Marathon County Historical Society- home of the Yawkey House Museum & The Woodson History Center.
Not long after horse racing began on the dirt track at Marathon Park, some seating was constructed for spectators. A good, wooden grandstand was built in 1886, with a roof and a three-tiered judging stand across the tracks.
This early grandstand served generations of fairgoers until, after decades of use it was finally deemed too dangerous to use and was torn down after the county fair in 1919.
This helped put in motion the events that would lead to Marathon County taking over the fairgrounds in 1921, which created Marathon Park. And as part of this deal, the County agreed to replace the old grandstand with a new one.
The new design by Alexander Eschweiler, a Milwaukee architect, was built of concrete and steel, rather than wood, and included a large roof that opened toward the track. Spectators would enter from the back through stairways that opened under the roof. Seating was raised to allow for better viewing of the races.
Eschweiler’s grandstand was the backdrop to one of the biggest events in the history of Wausau, when Marathon Park hosted the 10th Annual Convention of Wisconsin’s American Legion in 1928. The high point of the event—which brought more than 30,000 people to Wausau at a time when the city population was only 23,000—was a keynote speech by President Calvin Coolidge.
As racing decreased in popularity, music acts — often with recognizable names — became the usual grandstand entertainment. The aging Eschweiler grandstand no longer met modern entertainment requirements, and it was replaced with the current Amphitheater in 2004.