Franklin Field is probably best known as the home to the Penn Relays and the Quaker football team, but in the stadium’s history it has hosted a wide variety of events, including professional football and soccer games, the Army-Navy Game, concerts and even military functions during World War I.
The facility, the nation’s oldest college football stadium, opened in 1895 by hosting the first running of the Penn Relays.
But that’s not the only Franklin Field first. It was also the first stadium in the country to have a scoreboard, the first two-tiered stadium in the nation, and it’s where football games were first broadcast on radio (1922), and on television (1939).
In 1922, the stadium doubled its capacity from 20,000 to 40,000, and became Philadelphia’s largest sports stadium. It expanded again in 1925 with the addition of the upper deck, growing to 52,593 seats. Today, the field closely resembles this photo of the stadium from 1930.
The arena was the home field for the Philadelphia Eagles for 13 years—from 1958-1970, before the team moved to Veterans Stadium. The Philadelphia Atoms of the North American Soccer League called Franklin Field home in 1976, the team’s final year of existence.
Franklin Field hosted the Army-Navy Game from 1899 until 1925, when it moved to the city’s Municipal Stadium, later renamed JFK Stadium. Philadelphia has traditionally been the host of the game because of its location as an approximate halfway point between West Point and Annapolis.
Penn’s football, sprint football, lacrosse, track, and field hockey teams still play at Franklin Field. And each May, the facility houses the University’s Commencement ceremony.
For more information on this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives at www.archives.upenn.edu.
Originally published on October 14, 2010