Franklin Field Explained

Stadium Name:Franklin Field
Location:S. 33rd and Spruce Sts.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Broke Ground:1895
Opened:1895 (field)
1922 (stands)
Owner:University of Pennsylvania
Operator:University of Pennsylvania
Grass (1895-1970)
AstroTurf (1970-2004)
Sprinturf (2004-)
Cinders (1895-1987)
Rekortan (1988-)
Construction Cost:$100,000 (1895)
Architect:Frank Miles Day, Charles Klauder
Tenants:Penn Quakers
(Baseball, 1895-1918?)
(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)
Seating Capacity:30,000 (1918)
60,658 (Eagles capacity 1958-1970)
52,593 (current)

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.


Franklin Field opened in 1895 with a cost of $100,000 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 and permanent grand stands were erected from 1903 to 1905. The current stadium structure was built in the 1920s after the original wooden bleachers were torn down. The lower tier was erected in 1922 and the second tier was added in 1925, when it became the second and largest two-tiered stadium in the United States.[1]

The first football radio boadcast originated from Franklin Field in 1922. It was carried by Philadelphia station WIP. 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, Ben) seats 52,593.

Franklin Field switched from grass to AstroTurf in 1970. The fifth AstroTurf surface was installed in 1993. The current Sprinturf field replaced the AstroTurf in 2004.[2]

Penn Relays and Track & 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.[3]

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, Vasily Kuznetsov, Dyrol Burleson, Greg Bell, a young Wilma Rudolph, and future long-jump great Igor Ter-Ovanesyan.[4]

The Relays were featured in the April 29, 1961, premiere of ABC's Wide World of Sports.

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.[5]


Penn Quakers

Red Grange set an NCAA record at Franklin Field when he rushed for 331 yards[6] in the University of Illinois' 24-2 victory over Penn on October 31, 1925 before 67,877 spectators.[7]

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.[8] Penn won the match-up 44-9.[9]

The Penn Quakers football team played their 800th game ever at the stadium on October 4, 2008 against Dartmouth.[10]

Philadelphia Eagles

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.

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.[11]

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.

Several infamous incidents occurred at the stadium while the Eagles played there.

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 the skinny sorry-looking Santa Claus, 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.[12]

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 series was held here for many of the years between 1899 and 1935 before moving to the larger Municipal Stadium in South Philadelphia.[13]

From the 1990s until 2002, to accommodate the Eagles and the Phillies, whose regular seasons overlapped by a month, Temple University scheduled several of its August and September home football games at Franklin Field, while playing the rest of those seasons at Veterans Stadium. The stadium had also hosted the Owls several times on a sporadic basis for many years, usually when their home field, Temple Stadium, was too small to handle the expected crowds.

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. [14] The Triangles won 6-3.[15]

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. [16]

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.[17] The game was also broadcast nationally on ABC Sports.


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.[18] It is estimated that a crowd of 100,000 sat through intermittent rain at Franklin Field to hear FDR's speech.[19]

Other sports and events

Franklin Field served as Penn's home baseball field early in its history. Records show that the Penn varsity baseball team played at Franklin Field from 1895[20] until at least 1918[21] if not later.

Drum Corps International held its annual Drum and Bugle Corps World Championships at the stadium in 1975 and 1976.

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.[22]

In 1997, Franklin Field hosted Irish band U2 during the first leg of their Pop Mart Tour on June 8. This was the stadium's first concert since the 1970s.[23],[24]

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.[25]

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.[26]

In popular culture

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.

External links

Notes and References

  1. News: Mary D.. McConaghy. Michael T. Woods. Penn Sports in the 1800s: The Origins of Penn Athletics. 2005. University of Pennsylvania

    University Archives and Records Center

    . 2009-01-08.
  2. News: Michael. Gertner. Franklin Field features new turf, scoreboard. 2004-09-02. Daily Pennsylvanian. 2008-12-17.
  3. News: The Relays!. 1955-05-02. Sports Illustrated. 2009-01-08.
  4. News: ATF Editor. This Day in Track & Field: July 18-19. 2008-05-22. American Track & Field. 2009-01-08.
  5. News: Roy. Terrell. The Ncaa Visits The Wild East. 1961-06-26. Sports Illustrated. 2009-01-08.
  6. News: Franklin Field. The Ivy League. 2009-01-08.
  7. News: All-Time Scores: 1925. 2008-07. University of Illinois Athletics. 2009-01-08.
  8. News: Yo! Who's No. 1?. 2002-11-19. The Ivy League. 2009-01-05.
  9. News: Harvard Athletic Communications. Gridders Take A Fall In Philadelphia. 2002-11-16. 2009-01-05.
  10. News: Andy. Kuhn. Franklin Field 800: On Saturday, Quakers host 800th football game at facility for which they're 'caretakers'. 2008-10-02. Daily Pennsylvanian. 2009-01-22.
  11. News: NFL History by Decade: 1950-1959. NFL. 2009-01-05.
  12. News: Ronnie. Polaneczky. This is Philly: After 40 years, we'll still boo a bad Santa. 2008-12-15. Philadelphia Daily News. 2008-12-15.
  13. Book: Didinger. Ray. Lyons. Robert S.. The Eagles Encyclopedia. 2009-01-08. 2005. Temple University Press. Philadelphia. 1592134491. 205.
  14. News: John J.. Fenton. Philadelphia's Pro Football Stadiums. 2001-2007. Ghosts of the Gridiron. 2009-01-13.
  15. News: 1927 Dayton Triangles Game Results. 2000-2008. Pro Football Reference. 2009-01-13.
  16. News: Tony. Guadagnoli. Football's oldest stadiums: Witnesses to the game's evolution. 2008-10-05. ESPN. 2008-10-16.
  17. News: 1984 USFL Quarterfinals. 2009-01-05.
  18. News: M. Charles. Bakst. At conventions, JFK and FDR also spoke outdoors. 2008-08-21. Providence Journal. 2008-08-28.
  19. News: Jeff. Gammage. Before Obama, there was FDR at Franklin Field. 2008-08-29. Philadelphia Inquirer. 2008-08-29.
  20. News: Michael T.. Woods. Penn Baseball in the 1800s: 1895 Varsity Team. 2005-08. University of Pennsylvania

    University Archives

    . 2009-01-27.
  21. News: COLUMBIA NINE IS BEATEN.; Loses Game to Pennsylvania on Franklin Field, 9 to 5.. 1918-05-05. New York Times. 30. 2009-01-27.
  22. News: Steve. Holroyd. Philadelphia atoms History: 1976. 2009-01-22.
  23. News: Jaclyn. LaPlaca. Tickets on sale today for U2 at Franklin Field. 1997-02-13. Daily Pennsylvanian. 2009-01-05.
  24. News: Shannon. Burke. U2 rocks Franklin Field with energized show. 1997-06-12. Daily Pennsylvanian. 2009-01-05.
  25. News: Jonathan. Tannenwald. U.S. Rugby's upset bid spoiled by Australia at Franklin Field. 2004-12-01. Daily Pennsylvanian. 2009-01-05.
  26. News: 2007 NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse Championship Ticket Information. 2007-01-10. Draw Philadelphia. 2008-10-16.