Opened in 1940, The University of Akron's Rubber Bowl ties for largest football stadium in the Mid-American Conference, and is the third largest collegiate stadium in the state of Ohio. With current capacity at 31,000, The Bowl is runnerup to Ohio State's Ohio Stadium which packs in 101,568.
As far as MAC stadiums go, the Rubber Bowl is tied with UB Stadium (Buffalo) as the largest in terms of seating capacity.
The Zips' horseshoe-shaped home has been a gathering spot for Northeast Ohio football fans and event goers for 64 years. In 1999, UA football fan No. 3,000,000 passed through the Rubber Bowl turnstiles, marking six decades of Zips gridiron action at The Bowl.
The site of 310 UA football contests, 19 preseason Cleveland Browns' games, a regular-season NFL game in 1952, over 1,500 high school games (including dozens of OHSAA playoff games), as well as many soccer matches and scores of concerts and shows, the Rubber Bowl has stood the test of time.
In 1940, the UA football team abandoned well-worn Buchtel Field to play at the municipally owned Rubber Bowl.
The Bowl began to develop under the plans of B.E. "Shorty" Fulton in 1933. With the help of the Civil Works Authority, Fulton had 180,000 cubic yards of dirt carved out of the side of the hill neighboring Akron Municipal Airport. Fulton, the airport manager, turned the site into a recreation area.
Then in 1939, civic-minded citizens, headed by C.W. Seiberling and James Schlemmer, sports editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, raised $30,000 to help construct the stadium on the site. The amount was raised by subscribing $1 from 30,000 Akronites. A federal grant of $516,000 was obtained and construction began. The stadium was dedicated before 37,000 people on August 10, 1940.
Akron opened its playing history in the Rubber Bowl on Oct. 5, 1940, against Western Reserve, before 17,472 spectators. Although the Zips lost 6-0, the Rubber Bowl has since been an excellent home field, as evidenced by UA's overall mark of 184-116-10 (61 percent).
In June 1971, the University accepted the title to the Rubber Bowl from the City of Akron and began a program of refurbishing the stadium. University trustees authorized $175,000 for improvements. First priority went to a lighting system which increased illumination of the field by more than five times.
The most striking improvement took place in the summer of 1973. Spearheaded by a gift of $200,000 from Elza E. Hopkins and Clarkins Stores, and a community wide fund-raising drive directed by the Touchdown Club that provided more than $160,000, the University was able to install an all-weather artificial surface. Installation of AstroTurf got UA and area high school football teams "out of the mud."
That same year, the Cleveland Browns' played their 19th (and last) preseason football game at The Bowl. The New York Giants defeated the Browns, 21-10, in front of 30,751 spectators. The Cleveland franchise had a 14-5 mark at The Bowl and attracted more than one-half million fans.
In 1983, after 10 years, a new carpet was installed at a cost of more than $500,000. The funds to pay for the repairs and installation came from a UA bond issue.
In 1991, more than $100,000 was contributed by the Coca Cola Bottling Company of Ohio, Summa Health Systems, National City Bank of Ohio and the Varsity "A" Association to purchase a new scoreboard.
Prior to the start of the '94 season, the University Board of Trustees authorized funds of about $750,000 to fix the facilities' drainage system and apply new artificial turf to the floor of the Zips' football home. The stadium also got a complete paint job and the seats were refurbished.
A new AstroPlay surface was installed prior to the 2003 season, giving the Zips a state-of-the-art field.
Source:University of Akron