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Entries about Minnesota history from MNopedia are made available through a partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society and with funding from the Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Parade Stadium was Minneapolis' first public football stadium

parade stadium
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Parade Stadium is ready for its first full season of football, 1952. Photographer: Schreiber-Hager.

Parade Stadium was Minneapolis' first public football stadium. The Minneapolis park board built the 16,560-seat stadium at The Parade, a park just west of downtown, in 1951. It was meant for high school, amateur, and small-college games. The stadium was also used for summertime Aquatennial festivities for nearly forty years.

Thomas Lowry, who lived on a hill overlooking the grounds, and others donated most of the land for The Parade to the Minneapolis park board in 1904. The board did not act on Lowry's suggestion for a golf course for the park but did express its intent to use the area for active recreation purposes. In 1908 and 1911, the park board published plans for athletic fields and a grandstand. However, it lacked money to build seating. Even so, the park became the center of amateur sports in the city. In the 1920s, some football games at The Parade attracted standing crowds estimated at five thousand spectators.

The park board proposed building a stadium there in 1933, and applied-unsuccessfully-for federal public-works funding. It tried again, in 1944, when it added a stadium to its list of "post-war progress" projects. The board claimed the city needed a stadium with a seating capacity between the huge Memorial Stadium at the University of Minnesota and various small park and school athletic fields.

In 1950, the city finally approved $600,000 in bonds over two years to build only the stadium. To make room for it, the park board moved The Parade tennis center to Nicollet (now Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) Park.

The stadium hosted its first major event in July 1951, when the Lone Ranger and Silver appeared at an Aquatennial children's event. That September, an exhibition football game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers drew twenty thousand fans. At first, the stadium was a financial success, partly because of revenue from hosting an annual National Football League (NFL) exhibition game. But Parade Stadium was never intended to host professional games. When Met Stadium was built in Bloomington in 1956 to attract professional baseball and football to Minnesota, the yearly NFL exhibition game was played there.

Parade Stadium continued hosting about fifty football games a year. The most popular were Friday-night and Saturday-night Minneapolis high school games. It also was the starting point of the two Aquatennial parades each summer. The park board booked other events, from midget-car races to circuses. But area residents objected to the noise and traffic. The costs of maintaining the stadium soon exceeded revenue.

By the mid-1960s, the only moneymaker at The Parade was the parking lot. After the Guthrie Theater opened across the street in May 1963, most of its patrons parked in the stadium lot.

In the mid-1960s, Parade Stadium generated income by booking top musical acts for outdoor rock concerts. Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, and Blondie, among others, played there. Singer Melissa Manchester drew the stadium's largest crowd ever-thirty thousand-in June 1979. The last big-name act to play at Parade Stadium was Simon and Garfunkel in July 1983.

Eventually, music promoters became unwilling to meet the growing limitations placed on concerts by the park board to address complaints from people who lived near the stadium. By 1986, only five events were booked there, two of which were Aquatennial parades. The structure was thirty-five years old, and the park board estimated that it needed $250,000 in renovations.

In 1988, the park board collaborated with the Walker Art Center to create the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on park land next to the stadium. The Sculpture Garden's popularity led to its expansion in 1990. A heavily used softball field had to be moved to accommodate that expansion. The logical place to put it was where the little-used stadium stood. As a result, Parade Stadium was demolished in 1990, the softball field was moved, and the Sculpture Garden expanded. The Walker paid the million-dollar price tag for demolition of the stadium and relocation of the softball field.

For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.

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