By Jesse Wood
The High Country Grizzlies inaugural season in the National Arena League begins in about six weeks, and its first home game in the Holmes Convocation Center takes place on March 25.
Recently, Grizzlies management unveiled the indoor turf field in the coliseum, which will be able to accommodate a sellout crowd of about 6,100 people. The Mountaineers hardwood basketball court must be disassembled and assembled before and after each game.
“It was absolutely a dream. As Don [majority owner, Donald Thompson] said, ‘It’s a dream come true,’” Grizzlies General Manager William Thompson (no relation) said, speaking to seeing the football field come to life after the unveiling and after months of anticipation.
Thompson said that about three dozen players will arrive in Boone in a few weeks. After physicals are conducted, a two-week training camp begins, running into the middle of March, several days before a trimmed-down roster of 21 takes on the Georgia Firebirds in Albany, Ga.
Thompson noted the high caliber players the Grizzlies have signed, such as Dexter Jackson, an former App State wideout who had a big game during the Michigan upset and who was drafted in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We are ready to compete today,” Thompson said.
The Grizzlies football games have been promoted as an off-season activity, something fun to do with the family during a time of year when the tourism hub of the High Country is quiet – and also a time when pigskin action isn’t happening at Kidd Brewer Stadium or Bank of America Stadium, home of the Charlotte Panthers.
“It’s a great fit. Boone is a crazy football town thanks to App State: three national championships, and of course, the greatest upset to beat Michigan,” minority owner Bryan Bouboulis said during a recent interview.
“Our season, March through June, you never know what you are going to get. One day is shorts, tee shirts and flip-flops, and the next day you are in a coat hitting the ski slopes again. We wanted something you can do no matter what the weather … It’s a good fit for the community and a great fit for this area.”
The National Arena League is also in its inaugural season and features seven other teams: Columbus Lions out of Georgia; LeHigh Valley Steelhawks in Pennsylvania; Dayton Wolfpack in Ohio; Georgia Firebirds in Albany, Ga.; Corpus Christi Rage out of Texas; Jacksonville Sharks in Florida; and Monterrey Steel in Mexico.
High Country Grizzlies will play 12 games, including six at home. Season tickets are on sale and Den Club Memberships are available. For more details on tickets and memberships, click here.