(Hamtramck, Mi) – During the depression, President Franklin Roosevelt introduced the Works Projects Administration (WPA) to carry out the construction of public works projects, such as roads, government buildings and sports stadiums. Over an eight-year period between 1935 to 1943, the WPA provided much needed employment for over 8.5 million people. Some of those projects still stand today and have added to their history of the community. Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, Michigan was the first competed project in Michigan and has had an illustrious career that is brighter than ever.
The initial game ever played at Keyworth was a high school football game between the Hamtramck Cosmos on October 9, 1936. Just six days later, the stadium would host President Roosevelt on a campaign stop to tout the WPA’s progress. The President said from a special platform built for the occasion,
“Some people have called in boondoggling to build stadia and parks, but if it is boondoggling, then I am a boondoggler and so are you!”President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936
He wasn’t the only President to grace the confines of Keyworth, on October 26, 1960 soon to be President John F. Kennedy made a campaign stop in front of 10,000 partisan fans. With the Hamtramck High School band playing ‘Happy Days are Here Again,” Kennedy was treated like a football hero. He would be elected President of the United States just a little over two weeks later. Even some not so serious moments have been witnessed, such as the liberated hot legs contest for men sponsored by the Hamtramck Chamber of Commerce as part of the Kielbasa Festival on July 4, 1981.
Over the years, the stadium has hosted high school, college and semi-pro football and of course, first class soccer. Keyworth has been the current home of Detroit FC Soccer Club since May 20, 2016. But the soccer heritage goes way back before that, on July 7, 1972 the stadium hosted Werder-Bremen from Germany verses Club de Futbol Universidad from Mexico City.
On January 9, 1939, the local Chrysler soccer eleven lost a key match to the Chicago Manhattans 4-2 in front of 2,000 local fans. The loss prevented the Detroit team from going to the National Challenge Cup that season. Lights were added to the stadium in 1948 so that games could be played in the evening and allow more fans to attend and enjoy.
With such a historical legacy, it is only fitting that in 2015 efforts were undertaken to refurbish and restore Keyworth and become a host of the Detroit FC soccer club. In February 2016 the club announced that $741,250 had been raised an improvements began. The night finally arrived, and on May 20, 2016, soccer returned and the Detroit FC and AFC Ann Arbor played to a 1-1 tie before a record crowd. Alec Lasinskiscored the first goal in the new stadium, on the same pitch that once hosted two presidents.
The team continues to upgrade and improve the facility, they just announced the use of repurposed shipping containers as suites that will be available for the 2019 season. With the additions, the capacity of Keyworth with be 7,933 for the upcoming season. In a press release, Detroit FC CEO Sean Mann said,
“Keyworth is a magical venue with its historic character and unrivalled atmosphere.”Detroit FC CEO Sean Mann
When taking in a Detroit FC game this year, arrive a little early, and take a stroll around the place, sense the history and the echoes from 83 years of boondoggling existence.