Peoria Stadium is an iconic sports and recreation center nestled in the heart of northern Peoria, IL. The site has been home to countless outdoor activities over the years, from large shows and exhibitions to outdoor concerts and many, many baseball, softball and football games.
1895 – Four individuals purchase 82 acres of Richwoods Township farmland for the purposes of hosting horse races. Originally named Peoria Exposition Park, owners were quoted as saying that “the enterprise has been undertaken not with a view of making money out of it, but of doing something for the city.” Key feature was a one mile oval horse track.
1916 – Larger grandstand built on the property.
1922 – Plans for an amusement park take shape.
1923 – Additional grandstand to be built.
1926 – Amusement park opens.
1928 – Amusement park closes, in large part due to noise complaints.
1931 – Racing track closes on account of the Great Depression.
1937 – Peoria School Board spends $300,000 to purchase property and makes sweeping renovations. Horse track is largely replaced by a new football field and a quarter mile cinder track for people to race on. 26th annual Turkey Day rivalry between Peoria Lions and Manual Rams played on the new football field. Tradition would continue through 1973 when IHSA instituted a formal playoff system.
1946 – The Peoria Redwings, local affiliate of the American Association of Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), play their home games in front of the grandstand and on top of the football field drawing thousands of patrons. The competitions would continue through 1951 when the team is disbanded.
1970 – Bradley Braves football program is disbanded.
1971 – Grandstand is condemned and School Board struggles with estimated $52,000 in necessary repairs. Private fundraising efforts fill the gap as Pete Vonachen, the Southwest Kiwanis Club and an army of teenagers raise $28,000 and just enough to patch the repairs together.
The same year, the Journal Star begins hosting a track meet at Peoria Stadium for area athletes. The meet runs a week ahead of or after the state meet and is the source of great pride for winners. Annual meet lasts for 40 years, ending in 2011.
Peoria Journal Star
Peoria Public Library – Local Collections
American Association of Girls Professional Baseball League