The plan was to build a dream stadium to showcase a championship intercollegiate football program.
Eastern New Mexico University President Donald C. Moyer spoke of “big dreams” and “large growth” that could be realized once academic and athletic excellence were combined.
New classrooms were already in the works to replace the antiquated football field on campus. The new stadium would have an initial seating capacity of 15,000 and could be expanded to 30,000.
Best of all, the dream field could be ideally located between fans in Clovis and Portales on land the university already owned.
And half of the $500,000 construction cost would come from private donations; the rest would come from ticket sales.
That was the plan anyway, in 1965.
Today, some ENMU supporters regret ever building Greyhound Stadium about eight miles north of town, where they say it’s never measured up to expectations. They’re formulating a plan to bring football back to the campus.
Here’s what history tells us about how Blackwater Draw became home to the Greyhounds, what went wrong, and what some university boosters would like to do about it all.
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By the spring of 1965, ENMU officials had decided to build their new football field north of Portales. News accounts and university promotional material reported the decision followed two years of study.
ENMU listed five key reasons for locating the field at the old state park just off of U.S. Highway 70:
• The university already owned the land; purchasing land closer to the campus would cost at least $250,000.
• Parking, a problem because of space limitations on campus, would be “generous” outside of town.
• Driving from Clovis or Portales would be “a matter of minutes.” “An overhead ramp will eventually handle traffic turning left,” ENMU predicted in its promotional literature.
• The new location would increase attendance.
• And once the stadium was in place, plans could be made for “a beautiful recreation area,” and possibly a museum showcasing “Early Man” discoveries from the nearby Blackwater Draw archaeological dig site.
As early as February 1965, boosters were actively seeking funds for the stadium.
In Clovis, former ENMU student body president and football star Rex Orman was named general chairman of the Stadium Fund.
Portales formed its own Special Gifts Committee.
By mid-March of 1965, the groups reported they already had nearly $60,000 in pledges from Clovis-Portales supporters.
Community leaders from both cities were involved, including Banker Gayle Ferguson in Portales and Clovis Mayor Ted Waldhauser.
Soon-to-be state Sen. Odis Echols Jr. was one of the more vocal supporters, along with ENMU presidents Moyer and his successor, Charles Meister.
But even before construction started on the new Greyhound Stadium, opposition began to swell.
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Ferguson, who still lives in Portales, said he listened to President Moyer’s idea to attract bigger crowds to ENMU football games and initially agreed with the concept.
“He’d seen that stadium between Canyon and Amarillo and thought that would work here to get more people from Clovis,” Ferguson said.
But as the campaign progressed, Ferguson said he began to hear complaints from Portales fans who worried that ENMU students would be less likely to leave campus for the games.
Soon, Ferguson said he was among the skeptics wondering if Moyer’s plan was feasible.
“I knew Clovis had long been loyal to Texas Tech,” Ferguson said, and he wasn’t sure that allegiance could be transferred to Eastern.
But by the time students and fans found their voice, ENMU leaders were committed to the move.
• • •
The commitment, apparently, did not extend to those ENMU had counted on to fund the new field.
The $60,000 pledged in the spring of 1965, never found its way into university coffers.
An April 2, 1968, story published in the Clovis News-Journal reported committees in Clovis and Portales had collected a combined $20,000 toward their original goal of $250,000.
On Sept. 15, 1968, the Portales News-Tribune reported the $360,000 stadium had been financed “principally by student fees.”
University records show “seven alternates” related to stadium construction were left out; that allowed costs to be cut more than 25 percent from the original estimate.
Lights for the field — estimated at $75,000 — were among the cost casualties when the Greyhounds played their first game in their new home on Sept. 14, 1968.
Seating capacity was 6,100 — not 15,000 with potential for 30,000.
Worse, only 3,500 fans turned out.
And the Greyhounds lost, 20-7, to Sul Ross.
Eastern’s basketball team won an NAIA national championship in 1969, but the national prominence sought in football never materialized.
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Improvements have been made at Greyhound Stadium.
The state Legislature in 1978 provided $250,000 for lighting and improved lockerroom facilities, records show.
But today, University President Steve Gamble says it needs about $1 million in improvements if it’s to host games for another decade or two.
Instead, he wants to bring football back to the campus. And he’s not alone, despite the estimated price tag of $8 million.
“The Blackwater Draw Stadium has been a mistake since the beginning,” former ENMU Athletic Director B.B. Lees wrote in a letter supporting a return to campus.
He said the Greyhounds feel like visitors on their home field. And while attendance figures have not been kept, Lees said crowds were “double the number” when games were played on campus prior to 1968.
Marshall Stinnett, a former university regent and Portales newspaper editor, said former university officials and Sen. Echols were among a minority who ever wanted the stadium built in the country.
“Neither Portales nor Clovis (residents) ever wanted it out there,” he said.
Today’s university leaders would like to undo their predecessors’ work — if students agree to a hike in fees in the fall, and if officials can find another $3 million in private funding or more taxpayer dollars.