Icahn Stadium was built in replacement of Downing Stadium. The previous was originally opened in 1936 as part of a larger New York City Parks project that included the construction of the Triborough Bridge. The opening of Downing Stadium made history as the facility hosted the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1936, at which Jesse Owens qualified for two events in the upcoming Berlin Olympics. Downing Stadium also made history in 1939 as the site of the first televised college football game, Fordham vs. Waynesburg. The site went on to be home to the New York Cosmos soccer team, various sporting events and summer concerts. The stadium lights, which were taken from Ebbets Field after it was torn down, were left in place to light the new field.
After years of use the old facility was in need of renovation. In order to maximize the potential of the site, the old stadium was razed and Icahn Stadium was constructed in its place along with Field 10, a FIFA-certified soccer field, on the north side. The track and field built is one of only five International Association of Athletics Federations Class 1-certified tracks in the United States (along with Hutsell-Rosen Track, Hayward Field, John McDonnell Field and Rock Chalk Park). The 5,000 seat stadium is partially sheltered by a cantilevered roof and is illuminated by a pair of lighting towers. In addition, the soccer field on the north of the stadium is outfitted with a scoreboard, fencing, lighting, and bleachers for spectator events.
Run by the Randalls Island Park Alliance (RIPA), Icahn Stadium serves the residents of New York City and beyond. It houses some of RIPA’s various Randalls Island Kids (RIK) programs including the Jesse Owens track club, RIK Dance programs, and components of RIK summer camp. RIPA was founded in 1992 as a public–private partnership to work on behalf of Randalls Island Park. The Alliance, in conjunction with City leadership and the local community, works to realize the Island’s unique potential by developing sports and recreational facilities, restoring its vast natural environment, reclaiming and maintaining parkland, and sponsoring community-linked programs for the children of New York City runs free youth sports programs that bring over 14,000 under-resourced public school children from Harlem and the South Bronx to the island annually.
Since its opening, Icahn Stadium has hosted more than 200,000 high school, college and professional athletes and spectators during the track season. Each year, the number of meets and events that are scheduled has grown, bringing larger numbers of people to the facility.
In 2005 the Reebok Grand Prix was created and held at the stadium. Currently known as the Adidas Grand Prix of the IAAF Diamond League, the annual summer tournament welcomes top runners from around the world. From its inception it has distinguished itself as one of top meets to feature Olympic and World Champions.
On May 31, 2008, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt set the then world record in the 100m on the Icahn Stadium track with a time of 9.72 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix, .02 seconds faster than the previous record held by his countryman, Asafa Powell.
On June 9, 2012, Kenyan runner David Rudisha set the record in the 800m in the U.S. with a time of 1:41.74 seconds at the Adidas Grand Prix.
On June 27, 2013, the New York Cosmos revealed that their annual Cosmos Copa NYC soccer tournament would hold its final at the stadium, as many of the games were held at Randalls Island. Due to scheduling issues, the final was relocated. However, the site was used as a venue for the 2014 Cosmos Copa group stages.
Icahn Stadium was incorporated as a training center into the New York City bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Future New York City Olympic bids will also potentially use the stadium as a training facility since it already meets IAAF specifications.