By Kaitlyn MullisSports Writer
(Editor’s Note: The following is the first part of an ongoing series where Western Carolinian sports writer Kaitlyn Mullis investigates why certain athletic facilities are named what they are.)
Every student on the Western Carolina University campus has seen the Ramsey Center. It is, needless to say, an imposing building, with its geometric architecture and enormous black windows, the host of many important events.
The center has housed numerous Catamount sporting events, major concerts and national touring acts. At each football game, the Ramsey Center stands guard over the field, the players, and their spectators. Each year, countless of the college’s freshmen walk into the building for orientation, hardly realizing that four years later, they will walk through the same doors and, instead of being handed their first-year summer reading program, they will be handed their diploma.
The Ramsey Center is arguably the most significant building on the Western Carolina campus for these and so many more reasons. But many of the spectators don’t truly know the history behind the Ramsey Center and all it has to offer.
The Ramsey Center was named “in honor of Liston B. Ramsey, a native of Madison County, who was a member of the NC state legislature and Speaker of the NC House of Representatives,” said Chip Smith, director of athletics at Western Carolina University, on how the Ramsey Center got its name. “Ramsey was an integral part of getting monies to Western Carolina for the Center.”
According to historical records, Ramsey was born in 1919 in Madison County and experienced a successful academic career in high school and at Mars Hill College. In World War II he served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Pacific Theater of the war and postwar, he was elected to the town board in Marshall, North Carolina. In 1960, he was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives, where he served 19 consecutive terms. In 1981, he became Speaker of the House and spent four terms in the position, a record that stands as a first for a North Carolina legislator. As Speaker, he worked to use state funds to improve the overlooked mountain counties of the state, building roads and other public facilities in rural areas.
The Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activities Center on the campus of Western Carolina University, built in 1986, is considered his greatest accomplishment during his tenure as Speaker of the House. Ramsey voluntarily retired from the House in 1999 and passed away in September of 2001. Along with the Center, a section of Interstate 26 running from Asheville, North Carolina to Johnson City, Tennessee was named in his honor.
The Ramsey Center took four years for its construction to be completed in April, 1986, and was dedicated in honor of the man who was held responsible for its funding in December of the same year. Costing 16.3 million dollars, it seats 7,826 for basketball games and up to 8,556 for major concerts. Along with housing the athletic department’s administrative offices, coaches’ offices, team locker rooms, and meeting facilities, it also contains an auxiliary gymnasium, handball and racquetball courts, a communications center, a firing range and weight rooms.
In the past five years, it has seen its 2007 Lady Catamounts’ Southern Conference champions women’s basketball team win 33 home games, the men’s basketball team win 39 home games, and the women’s volleyball team 33. It has been the site of numerous concerts that recently included big names like Jason Aldean, Corey Smith, Hinder, Puddle of Mudd, and Billy Currington. It also hosts numerous cultural, regional, and seasonal activities.