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  • Writer's pictureDavid Welch

Paul Porter Arena - Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs

Photo by David Welch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Paul Porter Arena 110 S Main St Boiling Springs, NC 28017

Year Opened: 1982 Capacity: 3,000


Paul Porter Arena - Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs

Boiling Springs, North Carolina sits just across the North Carolina-South Carolina state line. The rural North Carolina town is a charming college community built mostly around Gardner-Webbs University and a handful of businesses on Main Street.

After making the jump from the NCAA Division II level in 2001, the Runnin' Bulldogs would transition as an independent program before joining the Atlantic Sun Conference for the 2002-2003 season. Gardner-Webb would jump to Big South Conference in 2008, where they still play today.

Food & Beverage   2

Two small concession stands can be found at the far end of the arena’s outer concourse. Selections are limited to hot dogs, nachos with cheese dipping sauce, pretzels, and candy. Beverage choices include Pepsi products, Gatorade, and bottled water. Beer and other alcohol options are not sold on campus.


Atmosphere   3

Paul Porter Arena is part of the Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center in Gardner-Webb’s athletics area of campus. It serves as the home of not just G-W basketball, but volleyball and wrestling as well. The brick and arched windows of the exterior of the facility nicely compliment the neighboring Tucker Student Center.

On the inside, Paul Porter Arena has a throwback vibe of a pit gymnasium, where the concourse and seating run above the sunken court level.  There are bleachers that stretch to the floor opposite the benches, but the seating behind the benches only comes down a few rows, ending above the team benches and blocked by a curtain.

The arena’s relatively low roofline creates a need for the scoreboards to be mounted courtside beneath the seating area. These scoreboards aren't just for displaying the current score; they provide fans with individual player stats like points, rebounds, and fouls, along with a live video feed of the game. During timeouts the boards dig deeper, showcasing detailed team statistics. Additionally, the scorer's table offers a more traditional display of the game time and score, for those who prefer a classic view.

Unlike many college basketball games where current popular music plays from the arena speakers, Gardner-Webb University's pep band treats fans to live, in-game entertainment. The cheer squad and beloved mascot, Mac, compliment the pep band perfectly.

A small, but vocal student section takes up residence in the courtside seating across from the visiting team’s bench and creates a fun, college basketball atmosphere. The student section blends well with the pep band to create a bit of a home court edge for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.


Neighborhood   3

In the foothills of North Carolina's mountains is Boiling Springs, a small-town atmosphere in a rural setting.

Boiling Springs' main thoroughfare runs through the heart of town, offering a diverse mix of dining options. While recognizable chain restaurants are always a safe fallback, a handful of locally owned establishments are also available – Campus Pizzeria, Snack Shop Family Restaurant, and Italian Garden are located close to the arena, just off the northeast corner of campus.

During the winter months options for activities can be a bit limited in Boiling Springs, but on the occasional balmy winter days those who might enjoy getting out into nature might enjoy exploring the nearby Broad River Greenway. Fans looking for more options for restaurants, lodging, and entertainment might head to neighboring Shelby, which is less than 10 miles away.


Fans   3

Gardner-Webb ranks in the bottom half of the Big South in attendance, typically drawing 500 to 600 fans per game. Runnin’ Bulldog supporters have shown they have a bit more in them, though, when it comes to attendance, which seems to depend on the success of the program in the win-loss column – in 2019, a year where Gardner-Webb put together a 20-win season and qualified for the NCAA tournament, attendance was closer to the 1,200 to 1,500 range.

Regardless of the game-to-game attendances, the fans in the stands are a highly dedicated group. A small but vocal student section and the pep band do a good job creating a very supportive and passionate atmosphere throughout the arena. Their passion is also contagious, as it inspires many of the other fans in attendance to raise their game. While the fans can create a bit of a ruckus during stoppages in play, it is the time outs that really get fans going, especially in the student section.

Access 3

Boiling Springs is in the rural foothills of the southwestern mountains of North Carolina, an hour west of Charlotte. Despite Boiling Springs being off the beaten path, it is only about 20 minutes off Interstate-85.

To reach the arena, head to the university's athletics neighborhood via the Bridges Gate entrance on Stadium Drive; as you enter you'll pass by Bill Masters Field at Johnny Moss Stadium (home to baseball) and Spangler Stadium (used for football and women's lacrosse). Continuing along Stadium Drive will lead you to Paul Porter Arena, with a spacious parking lot offering free parking right in front.

The entrance to the arena is toward the right side of the front of the Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center, marked with a large bulldog statue. Most fans will ascend the stairs to the upper level to have their tickets scanned, before passing onto a narrow exterior concourse which leads into the playing area, or to a walkway that runs completely around the seating bowl. Some of the rows are awkwardly configured, which can make accessing court level seating a bit of a challenge.


Return on Investment   4

Ticket prices start at $12 for general admission; reserved seats across from the team benches go for $16. For those looking to be right in the mix of the action on the court, a handful of court side seats run $40.

Even though concessions are a bit limited, prices are affordable and will not put a large dent in the wallet.


Extras   3

The walls of the main lobby of Paul Porter Arena are home to the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame – the display pays tribute to both Hall of Fame athletes and All-American honorees.

The rafters within the arena pay tribute to the accomplishments of the athletic programs throughout the lifespan of Gardner-Webb athletics, from a perennial NAIA tournament team to their transition into Division I athletics. Also enshrined are retired jerseys of the elites in Gardner-Webb basketball history, the most notable of which that of Naismith National Basketball Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore, who played at Gardner-Webb from 1967 to 1969.

A small merchandise shop is built into one of the nooks of the exterior concourse, giving fans the opportunity to update their Gardner-Webb apparel, or simply grab a souvenir before heading home.


Final Thoughts

Basketball at Gardner-Webb seems to be a secret just waiting to be found. While the Carolinas boasts some of the biggest names in college basketball, the atmosphere at Paul Porter Arena gives fans the opportunity to take in a game just feet away from the action on the floor, and in a tight-knit community such as Boiling Springs that only adds to the passion of the experience.


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