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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Western Carolina University (WCU) is a member of the University system for the state of North Carolina and is located in the small mountain community of Cullowhee, NC. It was founded in 1889 and has a present student body of 10,500 students. The primary majors at WCU are Education, Health Professions, Business and Environmental Studies.
The athletic teams at WCU are known as the Catamounts, a mountain cat native to the areas surrounding the campus. The Catamounts play in the Southern Conference, which includes UT-Chattanooga, Furman University, Samford University, Wofford College and the Citadel. The basketball team plays its’ home games in the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center (we will refer to it as the Ramsey Center for brevity), an on-campus facility, with a basketball seating capacity of 7,826. The center was built in 1986, and serves as the Catamounts' athletic hub, with the athletic department’s offices, locker rooms for all of WSU's team sports and the home venue for WCU volleyball. It is one of the largest multipurpose facilities in western North Carolina, with a square footage of over 205,000 square feet.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Ramsey Center has four concession areas located on the corners of the arena. They are well staffed, so you should not expect a line at any point in the game. Alcohol is not allowed in the Ramsey Center. A wide variety of food and beverage items are offered at extremely reasonable prices.
Here is a sampling of the foods available: Hot dogs ($3), nachos ($3), Papa John's pizza ($3), barbecue sandwiches ($4), popcorn ($3), peanuts ($3), pretzels ($2) and chips ($2). Beverages include bottled water ($3), Pepsi brand sodas ($3) and slushies ($3).
Western Carolina does a great job in creating a very exciting atmosphere at Ramsey Center. The pep band plays non-stop, and they coordinate their tunes very well with both the dance team and the cheerleading squad. The inner areas of the arena are decorated in the purple and gold colors of the school. The colors are muted so it does not appear gaudy. The walls are purple, while the theatre-style seats are purple and gold. It really does look sharp.
Another nice touch are the banners hanging above the court. One set features the retired numbers of Catamount greats, while another set features the banners of the other schools in the Southern Conference. This is a very classy touch by the school.
During breaks in the action the Catamount Club, a student-run organization, sponsors a wide variety of competitions, trivia quizzes and other fun involving members of the audience. This really keeps the audience entertained, and makes the lulls in the action go by quickly.
The neighborhood for Western Carolina University is considered to be the university campus, the town of Cullowhee and the nearby town of Sylva, located approximately seven miles north of the campus. In addition to its central academic purpose, WCU basically serves as the center of all things that go on in Cullowhee. It provides the town with its sports, entertainment and cultural needs. Students often fill the positions in the local community such as firefighters, road crews and as employees for area businesses. The restaurant selections in Cullowhee are quite limited, as the only non-campus dining options are Tuck's Tap and Grille and the Cullowhee Café. There are no lodging options in the town of Cullowhee proper.
The town of Sylva, located less than 10 miles away on NC Highway 127, offers you a variety of accommodations and dining options. These include hotels (Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn, Best Western, and Quality Inn), restaurants (Creekside Oyster House and Grill, No Name Sports Pub and Innovation Brewing Company) and entertainment offerings (Harrah's Cherokee Resort and Casino).
The Catamount fans are very passionate about their sports teams, as they feel a sense of ownership, even if they never attended the university. The school plays such a major role in their everyday lives and a major source of entertainment. The student body is especially supportive of the "Cats," both through attendance at games and the energy they fill the Ramsey Center with. This passion does not result in any adverse behavior towards visiting fans, as in this area, visitors are seen as "company" and are treated with respect and great hospitality. It would be considered rude to treat someone in any other way. The two major rivalry games that take place on an annual basis are the Appalachian State game and the game with UNC Asheville.
Western Carolina University is by far the most isolated campus in the Southern Conference. It is more than 52 mountain miles from the nearest major city (Asheville, NC) and there is no interstate or airport located nearby. It is located in a valley surrounded by the meeting of the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountain areas. During the winter months, it is wise to check ahead for driving conditions, as there are some steep inclines on the roads leading to Cullowhee. Often times the campus will have no hazardous weather issues due to its valley location, while the higher elevations surrounding it may have snowy or icy conditions. On the plus side, snowy weather can often produce some gorgeous mountain scenery.
The Ramsey Center is a very modern facility, and it offers fans a very well-designed building. There are multiple entry points for the arena, so getting in and out of the facility is a breeze. Once inside the building, the outside concourses are extremely wide and you will not encounter any bottlenecks. Restrooms and concession areas are located frequently enough that you should not encounter any lines. Since the outer concourse does not open into the playing area, monitors are mounted on the wall with views of the game or other WCU information during lulls in the action.
A trip to Cullowhee for a basketball game in the late fall or early winter can provide a great getaway weekend for a very reasonable price. Tickets to a Catamount game range from $15 (reserved ticket adult) to $5 (for a child 7 and under). Parking on campus is free, and the concession prices are very reasonable. Lodging in the area runs from $70 to $150 at winter rates. The scenery in the mountains is priceless, and it provides a soothing solution to stressful city life.
The central purpose of the Ramsey Center is to serve as the cultural, entertainment, and athletic center for the region of North Carolina. In addition to Catamount sports contests, you are likely to attend music concerts, plays, speeches by major public figures, holiday events and WCU graduation ceremonies in this facility. Among the concerts the Ramsey Center has hosted are Aerosmith, Alabama, Chicago, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum and the New York City Opera. The building's flexible nature has allowed it to host such diverse events as garden shows, rodeos, monster truck shows and professional wrestling.
Fans that enjoy games of a different sort can drive just a few miles up Highway 127 to the Harrah's Cherokee Casino for dining, lodging and gambling.
While at WCU, a visit to the on-campus Mountain Heritage Center is a must. The Center is charged with preserving the unique lifestyle, musical heritage and artifacts of life in the North Carolina mountains.
The first three-point field goal in NCAA basketball history was shot in the Ramsey Center by a WCU player in 1980. The ball is now enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Member Review by paul on Apr 16, 2013
In one of the great basketball-rich states in America, the Western Carolina Catamounts can also be lost in the shuffle. The draw of ACC stalwarts such as Duke, North Carolina, NC State, and Wake Forest are much more likely to attract the national and local media as well as college basketball arena travelers. Even conference rivals like Appalachian State, and especially Davidson will come to mind before the Catamounts when it comes to the basketball program. However, if you are traversing the southern Great Smoky Mountains during basketball season, a trip to WCU’s Ramsey Center can be a solid choice to get your sports fix.
The basketball program has made only one appearance in the NCAA basketball tournament. Back in 1996, the Catamounts took No. 1 Purdue down to the wire, losing by only two points in the Round of 64.
The home of the Catamounts is the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center. The venue is probably bigger than needed for hosting basketball and volleyball, but the nearly 8,000-capacity size makes it a prime venue for the region’s concerts and other events. The arena’s namesake is Liston B Ramsey, a long time North Carolina state representative.
Member Review by ianmccor on Apr 19, 2014
A large mid-major arena in a remote mountain community. The Ramsey Center is essentially the poor man's version of Appalchian State's Holmes Center.
83 Asheville Hwy
Sylva, NC 28779
483 Skyland Dr
Sylva, NC 28779
26 Rufus Robinson Rd
Sylva, NC 28779