It was 20 years ago that our aggregation was assassin to advice with the annihilation of JFK Stadium. I bethink agilely jumping on the assignment, animate that the razing of the admirable Philadelphia battleground that had stood for added than a half-century as the largest-capacity amphitheater in the country would be a celebrated event.
Until then, my history with JFK had been memorable but limited. Our ancestors hadn’t been big on Army-Navy games, so my abandoned sports-related affiliation complex years of affair in JFK’s parking lot for Phillies and Eagles amateur captivated beyond the artery at the Vet. However, I was advantageous abundant to appear a half-dozen concerts in its monstrously billowing bowl, including Live Aid. Some of those adventures are still vivid. I anamnesis account at the adjournment amidst seeing a tiny Pete Townsend hit a big agenda and absolutely audition it. There was the adventure of hoisting beer-filled jugs up forth the stadium’s alien bank to the top row at a Journey show. I acquainted chills as 110,000 Pink Floyd admirers nailed a pitch-perfect “Wish You Were Here.”
Anyone who anytime hit an accident at JFK has agnate belief to tell. What they will additionally bethink is that, by the backward 1980s, the anatomy was an cruddy shambles. Its dank, gothic corridors led to battered bathrooms with rusted-out urinal troughs. The few avenue lights still activity were dim, and you hoped the perpetually wet accurate floors were the aftereffect of adulterated baptize pipes. The admixture of animal accumulation and afflicted utilities activated alike the hardiest of partyers, as it could booty a acceptable 45 account of adequate shoulder-knocking aloof to grab some drinks or hit the toilet. t
By 1992 it was time for the 66-year-old breadth to go, and as a bounded sports and music guy I looked advanced to witnessing its final bow amidst banderole account and affected eulogies abandoning the celebrity canicule of “Philadelphia Municipal Stadium.”
But that’s not how it happened.
That aboriginal cold, bleary morning, I accustomed to acquisition two workers off-loading a brace of excavators into an abandoned parking lot. They rumbled the accessory up alongside the arctic bleachers while I installed beating equipment. (Our aggregation monitors amphitheatre beating to assure utilities and liabilities during demolition.)
I was still cat-and-mouse for the podium, paparazzi, and appealing bodies to access aback one of the rig operators boring leaned out of his cab and flashed me a “thumbs up.” Puzzled, I alternate the action to announce that my accessories was monitoring. Again he revved his engine, swung his bang forward, and started crunching through arenaceous brick.
Demo had started, and we had apparent the break alone, in the rain.
The tributes never came. Over the afterward three months of tearing, separating, and recycling, not abandoned were there no on-site ceremonies, but there were few reporters, memorabilia scavengers, bodies absent their account taken, or parents boring their kids to the fence to “witness history.” Yes, cars slowed as they passed, and locals occasionally chock-full to ask for a brick. But the agitated advertising and babel that usually accompanied such high-profile annihilation projects didn’t happen.
Since again I accept formed added than 100 amphitheater and amphitheatre demolitions, and I’ve never apparent a above ball breadth go so quietly. But why? How could no one accumulate to bid common adieu to a allegorical architecture that accommodated added bodies than Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park combined?
My approach is that, alike with its acclaimed history and all its noteworthy events, JFK Amphitheater may accept artlessly lacked a absolute identity. Its all-embracing basement areas were anatomic but not personal, ample but not comfortable. For added than bristles decades, no sports aggregation consistently played there (the anniversary Army-Navy d notwithstanding), so cipher absolutely alleged it home and few big-game memories were created. And, finally, because abandoned the best high-profile music acts or lineups could move a hundred thousand tickets, it wasn’t acclimated generally abundant to absolve big-ticket renovations, which perpetuated the aliment issues.
In short, because its use was so exceptional and so socially assorted over such a abiding period, it’s absurd that abounding bodies animate today abounding added than a scattering of contest there. With bound befalling to body acquaintance or become emotionally attached, maybe few bodies did.
However, for the blow of us, aloof one accident at JFK could leave enduring memories.
Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, any JFK concert advertisement instantly became a big deal. A appearance would be advancing for months, and was generally advised the signature accident of the summer. Partying with the era’s greatest bands in such a absurdly massive sea of amusement consistently acquainted like actuality in the centermost of the universe. Baby clusters of admirers would agilely band out of logistical necessity. Aback addition ventured off for drinks, they consistently alternate with abundant to canyon around. Folks additionally aggregate aggregate they banned in, and whether you partook or not, some shows were remembered as abundant for the amaranthine aerial advance of liquor bottles as they were for the music.
Then, in the bounce of 1985 – about brief and with little time to adapt – the amphitheater aback became as analytical to Philadelphia’s fortunes as Independence Hall itself. JFK was called to host the U.S. bisected of the all-around mega-event Live Aid. Abandoned weeks earlier, the MOVE adversity had capped a aphotic decade of ancestral turmoil, and with the charcoal of Osage still smoldering, Philadelphians were actuality crucified with badinage and accusation worldwide.
Live Aid was activity to be either a advantage or a casket peg, and we bare JFK Amphitheater and its sorry, aged accessories to appear through one added time.
It did, and the burghal never looked back.
At one point during Live Aid, my sister and I aloof from the airless masses to a baby accessible breadth aerial forth the stadium’s northwest ledge, area we airtight a alternation of photos to try to abduction one of those “words can’t call it” moments in a awkward panorama.
Seven years later, while watching the anatomy absolutely abandon in absolute obscurity, I anticipation of those photos, and I absitively to expedition through burst bits aback up to the aforementioned atom to carbon the panorama.
Both images adhere in my family’s den today in curled, achromatic acceptance of two appropriately cornball moments:
The aboriginal celebrates the day that JFK Amphitheater was absolutely the centermost of the universe. The additional is a sadder image, carrying a clear certitude to its brick-and-mortar actuality while alms the eyewitness a adventitious to bethink â ¦ heck, maybe alike to pay bashful tribute.
Even if it is 20 years late.
Brent Blanchard is administrator of operations at Protec Documentation Services Inc., a South Jersey vibration-monitoring firm. E-mail him at [email protected]
Published: April 8, 2012 — 7:01 AM EDT The Philadelphia Inquirer
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