Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Wilford Moore Stadium 1560 Ross Ave Abilene, TX 79605
Year Opened: 1937 Capacity: 3,200
(NOTE: This review took place during the 2021 spring season; all ratings take into account the limited seating capacity and attendance due to COVID-19 precautions.)
Located in the Central West Texas town of Abilene is McMurry University and their football team the War Hawks. First fielding a team in 1923, the War Hawks compete in the Division III American Southwest Conference at Wilford Moore Stadium on the university’s campus. The stadium, opened in 1937 and re-named in 2007 after the school’s most successful football coach, the stadium is home to McMurry’s football, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s track and field teams.
Moore would serve as head coach at McMurry from 1947-54. This would be the team’s most successful period and he led the now War Hawks to a 48-25-5 record. The team would win four conference championships and Moore was named “Coach of the Year” in 1948, 1949 and 1953. His winning percentage of .610 is the highest among all the head coaches in McMurry history with a minimum of 20 victories.
Food & Beverage 2
As part of a conference agreement, McMurry is currently not selling any concessions on site during their spring campaign. However, in the meantime, fans are allowed to bring in outside food and drinks. The one exception to this is alcohol is not permitted.
During “normal” seasons, Wilford Moore Stadium has two concession stands, one on the home team’s side and one on the visiting team’s side. Menu items include such traditional staples like War Hawk Dogs ($4; $5 with chili and cheese), nachos ($4; $5 with chili and cheese), Frito pies ($5), pretzels ($2), and even frappuccinos ($4). Fingers are crossed for better times in the fall.
For the spring season, the War Hawks have limited capacity seating on both sides of the stadium. The bleachers are marked with areas that fans are able to sit in and still provide enough area for social distancing and face coverings are required unless fans are eating or drinking.
Despite this, the spacing, the stadium still felt full and was loaded with fans wearing maroon and white. This is a good thing, as that truly added to the overall energy of the game. The overall setup of the stadium has the look and feel of a large high school facility. The fans show up and cheer just like it is one, as well. This is also a good thing. In times such as these, it is great to see that the passion for college football hasn’t been lost.
Aside from the limited attendance, the other notable coronavirus-related change are the monitors that patrol the stands ensuring that fans are wearing their required face coverings.
Players Ready to Enter Field, Photo by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Wilford Moore Stadium is located right in the middle of the McMurry University campus and is within shouting distance of Walt Driggers Field, home of the War Hawks baseball team.
Abilene is one of the more underrated cities in the state of Texas, especially given its location in the sparsely populated West Texas region. The city is home to Abilene Christian University and to McMurry’s arch rival, Hardin-Simmons University. This means there is an opportunity – if timed right – to catch multiple games on your visit to Abilene.
In terms of things to do, Abilene has got you covered. For attractions, there is plenty to keep anyone of any age interested. One of the high points that simply should not be missed is Frontier Texas! Located in downtown Abilene, history buffs will enjoy this interactive museum tells the lively story of Texas during the Old West using state-of-the-art technology (it’s one of the only museums to use holograms).
For younger fans, a visit to the Abilene Zoo should be on the agenda during your visit. Home to over 1,000 animals and over 250 species in exhibits ranging from the Giraffe Safari to the Caribbean Cove. There is also a miniature train and a carousel to experience. If the weather is right, this is a great way to spend time before or after you catch a War Hawks game.
When it comes to dining options, Abilene boasts of being the home for one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Texas and I make a visit every time I’m in this part of the state. Belle’s Chicken Dinner House is a family-style restaurant that, as its name implies, specializes in fried chicken. Great fried chicken. You can choose from traditional fried chicken, chicken tenders, grilled chicken, and chicken fried steak as your entrees. The sides and their out-of-this-world yeast rolls are served family style and are bottomless … aka all you can eat.
For a something a little more on the grown up side of the menu, the Taylor County Taphouse has what you’re looking for. A traditional style brew pub, the Taphouse has scores of craft beer on tap and a unique menu ranging from such items as charcuterie boards to chili-rubbed pork tenderloin to sweet potato hash.
If you’re looking to stay overnight either before or after attending a War Hawks game, you will probably need to venture out to find your lodgings. As mentioned, Wilford Moore Stadium is located right on the campus of McMurry University. As such, hotels and/or motels are not in the immediate vicinity. If you want to stay the Airbnb route, you might have some luck. However, if you’re willing to drive 15-20 minutes, downtown Abilene has plenty of options. These include the MCM Eleganté Suites and the WoodSpring Suites.
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions and limitations on attendance, War Hawks fans still show out as much as possible at Wilford Moore Stadium. The maroon and white are in full socially distanced effect. The energy that the fans put is reminiscent of a great high school game. In contests such as their rivalry match-up with the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys, the stands are jam-packed!
The visiting side stands are less than half the size of the home team’s side, so that will need to be taken into consideration when making your visit to Abilene.
Abilene is two hours from both Fort Worth and Midland and is located in Central West Texas. Getting to this region is a bit of a drive if you’re coming in from anywhere else in the state. If you want to fly in, the Abilene Regional Airport is where you’ll be coming in from.
Once you’re in town, McMurry University and Wilford Moore Stadium are about 15 minutes from downtown Abilene. If you’re driving to the game, parking is ample and free. There is also the public transportation way to travel; CityLink is the bus line that runs through the city and has routes that run near campus.
Return on Investment 4
For football fans looking to attend a War Hawks game at Wilford Moore Stadium, there is some really good news for you. There is no cost for either admission to games or for parking. The team generally schedules some of the better teams on the Division III landscape, so you are almost always guaranteed a great match-up for any game you attend.
When concessions return, they will also be on the highly affordable side compared to other larger venues. With attendees able to bring in their own food and drinks, this adds to the affordability of your visit.
Wilford Moore Stadium boasts many of the typical extras that you’ll find at most college football venues. These include their marching band (the McMurry Marching Band), cheerleaders (McMurry Cheerleaders), and mascot – Wally the War Hawk. Though limited in their interactions with the crowd due to the coronavirus, they still do their best to entertain the McMurry faithful.
Other extras include photo ops on the home team side in the form of a large war hawk statue and a larger than life blow up photo of the stadium’s eponymous Head Coach.
It still remains tricky to judge venues during this time of quarantining and social distancing. Much of what makes them special and unique are stripped down out of an overwhelming necessity for caution and safety.
However, even with most of the bells and whistles taken out, it is still a special experience to be able to go out and catch a college football game at Wilford Moore Stadium. You get the picture of what a true game day experience might be and will hopefully be in the very near future. It is college football and sports and community at its best.
Follow Eric Moreno’s Stadium Journey on Twitter at @EricMoreno6477.