The construction of a sports stadium for the University of Akron began in 1939 in the southeastern part of Akron, Ohio. The stadium in the shape of a horseshoe and had capacity for about 35,000 spectators.
Construction took one year and the stadium’s first event was the state music and drill competition in June 1940.
The official opening and dedication ceremony took place a couple of months later in August 1940 and was attended by about 36,000 to 40,000 people.
The stadium received its rather strange name in recognition of the local tire industry which was a big deal in Akron.
The primary purpose of the stadium was to host American football games.
The Akron Zips, the football team of Akron University, was the primary tenant. Previously, the team had been based at Buchtel Field, which only had the capacity for 7,000 spectators. The Zips went on to play 324 games in the Rubber Bowl stadium.
The Zips’s first game was held on October 5, 1940, when they played against Case Western Reserve. However, their first victory at this stadium took place only on November 9, 1940, when they played against Kent State. Their first sell-out date was September 30, 1961.
The stadium also hosted football games for high schools in the city, as well as the Ohio High School Athletes Association (OHSAA) competitions. In addition, from time to time it was possible to see rodeos, car races, circuses, and musical performances.
In 1956, the evangelist Billy Graham conducted a crusade at the stadium, an event which attracted about 40,000 people.
In 1971, Akron University decided to buy the stadium and managed to purchase it for the princely sum of $1. Two years later, the university removed the real grass that covered the playing field and replaced it with an artificial surface. In 2003, that was replaced again by AstroPlay.
While the Zips were the main tenants of this ground, other football teams played here, such as the Cleveland Rams and the Kent State Golden Flashes. The stadium also hosted music concerts and artists such as The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Aretha Franklin, and Bon Jovi performed here.
The year 1973 was particularly memorable because the famous tightrope walker Karl Wallenda walked along a rope that was suspended above the stadium. This took place just before a university football game in September. The performance was accompanied by the Akron Zips marching band playing circus music.
However, by 2003, the university started to think about building a new stadium on campus. This was not only because the Rubber Bowl was beginning to fall into disrepair, but also because it was situated several miles off-campus.
The Akron Zips football match against the Buffalo Bulls in November 2008 was the final game to be played at the Rubber Bowl stadium. It was televised on ESPN. After the game was finished, a ceremony was held to look back over the 68 years that the stadium had been active. Current and former players and coaches were involved.
Plans for building a new stadium had been announced a year before the final football match took place. The stadium that replaced Rubber Bowl was called InfoCision Stadium – Summa Field. Construction began in January 2008, and the official opening of the new stadium took place in September 2009.
The Zips team moved to the new stadium, and the Rubber Bowl came to be owned by a company based in Canton, Ohio, known as Team1 Marketing Group Inc. The company bought the stadium in 2013 for $38,000.
Team1’s intentions were to restore the old stadium and turn it into a home for a United States Football League team: Akron Fire. Repair work began swiftly in 2013, with the intention of improving the press box, locker rooms, and concession areas.
However, in April 2014, the plan to create a home for Akron Fire fell by the wayside. Instead, a new plan appeared: to convert the stadium into a multifunctional entertainment facility for various events by building a large dome over the top of it.
The hip hop concert and party called LOUD-Fest was supposed to be the first event to take place at the new stadium in May 2015. The organization of the festival was planned by a local music company. However, since the stadium remained in a dilapidated condition, the organizers decided to abandon it in favor of another venue.
On August 29, 2017, Team1 decided it no longer wanted the hassle of renovating this property and transferred full ownership to the city of Akron. Two months later, the city announced plans to demolish the structure.
A demolition project worth $200,000 received state funding of $100,000. Summit County Land Bank offered to provide $50,000, and then the city allocated the remaining $50,000 necessary for the demolition process.
Since about 95 percent of the stadium’s layout consisted of concrete structures, this made demolition relatively straightforward. Eslich Wrecking Co. carried out the partial demolition of the stadium, which began on June 20, 2018. The concrete rubble was then dealt with by Ohio Concrete Recycling, also owned by Eslich.
By October of that year, half of the stadium was demolished; the other half was less dangerous and also couldn’t be removed without disrupting the nearby roadway.
So far, the city has no plans for what will happen to those parts of the stadium still standing or whether the site will be redeveloped or put to another use.
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