As the anticipation continues to build in the Pirate Nation for the upcoming football season, tower cranes that extend into the Greenville skyline continue to build a welcome addition to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
With back-to-back Conference USA championships and an enthusiastic new head coach, there is more excitement at East Carolina University about the football program than ever before. Add to that an east end zone expansion project that will make the stadium larger, and the result is a fan base that will be even louder and game days that are altogether more dynamic.
The Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium expansion will add 7,000 new seats to the east end zone and give the stadium a new horseshoe pattern. This extension will increase the stadium capacity from 43,000 to 50,000 and will include additional restroom and concession stands. As part of the expansion, a new state-of-the-art High Definition scoreboard will sit above the new seats. The section is slated to be complete by the beginning of the 2010 season.
Tower cranes build a new addition to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
“The overall success of the football program really led us to the notion of expanding Dowdey-Ficklen Stadium,” said Jimmy Bass, senior associate director for external operations at ECU.
This new expansion will not only serve as an improvement for the football facilities, it also will provide an economic boost for the eastern North Carolina region by bringing in more fans, increasing consumer spending on game days, and improving the quality of life in Greenville and the surrounding community.
The current plan is to move the students out of sections 16-18 on the north side of the stadium and into the new east end zone area along with the Pirate Marching Band. This will create an end zone atmosphere that is intimidating to visiting teams and more supportive to the Pirates.
The Student Government Association is conducting an online voting process to allow students to name the new end zone. After a preliminary vote, the top three choices are “No Quarter Zone,” “The Boneyard,” and “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” A second vote will take place April 14-17 and the winner will be announced at Barefoot on the Mall on April 22.
An architect's rendition of the new seats and High Definition scoreboard in the east end zone.
“Students are definitely excited about being able to pick the name of the new student section; it makes them feel like a part of athletics,” said Taurian Houston, SGA director of athletic affairs.
The expansion also opens up more seats for Pirate Club donors, which will bring in additional revenue. As part of the project, existing seats on both the north and south sides of the stadium will be upgraded to include chair backs in the Pirate Club sections.
“We actually are going to add over 10,200 chair-back seats on both sides of the stadium. On the south side from sections 4B to 8A, then on sections 16, 17, and 18 over on the north side,” said Bass.
Regardless of their seating location in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, fans are going to have an outstanding view of current game situation information, down and distance time, and instant replays with a new High Definition scoreboard over the east end zone project and a more traditional score panel in the west end zone on front of the Murphy Center.
“We are going to be adding two scoreboard locations in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium; one over the east end zone project. The actual board in its entirety will be 88 feet wide and a little over 28 feet tall,” said Bass. “The LED board in itself will be 84 feet wide. It’s going to be a state-of the-art board. It’s going to be a giant TV screen, basically.”
Construction personnel from T.A. Loving Company work on the east end zone project.
The east end zone extension is the latest advance in a long history of seating expansion that started only five years after the stadium was first dedicated in 1963. The original football stadium consisted of the permanent stands on the south side, a small press box, and a lighting system. The north side permanent seating was constructed in 1968, increasing the capacity of the stadium to 20,000. An expansion on all four corners of the stadium increased the seating capacity from 20,000 to 35,000 in 1978, making it the third largest stadium in North Carolina. The upper deck on the north side of the stadium was built in 1998 and capacity increased to 40,000. A year later, new club-level seating on the north side increased capacity to 43,000.
The football stadium expansion is part of an even larger athletics facilities upgrade plan that is currently under way as part of the Olympic Sports Complex. A new women’s softball stadium is presently under construction. Plans also call for a new track and field facility, soccer stadium, and sports support building.
Even before its completion, the stadium growth has already met with the growing enthusiasm of the Pirate Nation.
“The feedback has been terrific so far. We are working really hard to improve the game-day experience for all of our fans—our Pirate Club members, our faculty, our staff, and certainly our students,” said Bass. “We are very, very excited about making that game day experience more enjoyable for all pirate football fans.”