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The Early Years
The original plan for ECU's current football facility was announced on Oct. 7, 1961, by Dr. Leo Jenkins, Chancellor of the College, at a meeting of the Society of Buccaneers. Within a year, $283,387 had been raised, although the goal had been only $200,000. With the funds in hand, Ficklen Stadium was built.
The James Skinner Ficklen Memorial Stadium was dedicated on Sept. 21, 1963, as East Carolina defeated Wake Forest, 20-10. The original stadium consisted of the permanent stands on the south side, a small press box, and the old lighting system which was removed after the 1974 season. Total cost was $300,000.
The north side permanent seating was constructed in 1968, increasing the stadium seating capacity to 20,000.
In April 1994, Ron and Mary Ellen Dowdy, of Orlando, Fla., announced a $1 million gift to the ECU Educational Foundation. The gift would go toward the ongoing expansion of ECU's football stadium, which was renamed Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Ron Dowdy, who is a member of the school's Board of Trustees, currently oversees commercial leases, residential apartments, and several other enterprises as part of Dowdy Properties in Orlando. Dowdy, a 1966 graduate of ECU, has been involved with many civic organizations, including the Executive Committee of the Florida Citrus Sports Association, the Board of Directors for the Florida Citrus Bowl, the Board of Directors at Humana Hospital Lucerne in Orlando, and the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee in Orange County.
The late James Skinner Ficklen, a Greenville resident, distinguished himself as one of America's leading tobacconists. At the time of his death in 1955, Ficklen was President and Chairman of the Board of the E.B. Ficklen Tobacco Company of Greenville. He was a close friend of the college and established a financial aid foundation, the Ficklen Foundation, to aid students of the college.
After graduating in the early 1970s, Al and Debby Bagwell have been gracious friends of the university with Al serving on the Pirate Club's Executive Committee in 1994-95 and being appointed to the University's Board of Visitors in 1998. The couple from Lake Gaston, Va., were honored in 1997 for their gift to the Pirate Club's Shared Visions Campaign. For their contributions on behalf of the University and to the ECU Educational Foundation, the Bagwells had their name become a permanent mark on the ECU landscape as the field is now and forever will be recognized as Bagwell Field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The first major renovation in Ficklen Stadium was the lighting system, a change that occured just before the 1975 season opened. The old inner stadium lights on six poles were removed and replaced with six towers outside the stadium. The system is a combination of metallic and incandescent lights. There are 288 fixtures of 1500 watts each on six 162-foot towers. Cost of the system was $450,000.
A radical change greeted fans as the 1978 season opened. An expansion on all four corners boosted the stadium's seating capacity from 20,000 to 35,000, the third-largest stadium in North Carolina. The expansion was made possible with $2.5 million through a drive in spring 1977. In addition to more seats, the current press box with three levels and an elevator for access was built. The press box has space for 92 writers and an entire floor for electronic media. Also, a modern scoreboard with a lightbank message center was placed on the east end of the stadium.
During the summer of 1983, a complete renovation was done on the playing surface. A new drainage system, a new base of gravel and sand, new treated topsoil, and a new grass--Tifton 419 Hybrid Bermuda--was installed.
After additions on the north side (upper deck in 1998 and club-level seating in 1999) increased the stadium's capacity to 43,000, East Carolina completed a 7,000-seat expansion project in the east endzone that pushed the seating availability to 50,000 in time for Ruffin McNeill's Pirate head coaching debut in September, 2010. In addition, Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium received an aesthetic enhancement the same year when 10,200 purple chairback seats replaced existing bleachers inside the 35-yard lines on both sides of the facility.
A new 84'-wide x 28'-tall high definition-rated score/videoboard accompanied the 7,000-seat endzone expansion in the summer of 2010. The new board, which ranks among the 25 largest in college football, features state-of-the-art video capabilities for fan enjoyment. In addition, a new auxiliary scoreboard was added to the Murphy Center on the west side to give spectators easy visibility access from all viewing locations.