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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Ronnie G. Childress Field at Hennon Stadium - Western Carolina Catamounts


Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Ronnie G. Childress Field at Hennon Stadium Catamount Rd Cullowhee, NC 28723

Year Opened: 1978 Capacity: 1,500

 

Mountain Cats With Bats

Western Carolina University (WCU) is part of the North Carolina University System. It is in Cullowhee, NC, and has a student body of 12,000 students. The largest majors at WCU are the Applied Sciences, Business and Arts and Science programs.


Sports teams at Western Carolina are known as the Catamounts. Catamounts are a breed of mountain cats that are indigenous to this section of the Great Smokey and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The baseball program at WCU is headquartered at Ronnie Childress Field at Hennon Stadium. Hennon Stadium opened in 1978, and underwent renovations in 1990, 1991, 2002, 2003 and 2009. The stadium is located at the southern end of the WCU campus. The stadium holds 1,500 fans in two sets of bleachers and one main grandstand. The grandstand sits directly behind home plate and is covered by a roof structure. This helps to cover this premium seating area from the wintry elements that are possible during the early spring section of the schedule. The restrooms and a concession stand are in a brick structure on the plaza behind the grandstand.


The baseball Catamounts play in the Southern Conference. Over the years the team has won 12 regular season championships and 10 conference tournaments championships. The team has appeared in 12 NCAA tournaments. The school sees Appalachian State University as their main rival.


Catamounts Signature Seasons, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey


Food & Beverage 3

There is one concession stand at Hennon Stadium. It is located on the plaza behind the grandstand. It serves the typical baseball standards.


Items available include 8-inch Papa John’s pizza ($8), BBQ sandwiches ($7), hot dogs ($5), nachos w/cheese ($5), popcorn ($4), chips ($3), candy ($3), peanuts ($4) and pretzels ($4).


Drinks include Pepsi brand sodas ($4), frozen lemonade ($5), Gatorade ($4) and bottled water ($3). Beer is not served at Western Carolina baseball games.


There is a brick dining area on the plaza next to the concession stand. It has tables and chairs for fans who may not want to balance their food and drinks on their laps in the stands.

Atmosphere 3

The atmosphere at games held at Hennon Stadium is electric, as home sports competitions at the school are very popular due to its isolated location in the mountains. The stands are often full of students, faculty, and townspeople. The seating bowl at Hennon Stadium includes two sections of bleacher seating down the first and third base lines. Season ticket holders and major donors are seated in chairback seats in either a roof-sheltered grandstand behind home plate or at the field level of both the bleachers and the grandstand.


The field at Hennon Stadium has dimensions of 325’ LF and RF, with the dead away CF being 390’. The outfield features some interesting elements, as there are two sections of the outfield wall that are 20 feet high and 100 feet long. The pair are known as the “Purple Monsters.”


Neighborhood 3

The “neighborhood” surrounding Hennon Stadium is the Western Carolina University campus and the small unincorporated community of Cullowhee, NC. The university is the lifeblood of the town, as Cullowhee has no downtown area, just a few stores lining Highway 107. Townspeople rely on the sports and cultural programs sponsored by the school for their entertainment. The Mountain Heritage Center on the WCU campus offers special activities throughout the year. The closest lodging to the school is the Holiday Inn in Sylva, NC, which is about 7 miles north of the campus. The other major employer in the area is the Cherokee Resort and Casino located about 15 minutes north of the casino.


Nature plays the major role as a neighbor to the WCU campus. The school is located at the intersection of the Great Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. They provide a stunning backdrop for any outdoors activity at the school.


Asheville, NC is the closest large city to the Western Carolina campus. It is located 52 miles north of WCU via some very winding mountain roads.


Fans 4

The fan base of the Catamounts is the students, faculty, and townspeople of WCU and the town of Cullowhee. They are a hearty bunch that attend the games no matter how inclement the weather is in this mountain community. The stands are filled with people wearing the purple and gold colors of WCU. It is like a family reunion at each game, as both WCU and the Cullowhee community are small enough that everybody knows each other in the area.


The students at WCU are honored for their loyalty with some prime seats in Hennon Stadium. The “Cat Cage “section is in the first row of seats directly behind home plate at field level, where they can support the Catamounts and good naturally rib the umpires and the opposition.


The fanbase is usually friendly to supporters from the opposition. They realize the visitors have made quite an effort to be present at a game in this isolated area, and they want to be good hosts.


Access 3

WCU is in an isolated area, more than 50 miles from an interstate or a major city. Any route you take to get to the school is going to take you through some very winding mountain roads, with some steep inclines along the way. On the other hand, you will be rewarded with some of gorgeous scenery you can imagine.


Directions from Ashville; Take I-40 West to exit 27 (Highway 74 West) Follow Highway 74 West to exit 85 in Sylva, NC. At the third light in Sylva turn left onto Highway 107. Head south on Highway 107 to the campus, which will be on your left. Once you are on campus, turn right and follow road past football stadium. You will eventually reach the four-story parking deck. The baseball stadium is just beyond this parking deck.


Directions from Atlanta: Take I-85 North to I-985 North, exiting to your left. I-985 eventually becomes GA 365 North, and then US Highway 441. Continue Highway 441 until you reach Dillsboro, NC. In Dillsboro turn right onto Business 23. At Highway 107 head south to the campus, which will be on your left. Once on campus, turn right and follow the road past the football stadium. You will eventually reach a four-story parking deck. Park for free in this parking deck. The baseball stadium is located behind this parking deck.


Return on Investment 3

Attending a Catamounts game at Hennon Stadium will not leave your wallet empty.


Parking at Childress Field at Hennon Stadium is free in the parking deck adjacent to the stadium. Overflow parking is available in the smaller lot beyond the outfield walls.


Tickets are $9 for Catamount baseball games. You should pay cash at the park for your tickets, as any online purchases or credit card purchases have a service charge of $2 added to the cost.


The prices charged for concessions are very reasonable compared to other college venues.


Extras 3

One extra must go to the gorgeous mountain scenery that surrounds the WCU campus. It forms a beautiful backdrop for games at Hennon Stadium.

Stunning View from Hennon Stadium, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey


The pennants from each school in the Southern Conference fly at the top of the bleachers at Hennon Stadium.

The Catamounts have a winning percentage of .700 in games played at Hennon Stadium.


Final Thoughts

Childress Field at Hennon Stadium offers one of the most stunning locations in all of college baseball. The Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains form a gorgeous backdrop to Catamount ball games. You’ll also experience a friendly crowd that is a very welcoming to visitors to their small town.

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