fargo Center now stands on the site, which is part of the complex that also includes Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park.


  1. ^ * City Architect; Department of City Architecture; Philadelphia Information Locator System
  2. ^ "JFK Stadium: End Zone Near".  
  3. ^ E.L Austin and Odell Hauser. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition (Chapter XXX "MUNICIPAL STADIUM") pp 419-423; Philadelphia, PA (1929). 
  4. ^ Antonick, John (June 22, 2005). "Unique Game". West Virginia Mountaineers ( Retrieved April 26, 2009. 
  5. ^ "FB City Title Recaps". Ted Sillary. Retrieved April 23, 2009. 
  6. ^ "1957 NASCAR convertible race". Racing-Reference. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  7. ^ "England 's Minor Tournaments and Cups; U.S.A. Bicentennial Cup Tournament, U.S.A., 1976". England Football Online. Peter Young, Alan Brook, Josh Benn, Chris Goodwin, and Glen Isherwood. Retrieved April 24, 2009. 
  8. ^ Vecsey, George (April 10, 1988). "Sports of The Time; Americans Prepare for Lights, Cameras and Soccer".  
  10. ^ "Led Zeppelin". Page 20 All Shows. Retrieved July 26, 2009. 
  11. ^ Rockwell, Joan (June 13, 1977). "Frampton Back, Plays to 91,000; Philadelphia Show Is First Concert in 7 Months Million-Dollar Gross".  
  12. ^ "The best-attended US tours of allptime". Vanity Edge. Retrieved August 3, 2011. 
  13. ^ "John F. Kennedy Stadium; July 07, 1989; Philadelphia, PA US".  
  14. ^ "City Closes JFK Stadium".  
  15. ^ "Goodbye To JFK Stadium As Demolition Firm Is Hired".  
  16. ^ "Wreckers, 1, JFK Stadium, 0".  
  17. ^ "Lollapalooza 1993 - John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia, PA".  

Further reading

  • Essay about Pink Floyd at July 24, 1968 Summer Music Festival at JFK Stadium

External links

  • Grateful Dead's July 7, 1989 JFK Concert
  • Site of JFK/Municipal Stadium via Google Maps
  • Aerial photograph of JFK/Municipal Stadium in 1927
Preceded by

Baker Bowl
Shibe Park
Home of the
Philadelphia Eagles

1936 – 1939
Succeeded by
Shibe Park
Preceded by
first stadium
Home of the
Liberty Bowl

1959 – 1963
Succeeded by
Atlantic City Convention Hall
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