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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Ramsey Center – Western Carolina Catamounts

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Ramsey Center 92 Catamount Road Cullowhee, NC 28723

Year Opened: 1986 Capacity: 7,826


The Catamounts Lair

Western Carolina University was founded in 1889 and is in Cullowhee, NC, which is 70 miles west of Asheville. Its 265 acre campus is nestled in a valley between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The university is home to more than 11,600 students. The school is well known for its computer sciences program. The campus is rated very highly as one of the premier outdoor activity colleges in the country.

The school is a member of the Southern Conference and has competed in basketball since 1928. The home court for Catamounts basketball is the Liston B Ramsey Regional Activity Center. For simplicity's sake, we will call it the Ramsey Center. WCU students know it as “the lair.” The Ramsey Center opened in 1986 and is host to both men’s and women’s basketball, as well as volleyball. It seats 7,826 in its basketball configuration.

Food & Beverage 3

There are four concession areas servicing the Ramsey Center. One is strictly dedicated to students at WCU, as their Catamount Cards are accepted as payment. There is nothing spectacular or regional in the menu items. The menu includes hot dogs ($3), BBQ sandwiches ($5), nachos ($4), pizza ($3), popcorn ($3), peanuts ($3), sunflower seeds ($3), candy ($3), and chips ($3).

Beverages include Pepsi brand sodas ($3), bottled water ($3) and frozen lemonade ($3). Alcohol is not allowed to be sold at WCU facilities.

Atmosphere 2

The atmosphere at the Ramsey Center really consists of a variety of highs and lows. Externally, the Ramsey Center is a black glass monolith at the south end of the WCU campus. There are little or no graphics or signage on the outside of the facility. It is also located up a daunting set of steps which lead to a very plain entrance portal.

Once inside things improve as the concourse area utilizes the school’s gold and purple team colors in mild tones throughout the concourse area. Restrooms and concession stands are plentiful and well placed. The Athletic Hall of Fame for WCU is also located on the concourse.

WCU Athletic Hall of Fame, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Upon entering the seating bowl, you will instantly notice the very large graphic of a Catamount at midcourt All of the seating is theater style seats with upholstered bottoms and gold seat backs. Unfortunately, you will also notice that more than 60% of the seats in the arena are covered by a black tarp. This leaves attendees with a small selection of seats to watch the game and is a real detriment to the enjoyment of the game

Neighborhood 4

The Ramsey Center’s neighborhood is literally 265-acre Western Carolina campus. It is located within the athletic complex of the university, with its neighbors being Bob Water Field at Whitmire Stadium (football) and Ronnie Childress Field at Hennon Stadium (baseball). The school’s address is Cullowhee, NC, which is an unincorporated community. Most of the attractions, dining and lodging options are in the neighboring town of Sylva, which is located 7 miles from campus on Highway 107.

Sylva offers a wide range of lodging, dining and activities for visitors. Dining options include Lulu’s on Main, Bogarts and the Balsam Falls Brewing Company. Lodging is available at both the Comfort Inn and the Quality Inn in town. A wide range of entertainment options are available at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. Sylva is also known for its antiquing and arts and crafts communities.

Fans 3

The fan base for the Catamounts seems to consist primarily of family and friends of the players on the team. It is surprising that more of the student body was not in attendance considering that the game is in an on-campus facility and that the campus is very isolated from any entertainment facilities or restaurants/bars.

I am giving a “3” rating in this category in recognition of the efforts of the WCU pep band. They play throughout the game, sing the school fight song on numerous occasions and really get into the game… harassing the opposition on free throws and holding up “3” signs every time a Catamount player hits a three pointer. If there is any energy being generated in the arena it is coming from the pep band area. Both the cheerleaders and the school dance squad also do their part to stir enthusiasm from the fans. They are assisted by Paws, the mountain lion mascot of the Catamounts.

Access 3

Getting to the WCU campus will ensure you of seeing some lovely mountain scenery along the way. It is located well off the interstate but is still serviced by some well serviced state and federal highways.

From I-40 (Asheville, Greensboro, Raleigh) : Take exit 27 off I-40. Go 21.5 miles to exit 85 (Sylva, Cullowhee, WCU). At the third light turn left on Highway 107. Go 7 miles and the Western Carolina campus will be on your left.

From I-85 (Atlanta): Take I-85 North to I-985 North. This will eventually become Hwy 23/441. Stay on Hwy 23/441 to Franklin, NC. In Franklin, you will need to turn right in order to stay on Hwy 23/441. This will take you over a mountain and will run into Highway 107. Turn right on Highway 107 and continue through the towns of Dillsboro and Sylva. Western Carolina is 7 miles south of Sylva on the left.

Return on Investment 4

A night out at a Western Carolina game will not wear out your wallet. Tickets for Catamount basketball games are $15 for reserved seating and $10 for general admission seating. Parking is free at any of the athletic facility parking lots surrounding the Ramsey Center. Concessions are well priced. You can expect for a hotel night in the area to cost $100 .

Extras 3

So, what is a Catamount? A catamount is defined as a wildcat of the mountain variety, which can include bobcats, cougars and lynx. Western Carolina University is only one of two schools using the Catamount name, with the other being the University of Vermont.

The on-campus Mountain Heritage Center is well worth a visit. Its mission is to connect people with the history and culture of the mountainous western regions of North Carolina.

The Ramsey Center is the largest concert venue in the western portion of North Carolina. It has hosted such artists as Alabama, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Chicago and Aerosmith. It has also hosted such events as the Harlem Globetrotters, rodeos, wrestling extravaganzas and monster truck competitions.

Final Thoughts

The Ramsey Activity Center serves several different populations from throughout the western North Carolina region. In addition to WCU-oriented events, it hosts garden shows, community gatherings, civic events and an occasional concert. It serves a vital role in serving the largely rural populations that surround the Cullowhee / Sylva area.

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