By Nathan Ham
Two teams clashed on the gridiron Saturday afternoon at Kidd Brewer Stadium, but only a handful of upperclassmen parents, media members, and construction crew workers saw anything happening from their socially distanced locations throughout the stadium.
Appalachian State beat Charlotte 35-20 in the team’s season opener, but fans had to settle for watching the game on television or listening on the radio as only 50 spectators were at the game, all of those being parents of junior and senior players.
As the teams took the field, Appalachian State had several players take a knee in their continued fight against racial injustice.
Prior to the game, the national anthem and the fight song was played, but the band was there only in video highlights on the scoreboard. There was no public address announcer detailing who caught passes, who made tackles, or who scored touchdowns throughout the game. If you were not paying attention to each play of the game, you were probably having a hard time keeping up with what was happening without announcements over the loudspeaker.
Inside the stadium, the artificial crowd noise was much more noticeable than on television. For fans watching on TV, some said the atmosphere felt more like watching a scrimmage or a practice rather than a competitive game between two programs that are quickly becoming local rivals. However, you could definitely hear sideline chatter, pads crunching and big-play celebrations unlike at any point in years past with a stadium full of screaming fans.
Seeing the first game on television also gave Mountaineer fans a quick look at the major upgrades that are continuing at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Fans got their first game action on the brand new turf that was installed at the stadium in August, as well as the view of the field without the track that used to encircle the turf. The track has since been dug up and moved to the Highway 105 App State property where track meets will take place. Finally, fans also got to see the tremendous progress being made on the North End Zone project. The $50 million project has completely transformed that end of the field from the days of the old Owen Field House to what will eventually be an 80,000-100,000 square-foot space for different athletic and academic uses.
Outside the stadium, parking lots were empty after the school announced last week that no tailgating would be allowed for the first two home games in September. That included fans parking in the stadium and watching the game on a television screen set up in the parking lot. Fans were encouraged to visit local restaurants and bars that are Mountaineer affiliates.