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Stadium to build a true home field advantage

By on February 21, 2016 in Campus News, Sports with 0 Comments
Sam Denmark, Quentin Bryant, Ken Collums, Dr. Barry Packer Dr. Phil Schubert, April Anthony and Lee De Leon participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking.

Sam Denmark, Quentin Bryant, Ken Collums, Dr. Barry Packer Dr. Phil Schubert, April Anthony and Lee De Leon participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring Wildcat football back to the Hill. We’re doing it today,” said Abilene Christian University benefactor Mark Anthony (’86), drawing the biggest ovation of a sunny, warm February groundbreaking Friday that felt more like football season than a week removed from Valentine’s Day.

Head coach Ken Collums

Head coach Ken Collums

Feb. 19 was a day ACU football fans will love to look back upon: the start of something big and the continuation of a collegiate football legacy dating back nearly a century.

With the football team, cheerleaders, Big Purple Band and several hundred fans present at Wally Bullington Football Practice Facility, the start of long-awaited construction on Wildcat Stadium was celebrated Friday with speeches made and shovels of dirt turned over, symbolically, as a collegiate football program’s new leaf.

ACU first played football in 1919 but hasn’t regularly hosted games on campus since the 1942 season. For 56 years, its home games have been played several miles away at the Abilene Independent School District’s Shotwell Stadium.

Mark’s wife, trustee April (Bullock ’89) Anthony, told ACU Today magazine in 2014 of sitting next to president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) a year earlier during the Homecoming game, following conversations with her husband about helping build a true home field advantage for the football team and changing the campus gameday atmosphere.

Athletics director emeritus Wally Bullington, head coach of ACU's 1973 NAIA Division I national champion, looked on during the ceremony.

Athletics director emeritus Wally Bullington (’53), head coach of ACU’s 1973 NAIA Division I national champion, looked on during the ceremony.

She leaned over and told Schubert, “Man, I sure am tired of driving down the street from campus to get to the football stadium.”

Soon after, the Anthonys resolved to make a cornerstone contribution of $15 million to the project, part of their ACU-record gift of $30 million. Games at the new Wildcat Stadium will be played on Anthony Field.

The ceremony also included comments from Schubert, athletics director Lee De Leon, sophomore linebacker Sam Denmark and head coach Ken Collums. Sophomore defensive back Quinten Bryant and board chair Dr. Barry Packer (’78) led prayers.

Mark Anthony

Mark Anthony

“Wildcat Stadium will have an impact on countless people for decades and decades to come,” said Collums. “I can almost hear third down right now. It’s going to be awesome.”

Schubert said David (’78) and Kathy (Gay ’78) Halbert also have recently made a significant gift to the stadium in honor of David’s lifelong friend, the late All-America defensive back Chuck Sitton (’77).

“ACU is in our DNA and we are proud to be ACU graduates,” Anthony said, giving credit to Bob and Kay Onstead for showing he and April “how to give and how to give humbly. They demonstrated a Christian principle to us, with an unselfish heart.”

Anthony cited three reasons why giving to the Vision in Action initiative and the football stadium, in particular, is important.

“First, we love ACU and know this university was instrumental in preparing us for the rest of our lives. ACU equipped us spiritually, socially, intellectually, and it showed us the power of Christian fellowship. We want others to experience what we experienced,” Anthony said.

“Second, we believe in having a first-class facility that matches the quality of our faculty, our staff and our students here on campus. This is going to be a first-class facility,” he said.

“And finally, we hope and pray that our giving will inspire the next generation and future generations to make their own notable contributions as servant-leaders to this university.”

As construction begins, fundraising continues on Wildcat Stadium. To contribute, visit the online giving site.

Wildcat Stadium, seen in a recent architectural rendering, will host its first game during the 2017 season.

Wildcat Stadium, seen in a recent architectural rendering, will host its first game during the 2017 season.

Wildcat Stadium will seat up to 12,000 fans for games on Anthony Field.

Wildcat Stadium will seat up to 12,000 fans for games on Anthony Field. The venue will be on Ambler Avenue, just west of Judge Ely Boulevard and Crutcher Scott Field.

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