History

Convocation Biography

Welcome to the Holmes Center Biography. Here you will find interesting facts on the construction, history and plans for the Holmes Convocation Center. Check back often, as this will be an ever-changing area of the website.

Timeline...

  • 1986 -- Student population and HLES department start outgrowing Varsity Gym.
  • 1987 -- NC Rep. David Diamont discusses renovating Varsity Gym; high cost leads to plan for new building.
  • 1994 -- NC Legislature appropriates $9.75 million for student activity center; original site above Kidd Brewer Stadium rejected for environmental concerns; committee formed to determine how center could best serve needs of university and region.
  • 1995 -- NC Rep. George Holmes gains support to fund convocation center; legislature appropriates $20.6 million; engineering study says center will have minimal impact on town's floodway.
  • 1996 -- Architectural drawings finalized.
  • 1997 -- Bids awarded for construction; legislature allocates additional $5 million, based on 1995 funding plan.
  • December 1997 -- Ground breaking.
  • January 1998 -- Construction begins.
  • March 1998 -- ASU board of trustees names center for Rep. Holmes and arena for benefactor Seby B. Jones.
  • Fall 2000 -- Convocation Center Opens.

The History of the George M. Holmes Convocation Center and the Seby Jones Arena - 15 years in the making

It took almost 15 years to build the George M. Holmes Convocation Center.

In 1986, Appalachian State University officials began exploring ways to enhance academic offerings within its department of health, leisure and exercise science and renovate Varsity Gym.

Built in 1968, the gym was designed as a multipurpose facility to serve the campus's 5,500-student population. As the university's enrollment grew and student interest in the department of health, leisure and exercise science increased, the building no longer met the university's academic or recreational needs.

In mid-1987 university officials met with N.C. Rep. David Diamont to discuss renovating the gymnasium. Appalachian received $300,000 from the General Assembly to plan the building's renovation. However, after determining that the project would cost more than $12 million, legislators recommended that a new facility be constructed.

In 1994, with the support of Diamont, Rep. Wade Wilmoth, Rep Andy Cromer, Sen. Sandy Sands, Sen. Fred Folger and others, the Legislature appropriated $9.75 million to begin construction of a student activity center.

The originally proposed site for the center, above the football stadium on a site now occupied by the university's baseball field, was rejected amid concerns that it would negatively impact an area used for environmental study by several academic departments.

That opposition proved fortuitous for the HLES department. As originally conceived, the student activity center did not include any space for academics.

A broad-based committee was formed in the spring of 1994 to determine what type of facility would meet the needs of the university and region. The committee recommended a facility that would support the university's commitment to excellence in teaching and research; support the university's charge to promote the intellectual, cultural and personal growth of students through curricular and extracurricular activities; and support cultural, educational, recreational and other programs of public service to the local and regional community.

From this report, and the input of faculty and others, evolved the convocation center.

An economic impact study completed in August 1994 indicated that the center's construction could generate $5 million in revenue for Watauga County Businesses.

In 1995, Rep. George M. Holmes gained support for a plan to fund over a two-year period the remaining convocation center costs. The Legislature adopted a funding package allocating $20.6 million in 1995 and an additional $5 million 1997. Combined with a $600,000 reimbursement from the N.C. Department of Transportation for right-of-way grading and reserves held by the university, the project was completely funded.

An engineering study completed in 1995 by Ogden Environmental and Engineering Services reported that the convocation center site, located on portions of the former baseball field near Rivers Street and U.S. 321, would have minimal impact on the town's floodway. A flood mitigation project was developed that opened Boone Creek, created a park near the campus entrance that also serves as a rainwater catch basin, realigned Rivers Street and improved rainwater drainage through a series of box culverts near the new site.

By November 1996, architectural drawings were finalized and in October 1997 bids were awarded for the center's construction.

Ground breaking for the new facility was held in December 1997. Construction began in January 1998. In March 1998, Appalachian's board of trustees named the center for Holmes and the arena for Seby B. Jones, former chair of Appalachian's board of trustees and a longtime supporter of university programs and activities.

The convocation center totals 200,840 square feet, including 48,830 square feet of academic space and will seat between 8,500 to 9,313, depending on the seating configuration used. The building can accommodate conventions, trade shows, concerts and athletic events.

George M. Holmes: A 'People' Person

Sports brought George M. Holmes to Boone. A commitment to public service has kept him in the region ever since.

The Mount Airy native was playing professional "D" league baseball when he learned about Appalachian State Teachers College from a teammate who recommended the school.

Holmes attended Appalachian from 1950-54 and received a football scholarship for the 1950-51 and 1951-52 seasons. He taught at West Yadkin High School and coached football, basketball, and baseball from 1954-56. He joined the W.N. Ireland Insurance Agency in 1956 and later became its president and co-owner.

The Hamptonville resident represents Alexander, Wilkes and Yadkin counties as a member of the N.C. House of Representatives 41st District.

Friends say that early on Holmes had the skills necessary to be a successful politician. He is a "people" person and a hard worker, according to friend and classmate Bryan Houck of Gastonia, former Appalachian board of trustees member and retired Bell South executive.

"George was always a good leader, popular and had wisdom and good judgment," Houck said. "He is highly respected by both parties and has as many Democrats for friends as Republicans," Houck said. "He also is a good student of history and government."

Holmes' years on the appropriations committee allowed him to have a great voice in determining the state's budget, Houck said.

"George has been a steady, loyal supporter of his alma mater," said Chancellor Francis T. Borkowski. "He has done a great deal for his alma mater. Through his very clear support for equity funding, Appalachian and four other universities in the state received their fair share of the education budget. We benefit annually from the increased dollars that the change in the state's funding formula brought to campus."

Holmes was instrumental in the university's efforts to keep its doctoral program in higher education when consultants recommended dropping the program, Borkowski said. "School superintendents and principals lobbied and worked for Appalachian to maintain this program, but George's leadership role in the House had a tremendous influence in our ability to maintain the doctoral program, which is a very critical program for this portion of the state."

Borkowski called Holmes "the catalyst" in securing funding for the convocation center.

"He has been a staunch advocate for Appalachian, and we have obviously made progress with the role he has played in the Legislature," Borkowski said. "There isn't much subtlety on his part about his advocacy for the university. He's very open in saying that Appalachian for years did not have the kind of legislative support it needed."

Holmes was first elected to state office in 1975. He has since served as a state representative continuously since 1979. He was minority party whip from 1981-82 and minority party joint caucus leader from 1983-84. He was senior co-chair of the House Appropriations Committee from 1995-96 and 1997-98, and served on the governor's budget advisory commission for 12 years, including two years as chairman.

He currently is a member of the Appropriations, Insurance, Judiciary III, Public Utilities, Technology, Transportation and the Children, Youth and Families committees, and serves on the Select Committee on the Tobacco Settlement, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Information Technology.

In 1995 the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research ranked Holmes fourth in overall effectiveness in the House of Representatives. He was recognized by Wilkes County and the Town of Wilkesboro in 1997 for obtaining $4 million in state funds to remove and clean a hazardous waste site.

He received Appalachian's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995, and in 1996 received the N.C. Senior Tarheel Legislative Award for Exemplary Leadership. Other honors include the Long Leaf Pine Award in 1992, the Yadkin Chamber of Commerce Public Service Award in 1993, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Exemplary Service awards in 1995 and the National Federation of Independent Business Guardian of Small Business in 1997-98 and 1999-2000.

New facility is one of largest in NWNC. To Eddie Crawford, the possibilities seem endless.

The director of Appalachian State University's new George M. Holmes Convocation Center sees an array of events beyond the traditional pomp and circumstances surrounding convocation and graduation.

"This is truly a multi-purpose center for the community and region," he said. "It will be what the university, town, county and region want it to be.

"We can bring almost anything here because of this facility's versatility: arena football, ice shows, motocross, rodeos, the circus, political rallies, student fairs, regional sports tourneys, cook-offs, or charity events."

The center can also serve as a large relief shelter in the event of floods, fire, ice, snow or other emergency circumstances.

"We will be there in times of need. With our emergency generators, lighting and heat, we have the ability to serve as one of the largest shelters in the region," Crawford said.

But, most people will know the center as a gathering place for fun and fellowship. The arena's concrete floor can support most any event brought by a touring company.

"The rodeos haul in dirt, put down protective walls for the retractable seating and then you're ready for one of the best nights of entertainment for the whole family," Crawford said. "Ice shows are a possibility. We don't have an ice floor, but there are touring groups with their own ice floors and we'll try to get them here."

Concerts will be a mainstay of the facility. The center has its own stage. "Some artists may bring their own stage and set up for a concert in the round, others might use our stage to set up at one end and play out to the rest of the arena," Crawford said.

Other events might include trade shows, car shows, and fairs that will make use of both the arena floor and the concourse. "Vendors can set up booths and tables on the arena floor and all the way around the arena along the concourse," Crawford said. "We can set up dining lines, information booths or eating areas."

The arena is a natural setting for political rallies, charity events or other speaking events.

"I would like to see a cook-off or pancake supper by a local club like the Lions or Kiwanis," he said. "The last arena I worked for had an annual Kiwanis breakfast that pushed 8,000 people through for breakfast.

"We already have scheduled a two-day college fair for area high school students that will bring 6,000 students through the building."

The building's design accommodates large events such as the circus, which requires large doors for elephants and ceiling clearance for high wire acts.

Sporting events will make use of the building's versatility, too.

As home to the Mountaineer men's and women's basketball teams, the center will see lots of hoops action. "I foresee big high school rivalry games being held here and regional tournaments, too," Crawford said. "We could handle major high school wrestling, volleyball, gymnastics events, or arena football.

The university's track team will practice on the indoor track, which includes space for pole vaulting.

Curtains will be added to the arena in the future to accommodate sporting events with smaller crowds. "Without the curtains a sporting event with a small crowd might be better served in Varsity Gym because the massive space of the arena take away from the home team advantage," Crawford said. "When we add the curtains we will be able to shrink and divide the space and even have two events going on at once."

Crawford said that when Appalachian teams make major play-off or tournament games such as the NCAA basketball tournament, Mountaineer fans could watch a live feed of the game on a giant screen.

The center has several meeting rooms for small groups to use for alumni gatherings during football and basketball season.

In addition to hosting community and sporting events, the center will contain classrooms, labs and faculty office space for students and faculty in the Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science.

University events held in the facility will include convocation, graduation, student concerts and fairs, open houses, and camp and career fairs. Future events that are part of An Appalachian Summer Festival could use the arena, too he said.

Crawford said there won't be many events this fall because of the advance notice needed to book events. He plans to use the time to work out any kinks before a full schedule begins.

"This first year will be used to get the facility running smoothly and to prepare for a full season starting next fall," he said. As time goes on you'll see more and more events being held here.

"Ideally, we would love to have two events a week. But at first maybe just two or three events a month."

How public can use facility:

To book an event at the George M. Holmes Convocation Center, call director Eddie Crawford at (828) 262-2030 or e-mail crawfrdjd [at] appstate [dot] edu.

Crawford will set up an appointment to discuss dates, rates and staffing issues.

"As with most things, the earlier you call us, the more likely you'll be able to get your event into the center on a date you like," Crawford said.

Once a date, rates and staffing solutions are created, a contract is drawn up to finalize the process.

The university will create a web page this fall with information on booking, rates and dates.

An advisory board will review all events before booking them.

"We will bring any event that the town, the community and the university will support," Crawford said. "Any questionable event will be screened by the advisory board."

Convocation Center Advisory Board members are:

  • Eddie Crawford, center director, chairman
  • Mark Dreibelbis
  • Dave Robertson
  • Jane Nicholson
  • Vaughn Christian
  • Mike Evans
  • Perry Mixter
  • Bill Cummings
  • Bill Post
  • John Cooper
  • Vaughn Hayes

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