Historical marker #2601 commemorates Rhea Stadium in Russellville, Kentucky, which was named for local and state political figure, Thomas S. Rhea.
Rhea Stadium, home of the Russellville Panthers, was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as part of the New Deal. The New Deal was a series of programs and projects instituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) during the Great Depression. The programs and projects aimed to restore prosperity to Americans. The WPA was designed to provide relief for those who were unemployed due to the Great Depression by providing jobs and income for Americans. The WPA provided work relief for millions of people from its inception in 1935 to its dissolvement in 1943. Workers under the WPA built structures such as bridges, roads, public buildings, public parks and airports. Construction of Rhea Stadium began in the summer of 1938. The first game played in the stadium was on November 23, 1939, but the stadium was officially dedicated on September 20, 1940.
Rhea Stadium was named after Thomas Stockdale Rhea (1871-1946), a local and state Democratic political figure. Rhea was the State Treasurer in 1912 and Highway Commissioner in 1935 when he was defeated by A.B. “Happy” Chandler for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Kentucky. He was also one of the floor leaders at the 1932 Democratic Convention in Chicago, where he lined up votes for Franklin D. Roosevelt to become the Democratic nominee for president. Rhea’s efforts “helped the New York liberal win in the conservative South” and led to a friendship between Rhea and Roosevelt. Rhea used his influence to bring progress to Russellville during the Great Depression, traveling to Washington D.C. to speak with President Roosevelt about New Deal assistance for Logan County. Construction of the stadium put many to work and added to the local economy.
The stadium is still used today for Russellville High School’s football games and an annual band competition. Flanking the entrance of the stadium are sculpted heads of six sports stars during the time of Rhea Stadium’s construction: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jim Thorpe, Paavo Nurmi, Red Grange and Jack Dempsey. The heads, sculpted by an unknown artist and chosen by unknown criteria, were patched to the entrance wall in 2002. Rhea Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places in July 2008.
Rhea Stadium was named for Thomas
S. Rhea, a local & state political
figure. It was a project of the
Works Progress Administration, a
New Deal program started under
Franklin D. Roosevelt. The first
game was played on Nov. 23, 1939.
Dedication of the stadium occurred
on Sept. 20, 1940. Added to Nat’l
Register of Historic Places 2008.
Presented by Sonny Green and The “R” Club
This marker was dedicated on October 12, 2019.