Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
First Security Field @ Estes Stadium 201 Donaghey Ave Conway, AR 72035
Year Opened: 1939
The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) is in Conway, Arkansas. The school was founded in 1907 and has a student body of over 10,000 students. It offers 162 different academic programs.
The UCA football team is known as the Bears. The school has fielded a team since 1908. The Bears were members of the Southland Conference for many years, before moving to the ASUN Conference in 2021. They compete at the FCS level of NCAA football. Over the years, the Bears football program has been a small college powerhouse, as it has won 22 championships while competing in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC), went on to win three national championships while competing at the NAIA level, then won four Southland Conference Championships at the FCS level. They have gone on to play in the FCS playoffs five times.
The Bears call First Security Field at Estes Stadium their home field. The on-campus venue opened in 1939. It features a large grandstand on the west side of the field and a smaller seating area on the east side of the field for the visiting team. The large grandstand stood until it was torn down in 1998, to enlarge the seating capacity to its present 10,000 seats. This renovation also allowed the program to move its locker rooms, coach's offices, training facilities, and the UCA Sports Hall of Fame to an area beneath the grandstands. In 2007, a second renovation added a new videoboard to the field and a new press box, along with VIP seating at the base of the westside stands.
It was not until 2011 that the field was outfitted with what has become its claim to fame. In 2011 the natural grass field was in terrible shape and needed to be replaced. It was decided that artificial turf would be the most cost-effective solution due to its much lower maintenance cost. A member of the athletic staff noted that Boise State had installed their new “Smurf Turf” and had received a great deal of exposure for what was a little-known school at that time. The UCA administration saw this as a great way to heighten awareness of the school.
However, UCA one-upped other schools by installing a turf field with alternating panels of gray/purple (the school colors) every five yards. They refer to games taking place at the stadium as “playing between the stripes.” Since 2011 the school has seen a great increase in exposure, and it also has improved its athletic recruitment efforts, as many athletes want to play on that unique field. Today, UCA is one of only nine colleges in the country with a uniquely colored field.
Food & Beverage 2
When it comes to food and beverage operations, Estes Stadium operates a bear-boned operation, as there are only three concession stands at Estes Stadium. They serve the regular standard stadium offerings, including hot dogs ($3), Polish dogs ($4), nachos ($3), popcorn ($2), candy ($1.50), and Coca-Cola brand sodas and water ($3). Beer is not available at Central Arkansas games.
When you arrive at the UCA campus it is very easy to find Estes Stadium, as it towers above the surrounding academic buildings. The stadium consists of two major grandstands. The larger of the two is on the west side of the stadium. This grandstand includes the press box, as well as the locker rooms for both teams, and the football operations of the school, which are located underneath the seating bowl. The seating bowl has a unique structure, as the club seating section is located at the base of the grandstand. It is shielded from the elements, as it is partially covered by the main seating area. Seating in the west stands is primarily for alumni, parents of team members, faculty, and local townspeople.
The east stands are much smaller than the west stands. This side of the stadium features seating for fans from the visiting team, the Bears student section, and the UCA band. There is a unique feature to this side of the field, as there are 12 luxury boxes above the grandstand that are located on top of the athletic building that sits behind the stadium.
The south end zone is populated by ten corporate tents that are referred to as “suites.” These tents feature inclusive food and beverage service, and television hook ups so that the fans can catch other games and other benefits. They share the area behind the end zone with a large inflatable Bears helmet. The north end zone does not have any unique operations for the stadium. However, this end of the field has a great deal of activity just outside of its small metal fence. There is a hill overlooking the playing surface, which is filled with non-paying fans, as well as the Greek organizations, who have separate tents set up for each individual fraternity house. The exterior fencing for Estes Stadium is so low that it offers an unobstructed view of the action on the field.
The University of Central Arkansas is in Conway, AR., a city of 65,000 located 30 miles northwest of Little Rock along I-40. Conway is known as the City of Colleges, as it is also home to Hendrix College and Central Baptist College. Due to this large presence of educational institutions, it should be no surprise that Conway is the home of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. UCA’s Reynolds Performance Hall is the major concert venue in the city and hosts some of the top music talents in the country.
For more information on the city of Conway and all it has to offer, go to www.conwayark.com.
UCA Bear fans like to make football days a full-day adventure. The tailgate areas along Bruce Street at the north end of the stadium open six hours before kickoff. This gives them plenty of time to set up their grills and socialize with the other fans. The pregame Bear walk featuring the team, the spirit squads, and the University marching band takes place 2.5 hours prior to the kickoff. Joining in the festivities are UCA mascots Bruce D. Bear and Sugar Bear.
Once inside, the UCA fanbase goes to its designated seating areas. The student section, known as the Bear Den, is seated on the east side of the stadium along the 50-yard line. This is strategically important, as this is directly behind the visiting team’s bench. The Bear Den makes as much noise as possible to hamper the visitor’s communications from the sideline to the field.
The University of Central Arkansas and Estes Stadium are easily reached via Interstate 40. From I-40 take exit 129 and go west on Dave Wood Drive for two miles. Turn left at the stop light onto Farris Road and go ½ mile to Bruce Street. Turn right on Bruce Street to the Farris Center and Bear Stadium parking lots.
Once you reach Estes Stadium, the gates open two hours prior to the kickoff, allowing you plenty of time to get to your seats.
Return on Investment 5
Attending a University of Central Arkansas football game will certainly not leave your bank account “bear.” The price of taking your whole family to a Bears game is a relative bargain compared to what it would cost to take your family out to a movie/dinner.
Tickets are available at several price levels: Lower Level Reserved (field level at 50-yard line) seats are $25, Upper-Level Reserved (second level at the 50-yard line) seats are $20, General Admission seats are $15 for adults and $10 for Youth/Seniors. Parking is free in lots next to the Bear Baseball Stadium and the Farris Center.
The concession stand prices are very reasonable.
In addition to the unique colors of the turf, the field at Central Arkansas has the largest school mascot logo in the country behind the south end zone. The Bear logo measures 61 ‘X 50’.
The turf at Estes Stadium is also environmentally – friendly. It is made of recyclable material that is non-toxic. The turf also eliminates the need for watering the field, applying fertilizer to the field, or the use of paint to apply markings to the field.
NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen is the most famous athlete to go to the University of Central Arkansas.
A children’s area is available as part of the tailgating offerings. It is known as Bruce’s Battle Station. Activities included in this area include face painting, coloring books, tailgating games, and visits from the cheerleaders and Sugar Bear and Bruce D. Bear.
Estes Stadium at the University of Central Arkansas offers a unique playing surface, as its artificial turf includes alternating panels of purple and gray every five yards. It is one of only nine college stadiums that offer a uniquely colored field of play. The school refers to game action as being “played between the stripes.” The Bears also offer a high-scoring offense that is sure to entertain both visiting fans and the home crowd.