How Cawley Stadium Came to Be

Throughout the 1930s, football fans in the city of Lowell clamored for a stadium in which the Lowell High School football team could play, especially after the city of Lawrence built its Veterans Memorial Stadium in 1927.

By 1937, with the annual Lowell High versus Lawrence High Thanksgiving Day football game drawing more than 10,000 spectators and with no facility in Lowell having that seating capacity, the city of Lowell was forced to rent the Lawrence Stadium to host a Lowell home game. Civic outrage over that prompted governmental action. When the Lowell office of the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) submitted its annual budget for projects in the city for 1938, money was included to start the process of building a stadium in Lowell.

By the end of the summer of 1938, the W.P.A. announced that it would make a preliminary contribution towards the stadium of $37,000 provided the city match that amount. Mayor George Ashe quickly announced that it could not be done since the city budget had no money to spare. That got Mayor Ashe a withering editorial from the Lowell Sun asserting that if he was doing a better job of managing the city’s finances, there would be more than enough for the stadium startup costs.

As 1939 arrived, the city came up with the money and the W.P.A. approved the project, creating a Stadium Commission consisting of the mayor, the superintendent of schools, the headmaster of Lowell High School, and two others to be appointed by the mayor to oversee the work. It was soon announced that given the project’s timeline, Lowell would be able to host that year’s Thanksgiving Day football game at its new stadium.

By September, however, the construction timeline had slipped, and the Lowell Athletic Director suggested to his Lawrence counterpart that it would be prudent to reserve the Lawrence Stadium for the big game. The Lawrence AD replied that everyone in that city had been convinced that “this time, Lowell actually meant to play in Lowell this season” and had issued a permit for the Lawrence Stadium on Thanksgiving Day to Central Catholic for that school’s big football game.

The Lowell Stadium Commission held an emergency meeting and decided to go all out to get the Lowell playing surface ready for a game on Thanksgiving Day. Not only did that happen, but the city was also able to erect sufficient steel bleachers to accommodate more than 10,000 fans at the new field. Most of the bleachers were dragged over from the adjoining Alumni Field baseball park; others were retrieved from Lowell Textile Institute where they were on loan; and still others were purchased new since they would be needed at the future stadium.

Although the game did not go well for Lowell – Lawrence won by a score of 7 to 0 – the joy of hosting the big Thanksgiving game in Lowell with 13,000 spectators brought vows to begin construction of cement stands that would surpass those at Lawrence Memorial Stadium.

In February 1940, the city of Lowell appropriated $50,000 for the additional construction costs, and by September 1940, the W.P.A. committed $100,000 more which would yield a $150,000 stadium in time for the start of the 1941 football season.