It never left, you might say, and you’d be correct … in a way.
For the past half century or so, ACU games were held and the band played on, just not here. Shotwell had its plusses – including a .625 winning percentage for ACU games held off campus, some 3.5 miles to the southeast in a city stadium owned by the local school district.
But football for the Purple and White never sounded and looked as good as it did Sept. 16, when Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium showed off its Grand Opening to Houston Baptist University and a national TV audience on ESPN3.com.
This was truly a home game.
The home team won, 24-3, and afterward, messages from grateful fans filled cell phones of administrators. A sampling:
“This weekend was magical. An amazing memory!”
“Woo hoo!! Congratulations! Campus life has changed forever. This weekend was amazing and to get a win tonight topped it off. Can’t wait for next week!”
“It was amazing. I woke up early and couldn’t stop thinking about all the great experiences. I don’t think people wanted to leave. It was awesome! Great job to all who were involved in so many ways.”
“I can’t imagine anything in the last 20 years at ACU that will have an impact like this new stadium will.”
“One word: phenomenal. The whole ACU community, from alumni, students, coaches, players, athletics staff and fans set a new standard yesterday. That wasn’t your typical ACU crowd.”
“The entire Gameday experience has forever been changed and it will only get better.”
“I thought the stadium looked fantastic! We came to the concert Friday and ‘Wow,’ it is an impressive facility. Congratulations on your win Saturday. Go Wildcats!”
“I can’t thank you enough for recognizing all of us old Wildcats last night. It made a lot of the old guard feel pretty special. What a way to start a new legacy for the university and for the football program. Go Wildcats!”
The kudos continue to this day, from families of high school students visiting for the first time, to alumni returning to campus to tour the venue near the corner of Ambler Avenue and Judge Ely Boulevard.
In a city that prides itself on picturesque sunrises and sunsets on each horizon, the views offered by ACU’s new football Gameday site are striking and memorable.
From Wildcat Way. The team, the band and fans of all ages walk from tailgating and parking areas north, across Stevens Park, where the words “Lifelong Loyalty” and “Friends for Life” are etched in the pavement below, under the Wildcat Way archway and toward the stadium in the distance. Looking south, tailgating fans filling the Campus Mall can be seen eating tasty food, playing games, and listening to the Big Purple’s best marching band music while waiting for the team to begin its walk to the stadium.
From the Brown Family Club Level. The two-story-tall windows facing west offer a dramatic view of the northwest side of campus and the Abilene skyline, with no taller buildings to obstruct the view. When the sun sets, it’s a marvelous scene. On the east side of the large room, a window wall offers a prime view of Anthony Field below.
From the Press Level. On a clear day, you can see dozens of miles to the north, east and south, from the shopping area at Exit 288 on Interstate 20, to the wind farm turbines halfway to Albany. Spectacular is not too strong a word for the perspective from five stories above Anthony Field.
From the field. Wildcat football players entering the stadium are greeted to an other-worldly vista from the playing surface of Anthony Field. With nothing on the horizon but Wessel Scoreboard, Sitton Tower and fans in the stands and on the berm under the scoreboard, it’s apparent why ACU’s campus is called the Hill. The sounds of fireworks and fans cheering, the Big Purple playing above in sections 101 and 102 – it can be an electric atmosphere on what feels like the top of the world.
From Lunsford Overlook. People exercising along Ambler Avenue on the Lunsford Foundation Trail have a new elevated detour worth the climb. It takes them up a hill to a new trailhead, Lunsford Overlook, offering a sublime view inside the stadium – and to the south, ACU’s main campus – from under
From the Home Locker Room. Players exiting the Home Locker Room pass by murals celebrating the history of ACU football and alumni who have played in the NFL and its Super Bowl or other title games.
Other views beckon, of course. The possibilities are nearly endless, given the elevation and many features of this sparkling facility greeting people on the north end of campus. Appropriately, signage also salutes the Olympians and other legends of track and field who once starred at original Elmer Gray Stadium, on whose historic footprint Wildcat Stadium stands.
Finally, ACU has an outdoor venue on the Hill that celebrates past and present, where people meet old friends and make new ones, where community is built, and where memories wait to be made. Game on, indeed.
A CORNER OF GENEROSITY: For someone who loves finding chairs for kids at schools in developing nations, David Catalina’s section of Wildcat Stadium may be the most iconic 116 seats in the house. READ MORE