Cost: $2.5 million
Central's football team played games at Alumni Field when University officials began discussing plans for a new football stadium in the mid-1960s. Alumni Field could only seat a few thousand spectators comfortably, and the continued growth of the University meant an alternative would have to be found. The University was also under pressure to keep up with other Michigan schools, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, which had recently updated their football stadiums. Proposals for the new facility included a domed events center that, although costly, could be used year-round for a wide variety of events. The domed concept was abandoned in 1971 when the University announced the planned construction of an outdoor football stadium and a separate events center nearby.
The project officially began in November 1971, when football coach Roy Kramer presided over the groundbreaking ceremony. The decision to use AstroTurf caused some controversy on campus, but designers sided with its versatility over traditional grass. The $2.5 million project was completed in under a year, although heavy rain delayed the final stages of construction and the opening ceremonies by about a month. The stadium was officially dedicated in November 1972. Its original seating capacity was just over 20,000. The original stadium included a 12-foot high statue designed by Greg Mierka, a Mt. Pleasant graduate art student.
The facility was originally named Perry Shorts Stadium in honor of R. Perry Shorts, a Saginaw banker who was a 1900 graduate of Central Michigan and a generous donor. In June of 1983, the CMU Board of Trustees voted to rename the stadium Kelly/Shorts Stadium in honor of Kenneth "Bill" Kelly, who coached the Chippewa football team to a 91-58-2 record from 1951 to 1966.
The first game played at Perry Shorts Stadium was a Homecoming victory over Illinois State on November 4, 1972. This was the first collegiate game played on AstroTurf in Michigan. Since 1972, the turf has been replaced three times, in 1983, 1993, and with FieldTurf artificial grass in 2004. In 1986, a $140,000 scoreboard complete with a full-color message center was erected at the south end of the stadium. In addition, Kelly/Shorts also received a new auxiliary scoreboard in the north end zone. A $550,000 renovation to the locker room complex was completed prior to the start of the 1996 season.
The stadium was expanded following the 1997 football season as a part of a $28 million athletic facilities expansion that included the construction of the Indoor Athletic Complex. A total of 10,000 seats were added and the old press box was replaced by a two-tiered press box. The lower deck featured nine guest suites and the upper deck offered space for radio, television, and newspaper media. Coaches' booths and game operations are also on this level. Beginning in 2004, multiple upgrades to the stadium were made including FieldTurf (2004), new lighting (2006), a video scoreboard (2007), and the addition of the Chippewas Varsity Shop (2009).