ASU's Convocation Center - Largest Single Construction Project in Watauga History

Spanning the years 1993 through 1999, and the intersection of Rivers Street and Blowing Rock Road, Appalachian State University's George M. Holmes Convocation Center is the largest, costliest, and most controversial structure ever built in the High Country.

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Now approaching a completion date slated for August, 2000, the Convo center has always represented enviable progress for some, and intractable problems for others.

When an ASU study group met in 1993, they determined the need for the sports/entertainment/classroom/meeting complex at a time of continued growth for the university. That report coincided with the arrival at ASU of Vice-chancellor for Business Affairs Jane Helm, on whose desk the project fell.

Planning started immediately. And with that announcement came the protests; from in and outside the university a loose-knit coalition of environmentalists, students, faculty, and citizens worried about its impact on traffic, parking, flooding, and the aesthetics of the corner regarded as the entrance to both the town and college.

The university promised, and devised, flood mitigation and a greenspace in an area – floodplain - already prone to this chronic problem, but critics charged the loss of the ballfield would still make flooding worse downstream, in the town.

When the North Carolina General Assembly approved $35 million in funding in 1994, university officials declared the project a reality. And so it has proved to be true, as two years ago this month ground was broken on the 200,000 square foot facility December 5, 1997.

This week, residents and visitors alike can see a nearly completed exterior and surroundings, with Rivers Street re-routed, the entry-way park in place, and the stone, brick, and now ASU trademark green roof making an impressive statement.

The multiple-use facility will house the new basketball and sports arena, holding upwards of 9,000 people, and constructed to also host circuses, trade shows, concerts, and other ASU and community functions. It will become the home of the university's Health & Leisure Studies Department, including testing and observation laboratories, offices, meeting spaces, and classrooms.

More than 50,000 square feet of the facility have been constructed to meet these academic needs. Starting in the 2000-2001 school year, both the men's and women's basketball teams and programs will be centered, and perform, at the Convo Center. The first event scheduled for summer, 2000, is an event featuring Boone's own Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and head of Samaritan's Purse.

And for those worried about parking, only seventy-five new spaces have been allocated on the premises, but new parking lots and garages are planned for just off Rivers Street in the immediate future. The convo center will no doubt come to define many changes of life in Watauga County, but one constant change above all; that growth is here to stay.

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