Division I Diatribes-Fansville

I think most people have seen the Dr Pepper commercials about “Fansville”, a football obsessed town that is part satire part marketing ploy, but, let me tell you about some places that are Fansvilles.

Everyone remembers when Appalachian State defeated Michigan back in 2007. App State had very few fans in Ann Arbor that day, but they did have a lot of fans watching the game in restaurants, bars, and various places on campus in Boone, North Carolina (population 15,000 residents at that time). When App State defeated the Wolverines that day, Downtown Boone exploded in joy and students marched to Kidd Brewer stadium, tore down the goal posts, marched them over the University Chancellor’s home, and planted them on his front lawn. Stunned but amused and of course happy that his school’s football team had pulled off one of the biggest upsets in sports history, he was watching the game at the App State stadium parking lot with students and when he found out a set of football uprights were in his front yard said “It’s all right,” Kenneth Peacock said, after celebrating with hundreds of Mountaineers fans in the parking lot outside the school’s football stadium late Saturday night. “As good as today was for Appalachian State, they can take it up there and put it down. I can’t wait to get there and see it!”

Now, that is a great administrator.

App State made big news again when this Group of 5 school went to Kyle Field and (puke) beat Texas A&M in front of 100,000 fans. When that game was over, the bars and restaurants of Downtown Boone poured out into the streets in a massive celebration. Just Check Twitter or Youtube. Or See Below.

Another Example is when the great Lion Wideout Billy Minor talks about playing in his first Playoff game against Pittsburg State in 1990. How the entire town was colored in gold and red, especially downtown. How Pittsburg was the ultimate college town and the entire town was out and about. This is what Downtown Pittsburg looks like the day before the games. Look at the Downtown area and the spirit of the school on Gameday.

Commerce is not quite the size of Pittsburg, a couple thousand people more and about the same size in area, and Boone is about twice the size in population and area. However, having a robust downtown and it being a place where Lion fans can get together on home or away games to root on The Lions is something that many of us would love to see.

Commerce IS a college town, and on Friday and Saturday nights, Downtown Commerce is home to some big parties and a lot of students making their way to places like The Rail off Main Street, The Spot on Washington, or the Drunken Mule. Bands have played there, and on those nights, there are a lot of students that descend on the area and make it really come alive.

So, this is somewhere where the college spirit is alive, but what about the Lions spirit? Several businesses such as Mugs Coffee shop have really embraced the spirit and do a great job making the area be very friendly to the Blue and Gold, but what about a tailgate area? What about a block party to watch the away games in the Downtown area?

Best yet, I would love to see someone take one of the older buildings that nobody uses and turn it into a school themed Bar and Grill. Fill the inside with memorabilia of old ETSU and new TAMUC stuff. Shut the restaurant down on Gamedays and have an outdoor tailgate (weather permitting) and then move to the Stadium to sell food. Hey, it is an idea.

From what I have been able to see, Commerce is the smallest Division I town in America. However, that might change, this is from the Commerce Development Board-

With a 12.5% growth in population over the last decade, and no new developments during that time, Commerce does not currently have a robust housing inventory. Lisenbee reports that this is an obstacle the city is working to overcome, sharing that a major developer, Bloomfield Homes, is bringing a 270-home development to the community, while another 60-home subdivision, by Countryside Development, is also in the works. He acknowledges, “With the projects we have on the ground right now, we’ll be adding 320 to 330 homes in the next couple years, which will be a major benefit. I’ve got two commercial developers that build apartments that are both aggressively looking at our community, to take on apartment complexes. That will help solve some of the housing challenges in our city as it grows.”

Development is also underway in the city’s downtown, where a mixed-use strategy is already being implemented in several commercial buildings. “I’ve got a million dollar project that I’m in the middle of right now to just improve some of the public spaces that facilitate events,” says Lisenbee. “We are actively trying to renovate the infrastructure for our downtown. The business climate started growing a couple of years ago, so it’s definitely coming alive in a very real and tangible way.”

So, it looks like the people are coming, now it is just time for the alums, students, and community members to make it a reality. I have often thought of settling down in Commerce. It has everything I would need and with it’s location on the outer edges of the DFW metro area, a town of 30,000 people 15 miles down the road, a city of 50,000 30 miles down the road, and a major US City 60 miles down the road, I could find enough space to breath, but close enough to have something to do. The biggest thing is for the town to realize what a gift the University is and has been to the area, and celebrate it, not just accept it. So many people who move to Commerce from other areas to work for the School scratch their heads as to the lack of Community support from the school, and in the past, the student body. In the words of the great Lion QB Bob Bounds, we need to be Division I in all aspects. The athletics, the town, the school, the fan base, the alumni, the giving, and the community. We might not be a Division I town in terms of population, but we can certainly be a Division I town in terms of quality. The potential is there. Let’s turn potential into reality.

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