Floyd Casey Stadium housed the Baylor Football Program from 1950 until the opening of McLane Stadium in the fall of 2014. In 1936, Baylor Football’s home turf was Municipal Stadium, located at Fifteenth Street and Dutton Avenue. With a maximum seating of twenty thousand, it didn’t take long for the Baylor Football Program to outgrow this facility.
In the late 1940s, a 500-member-strong Baylor Stadium Corporation formed to provide a new home for the Bears, and Baylor President W. R. White banded together with Waco civic leaders in order to get the job done. The corporation initially projected preliminary construction costs at $1.5 million. The city agreed to put $500,000 toward the project, and the university estimated that $1 million could be raised from non-Waco resources such as Baylor alumni, football fans, and “outstanding Baptists [sic] laymen.”
In order to raise the money, the Baylor Stadium Corporation issued thirty-year stadium bonds at 3 percent interest. Bonds of $100 or more could be applied as a tuition credit and prospective students received “entrance priority.” The corporation also provided supporters with the option of purchasing seats, which guaranteed a seat for all home games for twenty years following the construction of the stadium, with prices varying according to stadium seat locations.
Fundraisers traveled across Texas, with exhortations from President White that “Baylor is not asking for a gift. The bonds are sound investments from a financial standpoint. The [seating] options are investments in future entertainment for sports lovers.” The rhetoric worked. By January of 1950, $1,001,836.70 worth of bonds and stadium seat options were sold.
While fundraisers were out stumping, Baylor searched for the perfect location for the stadium. Although the university wanted to remain in the same area as Municipal Stadium on the grounds of the former Texas Cotton Palace, parking posed an issue and a geological fault on the land raised construction concerns. On to Plan B. A February 1949 news release announced the purchase of a 100-acre plot in Waco’s west suburbs for the new Baylor Stadium.
The university held the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Baylor Stadium on May 28, 1949, and construction began in November of the same year. Even though the stadium wasn’t quite finished, the Bears played their first game at Baylor Stadium on September 30, 1950, against the University of Houston.
At the time of that first game, the stadium sat forty-nine thousand people and was hailed as a “Fittin’ home for the Fightin’ Baylor Bears.” Opening ceremonies included a flyover by planes from nearby Connally Air Force Base, while the University of Houston band played the national anthem and Baylor Air Force ROTC color guard raised the colors. Baylor even beat the University of Houston 34-7 on the long-awaited opening day.
Legendary sportswriter Dave Campbell reported in a 1957 Waco Tribune-Herald article that “the show-piece stadium” where “every seat is good” cost $1,668,790.27. In the years following the first game, the stadium was renovated several times in order to account for increased attendance and ticket sales. One of the largest projects occurred in the late 1980s when Carl B. Casey donated $5 million toward an $8 million renovation plan. At the 1988 homecoming game, the stadium was renamed to honor his father, Floyd Casey.
Although primarily constructed to serve the football team, Floyd Casey Stadium also hosted other events for both Baylor and the Waco community. For many years, the university held graduation ceremonies in the stadium and once even hosted an ice skating fundraiser after installing several large tanks of water on the field. Wacoans often watched area high schools play on the collegiate field, and in the aftermath of the Waco tornado, the stadium housed servicemen from Fort Hood assisting in the cleanup and rescue efforts.
After serving both Baylor and the Waco community for over sixty years, Floyd Casey Stadium held a record-setting crowd of 51,728 at the stadium’s final game, a victory over the University of Texas on December 7, 2013.