Friday, July 3, 2015

Eagles play their first game at the Vet

On August 16, 1971, the Eagles played the first football game in Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Eagles defeated the Buffalo Bills 34 to 28 in the preseason game.

Eagles play their first game at the Vet

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On August 16, 1971, the Eagles played the first football game in Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Eagles defeated the Buffalo Bills 34 to 28 in the preseason game.

As a multi-use facility, the venue was regarded as state-of-the-art when it was completed in 1971. It was the largest of the round and nearly round municipally-owned outdoor arenas built in the 1960s and 1970s. At a total cost of $52 million, it was one of the most expensive stadiums to date.

It housed the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles from 1971 to 2002 and the National League's Philadelphia Phillies baseball team from 1971 to 2003.

Yet the Vet was never a particularly good arena for either baseball or football. In fact, just before that first game on August 16, general manager Pete Retzlaff stepped on the 15-yard line and lost his shoe in the freshly laid down playing artificial turf. (The field had been used for baseball until that date.) Plus, the players were upset when they discovered that the air conditioning in their locker rooms was broken.

Furthermore, the concrete structure deteriorated rapidly and was derided for its lack of character, intimacy or creature comforts—as well as its harsh AstroTurf. By the 1990s, Veterans Stadium was regarded as the worst stadium in the nation.

Still, the Vet saw some amazing baseball and football games during its thirty-three years of existence. Its Section 700 level was a haven for rabid Eagles fans, with a reputation for toughness unmatched elsewhere in the NFL.

The Eagles played their last game there on January 19, 2003.Veterans Stadium was imploded in March of 2004, just before the opening of the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park and several months after the Eagles moved to Lincoln Financial Field. It took about a minute to bring down what had taken two and a half years to erect.

The Vet site became a parking lot for 5,000 spaces, giving the Philadelphia Sports Complex 22,000 parking spaces. Appropriate memorials mark the spot.See Rich Westcott, Veterans Stadium: Field of Memories (Philadelphia, PA: Temple U. Press, 2005) for a full history of the stadium.

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