Football. Music. Community.
All three were instrumental in the memories made inside the iconic Rubber Bowl in Akron.
As the Summit County Land Bank prepares to take ownership of the property, talk of plans to demolish the crumbling stadium draws closer.
The Rubber Bowl has sat vacant since 2008 when the University of Akron decided it was time to move to a new stadium closer to campus, now known as Infocision Stadium.
There were plans for a new life for the Rubber Bowl when the Team 1 Marketing Group in Canton bought the property in 2013, planning to renovate the stadium into an entertainment venue, hosting concerts and sporting events. In the early stages of planning, the group’s proposal included a dome that was complicated by the nearby airport.
As the days, years passed, the local developer said they “couldn’t get the city and [Soap Box] derby on board.”
Ellen Lander Nischt, press secretary with the city of Akron, said the group was “unable to convince City Council that they had the resources, financing, parking, and plan to operate a facility of this size and complexity."
Nischt said several factors played a role in the decision, including zoning issues and $195,000 in deliquent taxes that were owed on the property at the time the group made their proposal to council.
Next step: Demolition
The property is being transferred to the Summit County Land Bank. They will work with the city to address the next steps, which includes demolition.
“It’s sad to see this in such disrepair, but it’s time that we do something with it and bring this part of Akron’s history to a close,” said Patrick Bravo, executive director of land bank.
Nischt said the city’s building engineer “has indicated that the structure is unsafe in its current condition” and “will need to be demolished to ensure the safety and security of the property and the public.”
The city of Akron's building superintendent condemned the structure early this summer based on the stadium's condition, according to Nischt. The stadium is closed to the public due to its deteriating and unsafe condition.
Initial costs are estimated at $200,000 for a partial emergency demolition. The total cost is estimated at around $350,000.
Some have asked about whether there will be a chance to own a piece of the turf at the stadium, but Nischt said the city does not anticipate being able to make any of the items publicly available citing the field's poor shape and that the turf is "glued to the concrete below it."
Nischt noted that Mayor Dan Horrigan has asked the city’s Planning and Economic Development staff to “develop a strategic plan for potential future development of the site, that will complement surrounding uses including Derby Downs and the Akron Fulton Airport.”
While the future of the site remains unknown, Nischt said the mayor “is confident that future development at the site will add renewed vibrancy and economic activity to the neighborhood.”
The Rubber Bowl was home to University of Akron athletes and fans for decades.
The stadium, built nearly 80 years ago, seated thousands cheering on their favorites, from high school football to the professional league.
The Dallas Texans played in the stadium in 1952 — winning their only game —in Akron’s iconic Rubber Bowl.
The Cleveland Browns took the field in 1956.
It’s history includes welcoming players like former UA Zip and Browns quarterback Charlie Frye and a young,
The Rolling Stones took the stage in 1972, which was later followed by a riot. Ott Gangl, a former photographer with the Akron Beacon Journal, captured the tense moments at the concert.
A list of musicians followed, like The Grateful Dead in 1986. Tom Petty and Bob Dylan were also part of the lineup, which was a night to remember for 97.5 WONE’s Tim Daugherty.
“While we’re sitting there and enjoying the show, who should come up to sit right next to us, the WONE staff, but
Bernie Kosar who has his wayfarers on who came to enjoy the show, so that was my favorite memory,” Daugherty said.
In 1988, Monsters of Rock, headlined by Van Halen, also took the stage.
While football and music may have been the heart of the Rubber Bowl, it was also the camp site for the Ohio National Guard, stationed inside the stadium during the Akron riots in 1968.
Fast forward about 40 years, and there you would find the last sounds to echo out of the 35,000 seat stadium.
The Rubber Bowl may look empty now, but the history and memories made in the graffiti covered shell live on.
In fact, University of Akron student Jake Durr is making a virtual Minecraft version of the Rubber Bowl. The stadium seats, the entrance, it’s location near Akron’s Soap Box Derby, placed in a digital format so it’s legacy lives on.
Durr is in the process of finishing up his piece and plans to publish his work so others can also enjoy the virtual landscape of the Rubber Bowl.