History of E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field:
Construction of E.J. Whitmire Stadium was completed in 1974 at an initial cost of $1.66 million that was granted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1971. The new facility, located on the southern-most expanse of the Western Carolina University campus, replaced Memorial Stadium and included the construction of the Jordan-Phillips Field House.
Dedicated on October 5, 1974, the Catamounts defeated Morehead State, 31-12, in their second game at the new facility. Murray State won the first-ever game played on the artificial surface at Whitmire Stadium on September 14, 1974.
Over the years, Western Carolina has posted highlight victories at the facility including wins over nationally-ranked squads such as No. 2 Marshall in 1992; sixth-ranked Appalachian State in 1998 to regain the Old Mountain Jug; and over No. 2 Furman in 2006.
Goal posts have also been removed from the premises on several occasions. Brad Hoover set a stadium and school-record with 49 rushing attempts in 1998 as WCU upset Appalachian State, ending a 13-year losing skid its archrival. In 2004, Western again reclaimed the Jug, posting a dramatic, 30-27, come-from-behind win over the Apps, and the goalposts fell once again in what was the program's 100th victory at Whitmire Stadium.
In 2006, Western Carolina's defense recorded five interceptions and Darius Fudge rushed for 133 yards on offense to lead the Catamounts to a 41-21 victory over second-ranked Furman, setting the stage for another goalpost celebration.
The stadium has also hosted numerous television games over the years. One of the earliest came in 1978 as ABC showcased the Catamounts and Mountaineers from Cullowhee. Other broadcasts include ESPNU, SportSouth, Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS-TV) and most recently, the combined efforts of WLOS-TV and WMYA-TV in Asheville to air select WCU home games.
Currently with 13,742 seats, the football facility is located on the south end of the WCU campus and is bordered by the picturesque Cullowhee Creek on the west side; Jordan-Phillips Field House and WCU Weight Room on its north end; and the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center, which in addition to serving as the home venue for men's and women's basketball and volleyball also features the Dale & Diane Hollifield Football Locker Room that includes the David & Marie Brinkley Senior Locker Room and the Winslow & Lonnie Galloway Players' Lounge; the WCU Football Team Room; and the WCU Football Offices, as well as the athletic training facilities.
In addition to the artificial surface at Bob Waters Field, the WCU Football team also utilizes a grass practice field located across Cullowhee Creek from the stadium. Often times the team will use the natural surface during pre-season workouts, as well as during weekly preparations for road games that will be contested on a grass surface.
The press box at Whitmire Stadium includes matching booths for both home and visiting radio, as well as coaches' boxes that bookend the building. There is also two-tiered seating in the main press room with wireless Internet access.
Bob Waters Field Playing Surface / Facility Improvements:
Western Carolina first installed AstroTurf on the playing surface in 1974. A similar product material was used in replacing the artificial surface several times. Following the facilities' silver anniversary in 1999, a newer version of synthetic grass called AstroPlay was installed in 2000 for a cost of $1.2 million and was the surface that adorned Waters Field for the next eight years.
Amidst the 2008 season, the artificial surface was replaced by the Carolina Green Corporation which installed the Desso Challenge Pro 2 turf, a product of the overseas Desso Sports Systems. The new turf consists of a nylon-like, woven base interlaced with synthetic "blades of grass" that are approximately two inches in length. The material is sewn together and then glued to a base on the ground. Once the surface was in place, it was back-filled with a mixture of sand and rubber to serve as the "dirt" and to provide stability to the turf.
In 2002, the creation of a $93,000 Team Room complete with meeting and office space, as well as storage, was completed on the second floor of the Ramsey Center.
Prior to the 2003 season, more facility improvements and upgrades to the stadium were completed. A $3.1 million addition featured a 4,000-seat West Side grandstand seating area that included concessions and restroom facilities as well as new, updated lighting. The weight room in the Jordan-Phillips Field House was expanded, nearly doubling its previous capacity which also added a hospitality patio that overlooks the stadium on the north end zone. It also includes additional team meeting space, computer lab and visiting team locker room. In 2018, the state-of-the-art David & Marie Brinkley Weight Lifting Facility was opened after a $400,000 facelift to the weight room for WCU's student-athletes.
The field house and East Side stands were also bricked to match the brickwork of the Ramsey Center and of the new West Side stands.
Also, on September 16, 2006, the Dale & Diane Hollifield Football Locker Room facility located on the first floor of the Ramsey Center was dedicated. At a cost of $225,000, the 100-plus locker facility was expanded with beautiful, wooden lockers located throughout.
Most recently, during the off-season prior to the 2010 campaign, a Daktronics scoreboard with video screen were installed in the south end zone - Ramsey Center end - of the facility. The state-of-the-art video screen measures 17-feet tall by 32-feet wide and includes a scoreboard with a matching score and time board adhered to the facade of the Jordan-Phillips Field House.
Stadium Benefactors and Namesakes:
Western Carolina's football facilities are named after two prominent figures in Catamount Athletics. The late E.J. Whitmire, for whom the stadium is named, spent most of his adult life involved with the University. An educator, contractor, agriculturalist and public servant, Whitmire - from nearby Franklin, N.C. - served WCU for more than a quarter-century with the attitude, leadership and "get it done" ability that made him successful in every walk of life.
Whitmire was on the WCU Board of Trustees from 1949-72 and was the driving force behind the University's unparalleled period of growth. His tireless work served as the cornerstone of the structure that now bears his name. He was granted the Patron Award in the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 1988, the playing surface where Robert Lee Waters made a name for himself in the coaching and administrative ranks while also putting WCU football in the national spotlight was dedicated in his honor and memory.
Bob Waters served as the University's head football coach for 20 years and worked in a dual capacity as its athletics director for 15 years. During his tenure, he became the school's winningest football coach with 116 victories, 13 winning seasons and top 10 national finishes at three different levels - NAIA, NCAA Division II, and NCAA Division I-AA, now FCS). He also had the privilege of coaching 13 national All-Americans and 36 All-Southern Conference players.
As athletics director, Waters directed the school's rise from NAIA to NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I competition and move into the Southern Conference in 1976. He was also instrumental in the planning and constructing of Whitmire Stadium, Childress Field (baseball) and the Ramsey Center.
Waters died on May 29, 1989, following a six-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He was posthumously inducted into the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993.