The Rubber Bowl is coming down — at least a portion of it.
Eslich Wrecking Co. has started work on demolishing a section of the dilapidated and vacant stadium that once hosted University of Akron football games, big high school football contests and concerts.
The Louisville-based company has been hired by the city of Akron to tear down the ticket gate area, scoreboard, seating, press box and locker rooms that are near Derby Downs, home of the International Soap Box Derby.
That section is considered the most dangerous.
The cost has been estimated at $200,000.
“The demolition of the Rubber Bowl represents the end of an era,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “Like many Akron residents, I have fond memories of attending football games and other events there throughout my life. However, the structure is well beyond repair and now poses a danger to the public.”
The 35,000-seat facility was condemned last year because of its poor condition. Summit County also foreclosed on the property and former owner Team 1 Properties of Canton because of $188,839 in unpaid taxes and penalties.
The city, which now owns the property, said it is trying to find additional money to complete the demolition. Akron is leaving the part of the stadium that abuts George Washington Boulevard.
Eslich project manager Ken Rankin said he didn’t know how long the demolition will take because the company is working around the derby schedule.
The FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships takes place July 15-21.
“We coordinated with the Soap Box Derby people about when they are going to be using the track and when they aren’t going to be using the track,” he said.
“It’s a process, let’s put it that way,” he said.
The city expects that portion of the stadium to be razed by October.
Akron is paying for the project with $100,000 in state capital improvement funds, $50,000 from the Summit County Land Bank and $50,000 of its own capital funding.
Rankin warned people not to visit the active construction site.
“It’s going to get more dangerous,” he said. “We’ve already had problems with people climbing over the walls to get in there. ... We don’t want anybody hurt.”
The horseshoe-shaped Rubber Bowl was built in 1940 and was owned by the city until 1971 when the facility was transferred to the university.
The UA football team played its last game there in 2008 before moving to InfoCision Stadium on campus.
The school sold the property to Team 1 in May 2013 for $38,000. The company had grand plans to turn the facility into a site for a new professional football league and then later an entertainment venue.
Those plans never panned out.
City and community leaders have long complained that the stadium has become an eyesore and a target for vandals.
Derby President and CEO Mark Gerberich is pleased to see the demolition starting.
“For the safety of the kids, our racers and the employees, it’s good that it’s being taken down,” he said.
He added that the Soap Box Derby is working with a committee to identify potential future uses for the property.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.