Throwback Thursday – Russellville’s Rhea Stadium

Throwback Thursday takes a road trip to Logan County this week, visiting the iconic Rhea Stadium, a Friday night lights hot spot with over 80 years of history. While the stadium is home of the Russellville High School Panthers football team, its construction during the 1930s as part of a New Deal project was a win for the whole city during the height of the Great Depression.

Named for Thomas Stockdale Rhea, a local politician during the 1930s and 40s, the stadium’s construction came during a time when Logan County’s economy needed it the most. Rhea was a high profile Democrat who supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies to create public works projects that put Americans back to work. President Roosevelt commissioned the Rhea Stadium effort in the Works Project Administration in 1938, with its official dedication in 1940.

Rhea Stadium was one of many New Deal public works projects in the area. Cherry Hall at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green is perhaps one of the most prominent structures that was also built under the incentives of New Deal policies. 

Each project has its unique features. An unknown artist sculpted the heads of six of the biggest sports stars of the 1930s to flank its entrance. Every visit to an event at Rhea Stadium takes visitors back in time as they walk thru the front gate, since these sculpted heads were patched to the entrance wall 20 years ago. Guests remember the greatness of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb’s baseball swings, Jim Thorpe and Red Grange’s football feats, track star Paavo Nurmi, and Jack Dempsey’s punches in the boxing ring.

Rhea Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.