After Appalachian State’s successful finish to the 2014 football season, officials had a feeling the Mountaineers might get their first taste of Thursday night football at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
With that in mind, conversations and meetings began in January about how Appalachian State would welcome thousands of people to town as classes were still in session.
“We wanted to try to start putting together a plan so that it would be successful for the entire town of Boone and the campus,” said Kindsay Reeder, an assistant athletics director for external affairs.
“It’s such a unique opportunity to have that national spotlight on App State like that, and really wanted to put a positive spin on what it would mean to the university.”
As it turned out, the Sun Belt conference gave Appalachian State (5-1, 2-0) not one, but two games, welcoming Georgia Southern (5-1, 3-0) on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU) before Arkansas State visits Nov. 5.
Parking, limited even on Saturdays, is the biggest challenge as Reeder was part of a group that studied how other universities handled Thursday night games.
“Our campus is unique; we looked at other campuses that have their football stadium nestled right in the middle of their campus, and to be honest, there aren’t a lot of stadiums that are like us, that are like us in the landscape and footprint of Boone and how we fit in that,” Reeder said.
Given the school’s focus on the environment and sustainability, organizers felt it would be a good opportunity to use that message as the backbone of its plan to limit on-campus student parking on Thursday. With just one parking lot open to students, Appalachian State encouraged students to bicycle, take the bus, carpool or be dropped off.
With classes still scheduled as usual, some students weren’t pleased with being forced to find alternate plans.
The town of Boone is also in the mix, given the number of tourists expected with the annual changing of the leaves reaching a crescendo.
“Also a big unknown is how early will people start showing up? We’re right in the height of leaf season, and we’ve been very busy already,” Town Manager John Ward said.
Appalachian State faces a unique challenge because only a limited number of Mountaineers fans come from the area. The majority of the fan base makes a trek of two hours or more, coming from large alumni bases in Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham and the Triad: Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem.
Because of that, fans will likely leave work early Thursday, and in some cases, prepare to be late to work Friday or take the day off.
Along with the chance to move into the driver’s seat in the Sun Belt and become bowl eligible for the first time at the FBS level, the game also represents a marketing opportunity Appalachian State hasn’t had in awhile as the game has attracted some national attention.
According to Nielsen, ESPNU is in 73.5 million homes.
“Not a lot of people get to do this, on national television during the week, and we want Appalachian State to shine to all those people that might not have been a student here or an alum,” Reeder said. “Everybody loves to watch a weeknight football game as they wait for Saturday, and we get to be a part of people’s living rooms that might not know Appalachian State.”
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/asu