Hamtramck history: The culture and diversity of Detroit City FC's home, Keyworth Stadium

Keyworth Stadium in 2021 (Photo: Amber Ainsworth)

Detroit City Football Club's home, Keyworth Stadium, sits nestled in a Hamtramck neighborhood.

It's an unassuming spot for a professional soccer team to play, but it's a location seeped in history.

How old is Keyworth Stadium?

Keyworth Stadium was a Work Progress Administration project. 

Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched the program, later named the Work Projects Administration, during the Great Depression in 1935 to help get Americans back to work.

Keyworth was the first Michigan project, and Roosevelt was there when the stadium opened in 1936.

Then-Senator John F. Kennedy also spoke at Keyworth during his campaign for presidency in 1960. He spoke of progress in what he called "strongest Democratic city in the United States."

Numerous events and sports matches have been held at the stadium throughout the decades.

A brief history of Hamtramck

Hamtramck is a 2.1-square mile city with a population of 28,433, as of the 2020 Census.

The city, which is situated inside Detroit, is named after Col. Jean François Hamtramck. In 1798, the area was called Hamtramck Township.

Col. Hamtramck served in the U.S. Army during the Revolutionary War, and he commanded Detroit's Fort Shelby.

At first, the area was largely populated by French people who came from Quebec.

In the early 1900s it became a village, and was a German farming community. In 1914, Polish people began moving to Hamtramck to work at the Dodge Brothers auto plant.

The population of Hamtramck jumped from 3,589 to 46,615 between 1910 and 1920.

In 1922, Hamtramck officially became a city. Today, Hamtramck remains a culturally diverse area.

According to Census data, just over 40% of Hamtramck's population is foreign born, compared to just under 7% of Michigan's population.

Just over 71% of Hamtramck residents speak a language other than English at home.

Hamtramck is also home to another historic sports venue: Norman Turkey Stearns Stadium Field.

The field, which is also called Historic Hamtramck Stadium, is one of only a few former Negro League ballparks still standing.

Renovations started on the ballpark last year.

DCFC's move to Keyworth

Since it opened more than 85 years ago, Hamtramck Public Schools has owned the stadium. This is still true, but an agreement with Detroit City FC allows the team to play there.

Detroit City FC played its first few seasons at Cass Tech High School after the team was founded in 2012.

In September 2015, the team presented a plan to the Hamtramck School Board. Under the proposal, the team would fund renovations at the stadium if the district allowed the team to play there. The stadium's age was showing, and renovations were necessary to keep Keyworth usable.

The school board approved the proposal later that month.

"Hamtramck Public Schools is confident that the Keyworth Stadium renovations will enhance the quality of life in our city. The renovated stadium will provide a generous amount of access for HPS athletic programming and community recreation activities in a first class facility," said then-superintendent Thomas Niczay when the proposal was approved.

How Keyworth has changed

DCFC raised more than $740,000 in just 109 days through a community investment campaign in early 2016. DCFC paid off its debt in 2020, two years ahead of schedule.

That money was used to repair bleachers, make structural improvements to the grandstands, and improve bathrooms, lighting, and locker rooms.

The team has also installed shipping container suites, bringing the stadium's capacity to just under 8,000.

Shipping container concession stands were also installed, allowing a permanent place for local drink vendors in addition to food trucks that park at Keyworth during games.

MORE: What to know about the 2022 Detroit City FC season

Additionally, the field is now turf.

The DCFC women's team plays at Keyworth in 2021. (Photo: Amber Ainsworth)

DCFC's impact on the community

Many DCFC supporters spend their time outside of games helping improve Hamtramck and Detroit.

Read: Ruth Ellis Center gets $50,000 from DCFC Prideraiser

This includes neighborhood cleanups, holiday gift drives, distribution of essentials to people in need, and more. 

Learn more about NGS Cares here.

The team also has a program, "Let's Make Roots," that distributes game tickets to people in the community. These tickets are donated by fans, and to date, more than 1,760 tickets have been given out.

Read more DCFC coverage here.