New York Daily News

July 17, 1974

By Bill Verigan

Adventure in Gotham!

Stars Open at Downing Tonight

When somebody wants to know something about New York, he asks a cabby right?

"Downing Stadium, please, cabby."


"On Randalls Island."

"Oh? Under the Triborough Bridge?"

Downing Stadium has never been mistaken for the Taj Mahal. It has never been mistaken for Shea Stadium. Or Yankee Stadium before the renovation, for that matter.

"This the place?" Yellow cabby Douglas Brown gazed up. "Aren't they supposed to play a football game here this week?"

Workmen climbed light poles, painted white line on the dust and parched grass, and tried to figure out how to turn on the lights in the ladies room.

Plenty Left to Be Done

The Stars were trying to turn a stadium into a home. However, he warned. The place will not be finished for the housewarming tonight at 8 P.M. against the Birmingham Americans.

The new $250,000 scoreboard is still loaded in a box someplace, and the lack of lighting forced cancellation of plans to televise the game back to Birmingham.

"So what?" said our pioneering cabby Douglas Brown. "This gives us a chance to get even with Wellington Mara. We can show him that New York is still where it's happening. The Giants left. So what? The Stars can't be any worse."

For whatever reasons, downing Stadium just might be filled tonight by 21,000 people. If they could get tickets. If they can get to Randalls Island.

The ticket trouble started on Monday when Ticketron's computers stopped clicking in the middle of the last-minute rush. However, the Stars found ways to get out the tickets.

Getting there will not be half the fun either.

"So what?" said our dauntless jockey. "It's not easy to get to any football game. Football fans have got to suffer. We suffer to get to Shea Stadium. We suffer to get to the Yale Bowl."

"Everybody is expecting the worst." Said a Parks Department employee. "So they should be pleasantly surprised. If everybody would listen, we could get the cars out of here in a half hour."

Better Get There Early

Downing Stadium has only three access roads to the rest of the world. There is a parking space for up to 8,000 cars on the island, then its leave it in the boondocks or else. Those two items add up to a jam.

Only 400 show up to soccer games, and they have become accustomed to going to the stadium two hours before the game. Those fans who want their piece of history by attending the first World Football League game in New York might be advised to follow that example.

The Stars also have arranged for 25 buses to take fans to the game from points throughout the city. To find out where the nearest bus stop is, call the Stars at 355-1213. The price is $1 each way.

In addition, city buses run frequently from Lexington Avenue and 125th Street right to the front gate.

The Stars will have about 5,000 seats on sale at eight ticket booths.

The fans' problems won't end when they get inside.

A few hints: Find your seats early because many aren't numbered yet. Don't wait until halftime to go to the bathroom.

The Stars have poured $600,000 into the stadium. Before they took up residence, the hallways weren't lighted, the toilets had no seats, the water fountains wouldn't squirt.

Wonder Where the Money Went

"People come out here and wonder where we spent the money," said Bob Keating, the Stars' General Manager. "They should have seen it before we started. We took a truckful of garbage out of the place. We don't think people will mind that the place is old as long as it's clean.

For those who enjoy sharing their misery: The players have new locker rooms, but they might not be able to take hot showers after the game. The new boilers were not installed as of yesterday, and the old boilers have been patched up. Whether they'll provide enough water for two ball clubs is questionable.

The WFL is for pioneers, those who want to get in on the ground floor before the move to the new Yankee Stadium.

A Star-Crossed Grid Schedule

The man who made up the WFL schedule didn't do any favors for the Stars. In their first home game, they have to play none other than the team picked to win it all, the Birmingham Americans.

Only last week, the Americans defeated Southern California Sun, who are generally considered the second best team in the WFL, 11-7, at Birmingham

This week's game will match the Stars' defensive strength against the Americans offense: quarterback George Mira, running backs Paul Robinson and Charley Harraway, wide receiver Dennis Homan - all with long pro experience, a total of 31 seasons.