Montreat College making improvements to sports complex

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Lights at Howard Fisher Memorial Field are one of the improvements made to Montreat College’s Pulliam Stadium in Black Mountain recently.

Bleachers with a seating capacity of 500, a sky box with a "bird’s nest" above are the latest additions to the sports complex. A parking lot east of the softball fields is next.

“We believe our facility is one of the finest in the region,” said Jose Larios, Montreat College’s athletic director. “In order for us to use it to its full capacity, we needed parking, lights and bleachers.”

The improvements to the complex, which was completed in 2016 on the college’s Black Mountain campus, will allow it to accommodate large events, like the Appalachian Athletic Conference Championships for track and field this April.

Twelve other schools from the AAC will travel to Black Mountain for the two-day event, which should increase the number of overnight visitors to Buncombe County, county officials believe. The possibility of attracting overnight guests to the county led the county Tourism Development Authority to award a $350,000 grant to Montreat College for the project in October 2016.

“We’ve added lights to both fields there,” Larios said. “We’re currently adding the seats, the press box and the sound system. The next part is parking, which will be just east of the softball field. We’ll be starting that in the next few weeks.”

Also coming to the complex will be a shot put ring and a discus and hammer throwing cage, Larios added.

The facility itself, which includes a Beynon track surface, allowed Montreat to expand its track and field programs last year. Athletics are a key piece of the liberal arts educational experience at Montreat, according to Larios.

“Right now approximately 70 percent of the students on our campus are student-athletes,” he said. “We definitely value the role of athletics in their education. There are a lot of lessons and values learned on the field, such as teamwork and things like that. We think that’s special here.”

The sports complex will affect the community beyond attracting guests from out of town, he believes.

“We’re also working with Asheville Christian Academy and the possibility of hosting some (North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association) state championships,” Larios said. “We’re working with the county and Owen (High School) to host some track meets here. And we’d like to maybe host a Buncombe County championship meet. We want this to be a win for all of us here.”

The college glimpsed the future of the complex when temporary bleachers were used in October for the dedication of the stadium to its namesake, Rusty Pulliam.

"The timing of that ceremony coincided with homecoming, so we wanted to make sure we had seats to accommodate the crowd," Larios said. "We were able to leave those bleachers up when we hosted the conference cross country championship a couple of weeks later."

Pulliam graduated from Montreat in 1978 and was inducted into the college's athletic hall of fame in 2002. His contribution of $750,000 to the $2 million project was one of the largest by an alumnus in the history of the school.

The remaining funding for the initial phase of the complex came from an anonymous donor.

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