Rocky Gets a New Doghouse
UNC Asheville Enters a New Era—and Arena—for Basketball
A new era in Bulldog basketball began this weekend, with men’s and women’s home games in the new Kimmel Arena, and a capacity crowd cheering as the Bulldog men took on the UNC Tar Heels in a nationally televised game.
It was a weekend of aiming high for Coach Eddie Biedenbach’s men’s team, first traveling to Raleigh Friday night to take on the always-tough N.C. State Wolfpack, and then coming home to face the Tar Heels – the nation’s top-ranked team – in the opening game at Kimmel. The Bulldogs played the role of tough underdogs in both games, but ultimately fell to N.C. State by a 84-75 score, and lost 91-75 to the Tar Heels.
Nonetheless, with the Bulldogs favored to repeat as Big South Conference champions, fans, players and coaches have high hopes. “Almost every year that I’ve been here, we’ve played better and better as the season went on,” said Biedenbach. “I’m proud of that, and I know that if we play as well as we can, we can win our championship and go on to the NCAA tournament. We have four returning starters this year, and they’re all better than they were last year. Our [substitute players] are all better than they were, and we’ve had a good recruiting year.”
Biedenbach says that Kimmel Arena has definitely had an impact on recruiting talented new players. “The recruiting class from last year definitely looked at us and said ‘They’re moving in the right direction,’” he said. “It’s definitely going to help us with recruiting this year and moving forward."
The new arena also has the women’s team looking up. As Coach Betsy Blose told the Asheville Citizen-Times, “We look at it as a fresh beginning and the start of a transformation of this program.” Players like junior Grace Blaylock are also excited about the new arena: “It’s got such a great feel to it, and I know it’s going to help recruiting.” Blaylock looked right at home in the women’s home opener at Kimmel, hitting six three-pointers. Kelli Riles led the Bulldogs with 21 points and 24 rebounds as they defeated the Lady Rams of Winston-Salem State, 83-74.
Like the players, UNC Asheville fans will find attending games at the new Kimmel Arena to be a very different experience. The most notable change is seating—not just where fans are sitting, but how it’s being organized through reserved seating.
“Now, when you get your ticket, you’re assigned a seat,” says Aaron Sanders, facility manager of the Sherrill Center, which houses Kimmel Arena. “So it’s not like the old days where you were afraid to get up and go to the concession stand because you might lose your spot.” What’s more, Kimmel is large enough to feel like an arena, but it’s not so big that any fans will be stuck in the proverbial nosebleed section.
From now on, student seating (a.k.a. The Doghouse) will be located in the bleacher sections behind both baskets. Students waited in line and roughly 800 received free tickets for the men’s home season opener. The remainder of the sellout crowd included alumni, friends of the university, visiting state officials, and thousands of fans of great basketball who came to watch the start of a very promising UNC Asheville men’s basketball season.
“Because of this building, it’s given our team a better opportunity to be good—a better opportunity to be proud of themselves, the facilities, and the school,” said Biedenbach. “Now it’s up to us to make that work.”
Bulldog fans also now have an official spot to purchase team gear—Rocky’s Doghouse located near the arena entrance. The arena also has two concession stands, and there will be some local food vendors as well. Bring cash or plan to use the Home Trust Bank ATM located outside of the Sherrill Center. Credit cards are not accepted at Sherrill Center concession stands. There will not be re-entry once inside the building, so you'll not be able to return to the ATM if necessary once you have entered.
Even the UNC Asheville Bulldogs fight song is different. Now it has lyrics. Recently, Professor of Mathematics (and Rocky the Bulldog’s handler) Ed Johnson hosted a contest to put words to our song. Assistant Professor of Music Lyn Burkett wrote the winning lyrics. Get ready to commit them to memory.
They’re stronger and faster and smarter than the rest
Let’s hear it for our Bulldog team!
Though fierce competition may put them to the test
We’ll never let them lose their steam!
So let’s hear your hands!
Let’s hear your feet!
Lift your voices high!
For Asheville, go forward, and do the mountains proud
And take our team to victory!