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Tanks Stadium honored with state marker

Tanks Memorial Stadium has a legendary history.

Wednesday, December 06, 2000

Tanks Memorial Stadium has a legendary history. Now, it is legendary history.

The Ohio Historial Society and Ohio Bicentennial Committee has announced that Tanks Memorial Stadium has been selected as one of 20 new historical sites in the state.

A total of 37 applications were reviewed.

Joe Unger, owner of Unger’s Shoe Store, received an application for the Ironton Furnace Rail Trail Group and began to think beyond his group’s hopes for a historical marker.

"I thought of all these historical buildings in Ironton, and the first one I thought of was Tanks Memorial Stadium," Unger said. "The guidelines on the back called for something unusual and something unrecognized. The only (historical sites) we have are the Gray House and on the Court House lawn. All these things fit so I contacted The Ironton Tribune.

"I felt (the stadium) was something that should be protected and recognized. Things like that are lost a little bit at a time. We need to keep these historical sites, so to honor the stadium I’m thrilled to pieces."

The necessary financial support for the project is being supplied by the Ironton Tiger Clan booster club.

The Tanks and Portsmouth Spartans were part of the country’s professional teams that were the forerunners to the present-day National Football League.

The Tanks played from 1919 to 1930 – amassing a 85-19 record – when the Depression forced Ironton to merge with Portsmouth. The team joined the NFL but the franchise was later sold for $500 and moved to Detroit where it became the Lions.

Tanks Memorial Stadium is the only fully-covered high school football stadium in the state.

The Ohio Historical Society will mark the site with an engraved iron casting plate, and will celebrate the occasion with a ceremony sometime in the spring of 2001.

Tanks Stadium was built in 1926 as the home of the Ironton professional football team the Ironton Tanks.

Talk of building a stadium began during the 1925 season. A public meeting was held in December at the Ironton Elks Lodge with more than 50 boosters attending, but unofficial offers made by private parties to build the stadium caused all other plans to be dropped at that time.

On April 26, the committee started a drive for $30,000 worth of stock guaranteed to pay 7 per cent, each year, with a certain amount of the principal being refunded from the profits.

The pledges reached $15,000 of the goal on the first day, and on May 6 the entire amount had been met.

The stadium was completed and later that year it was christened on Thanksgiving Day with the Tanks beating the Kansas City Cowboys.