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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Bob Waters Field at E. J. Whitmire Stadium – Western Carolina Catamounts


Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29

Bob Waters Field at E. J. Whitmire Stadium 291 Catamount Rd Cullowhee, NC 28723



Year Opened: 1974

Capacity: 13,742

 

Mountain Cats Delivering Whacks


Western Carolina University is a member of the North Carolina University System. It is the westernmost school in the University System. WCU’s 600-acre campus is in a valley between the Great Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was founded in 1889 and now serves more than 12,000 students. The school is particularly known for its computer sciences curriculum and its liberal arts programs.


Western Carolina University has had a football program since 1931. The school competes at the FCS level of college football as a member of the Southern Conference. The home field for the Catamounts is Bob Waters Field at A.J. Whitmire Stadium. A.J. Whitmire was a longtime board member for WCU, and Bob Waters was the WCU athletic director/football coach for 20 years. The stadium was built in 1974 but has gone through several renovations over the years. The most current renovations occurred in 2020 when the artificial turf at Bob Waters Field was replaced by a new surface. There are stands on the east and west sides of the field only, with a capacity of 13,742.


Food & Beverage 3

There are enough concessions stands at WCU’s stadium to cover the typical crowds for a game very efficiently. Whitmire’s concession stands sell the typical stadium fare, which includes pizza, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, and BBQ sandwiches. Snack foods include pretzels, popcorn, peanuts, candy, and funnel cakes.


The beverage selections at the concession stands consist of Pepsi brand sodas ($3) The same price is charged for all drink selections, including lemonade, bottled water, and Bojangles sweet tea (this IS the South, y’all!). Alcohol is available at Whitmire Stadium.


Atmosphere 4

Even though a game at Western Carolina does not provide you with the buzz you would find at a major college, it does provide you with a great atmosphere to enjoy the game. First of all, note the natural beauty just getting to and from the game. Whitmire Stadium’s setting in the mountain valley is just beautiful with all the fall colors…. did we mention how colorful the stadium is as well? Expect to see the rich purple and gold hues that cover everything on the campus. If you need to find the stadium when you park, simply follow the large purple cat prints on the pavement to the field. Make sure to stop at the school bookstore or one of the merchandise tables in the stadium to get some Catamount cheer gear.


If you have small kids with you, check out the bouncy house and other kids’ activities located just outside the stadium. This will wear them down somewhat so they will not get as cross at the game.


The layout of Whitmire Stadium is small enough that all the seats on both sides of the field are close to the action. Seating for most fans will be on the East/West sides of the field. The South zone is filled by the Ramsey Center, the home of the Catamount basketball programs. The North end zone features the field house, which has the Paws Porch atop it. Unfortunately, the Porch is limited to major donors to the school.


The cheerleaders and the Pride of the Mountains band do a great job of entertaining the crowds throughout the game.


Neighborhood 3

Western Carolina University is in Cullowhee, NC, an unincorporated area of Jackson County, North Carolina. In essence, the university’s campus is the town of Cullowhee. There are no restaurants, lodging options, or attractions in Cullowhee. These items can be found seven miles north of Cullowhee on Highway 107 in the town of Sylva, the county seat of Jackson County.


Sylva offers a wide range of lodging, dining, and activities for fans traveling to a WCU football game. Dining options include the Lazy Hiker Brewing Taproom and City Lights Cafe.’ Lodging is available at the Blue Ridge Inn or the Holiday Inn Express. A wide range of activities is available for visitors to the area, including the Mountain Heritage Center at WCU, the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort, and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The city of Asheville, NC, with its many breweries, lodging options, and many attractions is located 52 miles east of Cullowhee.


Fans 3

The WCU fan base is mostly made up of WCU alumni, the students at the school, or persons who are affiliated with the school, such as faculty and staff. The main reason there is a relatively small fanbase is due to the isolated location of the school. The fan base may be small, but it is very loud and spirited. There is also a tight-knit sense of community within the fan base.


There are plenty of WCU groups available to keep the fanbase energized. These include the efforts of Catamount’s mascot Paws and his friends, the WCU cheerleaders. Musical support is provided by the Pride of the Mountains Marching band.


The fans enjoy some great traditions linked to WCU football. The Victory Bell is a transportable bell that takes part in the pre-game parade. It is rung after each WCU score and follows each Catamount win.


Access 3

A.J. Whitmire Stadium earns our mid-range score due to its isolated location in the mountains and a great distance from any interstates. You can also expect heavy traffic during the leaf peeper season in the October-November portion of the season. Despite those issues, the roads leading to Cullowhee on state and federal highways are well maintained.


Once at the school, the access to the stadium is excellent, as there are several entry gates. You should not experience much of a line at the concession stands, as they are in adequate numbers to serve the typical number of fans at the games.


Return on Investment 3

Tickets to a WCU home football game range from $16-36, with the higher price being the seats in between the 40-yard lines. Parking anywhere on campus on gamedays is $10. You should prepay for a parking pass online, as the parking spaces on campus are very limited. Concession prices are very reasonable and should not break the bank.


Due to the large number of leaf peepers descending into the mountains during the height of fall color, lodging can be quite expensive in the October-November months. Consider hotels/motels in Clayton, GA for lower prices and a reasonably close-to-campus drive on game days.


Extras 4

A Catamount is any type of wild cat such as a cougar, lynx, or bobcat. These types of cats are found in the mountains surrounding the WCU campus. WCU is the only football-playing college in the country using Catamounts as its team nickname.


The WCU-Appalachian State University game is considered a rivalry game. The winner of this annual contest takes home the Old Mountain Jug.


28 Catamount players have gone on to play in the NFL.


The beauty of the mountains surrounding the Western Carolina campus at their fall peak of color deserves its own extra.


Final Thoughts

While a football game at Western Carolina University will not match the intensity and large crowds of a major college game, it does offer one of the most picturesque locations to watch a game on a lovely fall afternoon. The fall colors provide a backdrop to the action taking place on the field. The locals are friendly, the prices are reasonable, and the scenery can’t be beaten!


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