Once upon a time, in New Jersey, there was an entity known as The Swamp. From October 10, 1976, until January 3, 2010, it served as a multi-purpose arena that held concerts and sporting events. It was a time East Rutherford was privy to watching the New York Giants and the New York Jets throw and kick a football around before a stadium that could hold over eighty thousand people. Otherwise known as Giants Stadium, this proud arena stood in the Meadowlands Sports Complex with the original intent to cater to the National Football League’s New York Giants. Eight years later, it also catered to another NFL football team, the New York Jets. When not hosting football games, it served as a venue for ceremonies, concerts, and other sporting events until it all came crashing down in 2010.
New Playground for Giants
When the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority struck an agreement with the New York Giants to have a facility built to accommodate the National Football Association’s team, the year was 1971. In November 1972, the construction process to build Giants Stadium officially began. The final season the Giants played in its entirety was in Yankee Stadium was 1972, just before it was temporarily closed for much-needed renovations. Unfortunately for the team, the new arena they were supposed to move into wasn’t quite ready yet. Instead of staying in New York, the Giants temporarily relocated to New Haven, Connecticut’s Yale Bowl. Twelve games later between 1973 and 1974, the team returned to New York and played in Shea Stadium for the 1975 season. At the time, the Giants shared that venue with three other teams, including its previous roomies, the New York Yankees.
As soon as Giants Stadium was ready to receive the NFL team, it was already five weeks into the 1976 football season. For eight seasons, the Giants had the venue to themselves as a pro football team. That changed in 1983 when the New York Jets moved in. The move was necessary as the lease the New York Jets had at Shea Stadium expired and its team owner was having a difficult time reaching an agreement to stay in the Queens-based sports complex. For the New York Jets, it wasn’t the first time they actually played in the building. They did already play one game in 1977.
On September 6, 1984, the New York Giants and the New York Jets faced off against each other in what was the New York Jets first game held in the stadium. Now with both teams calling the Giants Stadium home, there was now a matter of maintenance and scheduling issues that wouldn’t have their games interfere with each other. This wasn’t always so easy to do as this was technically the New York Giants‘ home turf. Setting it up to make the New York Jets feel like it was their home too took quite some time to accomplish.
Aside from the New York Giants and the New York Jets, the stadium in The Meadowlands was also the home base of the United States Football League’s New Jersey Generals. This continued until 1985 after the final championship game was held there before the league folded.
It also hosted the home games of the World League of American Football’s New York/New Jersey Knights. And if this wasn’t enough, the New York/New Jersey Hitmen of the Extreme Football League also held their home games there. During the first season of the United Football League, the New York Sentinels played a game there in 2009 as the league had yet to finalize a deal that would allow the team to play in New York City. However, the UFL folded after just four seasons. In fact, the final season was cut short due to financial issues and other legal matters.
As if hosting teams from New York and New Jersey wasn’t enough, Giants Stadium also hosted a New Orleans Saints home game against none other than the New York Giants after Hurricane Katrina caused significant damage to the Louisiana Superdome. The game took place in September 2005 that featured the stadium decorated with the team colors belonging to the Saints. The only other occasion the New York Giants were represented as a visiting team inside their own stadium was during some of the games played against their rivals, the New York Jets.
On more than one occasion, this stadium graciously hosted a series of football and soccer games when other facilities were unable to do so for reasons that included construction, renovation, and scheduling issues.
Because of the stadium’s intensely busy schedule, it actually surpassed Chicago’s Wrigley Field in the most amount of NFL games held at a single stadium. What took the arena that hosted the Chicago Bears fifty years to accomplish, the Giants Stadium managed to pull off in just eight. The old record was 364 NFL games played. The new one, at 365, was accomplished on September 14, when the New York Jets played its first home game of the 2003 season against the Miami Dolphins.
Aside from hosting two NFL teams, the stadium also became the home of the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos upon the start of its 1977 season. The Cosmos were a highly popular team that attracted a record number of crowds, bringing in at least forty thousand people per game. This was more than any other team in the league during the late 1970s. In 1977, 1978, and 1980, Cosmos won three of the NASL championships. Only in 1979 was the team unsuccessful.
Like the New York Giants, the Cosmos also called Yankee Stadium its home in 1971. It then moved to Downing Stadium before realizing the team needed a facility that could seat more fans. Inside Giants Stadium, the largest crowd to attend an American soccer game at the time was set in 1977 when it played against the visiting Fort Lauderdale Strikers during a playoff match. There were 77,691 fans who attended.
However, the popularity high the Cosmos experienced while Brazilian Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele) was on the team began to decline after the soccer star retired at the end of the 1977 season. While the Cosmos was still a team with the NASL, it continued to call Giants Stadium it’s home until 1984. This was the year NASL officially folded as a league. It wouldn’t be until 1996 another professional-grade soccer team would step into the Meadowlands. Until 2010, the New York Red Bulls played there Prior to 2006, the team was known as the MetroStars. Founded in 1996, the Major Soccer League picked up and perfected what NASL had started in 1968. This began two years after Giants Stadium hosted seven games from the 1994 FIFA World Cup Soccer Tournament.
Aside from hosting professional-level sports teams in football and soccer, the stadium in Meadowlands also catered to college teams. From 1978 until 1981, it hosted the Garden State Bowl before hosting the Kickoff Classic from 1983 until 2002. There were also the games from the New York Urban League Classic that were featured there from 1981 until 2009.
When not witnessing athletes do their thing on the field, crowds who gathered inside Giants Stadium to watch a good concert. On fourteen different occasions from 1978 until 1995, fans rocked with the Grateful Dead while the group performed there. There’s even a boxed set of recordings the band released that featured performances they held in 1987, 1989, and 1991.
Another frequent performer inside the stadium was the Dave Matthews Band. From 1998 until 2007, the group performed before the crowd on ten different occasions. For Matthews, when he first learned Giants Stadium was about to be no more, he admitted it was one of his personal favorites as a venue.
On June 15, 1986, it was this stadium that hosted the MTV broadcasted A Conspiracy of Hope Benefit Concert. This show featured an impressive roster of world-class recording artists, as well as other celebrities, who all came together for Amnesty International’s notable cause.
Throughout the stadium’s history, it hosted several music festivals and multi-band tours such as Monsters of Rock Festival and Ozzfest. It was even used as a place of worship. On October 5, 1995, Pope John Paul II celebrated mass inside a packed Giants Stadium. The head of the Catholic Church, nor the 82,948 attendees refused to allow a simple rainstorm to stop them from gathering together in what was the largest crowd at the time ever to fill up the arena’s seats. That record would be broken at 84,472 people who attended a U2 concert that was held on September 24, 2009.
Perhaps another giant fan of the stadium would be Bruce Springsteen. He, along with The E Street Band, was a New Jersey native who performed twenty-four gigs there from 1985 until 2009. In fact, the August 1985 concert was the setting that featured Springsteen’s 1986 live album, Live/1975-85. There was also 2003’s The Rising Tour even had the band perform inside Giants Stadium ten times. When he learned what the fate of the stadium was about to become, he wrote “Wrecking Ball,” a song that would also inspire the 2012-released album, Wrecking Ball.
For the New York Giants, the stadium that was named after them and technically built for them was anything but strictly theirs. At the time, this venue was unlike any other that hosted two NFL teams from the same city. The rivalry between the Giants and the Jets goes on as they still continue as roommates, so to speak, at MetLife. At first, the Jets struggled to win over the same set of loyal fans as the Giants did. Bear in mind, the Giants was a pro football mainstay since 1925. They also had the stadium in Meadowlands as the sole NFL team to play there before the Jets moved in at the start of the 1984 season. They were also the new kids, so to speak, as a team that was founded in 1959.
So while the stadium was packed with Giants fans, the New York Jets didn’t see this happen for themselves at first. Much of this had to do with the Jets not having much visibility to suggest the stadium they shared with the Giants was also their home turf. It really wasn’t until 2000, after the field went from astroturf to natural grass did the stadium seem to recognize it was just as much the home of the Jets as it was for the Giants. Then in 2002, the natural grass was replaced with FieldTurf.
However, the days of Giants Stadium were already numbered at this point. As newer stadiums were springing up in the late 1990s, reality sunk in that the venue in New Jersey was in no position to effectively continue as a world-class arena. Together, the Jets and the Giants teamed up to put together a new stadium close by.
It wasn’t just the Red Bulls that moved out of Giants Stadium at the end of its 2009 season. The New York Giants also moved out as the team relocated to the newly built venue located adjacent to where the old stadium once stood. On January 3, 2010, the stadium hosted its final event as the New York Jets played against the Cincinnati Bengals during the Sunday Night Football broadcast. They too were gearing up to move to MetLife.
On February 4, 2010, the dismantling of the stadium officially began. On August 10, 2010, what used to be Giants Stadium became no more. This was the same month and year its old tenants moved into their new home. However, the memorabilia involved was sold to a company whose niche in the market that saw to it the legacy of the stadium wasn’t entirely lost. Whatever the company didn’t acquire was handed to other New Jersey-baed facilities such as IZOD Center and Monmouth Park. Remnants of what was are still carried on by fans who refuse to forget the giant impact the old stadium made in its thirty-three-year history.
History Of Giants Stadium In The Meadowlands article published on ClassicNewYorkHistory.com ©2022
ClassicNewYorkHistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used in the articles are either original photographs taken by ClassicNewYorkHistory.com journalists, public domain creative commons photos or photos licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicNewYorkHistory.com and ClassicRockHistory.com. All photo credits have been placed at end of the article.
We are not responsible for any locations visited based on our recommendations or information included in the articles as the website is for entertainment purposes only.