Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium 1600 Campus Court Abilene, TX 79699
Year Opened: 2017
History and Excitement Reside in Abilene
Three division titles, 12 conference titles, two national titles – the history of Abilene Christian University football is long and storied. Currently playing in the Southland Conference in the FCS division of college football, the Wildcats have sent scores of players on to the NFL over the years, including Taylor Gabriel, Johnny Knox, and College Football Hall of Famer Wilbert Montgomery, as well as former WWE World Champion John Layfield.
After sharing a stadium with local high schools for several years (the Wildcats have not played on campus since World War II), ACU unveiled their brand-new Wildcat Stadium in 2017. This $50 million facility features all the shiny bells and whistles associated with new facilities. The stadium also has one eye firmly rooted in the history and heritage of the Wildcats program, and looks to be the best of the past, present, and future.
Food & Beverage 4
The food scene at Wildcat Stadium is – quite frankly – insane! There are all your traditional favorites such as hamburgers and hot dogs ($4 each), Frito pie and nachos ($5 each), soft pretzels and popcorn ($5 and $3 respectively), all of which can be found at any of the five stands (three on the home side and two on the visitors side) in the stadium.
However, there are two stands that go far above and far beyond the norm for most college facilities. At the Ultimate Tailgate stand options include a garlic and herb stuffed hamburger as well as a mozzarella and roasted red pepper stuffed hamburger. Wow. Need more? There is also a New England hot dog, Chicago style dog, and a brisket chili cheese hot dog. The burgers are just $6 (or $9 with fries) and the dogs are $5 (or $8 with fries).
In addition, at the Wildcat Smokehouse you can also get the burger and hot dog options, plus such outstanding options as smoked candied bacon on a stick, smoked brisket or pulled pork sandwiches on cornbread buns, a pork riblet sandwich, and a Buffalo chicken sandwich. Crazy, right?
With all of that said there are a couple of things to be aware of when getting your grub on at Wildcat Stadium. First, there is no alcohol sold at Wildcat Stadium; fountain drinks, bottled water, and sports drinks are available though. Second, the stands are open until the fourth quarter and do sell out of some of the most popular items quite fast.
History is everywhere at Wildcat Stadium. On the exterior of the building near Gates A and B, the facade is bedecked with large photos of some of the all-time greats in Wildcat history. In addition, a statue entitled “Lean on Me” greets visitors at the B Gate – depicting the late All-American Chuck Sitton and his lifelong friend David Halbert, the statue is another nod to the team and university’s storied past.
Exterior of Wildcat Stadium, Photo by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
The inviting brick facade soon gives way to the slick interior of Wildcat Stadium, where even more history can be found. Nearly every wall on the stadium level features photos and history of past Wildcat greats.
A gently sloping hill sits under the massive Wessel Scoreboard in the north end zone. Decorated with the signage of several of the campuses Greek societies, the hill has become popular with fans – especially kids who can be seen tumbling down it repeatedly throughout games – as a comfy spot to enjoy the on-field action.
Located in the part of the state designated as West Central Texas, Abilene has a long history of being one of the preeminent cow towns in Western history. It is this tradition that the city has embraced fully, and you can see it fully on display at the impressive Frontier Texas! history museum located in downtown Abilene. Visitors get an immersive experience into Western history and the role Texas played in its development. This museum has consistently been ranked as one of the best museum experiences in the state, and should definitely be added to any to-do list when visiting Abilene.
Another must-do is taking in the Abilene Zoo – a giraffe encounter, a miniature train that spans the whole zoo, and a pond with paddle boats are all on the table of activities to do when visiting. If you’re bringing young ones with you, this is a spot you have to take in.
When it comes to eating either before or after Wildcats games, Abilene has got you covered. My personal favorite, after having made several trips to the city, is Belle’s Chicken Dinner House. This family style restaurant will flat out fill you up – fried chicken, chicken fried steak, catfish, chicken and dumplings …bring your appetite if you go to Belle’s.
Or, if you’re looking for a little more upscale dining, Beehive Restaurant is one of the most highly recommended and highly rated in the area. This restaurant is billed as a classic West Texas steakhouse, so the beef is front and center. It is on the higher-end of the price scale, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on making a visit.
Wildcat Stadium has done a tremendous job of boosting the attendance at ACU football. Last season the Wildcats averaged over 10,400 fans per game and sold out the stadium twice, which was a 60% increase over 2016’s attendance, and placed in the top 25 overall in the FCS. And at the most recent game I attended, it was clear that the honeymoon is far from over for fans at Wildcat Stadium.
The east side stands are set aside for the student section and they are jam-packed! There are cowbells, towels waving, and there is purple everywhere. The stadium configuration doesn’t lend itself to being overly loud, but that does not take away at all from the fan experience.
Wildcat Stadium is located on the Abilene Christian University campus in the school’s athletic complex, within walking distance of the basketball arena and soccer, baseball, and softball fields, as well as the tennis courts. You can see the stadium from quite a distance away, and there is ample free parking for visitors.
ACU has also jumped on the relatively new trend of allowing electric scooters on campus. There is a docking station near the Gate C entrance to Wildcat Stadium, and if you have the app, you can use these scooters to tour the neighborhood or just get to and from your car in the parking lot.
It is not incredibly easy to get to the city of Abilene itself – the airport is not one that takes many commercial flights, so you’re pretty much going to have to drive here to get here. It is around a four-hour drive from San Antonio, three hours from Austin, and two and a half from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. So, unless you know someone willing to give you a flight, plan on being in the car for awhile.
Return on Investment 3
Single game tickets for general admission seating at Wildcat Stadium start at $25 per person (reserved seating tickets are $50 per person).
With parking being free and the relatively low cost for the (outstanding) concessions, you get a bargain at Wildcats games. Again, the only drawback is the access. But for what you get in terms of the competition and history at ACU, it’s a stop that college football fans shouldn’t miss.
The extras at Wildcat Stadium – beyond the amazing history of the program – are all pretty standard in terms of college football. There are the cheerleaders, the mascot – Willie the Wildcat – and the marching band. The Big Purple Marching Band plays throughout the game in their section of the home team stands and – of course – at halftime.
One highlight to be aware of is the t-shirt toss; between the third and fourth quarters, cheerleaders and student volunteers throw t-shirts into the crowd and fire off a t-shirt gun.
Wildcat Stadium is a great venue for college football – there are no bad seats in the building. Also, the food is exciting in its variety and is a bargain.
Especially since it is still so brand new, you should definitely add Wildcat Stadium to your bucket list of venues to visit. Abilene, while a little tricky to get to, is also a great city in its own right. Make a visit when you can, you won’t be disappointed.