South Stadium holds gridiron memories

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Many of the wooden seats are gone, and the ones left are rotted. Trees grow in the entrances almost as high as the dilapidated press box. If there weren’t people still around to tell the stories, it would be hard to imagine South Stadium as a showplace of high school football.

Sometime in the next few weeks, the old grandstand at South Stadium will be demolished and another piece of Youngstown’s history will be relegated to old pictures and film.

Bill Crawford played for Cardinal Mooney in the late 1950s and Julius Livas played for South High in the late 1960s. Both recounted a time when it wouldn’t be uncommon to have 10,000 people attending the games.

“You had the bands going wild, you had people,” said Crawford. “There was so many, they would walk around the track.”

They remember a stadium that was nondescript. There were no giant arches or ivy walls, but what it lacked in pizzazz, it made up for in character. Built in 1915, South Stadium was the first venue between Cleveland and Pittsburgh built solely for high school football.

The structure was shoehorned into a neighborhood just off Market Street on the city’s lower South Side. The houses were so close even a weak armed quarterback could complete a pass through a back window.

“They would rent out their lawns, let people park their cars,” said Livas. “They all made money on Friday night.”

After Stambaugh Stadium was built and South High School closed, the last high school game played at the stadium was in 1992. Since then, it has been used for an occasional youth football game.

For Livas and Crawford, the current state of South Stadium is sad but understandable.

“You’re looking at the area. You’re looking at the times, things change,” said Crawford. “To get games here now, they’ve tried as you know, but it just isn’t working,”

“I’m sad that it’s not being used because it was a great facility, and it’s just a shame that things have deteriorated the way that they have. But that’s pretty much everywhere that you go,” said Livas

While the old bleachers are crumbling, the field itself is in great shape. The grass is thick and is being mowed. If you paint some lines on it, you could easily play a game there tomorrow.

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