Shotwell Stadium has been home to ACU football for a half century. From the 1-9 teams of 1990 and 1991 to the national champions of 1973 and 1977, Shotwell has been there for the good and the bad.
Upon completion in 1959, the new facility was named Public Schools Stadium and was intended to be a field for the Abilene High School Eagles and the Cooper High School Cougars. The stadium was renamed after its inaugural 1960 season in honor of longtime AHS Head Coach P.E. Shotwell.
The Wildcats played their first game at Shotwell in the fall of 1960 under the guidance of Head Coach N.L. Nicholson and have called the 15,000-seat stadium home ever since. The Wildcats averaged nearly 10,000 fans per game last season, which combined with a talented product on the field.
“Attendance has really gone up in the past few years,” said ACU Head Coach Chris Thomsen. “It has made it a great place for home-field advantage.”
Recent improvements to the stadium have made Shotwell even better, said Athletic Director Jared Mosley. A new synthetic turf was laid in 2002 and a new scoreboard with a color animation screen was added in 2007.
“I think one of the things that jumps out about Shotwell is some of the improvements,” Mosley said. “They’ve made it one of the nicest stadiums in the area.”
Fans watching games at Shotwell have witnesses some talented teams and historic moments during the past 51 years. On Oct. 16, 1976, ACU kicker Ove Johannson kicked the longest field goal in the history of organized football – a 69-yard kick during Homecoming against East Texas State University.
On Nov. 22, 2008, the Wildcats hosted West Texas A&M in a second-round NCAA playoff game. The conference rivals combined for 161 points as the Wildcats beat WT 93-68, setting the record for most points in an NCAA playoff game. ACU running back Bernard Scott scored an NCAA-record seven touchdowns in the playoff game.
Both Thomsen and Mosley agree Shotwell is a great home for the Wildcats, but the idea of an on-campus stadium in the future appeals to them. While there are no current plans to construct a stadium on campus, Mosley said the university is always open to opportunities like building a stadium
“I think we always evaluate opportunities,” he said. “It’s one of those that would be very opportunity-driven if there are donors interested in that in the future. It would be one of the most expensive facilities ACU would ever undertake. Right now, Shotwell is a good option. and we have a good relationship with AISD.”
While the Wildcats will have no new stadium for 2010, there will be some improvements to Shotwell. Mosley said parking lot improvements and stabilization of the end zone seats are in the works.
And for now, the Wildcats will continue to call Shotwell home.