Article by Jason Silverstein
The Ohio stadium that was once home to football games, iconic artists and even the National Guard has been left to rot since 2008. But now that unplanned obsolescence has been beautifully captured by photographer Seph Lawless, a Cleveland native.
He has his own fond memories of seeing games and concerts there, including his first rock show, Metallica.
“Hearing live music outdoors in a venue like this was part of the rock and roll experience,” said Lawless. “The scent of cigarettes and spilled beer. Back in a time where people held up lighters at a show not their cell phones.”
Lawless, a pseudonymous artist, is known for casting his lens on urban monuments of America’s post-industrial decline. He’s previously shot a shuttered mall in Akron, a deserted theater in Cleveland and an abandoned race track in North Wilkesboro, N.C., to name a few.
The Rubber Bowl, which seats more than 35,000, was just one reflection of Akron’s lone-gone status as a thriving town trading in rubber.
General Tire, B.F. Goodrich, Firestone and Goodyear had headquarters in Akron before the city endured an economic decline after World War II similar to other Rust Belt cities like Cleveland, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Today, Goodyear is the last tire manufacturer that hasn’t peeled out of the city.
After opening in 1940, the Rubber Bowl was the home field for the University of Akron’s Zips football team. It was used as a base for the National Guard during the Wooster Avenue race riots in 1968.
It also hosted plenty of music legends playing to tens of thousands of fans, including Metallica, Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead and Ringo Starr, who is coming to Cleveland soon for his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction.
Now, the Rubber Bowl sees the occasional high school football game. Otherwise, new local owners are still trying to figure out a future for the field.