By Tim Gardner
With families putting down blankets and packing Miller Hill, which also doubles as the home for Appalachian State’s new state-of-the-art video board, the sights and sounds inside Kidd Brewer Stadium make for one of the most electric college football atmospheres in the country.
Crowds in excess of 30,000 are heading to the High Country to watch Appalachian State’s first-place team compete on a home field surrounded by visible stadium enhancements that have made the gameday experience in Boone even better.
The Mountaineers have played four times at Kidd Brewer Stadium this season, and the attendance has topped 30,000 on two occasions, including when Wake Forest’s first-ever trip to Boone drew a stadium-record 35,126 fans. Coastal Carolina’s visit for Family Weekend drew a crowd of 30,179.
“One of our goals as an administration is to give the passionate and loyal Appalachian fan base a first-rate gameday experience,” Director of Athletics Doug Gillin said. “With record-breaking crowds and generous support through our Mountaineer Impact initiative, we will continue to raise the bar.”
In just its fourth year since leaving Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) football to become a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) member, Appalachian State has continued the winning that led to three straight national championships a decade ago. Victories at The Rock, like beautiful fall Saturdays with views of the mountain leaves changing colors, are the standard.
Appalachian State has proven that it can both win consistently at the highest level of college football and attract high-profile visitors to Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The Mountaineers have prevailed in 24 of their last 26 Sun Belt Conference games, and a Power Five Conference team has played in Boone each of the last two seasons. Miami’s visit in September 2016 established a new single-game attendance record of 34,658, and that mark lasted until Wake Forest made the 88-mile trip to Boone last month. Moving forward, Appalachian State and the University of North Carolina have agreed to a series that includes the Tar Heels’ first-ever trip to Kidd Brewer Stadium in 2022.
With the Coastal Carolina crowd on October 21 ranking as the seventh-biggest attendance figure in Kidd Brewer Stadium history, the last 10 home games have attracted three of the seven biggest crowds.
A passionate student crowd makes The Rock a loud and difficult environment for visiting teams. There were 11,446 Appalachian State students in attendance for the Wake Forest game, for example. The total student enrollment is 18,811, counting undergraduate, graduate and distance education populations.
“We have had some awesome crowds,” head coach Scott Satterfield said. “It’s a great home-field advantage for us. They (our fans) really get into the games.”
Last year, Appalachian State led the nation in home attendance relative to stadium capacity, and the Mountaineers are averaging 27,050 fans per home game this season. The season record of 26,358 occurred in 2012.
The season averages started to climb during Appalachian State’s run to three straight FCS national titles, jumping from 17,917 in 2005 to 20,546 in 2006 and 24,219 in 2007. The Mountaineers have averaged at least 21,459 fans per home game in each of the last 11 seasons, and they led the Sun Belt last season.
Thanks to philanthropic funding through A Mountaineer Impact, A Drive for Excellence, Kidd Brewer Stadium has a new and improved look in 2017.
The video board display is three times the size of the previous board with 2,500 square feet to feature 13HD technology from Daktronics. It measures 50 feet high by 90 feet wide for the overall scoreboard, with the new LED display measuring more than 37 feet high by 67 feet wide.
Among the other enhancements to Kidd Brewer Stadium, there are new ribbon displays, a custom audio system, new ATMs and new suite-level chair backs.
The combination of on-field success and gameday environment has allowed the Mountaineers to play in front of large, lively crowds each time they’ve taken the field at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
And with history usually repeating itself, that’s a trend likely to continue.