The full-color renderings of the planned Wildcat Stadium at Anthony Field show a sports venue packed with purple for game-day action. Fresh from tailgating, crowds in the pictures pour into the pristine complex as the football on the field takes place under the festive glow of fireworks.
But what the drawings don’t show is the stadium sitting idle – unused and empty during the 360 days per year ACU doesn’t host a football matchup.
That’s because, rather than sticking with a football-only format, the university is seeking ways to make Wildcat Stadium multi-purposed and community-based. Kevin Roberts, vice president of planning and operations, said the group developing the plans specifically wanted to make sure from the beginning that the new field would not be one-dimensional.
“Our primary design element is that we don’t want this facility to be used eight days a year,” Roberts said. “Whatever it takes, whatever we need to do from a design perspective is what we’re still trying to work out right now. That stadium will be something we all use on a regular basis, so we’ve talked at length in our meetings about how to design the stadium for multiple uses and student use. Right now we’re throwing around ideas like having spaces inside the buildings for students to eat, things like that. We want everyone to be included there.”
With the new location on campus, the stadium will be easily accessible to all students. As a result, plans are in development for student activities to take place at the stadium. Existing traditions, such as pre-game tailgates, Homecoming and concerts will be enhanced, with more students expected to attend and show enthusiasm for student-athletes and classmates. Jared Mosley, director of athletics, also said the new stadium will build new traditions and include the student body more in ACU athletics.
“It’s going to be a great experience for all students, not just student-athletes, to have this stadium,” Mosley said. “As of right now, most students don’t have a reason to go past Moody to the athletic side of campus, and having this is going to change that. We’re going to expand tailgates, have a walk-out area for the band and have designated areas for students only. Basically, make changes that will allow us to engage students more in our athletics.”
Mosley said in addition to tailgates and regular game-day traditions, students will have the opportunity to attend events like game nights or movie nights at the field. As another way to bring in revenue for ACU, the field will be lent to high school football teams every Friday night for season games. High school bands will have competitions at the stadium as well. The field also will likely be used for football camps for elementary through high school, including recruiting camps for the Wildcats. An indoor space will be available for rental for small banquets and meetings.
Football is not the only sport receiving an upgrade in facilities. Similar plans are in progress for the new soccer and track stadium, which also will be available for student and community use. Since they will share their field, soccer head coach Casey Wilson and track and field head coach Keith Barnier are collaborating on ideas for alternate uses for the stadium.
“I’m sure between us and track using the facility throughout the year, it will be a busy place,” Wilson said. “Currently, we share our field with Abilene Soccer Club and will be doing so in the future as coach Salas is affiliated with that organization. Also, hosting camps and clinics would be the norm as well. Coach Barnier and I are still collaborating on some different ideas for the facility. Since this is going to be a multi-faceted facility we need to make sure it serves both our needs well.”
There is already a large demand for stadium use for high school soccer playoffs and track meets. Mosley said ACU will also begin expanding its track offerings, hosting more college track meets and UIL events each year. Wilson said if all goes according to plan with construction, soccer players should be able to use their new stadium next year. Emily Sumrall, junior midfielder from North Richland Hills, wants the field to help ACU reach out to younger players in Abilene.
“I think it would be awesome to see the new field being used to encourage the youth to stay active,” Sumrall said. “I know some of the girls coach younger players in their spare time, and I think it would be really great to see the team invest in something of that nature as a whole.”
Arguably one of the biggest appeals of these new stadiums is the type of athletes they will attract to ACU teams. Mosley said the stadium will be a showpiece at ACU and a great recruiting tool. With facilities nice enough to rival some of the top schools in the country, the Wildcats might begin to sign a significantly higher amount of top-level athletes, making us a threat in the Div. I realm.
Though few other sports are getting renovations to their facilities, small changes will be made to make our athletic facilities stand out. Softball might get new indoor batting cages similar to those used by the baseball team. And Powell weight room could receive a facelift of its own.
Mosley said the school is getting close to being able to start construction and approaching the fundraising goal to get started. As of now, construction on the projects may begin by the end of the summer.
“By the time this is done, we’ll have one of the nicest facilities within 150 miles of Abilene,” Mosley said. “It’s going to open up all kinds of possibilities for us and attract a lot of new people. We are definitely taking the school in a new direction and have an exciting future ahead of us.”