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  • Will Halpern

Holmes Convocation Center – Appalachian State Mountaineers

Photos by Will Halpern , Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

Holmes Convocation Center 111 Rivers St Boone, NC 28608

Year Opened: 2000

Capacity: 8,325


Basketball Is Growing in Boone

North Carolina’s High Country is a unique region, shaped by bluegrass music, beautiful mountainous landscapes, local shops and restaurants, and the many decked-out black and gold supporters of Appalachian State University, which is based in the largest town in the High Country, in the Northwestern corner of the state, Boone. Although the basketball program does play second fiddle to a nationally known football program down the road at Kidd Brewer Stadium, you’d never know it when you see Holmes Convocation Center, the Mountaineers’ home since 2000, a beautiful brick facade that blends seamlessly into the beautiful ASU campus.

Holmes Center replaced the aging Varsity Gymnasium that served the team from 1968 to 2000, and still hosts the Mountaineer wrestling program The arena opened nearly two decades ago with a matchup against perennial power North Carolina, and the 8,325-seat arena hosts both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, volleyball, and indoor track and field. The High Country Grizzlies, a minor league indoor football team, also played at Holmes for the 2017 and 2018 seasons before folding. The Mountaineers have not had a March Madness appearance since 2000, right before christening the Holmes Convocation Center, and while the team competes in a deep Sun Belt Conference, the Mountaineer Basketball program is hopeful of building the kind of winning tradition that their football program sees year in and year out.

Food & Beverage 3

The Holmes Convocation Center concessions options won’t overwhelm you by any means with its variety – their main concessions stand offers hamburgers or cheeseburgers ($6), hot dogs ($3), chili dogs or cheese dogs ($4), chili cheese dogs ($5), large fountain Pepsi sodas or slushies ($4), small sodas, slushies, or large coffees ($3), and small coffees ($2). Snack offerings include a large popcorn or nachos ($4) with a side of chili or cheese for a dollar extra each; a small popcorn is three dollars.

There are a variety of dessert options including Minute Maid Frozen plain or strawberry lemonade and Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge or Cookie Dough ice cream. Finally, if you want something beyond what you can find at the main concessions stand, Woodlands BBQ based out of neighboring Blowing Rock offers sandwiches for six dollars with or without slaw. Prices on everything are reasonable but with the plethora of restaurants nearby, it would be best to grab some food before or after an ASU basketball game.

Atmosphere 4

Holmes Convocation Center is not your classic mid-major basketball arena, and that’s what makes seeing a game here an experience. Everything from the white fencing covering the glass windows on the building’s exterior, to the indoor track circling the concourse, to the three colors of chairback seats in the arena’s seating bowl, makes it unique. The Holmes Convocation Center is also different from its counterparts in having a video board jumbotron hanging at center court that is sizable for any mid-major basketball venue. On top of the video board and also above the tunnel where the Mountaineer players come out there is a sign saying “Welcome to Boone Elevation 3,333 Feet”, reminding fans and visitors alike of ASU’s status as the highest elevated Division 1 school east of the Mississippi – giving them a home-court advantage of sorts.

While the arena can seat over eight thousand fans, most of the upper bowl seats are curtained off, with the exception of a small section at center court. ASU boasts a talented pep band and cheerleading squad, and the Mountaineer mascot, Yosef, entertains fans throughout the game, while the PA Announcer does a great job in engaging the fans with promotions and contests. All of this contributes to a fun game day atmosphere in a unique basketball arena.

Neighborhood 4

Holmes Convocation Center is located on the southeast corner of App State’s campus about a half-mile from King Street, Boone’s main drag. King Street is the place to go before or after any ASU event or if you’re visiting Boone for any reason. King Street has a great food scene, including Our Daily Bread, which offers more than twenty-five specialty sandwiches like the Smoked Ham and Apple Press, Brie BLT, and the ODB Club which features turkey, ham, bacon, and cheddar and swiss cheese with lettuce, tomato, and their special sauce between layers of rye and pumpernickel bread. Another great place to check out is Macados, which offers not only thirty different sandwiches and wraps but also hot dogs and specialty burgers. The menu features also specialty beer and wine, and more than twenty hurricane mixed drinks, along with several big-screen TVs to watch that day’s Mountaineer or other big game. Saebing Boone King offers Vietnamese and Thai cusine, including sushi. There is also Boone Saloon, a local favorite that serves up traditional American bar food with appetizers, sandwiches, soups, and salads including five different types of mac and cheese, and a variety of drink options.

All of these places are blocks from each other on King Street, but restaurants and bars are not all you will find on King Street. King Street Creamery serves up delicious ice cream and coffee, while Mast General Store is a two-level outdoor store that offers everything from outdoor equipment, candy, and souvenirs to bluegrass CDs from local and regional artists. Boone Rock-n-roll Emporium is another place to find a hodgepodge of different items, such as t-Shirts, posters, books, and music. Other places to check out when strolling down King Street include Appalachian Antiques, Foggy Pine Books, and High Country Souvenirs, as well as the numerous places to buy t-shirts, hoodies, and other Mountaineer apparel. Boone also hosts many festivals throughout the year including the First Friday Art Crawl, and is also a Mecca for fans of outdoor activities, given its proximity to the beautiful scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. There are countless places to hike, bike, ski, camp, or just relax and have a picnic and enjoy the views; Clawson-Burnley Park and Howard’s Knob Country Park are both less than ten minutes from downtown Boone and the Holmes Convocation Center.

Those who want to stay in the area after the basketball game is over can camp at the Flintlock and Honey Bear Camping sites – both just ten minutes from ASU’s campus. Those who are interested in learning how to rock climb should check out Center 45 Climbing and Fitness just five minutes away, and just a fifteen-minute drive from campus is Blowing Rock, with its local restaurants, shops, and outdoor areas. There are a number of places near Holmes Convocation Center and the ASU campus to stay overnight or longer. There are chain options such as Hampton Inn & Suites, Quality Inn, and Courtyard by Marriott, which are all a short five-minute trip from the arena. However, if you’re looking for an affordable but slightly nicer option check out Master Hosts Resorts-Highland Hills Cabins. Offering rustic wooden bedrooms, a hot tub, and an outdoor pool, this quaint hotel is located about two miles from the Holmes Convocation Center.

Fans 3

The bar is set incredibly high by the loud, dedicated, and passionate fans decked out in black and gold down the road at Kidd Brewer Stadium, and to be clear, while the basketball program is trying to build to become one of the contenders in the Sun Belt Conference, it is not there yet, and twenty years without an NCAA appearance can leave many in Boone apathetic about ASU hoops. At the last game I saw, the official attendance was just over 2,000 – it looked like only a little more than half the lower bowl was filled (the upper level seats are tarped off). However, the fans who were in attendance were very engaged and loud throughout the game, helping to propel the Mountaineers from an eighteen point first-half deficit to an eventual victory. If the team fortune’s go on an upswing, then the Holmes Convocation Center has the potential to really come alive in the coming years.

Access 4

Getting to Holmes Convocation Center is fairly easy; traffic is never a huge problem. As you approach the arena, however, parking can be a little tricky. Luckily there are parking garages nearby, as well as a hill you can park on top of, though if you have trouble walking up or down a steep slope, it might be better to park in the garage and take the short walk. In order to enter the arena, you will need to walk up a set of stairs, although the Southwest entrance has a ramp and an elevator for those who are not able to walk up steps. The concourse is very wide and it’s easy to navigate, there is plenty of ADA seating, and the restrooms are very clean.

The closest major airports to Boone are Charlotte-Douglas Airport about two hours away, Piedmont-Triad Airport in Greensboro, and Tri-Cities Airport near Johnson City, Tennessee, the latter two of which are both about ninety minutes away from campus. While nothing is super convenient you have a beautiful drive in or out of Boone to enjoy.

If you are looking to come to Boone by public transportation, Sunway Charter offers bus service from Greensboro or Charlotte to Boone for just $34 roundtrip, which drops you off a quarter mile from the Holmes Convocation Center.

Return on Investment 4

App State Basketball tickets are ten or fifteen dollars each, though sometimes you can find tickets for less on the secondary market. Concessions are affordable and you are unlikely to spend more than ten dollars, which with complimentary parking puts the price tag of attending a Mountaineers game at only about twenty-five dollars per person. That’s a great value for two hours of hoops in one of the most scenic and vibrant areas you can visit.

Extras 5

One point goes to the talented ASU pep band, who played upbeat tunes and kept the fans excited throughout the contest. The second point goes to the indoor track circulating the concourse, which is not super common in college basketball arenas. A third point goes to the team’s entrance through a lit-up smoked-filled tunnel, a nice touch especially at a mid-major basketball game. Point number four goes to the large video board and finally, a point for hosting their football team on the court at halftime, and the football team posters given out in the concourses. Not only did this allow fans to give the football team the support they deserve, but it fired up the fans and the basketball team to make their amazing comeback.

Final Thoughts

Appalachian State is known for two main things: a picturesque campus and a nationally prominent football program. The basketball team is looking to capture the success of their neighbors on the gridiron, and while both the Holmes Convocation Center and their NCAA Tournament drought has lasted two decades, the program is trying to reach new heights in the High Country, and all it may take is a conference champion or two to move the team and the arena from being an afterthought to a destination in mid-major basketball.


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