The Bagwell Field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is the on-campus football facility for East Carolina Pirates in Greenville, North Carolina. The official capacity of the stadium is 43,000, making it the 4th largest in North Carolina. The record attendance for the stadium was on November 20, 1999 against North Carolina State University with 50,092 in attendance. The stadium is also the site of Spring Commencement exercises for the University.
The stadium opened as Ficklen Memorial Stadium on September 21, 1963 with a win against Wake Forest. Construction of the stadium cost over $300,000, most of which was raised by the college’s Society of Buccaneers, the school’s booster club. It was originally named for James Skinner Ficklen, owner of Greenville’s E.B. Skinner Tobacco Company. Skinner was considered a friend of the college, and had established a scholarship fund.
The stadium originally consisted of only the south side stands, with a small press box and a lighting system. In 1968, the north stands were constructed, bringing seating capacity up to 20,000. In 1975, a $450,000 lighting upgrade was completed, moving the light stanchions to the perimeter of the stadium rather than the edge of the field. The renovation added 288 fixtures of 1500 watts each on six 162-foot towers. By 1978, the grandstands had been widened out towards the edges of the stadium, nearly doubling the size of the stadium to 35,000. The press box was also updated at this time, and a modern scoreboard was installed. In 1983, a modern drainage system was installed, and Tifton 419 Hybrid Bermuda grass was planted.
In April, 1994, Ron & Mary Ellen Dowdy of Orlando announced a $1 million gift to the ECU Educational Foundation, which would also contribute to the stadium’s continuing renovations. Ron Dowdy, class of 1966, is a member of the Board of Trustees, who runs Dowdy Properties, a real estate company in the Orlando Area. He has also served on 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. For their gift, the stadium was renamed Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium that year.
In 1997, the playing surface was renamed in honor of Al and Debby Bagwell, graduates of the university. Al has served as president of the Pirates Club (the modern booster club), and has served on the Board of Visitors.
In 1998, an upper deck was placed on the north side, bringing the capacity to 40,000. A year later, 3,000 more seats were added, bringing the capacity to its current level. In 2001, the Murphy Center, a training facility and field house which also contains the ECU Hall of Fame, was opened in the west end zone. One year later, the current $2 million scoreboard, which has an instant replay board and a deck on top for video production, was added to the east end.
Future expansion of the stadium includes possibly enclosing the east end zone, the addition of a new press box and suites, the addition of a six story building for office space, player’s lounge, lockerooms, classrooms, and meeting rooms, the addition of an upper deck on the stadium‘s south side, and a third level deck on the north side. Upon completion, the stadium’s capacity would increase to over 60,000 under this plan.
Photographs of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium