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WHAT’S GOING ON With the Broyhill? ‘Bittersweet’ Closing of Facility on Friday; Future Still Unknown

By Paul T. Choate

The final chapter on the closing of the Broyhill Events Center will be on Friday following the Board of Trustees meeting. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Dec. 12, 2012. This Friday, Dec. 14, the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees meeting will mark the final event at the Broyhill Events Center (formerly the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center) and end the final chapter on the complete closing of the facility even for university use.

Built in 1973, the Broyhill has hosted countless events over the past few decades here in the High Country. The facility has 83 guest rooms and 23 function rooms. 

About two-and-a-half years ago, ASU announced plans to close the facility and study the option of potentially using the hotel rooms for dormitories. However, upon looking into it, it became evident that preparing for state approval to meet code and compliance upgrades and other renovations would take more time and money than previously thought, so the dormitory idea was thrown out. 

Opened in 1973, the Broyhill served the community for various functions over the years until the end of the fall 2011 semester. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Last winter, the venue transitioned into a venue to be used exclusively for university purposes. After the fall 2011 semester, the facility was no longer to be used for community purposes such as meetings, conferences, expos, weddings and similar such events. It in essence became a venue for students to congregate and study and for university officials to hold meetings. 

According to Jeremy Dale, ASU assistant director for community and student staff development, when the facility transitioned from the inn and conference center to the events center the allowed uses were changed. While it was the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center, it was under a North Carolina Unsaid Act Exception, which allowed it to compete with private industry and host community events. However, the exception was cancelled upon it becoming the Broyhill Events Center.

The Broyhill has for some time been closing in stages. The restaurant closed last September, with the hotel closing last December with the transition to the Broyhill Events Center. 

Dale said the decision to close it ultimately came down to the approximately $14 million it would cost the university to renovate the facility. With the facility only being used for university functions, the Broyhill simply could not have generated enough revenue to pay for itself. 

The possibility of converting the Broyhill to a dormitory was at one point considered, but was ultimately deemed not to be a good idea. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Many university functions that have been held at the Broyhill will now transition into the new addition to the Plemmons Student Union, which is expected to be fully finished and operational by the end of February 2013. Dale said the decision to close at this specific time was so it would coincide with the end of the semester. 

“It’s a good time in the school calendar to make the transition because folks won’t have an interruption in their weekly meetings,” Dale said. 

As for what will become of much of the furniture and furnishings in the facility, since most of it was purchased with university funds it will likely just be relocated to other areas on campus. 

Cindy Venable, with ASU student programs reservations, has been with the Broyhill for the past 15 years and handled most of the reservations for the facility in recent years. She expressed sadness at the closing of the Broyhill.

“I started here in housekeeping and just kind of moved my way up through the building, and I was the last permanent employee. So it is very bittersweet just to see it go,” Venable said. 

Since being out of the picture as a host for community events, many groups who counted on the Broyhill as their annual meeting spot — such as Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants for their Charity Wine Expo and the Watauga County GOPs, among many others — have been forced to find a new spot. 

The restaurant portion of the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center shut down in September 2011. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Venable said she has observed that many of the groups who annually used the Broyhill, without it as an option, have been able to find new venues. 

“There’s really no doubt in my mind that people are moving on,” Venable said. 

Despite the community moving on post-Broyhill, there is certainly a void now in terms of a large facility to host community events. 

Dan Meyer, president/CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Broyhill closing has certainly impacted groups — especially larger groups — in the area who need a place to meet, but expressed gratitude to ASU for their many years allowing the community to use it. 

“We’re ingratiated to the university for having that facility for so long. It was certainly a real asset to meetings at that sort of thing here in the High Country. … The university was great to make that available to the community for uses,” Meyer said. “Hopefully this will spur talks to develop a new conference center somewhere in the Boone area.”

The future of the Broyhill is at present uncertain and will likely not be decided on until some time next semester at the earliest. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Meyer said talks of a new conference center have been “on-again off-again” for some time in the area, but said there are some developers in the area who have discussed that sort of thing. He also mentioned that there might be some discussion regarding the planned Middle Fork Falls Resort near Tweetsie Railroad for a potential conference center on the development.

The future of the Broyhill is still a total unknown. Dale said to his knowledge there is no one specific person overseeing the future of the facility, but that any major decisions would ultimately go back to university heads such as Chancellor Kenneth Peacock and the Board of Trustees. 

“Later on, after everything is moved out and everything is settled, they will continue to explore what they want to do with the place — if it’s renovation, if it’s tearing down the place, anything,” Dale said. “So, no further comment or knowledge about what is going to happen. It’s still completely uncertain.”