The Early Years
The original plan for ECU's current football facility was announced on Oct. 7, 1961, by Dr. Leo Jenkins, Chancellor of the College, at a meeting of the Society of Buccaneers. Within a year, $283,387 had been raised, although the goal had been only $200,000. With the funds in hand, Ficklen Stadium was built.
The James Skinner Ficklen Memorial Stadium was dedicated on Sept. 21, 1963, as East Carolina defeated Wake Forest, 20-10.
The original stadium consisted of the permanent stands on the south side, a small press box, and the old lighting system which was removed after the 1974 season. Total cost was $300,000.
The north side permanent seating was constructed in 1968, increasing the stadium seating capacity to 20,000.
In April 1994, Ron and Mary Ellen Dowdy, of Orlando, Fla., announced a $1 million gift to the ECU Educational Foundation. The gift would go toward the ongoing expansion of ECU's football stadium, which was renamed Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Ron Dowdy, who is a member of the school's Board of Trustees, currently oversees commercial leases, residential apartments, and several other enterprises as part of Dowdy Properties in Orlando. Dowdy, a 1966 graduate of ECU, has been involved with many civic organizations, including the Executive Committee of the Florida Citrus Sports Association, the Board of Directors for the Florida Citrus Bowl, the Board of Directors at Humana Hospital Lucerne in Orlando, and the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee in Orange County.
The late James Skinner Ficklen, a Greenville resident, distinguished himself as one of America's leading tobacconists. At the time of his death in 1955, Ficklen was President and Chairman of the Board of the E.B. Ficklen Tobacco Company of Greenville. He was a close friend of the college and established a financial aid foundation, the Ficklen Foundation, to aid students of the college.
After graduating in the early 1970s, Al and Debby Bagwell have been gracious friends of the university with Al serving on the Pirate Club's Executive Committee in 1994-95 and being appointed to the University's Board of Visitors in 1998. The couple from Lake Gaston, Va., were honored in 1997 for their gift to the Pirate Club's Shared Visions Campaign. For their contributions on behalf of the University and to the ECU Educational Foundation, the Bagwells had their name become a permanent mark on the ECU landscape as the field is now and forever will be recognized as Bagwell Field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The first major renovation in Ficklen Stadium was the lighting system, a change that occured just before the 1975 season opened. The old inner stadium lights on six poles were removed and replaced with six towers outside the stadium. The system is a combination of metallic and incandescent lights. There are 288 fixtures of 1500 watts each on six 162-foot towers. Cost of the system was $450,000.
A radical change greeted fans as the 1978 season opened. An expansion on all four corners boosted the stadium's seating capacity from 20,000 to 35,000, the third-largest stadium in North Carolina. The expansion was made possible with $2.5 million through a drive in spring 1977.
In addition to more seats, the current press box with three levels and an elevator for access was built. The press box has space for 92 writers and an entire floor for electronic media. Also, a modern scoreboard with a lightbank message center was placed on the east end of the stadium.
During the summer of 1983, a complete renovation was done on the playing surface. A new drainage system, a new base of gravel and sand, new treated topsoil, and a new grass--Tifton 419 Hybrid Bermuda--was installed.
The upper deck on the north side of the stadium was completed in time for the 1998 season and increased capacity to 40,000. In fall of 1999, the completion of the club-level seating on the north side bumped the stadium's capacity to 43,000.
The 1999 season saw the completion of a new scoreboard--at a cost of nearly $2 million. The state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard has a video deck on top for taping as well as one of the finest instant replay video boards in existence.
The Skull & Crossbones Daily News
By Coby S. Heath - August 16, 1996
Pirate Fans Anxiously Await Stadium Expansion
Greenville, NC - Prior to 1963 it was a tobacco field. It was good sandy soil and fertile, too. It was on the outskirts of Greenville. New developement was springing up around it.
Then there was a need for an elementary school, so the City built Elmhurst Elementary across the street from the tobacco field. On a Saturday evening during the fall you could hear the roar of the 5,000 or so people just two blocks away as they cheered ECTC on to victory.
In the early sixties Dr. Leo Jenkins had a dream, one of just many that have left Eastern North Carolina a better place. The supporters of the Univeristy began a fund raising drive and with the help of Dr. Ray Minges the Pirates replaced their old wooden bleacher stadium with a modern concrete structure that held an estimated 10,000 fans! The original plan was to build a south side stand and then double the stadium size with a north side twin structure. The Pirates have been expanding since.
With the '96 football season approaching, East Carolina will begin stadium expansion again. The plan includes two immediate phases: Phase I; the addition of the 8,000 seat upper deck, and Phase II; the construction of the club level seating and temporary endzone seats as funds allow. The expanded Dowdy-Ficklen stadium will seat approximately 48,000.
As the massive construction project nears, ECU's athletic department is quite fortunate to have an administrator with such capable experience. Dr. Henry Van Sant, the Associate Athletic Director for Administration and Non-Revenue Sports, serves as the liaison with construction companies.
Henry demonstrated his abilities with the recent construction of Minges Coliseum/Williams Arena. Hard work and a rushed schedule is nothing new to Van Sant. At 7:00 am, Henry is on the job ready to go when most state employees are just rising out of bed. Dr. Van Sant, a former ECU football player and coach, is from the old school of hard knocks, a man is worth the sweat of his brow.
We will be letting bids on August 21 and if all goes well, we will start construction somewhere between September 18 and October 1, said Van Sant. The construction crew will work around the football games. This year we will build Phase I with an upper deck of 8,000 seats. The following year Phase II, the club level seating and possibly end zone seats, will be built, Henry explained. The third phase will see the construction of the new press box and a south side upper deck.
Funding will be the key to the final design. Depending on the bids, we will be building either three separate exit ramps that will stretch across the back of the stadium or one in the middle with stairwells at the ends. The later will be less expensive, but less attractive.
The intramural area and the soccer field will give way to the new north side paved parking lot as shown here in a sketch taken from the ECU Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan. The soccer field will be used for construction storage and office space. To accommodate the loss of the soccer field, the athletic department has recrowned and sodded the area within Bunting Track. It has made an excellent home for the kickers and will be ready for competition this season.
In Phase II, funding may also be a problem with the endzone seats. The seats will be bleachers and temporary if they can be afforded. The artist rendering of the stadium shows what appears to be permanent and connected concrete stands.
But they will probably not be permanent nor connected unless more financial assistance can be found. The building codes really make it difficult to construct endzone seats. They will need bathrooms and other facilities that are very expensive, explained Dr. Van Sant.
Will the construction companies make the deadline with so little time? Henry thinks so, This is not a terribly complicated project. It doesnt take a lot of detail work and much of the work will be precast concrete. This will minimize the on-site construction time.
If its within the means Dr. Van Sant, the Pirate fans have nothing to worry about. Theres one proven factor around Pirateland, Henry knows how to get it done.
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EAST CAROLINA LOOKS AT STADIUM EXPANSION
April 23, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
Greenville, N.C. - East Carolina University is moving forward with plans to expand
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to hold about 50,000 fans.
The facilities and resources committee of the ECU Board of Trustees approved elevations and
viewed plans for the expansion of the stadium in the east end zone.
The new section will create a bowl style stadium and hold about 7,000 fans. The section is
slated to be a student section.
Ticket sales and Pirate Club donations over the next few months will determine whether
construction on the new section will begin this year or next year. The project will be funded
through the Pirate Club, ticket sales and private gifts.