The Abandoned Akron Rubber Bowl Comes Down

abandoned Johnny Joo

It’s sad to hear that one of the many places featured within my upcoming book is being demolished. It’s sad to see places like this go, but their stories will live on through photographs and memories for generations to come. This stadium will be featured in my book Forgotten Dreams along with other Akron history, such as Rolling Acres Mall.

abandoned akron rubber bowl stadium decaying

Construction of Akron’s Rubber Bowl Stadium began in 1939, and was completed and opened by 1940. Until 2008, it served as the home field of the Akron Zips football team, but would host numerous other events, including many famous musicians. Music groups such as Black Sabbath, Simon & Garfunkel, Alice Cooper, Three Dog Night and The Rolling Stones all performed at the Rubber Bowl in the 1970s. Throughout the 1980s, the field welcomed Bon Jovi, Van Halen, the Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica, Kingdom Come, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead. In 1983, during Simon & Garfunkel’s first tour together in 13 years, they made a stop at the stadium, performing for a crowd of around 37,000. During a show in 1986, Bob Dylan performed on stage for the first time with the Grateful Dead. In 1997, the stadium hosted a Veterans Memorial Jam concert featuring Aretha Franklin, Ringo Starr and Three Dog Night. The 1998 Ozzfest was also held here.

Aside from a great history in music, the stadium would host such events as the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, with their first performance since the Hartford Circus fire on July 6, 1944.

But of course, the primary use of the Rubber Bowl was for American football games. The very first game within the stadium was played on October 5, 1940 – the Akron Zips against Case Western Reserve. The Zips first win within the stadium was against Kent State on November 9, 1940. Twenty-one years later, the Akron Zips recorded their first sellout in the Rubber Bowl on September 30, 1961. Ten years later, the university purchased the stadium from the city for $1. Up until 1973, the field was real grass, but the university had made the decision to install an artificial surface.

The stadium had hosted over 1,500 football games for the high schools in Akron, as well as for Ohio High School Athletic Association playoff games. The Cleveland Browns had also used the stadium for 19 preseason games over the years.

Numerous games were played, events held, concerts performed over the years. By 2003, the stadium was starting to go into a bit of disrepair, and the university began planning for the construction of a new stadium, later known as InfoCision Stadium – Summa Field. Work began in January of 2008. The final game took place on November 13, 2008 with the Akron Zips against the Buffalo Bulls. This final game was nationally televised on ESPN. In September of 2009, the new stadium was built and ready to open to the public.

Four years after the stadium’s closure, local marketing company Team1 Marketing Group of Canton started to eye the stadium as a possible venue for a potential United States Football League team called the Akron Fire. Team1 Marketing purchased the stadium in January of 2013 for $38,000, and planned to make improvements such as updating the press box, locker rooms and concession areas. They had also planned to replace the scoreboards and seating. By April 17, 2014 the initial plans had changed, and the company announced that they would be using the stadium to host numerous events as a multi-use entertainment facility. They had even planned to build a dome over it, but as far as they really got was a bit of cleanup and removing most seats. In 2015, it was announced that the first event to be held in the renovated stadium would be a hip-hop concert and party fest known as LOUD-Fest, produced by a local music company. But due to the stadium remaining in such a dilapidated state, the event was rescheduled and moved to a new location. After much struggle with renovating the stadium, Team1 gave up the deed on August 29, 2017 allowing the city of Akron to take full ownership.

September 22, 2017 was the date that the city of Akron had announced the stadium would be demolished. Demolition has begun as of 6/20/2018.