Mansfield celebrates 130th anniversary of hosting world's first night football game
MANSFIELD, P.A. (WENY) - Mansfield celebrated football history on Wednesday as it marked the 130th anniversary of hosting the world's first night football game.
On September 28th, 1892, Mansfield University, which was named Mansfield State Normal School at the time, hosted Wyoming Seminary of Kingston. The game was held as part of the Great Mansfield Fair at Smythe Park.
The newly-formed General Electric Company provided lighting which was strung on the front of the baseball grandstand and another set was on a pole in the middle of the field. The game ended in a 0-0 tie when Wyoming Seminary refused to take the field due to what they deemed to be unsafe playing conditions, but it was an innovation in the nation's athletic history. In 1992, G.E. produced a commercial that aired on Monday Night Football.
"It is an unbelievable occurrence to happen here at Mansfield," said Save the Gate House Committee Member, Steve McCloskey. "We have great pride that our students at Mansfield University, then Mansfield Normal School, were innovative enough to create a spectacle that has lasted to this time and it has become such a great part of our lifestyles and what we do."
The gate house at Smythe Park was built in 1889, and it is the last remaining structure at the park from the Mansfield Fair and served as the headquarters of the event. The Save the Gate House Committee, which is a volunteer group dedicated to preserving the gate house entrance, asked Mansfield residents and supporters on Wednesday to join them in Remember the Night - Remember the Light by turning on their porch lights from 7:00-7:30 PM, which was the time the game was played. The Committee also hosted a live stream presentation on Facebook Wednesday night to celebrate the anniversary. McCloskey says they're working to give the gate house life once again.
"A movement was born to save this structure and turn it into, among other things, a monument to that first night football game where artifacts and stories can be told and shared with the world, and where tourists will come from all over," he said.
McCloskey says they've replaced the roof, the building was raised by about 8 feet, and they've done landscaping and added new sidewalks. Now, they're moving on to the inside portion of the project and their idea is to preserve it where everything inside is almost the same as it was in 1889.
"We're about a year and a half into the project right now, we have made great progress, and we are confident that we are going to have this project done within the next year or so and it is going to realize all of those dreams," said McCloskey. "We have gotten incredible support from the community because once they could see it could be done, they have been tremendously supportive to have a place that shows the pride of our community and showcases our place as the birthplace of night football."
McCloskey added that the committee does a lot of sponsorships as well as fundraising activities. They have raised around $150,000 and are about three-quarters of the way there.
Contributions can be made online at savethegatehouse.org/ or visit their Facebook page at Save Gate House.
More on the first night football game played in Mansfield can be viewed here.