The Kanaweola Athletic Club was a bicycling club, which later fielded a professional football team, based in Elmira, New York. The club operated an indoor bicycling track inside the Steele Memorial Library building. However, the club is best known for the historical first of its football team.
On Friday November 21, 1902 at 8:00pm (EST), Kanaweola took part in the first ever professional football night game. The game took place in Elmira at the Maple Avenue Driving Park (now called Dunn Field). That night Kanaweola was defeated by the Philadelphia Athletics of the first National Football League, 39-0.
The historical significance of the game was initially lost. The town’s newspaper, Elmira Daily Advertiser and Free Gazette, only reported on the score of the game, with the headline “Kanaweola Eleven was Brushed Aside, Great Game Just the Same.” It wasn’t until decades later that the game was recognized as the first pro football game to be played at night.
A floodlight used on a football field
Floodlights on a Rugby League field at the Headingley Stadium in Leeds, UK. This is a common style of floodlights at older football and rugby grounds in England and Scotland. (Note the two gantries near the light for servicing)
Bramall Lane was reportedly the first floodlit stadium. Floodlighting in association football dates as far back as 1878, when there were floodlit experimental matches at Bramall Lane, Sheffield during the dark winter afternoons. With no national grid, lights were powered by batteries and dynamoes, and were unreliable. Lights were later be used by clubs such as Thames Ironworks, but they stopped the practice after joining the Southern League in 1888.
In 1929 the Providence Clamdiggers football club hosted the Bethlehem Steel “under the rays of powerful flood lights, an innovation in soccer” at their Providence, Rhode Island stadium. In the 1930s, Herbert Chapman installed lights into the new West Stand at Highbury but the Football League refused to sanction their use. This situation lasted until the 1950s,when the popularity of floodlit friendlies became such that the League relented. In September 1949, South Liverpool FC’s Holly Park ground hosted the first game in England under “permanent” floodlights: a friendly against a Nigerian XI. In 1950, Southampton FC’s stadium, The Dell, became the first ground in England to have permanent floodlighting installed. The first game played under the lights there was on 31 October 1950, in a friendly against Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic, followed a year later by the first “official” match under floodlights, a Football Combination (Reserve team) match against Tottenham Hotspur on 1 October 1951. The first international game under floodlights of an England game at Wembley was 30 November 1955 against Spain, England winning 4-1. The first floodlit Football League match took place at Fratton Park, Portsmouth on 22 February 1956 between Portsmouth and Newcastle United.
Many clubs have taken their floodlights down and replaced them with new ones along the roof line of the stands. This previously had not been possible as many grounds comprised open terraces and roof lines on covered stands were too low. Elland Road, Old Trafford and Anfield were the first major grounds to do this in the early 1990s. Deepdale, The Galpharm Stadium and the JJB Stadium have since been built with traditional floodlights on pylons.