Zips cut ties with Rubber Bowl

“Tonight, the Zips will end an era by venturing into the cold November showers to play their last football game at Akron’s historic Rubber Bowl. Akron will play host to the Buffalo Bulls (5-3) in what would be an entirely unremarkable matchup if it were not the beloved Bowl’s final MAC showdown.”

Tonight, the Zips will end an era by venturing into the cold November showers to play their last football game at Akron’s historic Rubber Bowl.

Akron will play host to the Buffalo Bulls (5-3) in what would be an entirely unremarkable matchup if it were not the beloved Bowl’s final MAC showdown.  A large crowd is expected to attend as Akron residents remember the stadium’s 68-year relationship with the city and school.

The Rubber Bowl opened as the University of Akron’s home field on Friday, October 4, 1940: one year after John T. Riddell invented the plastic football helmet.

The stadium’s capacity of 31,000 was impressive at the time.   In 1961, the Zips sold the Rubber Bowl out for the first time, crushing Denison 28 before 35,061 fans.

In 1973, Akron coaching great Jim Dennison led the Zips to victory over Butler in front of over 37,000 fans, their first victory on Astroturf.  Afterword, fans watched daredevil Karl Wallenda cross a 600 foot wire suspended 75 feet from the turf.

Zips football memories make only a small portion of the Rubber Bowl’s intimate history in Akron.

The NFL has left its mark on the Bowl, with the Browns playing 19 preseason games on the turf, going 14-5.  Also, the now-defunct Dallas Texans recorded their first and only win at the Rubber Bowl against George Halas and the Chicago Bears.

The stadium has also served as the home field for several Akron City Series teams and has served OHSAA by hosting playoff games for decades.

The Rubber Bowl did not even limit itself to sports.   Great performers and bands passed through the entrance tunnel as much of Akron watched at its premier arena.

From Simon and Garfunkel to Liberace to Metallica, many celebrated shows were held as planes screeched overhead.

In 1972, a small riot broke out at the Jefferson Airplane concert when the band’s managers disagreed with the Akron police.  Officers maced several of the band members and a few audience members as the crowd pelted police cruisers with stones.

In 1998, Ozzfest (featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, Tool, Limp Bizkit, Motorhead, Incubus, Sevendust, System of a Down, the Melvins, Coal Chamber and Soulfly) came to the Bowl, marking the last great concert to grace the venue.

Whether Akron residents are willing to accept it or not, events at the Rubber Bowl will soon be memories of the distant past.

Most Zips fans would admit that the Bowl has nearly reached the age to be euthanized.  Sitting on the ancient and uncomfortable bleachers inevitably results in abrasions from tiny fiberglass shards on one’s backside.

The decrepit Rubber Bowl would have cost roughly as much money to renovate to meet safety standards as building the team’s future home field, InfoCision Stadium and Summa Field.

InfoCision Stadium has been under construction since February and is set to open on September 19, 2009 when the Zips host the Indiana Hoosiers.  The $61.6 million project will give the Zips a home on campus in an urban setting.

The state-of-the-art stadium will help draw big-time recruits to the program and big-time opponents to the Zips’ schedule.  Eventually, more money will flow into the school and the city, boosting Akron’s struggling economy.

All high school games, concerts and other events the Rubber Bowl hosted will be moved to the new stadium.

We want that facility being used 365 days a year, said Mike Cawood, UA’s Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations.

As of now, the University, which in 1971 bought the rights to the Rubber Bowl from the city of Akron for $1, does not know what it will do with the sexagenarian stadium.

There are no plans right now for the Bowl, Cawood said matter-of-factly.

Selling the Rubber Bowl back to the city of Akron remains a possibility.

For now, University of Akron officials are not looking past the game tonight.  Pre- and postgame festivities will help the crowd remember the Bowl’s history.  The military will be highly involved in the ceremonies as they were in the Bowl’s infant years during WWII.

Akron students are expected to attend the bittersweet game in large numbers.  Jeremy Harrison, a junior civil engineering major, summed it up.

It’s been here for a long time, and a lot of us are trying to go, he said.  It’s going to be historic.