The relationship between a professional sports franchise and its fans is one of crucial importance to the franchise if they wish to remain a part of that community. This relationship is even more critical when that franchise is not in one of the four major sports leagues; NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.
For the High Country Grizzlies, Boone’s new professional arena football franchise, cultivating that relationship has started long before their first game.
High Country Grizzlies Tryouts.
The Grizzlies announced they were bringing professional football to Boone last spring. Once they were locked in to play in the National Arena League starting in the spring of 2017, they put the gears in motion to start establishing that relationship with, and create fans in, the High Country.
It started with getting players moved into, and working in, the community, part owner Bryan Bouboulis said.
“2 players, Brandon Sutton and Ethan Farmer, work with Grandfather Childrens Home; our quarterback, Stephen Panasuck, works with Carolina West; Cody Sterrett, a local kid works at stickboy; so the players are moving here and making their lives here,” Bouboulis said.
Once the players are here and settled they are getting involved in different things around the community. Players are working with boy scouts helping them earn badges, including their sports merit badge, Bouboulis said. Dexter Jackson, a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness, has a foundation that he runs working with school-age kids helping them with sports training.
Bouboulis talked about plans to work with Watauga County Parks and Recreation on doing youth football clinics in the future.
The Grizzlies as an organization are implementing some programs to involve the franchise with local youth.
David Ricker, Director of Sales, is leading a school reading program called the Cubs Club where Margaret Moore, former Appalachian State Head Coach Jerry Moore’s wife, goes around to schools in Watauga, Ashe and Avery counties and reads to the first grade classes.
The program also sets reading goals for students to read a certain number of books or for a certain amount of time. One of the team’s sponsors, Subway, has partnered with the Cubs Club program to put on a party for classes who reach their goals.
Cubs Club program reading to a first grade class.
The Grizzlies also will have the Junior Honeys program where girls ages 6 to 14 can work with the franchise’s dance team, the High Country Honeys.
Brandon Kop, a parent of six children, said he is excited for the Grizzlies to come to Boone. “The kids love live sports and going to all kinds of App games, so we are excited to go to some Grizzlies games and watch a different kind of football.”
Head Coach Josh Resignalo mentioned having six players who have previously lived in Boone, three former Appalachian State football players and three former Hibriten High School football players, will be nice to give people some familiar faces on the field.
Bouboulis said they want the Grizzlies to be the community’s team and they are working hard to make it feel that way. That is all they can do until players report for physicals on February 27. Until then, they have to build the relationship the best they can.
Field unveiling at The Holmes Center on Appalachian State University's campus.