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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Photo courtesy: Jim Massey

DUBUQUE ATHLETIC FIELD. The Dubuque Athletic Field, also known as the FOURTH STREET BASEBALL FIELD or the Dubuque Municipal Park, was located on what was known as the Fourth Street Extension between Dubuque and the bridge leading to East Dubuque. Originally a network of sloughs and islands, In the 1850s part of it was platted and became CITY ISLAND. The STANDARD LUMBER COMPANY was allowed to use it for their lumber yards. The land lay otherside neglected until 1912 when Alderman McLaughlin of the Second Ward obtained $2,500 from the city council to convert the property into an athletic park. (1)

Photo courtesy: Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

Eugene ADAMS, a prominent businessman, with others circulated a petition and raised $8,500. Filling in the sloughs was done with refuse and dirt collected by cleaning the city streets. Debris from the fire-destroyed HOTEL JULIEN including charred lumber, stone and brick and brought to the site The filling continued in 1913 with more dirt. For the construction of the BASEBALL diamond, loads of rich black dirt were used. (2)

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

With the field ready, the construction of a grandstand and bleachers became the priority. The grandstand had a capacity of more than 5,000 people. For those willing to pay an additional fee, a raised platform was placed in front of the grandstand on which one hundred opera chairs were placed. Bleachers provided room for an addition 2,000 people. The cost of the construction came to $8,000. In addition to admission, boxes for the two teams were located under the front of the grandstand. The exclusive private use of an entire box containing four seats could be purchased for twenty dollars. A single seat in a box for the entire season cost five dollars. Money collected went to the Athletic Field Committee to pay for the chairs. (3)

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

The Dubuque Athletic Field, "America's first municipally owned athletic field," had its grand opening scheduled for April 28, 1914. (4) On that day, however, rain started to fall early in the morning. "With the gloomy weather came great gobs of gloom for the baseball fans..."

The festivities were rescheduled for Thursday, April 30th.

        All factories, business houses, banks 
        and stores which were to have been 
        closed on Tuesday afternoon will be 
        closed on Thursday afternoon, which 
        will be a half holiday in Dubuque. All 
        schools in the city, as on Tuesday, 
        will open at 8:00 Thursday morning and 
        close at 1:00 in the afternoon so that 
        all pupils will have the opportunity of 
        witnessing the parade and the doings at 
        the athletic park.

Advancing the idea of multiple uses of the area and in efforts to raise money, the management of the field petitioned for and was granted the right to show a carnival on the site from September 29 through October 3, 1914. (5) The application called for an important exception. The management asked that the carnival be permitted without the regular license demanded by the city. The savings were to be used to pay debts from the building of the field. (6)

The municipal athletic field doubled in size in 1915. An additional four acres of land directly across 4th Street from the baseball field was purchased for $6,300. The new area, 500 feet long and 300 feet wide, was called the Dubuque Athletic Field Annex. Unlike the original field, the annex needed little filling. Some grading was needed since the ground was higher than the street. The new site was considered for baseball, tennis and other outdoor sports. It would be enclosed in a wooden fence on three sides with the fourth open to ensure the river view. It was felt the new ground could be used for carnivals or the skating rink. Both activities had drawn criticism from those who felt they had harmed the baseball diamond. (7)

Funds for the field were raised by selling painted signs on the fence. Football was played as early as 1916 with an admission of twenty-five cents.

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
c. 1917 Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

Around 1915 the idea of making the area into a skating rink was proposed. A warming house able to accommodate two hundred people was built and two large stoves were installed. Two large arc lights, one in the center of the rink were installed with other lighting placed in the grandstands so that the entire rink was illuminated. A small fee was charged for those skating. (8)

Ice skating remained a popular seasonal use of the park. In December, 1921 City Manager Ossian E. CARR announced that a warming room, "hot dog" stand, skates rental department and good illumination were among the year's improvements. The grounds had been flood and the operation would be repeated to keep a glazed surface. (9)

Over the years, the field became known as the FOURTH STREET BASEBALL FIELD and in 1961 PETRAKIS PARK.

Certainly one of the most unique uses of the field was for AUTO POLO. In 1934 EU-QU-BUD hosted its Pageant of Progress on the site.

In 1938 an article in the Telegraph-Herald described the athletic field as a "sort of unwanted orphan." The members of the Municipal Playground and Recreation Commission announced they wanted to "divorce" the field from their commission unless the city council approved such improvements as rebuilding and strengthening the grandstand and bleachers. Members of the commission threatened to resign if their suggestions were not carried out. Control of the athletic field had been a responsibility of the city council until recently when it was transferred to the athletic field. City Manager Albin Anton RHOMBERG assured the council that the $750 appropriated in the commission's budget would be enough to needed repairs. (10)



1. "Dubuque's Municipal Park Now Scene of Great Winter Sport," The Telegraph-Herald, January 3, 1915, p. 13

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. "Dubuque Athletic Field," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 3, 1914, p. 17

5. "Park Employee is First to Benefit," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, September 18, 1914, p. 11

6. "To Hold Carnival at Athletic Field," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, September 17, 1914, p. 3

7. "Big Addition to the Municipal Athletic Field," Telegraph-Herald, May 5, 1915, p. 1

8. "Dubuque's Municipal Park..."

9. "Welcome News for Ice Skating 'Fans,' Telegraph-Herald, December 4, 1921, p. 1

10. "Athletic Field Still 'Orphan,' Telegraph-Herald, March 21, 1938, p. 1