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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Daytona Stadium – Bethune-Cookman Wildcats

Photos by Lloyd Brown and Chris Green, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Daytona Stadium 3917 LPGA Blvd Daytona Beach, FL 32124

Year Opened: 1988

Capacity: 10,000


The Wildcats Lair

Bethune-Cookman University is in Daytona Beach, Florida. It was founded in 1904 as the Daytona Educational Industrial Training School for Negro Girls. In 1923 it merged with the Cookman Institute. In 1941 it became a four-year college, changing its name to Bethune-Cookman College. It finally achieved university status in 2007. The school is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Bethune-Cookman University is renowned for its work in the field of education. It now offers 39 bachelor’s degree programs and six master’s degree programs. The school has a student body of just over 3,700 students.

The athletic teams at Bethune-Cookman are known as the Wildcats. The school has had a football program since 1925. They are members of the SWAC Conference, playing at the FCS level of competition in NCAA football. Over the years the Wildcats have won two Black College National Championships (2010, 2013), as well as seven conference titles. They have participated in five FCS playoffs but have yet to win a game. More than thirty Wildcats have gone on to play in the NFL. They include Boobie Clark, Larry Little, and Eric Weems. Larry Little is also in the NFL Hall of Fame.

The Wildcats play their home schedule at the off-campus Daytona Stadium. The stadium is located seven miles from the Bethune-Cookman campus. The city-owned stadium was built in 1988 and has a capacity of 10,000. The field at Daytona Stadium is known as Larry Kelly Field, in honor of the late Daytona mayor who spearheaded the building of the stadium.

Food & Beverage 2

After enjoying the pregame feasts among the tailgaters in the parking lot, the food and beverage offerings sold inside the stadium seem like an afterthought.

The concession stands are located along the concourse beneath the stands. They offer the stadium standards, including burgers, hot dogs, fries, popcorn, chips, and Pepsi brand sodas.

If you fill yourself up in the tailgate lot, you probably can get by with some bottled water or a soft drink during the game to quench your thirst on the often-balmy days and nights.

Atmosphere 4

Bethune-Cookman football games are a sporting event, a family reunion, and a concert all rolled into one. Fans, family, alumni, students, Greeks, and locals arrive early to set up their tailgates in the grass parking lots outside of Daytona Stadium. It is a sea of maroon-clad fans and maroon tents to protect against the hot Florida sun. After the food, fun and good conversations are over it is time to head into the stadium.

Daytona Stadium is a traditional stadium, with stands on both sides of the field. The home side is on the eastern side of the stadium. This side is populated by the parents, the student body, and the Marching Wildcats. It features seating for most of the crowd, with a very small suite at the top of the stands near the press box. There are three concession stands located underneath the stands at ground level. The visitors’ stands are on the west side of the stadium, with a much smaller set of bleachers.

The playing surface is artificial turf, as there are multiple games played on it every weekend. This is because both Mainland High School and Seabreeze High School also call Daytona Stadium home. There is a 33’ X 16’ videoboard behind the end zone. It features replays of major plays during the game, as well as statistics at the end of each quarter.

Anytime we talk about the atmosphere at a SWAC football game we must highlight the school’s band. They play a major role in how the game feels, whether you are 20 points ahead or 20 behind. Bethune-Cookman’s band is known as The Marching Wildcats. The band has over 300 members, making it the largest student organization on campus. The band also includes the Sophisticats Flag Corp and the 14-Karat Gold Dancers. The band plays nonstop throughout the game and is known for its halftime shows. Many fans come just for the band alone, leaving after the halftime program. In addition to Wildcat football games the band has performed at several NFL halftime shows, the Orange Bowl Parade, the Walt Disney World Holiday Parade, and the Honda Battle of the Bands Showcase.

Neighborhood 2

Daytona Stadium is located several miles from the school campus. Daytona Stadium is owned by the city of Daytona Beach, and most of the neighborhood surrounding the stadium is part of the civic complex for the city. This includes office buildings, as well as the city’s water treatment plant. There are no restaurants, hotels, or shops along LPGA Boulevard.

The stadium is just west of I-95, and there is very little in the way of shops and restaurants. However, just east of I-95, there are a great deal of restaurants, shops, and attractions to choose from. We found BJ’s Restaurant to be an excellent choice for a pregame or postgame meal or drink. This corridor also includes the world-famous Daytona International Speedway. It offers a wonderful tour and has a great gift shop. You can’t visit Daytona without stopping at the track!

The closest hotels to Daytona Stadium are just east of I-95. They include the Homewood Suites and the Courtyard Marriott, which are both located along International Speedway Boulevard (Highway 92).

Our low score for this section reflects the fact that the Wildcats play more than 12 miles from the Bethune-Cookman campus. Football games always suffer when they are played away from the campus of the school.

Fans 3

Bethune-Cookman fans make a full day out of a Wildcats game. They arrive very early, as BBQs in the stadium parking lot are a cherished tradition. Many of the fans will decorate their tailgate in the maroon and gold colors of the Wildcats. Many of the fraternities and sororities will have tents set up for their members. You can’t be a Wildcats fan on an empty stomach!

One of the traditions at Bethune-Cookman games is the Legacy Walk. This begins 90 minutes prior to kickoff. The Wildcats team bus parks outside the stadium, and team members walk through the crowds to their locker room. A team captain leads the Legacy Walk, and he holds a portrait of Mary McLeod Bethune, the school’s founder.

Once inside the stadium, the fans create a sea of maroon and gold. They are energized by the combined efforts of the Wildcat cheerleaders and the Marching Wildcats. The school fight song is sung after each Wildcat score and the crowd also cheers for any major defensive stops or takeaways. The fans are also entertained by the antics of Dr. Wyld D Catt, the school mascot. They also wildly applaud the Marching Wildcats after each fabulous halftime show. We found the crowds to be very welcoming of any visiting team fans.

Access 2

It is very easy to get to Daytona Stadium from either I-95 or I-4:

From I-95: Take the exit for International Speedway Boulevard (Highway 92). Go west on I-92 for two miles. Turn right at LPGA Boulevard and go two miles. The stadium will be on your right.

From I-4: Take Highway 92 exit on go east on Highway 92. Turn left at LPGA Boulevard and go two miles. The stadium will be on your right.

If you are flying in, the Daytona International Airport is less than 6 miles from the stadium. You would just head out the airport exit to International Speedway Boulevard (Highway 92) and head west until you hit LPGA Boulevard.

There are more than 2,100 parking spaces at Daytona Stadium. These are located on a grass lot just outside of the stadium. Tailgating is very popular at Wildcat games, so parking opens two hours prior to kickoff. You pay for parking on site.

The main drawback in the accessibility of Daytona Stadium is getting in and out of the venue before and after the games. This is because there is only one way in and out of the stadium complex via LPGA Boulevard.

Return on Investment 3

Attending a Wildcat game at Daytona Stadium will not break the bank, as the ticket prices are in line with what most college football games cost. A basic General Admission ticket costs $40. Tickets along the 50-yard line cost $60. The most expensive seats sold are in the VIP section atop the stands along the 50-yard line at a cost of $70. The VIP section receives special perks, including free food and beverage service and more comfortable seats.

Parking at Daytona Stadium is $10.

Probably the biggest cost of attending a Bethune-Cookman is related to how big a tailgate feast you want to have before the game. Many families split these costs with other members of the family.

Extras 5

Daytona Stadium hosted the NAIA Football National Championship Game from 2014 through 2016.

Another extra must go to the Marching Wildcats, as they play a major role in creating a high energy level in the stands at each game.

The 2023 season marked the 100th year of Bethune-Cookman football. Numerous observances of the centennial were held before and at halftime of each Wildcat home game.

Former UNLV and NBA basketball star Reggie Theus is the Bethune-Cookman Athletic Director and head basketball coach.

Daytona Stadium is less than 6 miles from Daytona International Speedway. Even if you aren’t a race fan, it is well worth a visit.

Final Thoughts

Bethune – Cookman home football games are always an event to circle on your calendar. They begin with a food fest and a family reunion outside the stadium. The party continues inside Daytona Stadium with great Wildcat football on the field and a second party in the stands as the Marching Wildcats play nonstop tunes.

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