BOONE — It’s been a good year when it comes to Appalachian State athletics, according to Athletic Director Doug Gillin.
Gillin met with members of local media to address the state of the App State athletic department, touching on subjects such as construction at Kidd Brewer Stadium and at the old Watauga High School site on N.C. 105, football game-day traffic and the need to raise money to fund those projects.
The parking deck located north of Kidd Brewer Stadium is finished and the plans for the north endzone facility between the new deck and the stadium are progressing. Gillin’s goal is to have the building operational by the fall of 2020, with the first and fourth floors consisting of a visiting locker room, a team shop and a catering kitchen on the first floor, and premium seating on the fourth floor.
Gillin said the current seating capacity of Kidd Brewer Stadium is 20,000, but that will expand after the completion of the end zone facility.
“We are still on pace to have this open in phases in the fall of 2020,” Gillin said. “That’s a year from now, sometimes I look out my window and say wow, I can’t wait for that to take shape and literally any day now we’re going to see concrete and steel starting to take shape. Whether it’s before that first home football game or not, very soon we’ll see it start coming out of the ground and in phases open in fall of 2020.”
Gillin acknowledged that parking and the usual crowd before and after Kidd Brewer Stadium could be a problem. He stressed the need for fans to show up to the stadium very early and hoped that they will stay late after the game to helped ease congestion.
“We’re going to open up the gates two hours early,” Gillin said. “We’re going to provide some entertainment. The first game this, for the first hour we’re going to show highlights of the Michigan win to honor Jerry Moore that day. We’re just trying to get people in here early. Get in the lots early and stay late.”
Gillin, who said the parking situation is making him “nervous,” also said another reason to get to the stadium is because there will be fewer gates available for fans to walk through into the stadium.
But, he also said the university has worked on being as efficient as it could and needs the fans’ help.
“We’ve planned as much as we can,” Gillin said, “We’ve educated our fans as much as we can and they’ve been unbelievable with the whole parking issue as terms as being patient and understanding we’re moving people around, so far so good, so we’ll get a big test in a few days.”
Construction also continues on the site located on N.C. 105 that used to be the location of the former Watauga High School. Gillin said a new track and outdoor tennis courts will be built first, followed by indoor tennis courts and a softball field.
The project was slowed when the university changed architects, but Gillin said the project is on target. He would like to have the first two venues done by either summer or fall of 2020.
“We’re updating the River Street tennis courts, so that will be fall and spring this year and get that work done, so hopefully we can get the track done and the outdoor tennis done by the summer or fall of next year,” he said. “Then we’ll shift our attention to indoor tennis and softball.”
Gillin was hesitant to talk about details involving alcohol sales at Kidd Brewer because as of Aug. 23, when he was to meet with the ABC Board, the university did not have a permit to sell. The N.C. state legislature passed HB 389, which permits colleges and university to sell alcoholic beverages at stadiums and arenas.
Gillin did not name a distributor App State would use, but he said those who have worked with App State in the past would be the first people he would likely ask, although there necessarily won’t be a quid-pro-quo of any kind.
“We’re ready to go,” Gillin said. “The reason why we haven’t announced that we are going is we have to have permits. As soon as those are approved, and we hope they will be, then we’ll announce that. We’ll put the plan in motion.”
Gillin touched on some other issues, such as football season ticket sales. He said when he first arrived at Appalachian State in 2015, season tickets were around 4,000.
He said season tickets have climbed to 8,000 and he would like to break the 10,000 barrier. Gillin said that App State students, who pay an athletic fee, are allowed to attend games free.
But he said it’s important for the Mountaineers to have a solid fan base of season ticket holders for the program to succeed, especially when the Mountaineers are comparable to peers such as Louisiana or Troy.
“We feel good about where we’re at,” Gillin said. “We’ve been at the highest we’ve been or right there at it, but we’ve got to keep going.”
Gillin also wants the Mountaineers’ teams to continue their momentum going into the 2019-20 season, both athletically and academically.
“There certainly may be some who have a different opinion, but I think it was the most successful year in Appalachian State history,” Gillin said. “When you look at 14 straight semesters over 3.0. You look at four teams who were in the top 10 percent in the ARP standpoint. When you look at coming sixth nationally at the amount of hours we put back into our community, over 10,000 hours back into our community.”