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Dayton Celebrates The Centennial Of The Very First NFL Game

From left to right: Dayton native and football legend Keith Byars, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, and Dayton History CEO Brady Kress in front of the Ohio Historical Marker for Triangles Field on the centennial anniversary of the first ever NFL game
From left to right: Dayton native and football legend Keith Byars, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, and Dayton History CEO Brady Kress in front of the Ohio Historical Marker for Triangles Field on the centennial anniversary of the first ever NFL game

The 100th anniversary of the first ever National Football League game was this past Saturday, in Dayton.

On October 3rd, 1920, the Dayton Triangles faced off against the Columbus Panhandles in the first ever National Football League game. It was an unusually warm day, and 4,000 fans packed the stands at Triangle Park. Tickets were $1.75 a piece and players were paid $50.00 a game.

This past Saturday was another beautiful fall day, and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Dayton History CEO Brady Kress, and local football legend Keith Byars held a small centennial ceremony where Triangles field once stood.

Byars is a Dayton native. He was a multi-sport standout at the now shuttered Dayton Roth high school. He was also a runner-up for the Heisman trophy at Ohio State, and had a long career as a fullback in the NFL. He even played in a Super Bowl.

“I'm sure that few could have ever imagined at that time way back in 1920," he said. That it would inspire something in 2020, a hundred years later that would be, you know, you can see an NFL game anywhere in the world with the internet and satellite TV and things of that nature. So it's a great thing and a great accomplishment."

Byars also said it was a honor to be on sacred ground celebrating the people who paved the way for him, and many others, to play professional football.

Last year, Dayton called off plans to construct a turf football field where Triangles field once stood due to the discovery of possible Native American ancestral artifacts and remains at the site. However, Dayton did partner with the NFL to construct Kettering Field a few miles away (see picture below).

Originally, Mayor Whaley had hoped to celebrate the day with music and food for the public to mark the occasion. Instead, due to the coronavirus, Mayor Whaley presented Mayor Ginther of Columbus with a ceremonial football signed by her and Byars in front of the media — with the final score Triangles 14, Panhandles 0 displayed prominently on the side. She also declared October 3rd "Dayton Triangles Day."

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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Kettering Field in Dayton, currently closed due to COVID-19. The field was constructed with funding from the NFL to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the league's first ever game in Dayton.
Chris Welter / WYSO
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Kettering Field in Dayton, currently closed due to COVID-19. The field was constructed with funding from the NFL to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the league's first ever game in Dayton.