The old Downing Stadium on Randalls Island
|Former names||Randall's Island Stadium (1936–1948)
Triborough Stadium (1948–1955)
|Location||New York City, New York|
|Owner||New York City Department of Parks and Recreation|
|Opened||July 11, 1936|
|New York Yankees (AFL II) (some games, 1936–1937)
Negro League games (1936-40)
Olympic trials (1936–1964)
New York Yankees/Americans (AFL III) (some games 1940–1941)
Brooklyn Dodgers (CFL) (1966)
New York Stars (WFL) (1974)
New York Cosmos (NASL) (1974–1975)
New York Centaurs (A-League) (1995)
Several concerts (1938–2002)
Tibetan Freedom Concert (1997)
Downing Stadium, previously known as Triborough Stadium and Randall's Island Stadium, was a 22,000-seat stadium in New York City. It was renamed Downing Stadium in 1955 after John J. Downing, a director at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
Track and field
Built on Randalls Island in the East River as a WPA project, 15,000 attendees witnessed Jesse Owens compete at the stadium in the Men's Olympic Trials on July 11, 1936, the opening night of the new facility. Downing Stadium also hosted the Women's Olympic Trials in 1964. Later the stadium hosted the 1991 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Triborough Stadium served as one of two home stadia of the football New York Yankees of the second AFL (along with Yankee Stadium) in 1936 and 1937. The first televised American football game was held at Triborough on September 30, 1939, as Fordham took on Waynesburg. NYU's football team also played its last two seasons at Triborough in 1951 and 1952.
In 1966, the Continental Football League's Brooklyn Dodgers, unable to find a suitable field in Brooklyn (Ebbets Field had been torn down in 1960), played their home games at Downing. (Coincidentally, the football Dodgers wound up playing under the same lights used at Ebbets, as they had been moved to Randalls Island upon the older stadium's destruction.) The club would play only three games at Downing before the league took over the franchise and shifted their remaining home games elsewhere. Eight years later, Downing Stadium became the home of the New York Stars of the WFL; like the Dodgers, the Stars left the stadium before the season ended, shifting to Charlotte.
Randalls Island was the site of two international soccer matches: the USA team played Scotland on Randalls Island on June 19, 1949, with the Scots winning, 4-0, with 17,000 in attendance; on May 27, 1964, the English squad crushed the Americans, 10–0, in front of just 5,062 fans.
The New York Cosmos of the NASL moved to Downing in 1974. On June 15, 1975, Pele made his NASL debut against the Dallas Tornado, with the field spray-painted green to look better on television; CBS carried the game live. In 1976, the Cosmos moved out, back to Yankee Stadium (where they had spent their debut season in 1971); for years afterward, the words "COSMOS SOCCER" remained on the stadium to be seen from the nearby highway viaduct on the Triborough Bridge). Downing's last pro soccer tenant were the New York Centaurs of the A-League in 1995.
The site was considered for a 48,000-seat capacity soccer specific stadium, based on the design of the City of Manchester Stadium, had the New York City bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics been successful. The plan was shelved when New York lost out to London.
The stadium also played host to the rugby football New Zealand All Blacks several times, in the course of larger tours to Europe. They last played a New York Metropolitan selection in October 1972, beating their hosts 41–9.
In October 1997, Downing played host to a Gaelic football match between Cavan and Kerry; the game was moved to New York in order to commemorate the 1947 All Ireland Final between the same teams played at the Polo Grounds.
In 1938, the stadium hosted the Carnival of Swing, one of the first large outdoor jazz festivals.
After the triumph of Woodstock the previous year, the three-day New York Pop Festival tried to re-create its success in New York City, opening on Randalls Island on July 17, 1970. Unfortunately, the concert was a bust, as half the big name lineup failed to show up (although Jimi Hendrix performed a memorable set). What's more, the festival was picketed by several radical groups: some of the protesters demanded that a portion of the ticket sales go to worthy causes (even threatening the box office), while others wanted everyone to get in free. (This was partially accomplished when thousands of concert-goers literally crashed through the gates.)
Once the stadium stopped being a major sports venue, Downing was used largely for concerts, serving as a venue for rock concerts such as Lollapalooza in 1994, Pearl Jam in 1996, and the Tibetan Freedom Concert in 1997.
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- Carlisle, Jeff (2009). Soccer's Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks. Washington, DC: Potomac Books. ISBN 1-59797-193-6.
- "New Zealand Rugby Team Downs New Yorkers, 41-9". The New York Times. October 22, 1972. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
- "Terrace Talk Photos". Retrieved 3 April 2016.
- "Randall's Island Park". Retrieved 3 April 2016.