Kezar Stadium is an outdoor athletics stadium in San Francisco, California, located adjacent to Kezar Pavilion in the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park. It is the former home of the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders (first AFL season only) of the National Football League (NFL) and of the San Francisco Dragons of Major League Lacrosse. It also served as the home of the California Victory of the USL First Division before the club folded. Kezar also hosts amateur and recreation sports leagues, as well as numerous San Francisco high school football games (including the city championship, known popularly as the "Turkey Bowl").
In 1920, Jack Spaulding proposed an athletics stadium for San Francisco, seating 50,000. Many business leaders in The City backed him, as it would keep San Francisco level with other cities with large stadiums. Areas under consideration for the stadium were 7th & Harrison Streets, Ocean Shore, and the Central Park grounds
In 1922, the San Francisco Park Commission accepted a $100,000 gift from the estate of Mary Kezar to build a memorial in honor of her mother and uncles, who were pioneers in the area. After the City and County of San Francisco appropriated an additional $200,000, the stadium was built in a year. Dedication ceremonies were on May 2, 1925, and featured a two-mile (3.2 km) footrace between Ville Ritola and Paavo Nurmi of Finland, two of the great runners of the era.
The stadium had many uses in the 1930s. In addition to track and field competitions, Kezar Stadium hosted motorcycle racing, auto racing, rugby, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, boxing, cricket, and football. In September 1932, the Australian Cricket Team played a North California all-star team in the Australians' 56-game tour of the U.S. and Canada. The stadium was also home to several colleges such as Santa Clara, USF, St. Mary's, and the now-defunct San Francisco Polytechnic High School. In 1926 the Stadium also became the home of the East-West Shrine Game.
In the 1928, the city high school championship game between cross-town rivals San Francisco Polytechnic and Lowell drew more than 50,000—still the record for a high school football game in northern California. The Bruce-Mahoney rivalry football game between St. Ignatius College Preparatory and Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep is held at the new (smaller) stadium.
Stanford University played four of its home football games at Kezar; one in 1928 and three in 1942. Stanford was also part of the first-ever major college football double header in 1940, which featured Stanford–San Francisco and Santa Clara–Utah.
Kezar Stadium was the first home of the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, as well many NFL Hall of Famers, historical NFL games, and the first "ally-oop". The Raiders played at Kezar for their first four home games in 1960, and at Candlestick Park during the remainder of their first two seasons, before Frank Youell Field was built as a temporary facility in Oakland. The 49ers played the final NFL game at Kezar in early 1971, losing the 1970 NFC Championship Game to the Dallas Cowboys, 17–10, on January 3. The 49ers moved to the more modern and accessible Candlestick Park (since demolished) for the 1971 season, and played there through 2013.
Kezar Stadium was also home field for the San Francisco Stingrayz women's professional football team from 2003–2005, until the team was forced to end their season due to a bus accident which injured many players. The Stingrayz were one of the Bay Area's women tackle football teams in the Women's Professional Football League, and then the Independent Women's Football League.
Months after the 49ers' departure, several scenes from the 1971 film Dirty Harry were filmed at and above the stadium. The film's fictional antagonist, Scorpio (played by Andrew Robinson), worked as the caretaker at the stadium and lived under the grandstand.
With the loss of professional football in 1971, the stadium became a popular outdoor concert venue, and its proximity to the Haight-Ashbury District helped with the transition. Notable performers at Kezar included Led Zeppelin, Throbbing Gristle, The Doobie Brothers, Jefferson Starship, Tower of Power, Joan Baez, Grateful Dead, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Santana, Waylon Jennings, Bob Dylan, Neil Young.
Demolition and reconstruction
With pending demolition, the bleacher planks of Kezar Stadium were sold off to fans at a party in April 1989. In June, the stadium was demolished and rebuilt with a much smaller seating capacity of 10,000. The upgrades included an eight-lane, all-weather track and a grass athletic infield suitable for soccer, football, and lacrosse.
During the reconstruction, the field and track configurations were shifted several degrees counterclockwise, to move the stadium away from Frederick Street. The evidence for this can be seen by examining photos of the tunnel entrance at the east end of the field, which used to be exactly on the long axis of the track. A replica of the original concrete arch bearing the name "Kezar Stadium" was built on the west side of the stadium as a tribute to the original structure. A plaque of NFL Hall of Famer Bob St. Clair, a San Francisco native who played 11 seasons (1953–63) at Kezar Stadium, is built into the replica arch.
Soccer and other sports
With the 2006 West Coast expansion of Major League Lacrosse, Kezar Stadium once again became a home to a professional team, the San Francisco Dragons. In October 2006, United Soccer Leagues (USL) and Spanish football club Deportivo Alavés announced that the new pro soccer team, named California Victory, would play their 2007 home games at Kezar. The Victory played in the USL's First Division, one level below Major League Soccer. However, Alaves later withdrew their support and the team folded.
Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, a nearby Catholic high school uses the field for their home football games. Mission High School also uses the field for home games. Kezar has also been the host of several Northern California Semi-pro football championship games.
In 2010, 2011, and 2012, Stanford University held its spring football game at Kezar. For the 2012 and 2016 San Francisco Olympic bids, Kezar was designated to host field hockey had San Francisco been chosen in either year.
Kezar is also the home to the annual San Francisco Fall Lacrosse Classic, an NCAA Division I fall ball game started in 2009 to benefit the Bay Area Youth Sports Foundation. The first event was between Brown and North Carolina. It was the first Division I men's lacrosse played in Northern California. North Carolina beat Brown 13–5 in front of a crowd of more than 4500. Special certificates marking the occasion were presented to each team on behalf of the Mayor, SF Board of Supervisors, and the City and County by Director of San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department Phil Ginsburg. The 2010 event featured storied lacrosse powerhouse Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame on Saturday, October 16, 2010. Notre Dame beat Hopkins 10–7. The third installment took place on Saturday, October 8, 2011 and featured the University of Denver and Harvard University. The fourth installment took place Sunday October 21, 2012 in a match between Lehigh and Ohio State. As a direct result of the San Francisco Fall Lacrosse Classic, the BAYS Foundation has made over $225,000 in grants to local youth sports and educations programs for under-resourced children throughout the Bay Area.
Kezar was home to the San Francisco GAA football league (Gaelic football).
2014 to 2015 renovation
Kezar Stadium was closed for renovations from September 29, 2014 until March 13, 2015. The $3.2-million renovation included the replacement of the running track surface, new entry walk paving, upgraded sound system, new perimeter walkways and curbs, installation of new Mondo running track surface and striping for nine 42” lanes. In addition, 1,000 historic Candlestick Park Stadium seats were installed for the public to enjoy. The renovation was funded by the City’s Capital Planning General Fund. Mayor Edwin M. Lee helped re-open the stadium with a warm-up run.
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- San Francisco Bulletin, October 13, 1920
- Fimrite, Ron (September 5, 1977). "A melding of men all suited to a T". Sports Illustrated: 90.
- "They're leaving Kezar to kids and seagulls". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. December 6, 1970. p. 2B.
- Turbow, Jason (20 January 2012). "West Coast Brew Gave Kezar Stadium Its Color". New York Times.
- The Oakland Raiders 2010 Media Guide.
- "Fans take home pieces of Kezar". (Sonora, CA) Union-Democrat. Associated Press. 7 April 1989. p. 3C.
- "Stadium to Be Razed : The Last Faithful Fans Take a Seat at Kezar". Los Angeles Times. 7 April 1989. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
- Kezar Stadium at Ballparks.com
- "Breeze Tab Kezar Stadium as Home Field". United Soccer Leagues (USL). 2013-05-03. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
- "SFLacrosse.com: October 21, 2012 – Kezar Stadium, San Francisco CA – NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Returns to San Francisco – Sunday, October 21, 2012". Retrieved 2012-11-16.
- Phillips, John (14 January 2013). "6San Francisco Dogfish". Major League Ultimate. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
- Mayor Lee at Kezar Track Opening After $3.2 Million Renovation
- History and photos
- Stadiums of Pro Football – Kezar Stadium
- Kezar Stadium page at Dirty Harry filming locations research site
|Home of the
San Francisco 49ers
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|Home of the
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NFC Championship Game
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