The first time I stepped foot onto Prairie View A&M’s Blackshear Field was after the Homecoming football game in 1985. The Panthers defeated Bishop College 28-15 that year on their way to a 2-9 record. Hundreds of jubilant fans then headed towards the “Baby Dome” for a post game concert featuring Frankie Beverly and Maze. The “Yard” was in a festive mood as the PVAMU faithful danced into the wee hours of the morning to legendary hits like “Back in Stride Again”, “I Wanna Thank You”, and “Joy and Pain”.
Over the next three decades I would attend nearly every home game and dozens of others in places like Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Itta Bena, Mississippi, Huntsville, Alabama, and Pine Bluff Arkansas. I have also visited every stadium in the Southwestern Athletic Conference commonly known as the “SWAC”. My oldest son was the member of the 1998 PVAMU team that broke the infamous 80-game losing streak and my youngest son was the quarterback on the 2007 team that had its first winning season in 31 years. I guess you can say that I’m a primary source of information when it comes to PVAMU football over the past 30 years.
Each October, thousands of alumni, current students, and people from all of the country make their yearly voyage back to Prairie View for another edition of “Homecoming”. They will be welcomed by something much different this time around than in years past. Old Blackshear Stadium has been demolished and in its place will sit the crown jewel of Waller County and HBCUs (Historical Black Colleges and Universities) everywhere, PVAMU’s new $61 million athletic complex. It ain’t yo father’s football field, but rather a high-tech, 21st century model of what a “university of the ‘first class’ stadium should look like.” The new venue will seat 15,000 with the capacity to expand to 30,000. It has 10 sky boxes and 500 premium seats. Student-athletes will enjoy new weight rooms, lockers, training areas, and classrooms. The complex will also include a new soccer stadium along with a track and field that will be used for training by the United States Olympic Team.
I joined about a dozen of reporters and writers at the university’s “Media Day” on Thursday to hear Texas A&M University System Chancellor, John Sharp, marvel about the beauty of the stadium complex and boast about the positive direction in which PVAMU is headed with the addition of a facility of this magnitude. “This is a lot more than a football stadium. This stadium acts as a megaphone to the world about the great things happening at this university”. Prairie View Foundation president, Roy Perry, said the new facilities and national television coverage of PVAMU football games will attract more students to Prairie View by giving them a “second look” into attending our university.
Athletic Director, Ashley Robinson, has worked diligently in securing corporate sponsorships and alumni support in making this effort a reality. It is the PVAMU student body, however, that has played a vital role in contributing to the success of the entire complex by pledging to pay for two-thirds of the $61 million dollar budget through student fees. The media session ended with Panther Head Coach, Willie Simmons challenging the PVAMU faithful everywhere to “fill every seat in the stadium”.
After a tour of the facility, many of the visitors on hand stood in awe of the beauty of the complex which will be completed by the time of the Labor Day Classic Game versus cross-county rival, Texas Southern University. “We have allocated only 500 seats for our visitors”, said AD Robinson. “Therefore, we expect the other 14,500 seats to be filled with PVAMU fans for the rest of the year. We can’t wait to see you there” I can’t either, Ashley. I’ll be there.
“Who ya’ root’n for? P-V-Uuuuuuuuu!
By: Mark Spivey, M.Ed.