Tanks Stadium dedication set for July 21

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 24, 2002

On Thanksgiving Day in 1926, Tanks Memorial Stadium opened and began what has been a historic run. On July 21, 2002, it will be recognized for its history.

A 3 p.m. celebration will be held on Sunday, July 21, at Tanks Memorial Stadium when the Ohio Historical Society monument marker is dedicated, thus establishing Tanks Memorial Stadium as a historical site.

Work by Joe Unger, a member of the Lawrence County Historical Society, helped initiated the process to achieve historical status for the legendary stadium.

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The Ohio Historical Society and Ohio Bicentennial Committee named Tanks Memorial Stadium as one of 20 new historical sites in the state. Representatives from both organizations will be represented along with someone from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The necessary financial support for the historical marker is being supplied by the Ironton Tiger Clan booster club, the Ohio Historical Society, and the Ohio Bicentennial Committee.

A total of 37 applications were reviewed. The original announcement was made Dec. 5, 2000, but production of the two-sided plaque was delayed due to a wording protest by a Portsmouth man.

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."

Virginia Bryant, a member of the Historical Society and chairwomen of the event, has been hard at work preparing for the dedication program and publishing a commemorative program. She said the Ironton Co-Op Club has been instrumental in the planning and financing of the dedication ceremony.

The Exhibit Committee will have a Tanks display on hand.

Rick Mayne of WLGC Radio, whose grandfather Elmer Mayne was a member of the first Tanks team, will serve as the master of ceremonies.

"The programs will be offered free for as long as they last. Spriggs Distributing is covering the cost of the printing," said Bryant.

Mugs using the dark red and white color and picture of the stadium will be sold. Also, a postcard with a pen sketch drawing will be sold.

'We're just trying to cover our expenses," Bryant said. "We will have some seating, but we encourage people to bring their own lawn chairs."

A cachet envelope with a special cancellation will be offered through the U.S. Post Office in Ironton. The cancellation form will have a Tanks jersey with Presnell's No. 20.

Presnell, who later played with the Portsmouth Spartans and Detroit Lions in the NFL, will be on hand as a guest speaker. At 96, Presnell is the oldest living former NFL player.

The Spartans were sold for $500 to a radio owner in Detroit who moved the team from Portsmouth. Presnell,

a former All-Pro, led the Lions to the NFL championship in 1935, the last time the Lions captured the league's title trophy.

Funds for the stadium were raised quickly and the structure was completed in a little more than a year.

On April 26, 1925, a stadium 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. Jim Walker/The Ironton Tribune