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Stadium Bowl – still breathtaking after 100 years

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Sep. 16, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
September 16, 2010 10:23 pm

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

“I know of nothing like it, nothing on this side of the water, and nothing abroad. While I had heard of your Stadium, I had no idea of what an extraordinary feature of your municipal life it is.”
– Teddy Roosevelt, 1911

Is there a more beautiful, more historic high school football field in the country than Stadium Bowl?

If there is, we haven’t seen or heard of it.

Stadium Bowl, with its spectacular outlook over Commencement Bay and its view of the Stadium High School “castle,” has hosted presidential visits, big sporting events and community celebrations. It was there that Babe Ruth put on a batting exhibition, John Philip Sousa and his band played to their largest seated audience ever, and a young Heath Ledger sang and danced while filming “10 Things I Hate About You.”

The iconic Tacoma landmark is celebrating its centennial today and Saturday with events ranging from a food drive (organizers hope to set a Guinness World Record for most food collected in a 24-hour period) and football game to an old-fashioned All Community Program.

Getting in and out of the steep bowl can be a challenge, but it’s worth it. After all, Stadium Bowl has been a challenge from the very beginning.

It came about because the Tacoma community decided it needed a stadium in the early years of the 20th century. Residents came up with $50,000 through a variety of inventive fund-raising schemes, and the school district chipped in another $100,000. In 1910, Tacoma Stadium opened, having been built for $160,000 (the equivalent of $3.6 million in inflation-adjusted dollars). It was the biggest such facility west of the Mississippi River.

Sure, Stadium Bowl has had its problems – generally ones in the “acts of God” category related to the hydrological fact that water inexorably flows downhill. It’s spent nearly 20 years shut down for various repairs after damage by earthquakes (1949 and 1965), sewer line rupture (1932) and a stormwater line overwhelmed by heavy rain (1985).

But the bowl endures – and with a little luck will see another century of providing invigorating stair-climbing exercise and the most astonishingly scenic place to play high school sports.

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