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  • Aaron S. Terry

Meares Stadium – Mars Hill Lions

Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Meares Stadium 220 Cascade St Mars Hill, NC 28754

Mars Hill Lions website

Meares Stadium website

Year Opened: 1965

Capacity: 5,000


D2’s Mars Hill Lions

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ammons Family Athletic Center & Meares Stadium was constructed in 1965 and most recently upgraded in 2020, when new turf and new lights were installed. Prior to that in 2007, a new press box, permanent visitors stands, and updated main stands were introduced. Meares Stadium is named after Carl Whittier Meares, an alumnus, trustee, and benefactor at Mars Hill, as well as a legislator and businessperson in the local community. The stadium currently seats 5,000 and the Mars Hill Lions currently compete in the South Atlantic Conference of the NCAA’s Division II football program.

Food & Beverage 4

Meares Stadium has a fixed concessions stand behind the southwest end zone (near the main entrance) which features Bojangles chicken sandwiches, nachos, pizza, and popcorn/chips/candy for $2 to $5, plus drinks for $3 (bottled soda or water plus hot cocoa/cappuccino). But a much wider selection can be found at the Southern Cross food truck behind the northeast end zone, including soup and cornbread, burgers, hot dogs, fried bologna sandwiches, fried potatoes, fried pickles, French fries, and even banana pudding – the prices at Southern Cross are higher than at the main stand, but the portion sizes are much bigger as well – I recommend Southern Cross over the main stand, as the Bojangles chicken sandwiches tend to be a little dry after being stored in a hotbox for a couple hours.

Meares Stadium Concessions, Photo by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey

Atmosphere 3

Meares Stadium has a solid atmosphere – though not a big facility it does have a modern press box and relatively new grandstands, and you are free to sit wherever you want, and can walk all the way around the facility if you want, to see the action up close as the game progresses. In fact, you can stand just a few feet away from the players as the team enters and exits the field. Mars Hill also has a mascot who walks around during the game (although oddly he seems to depart at the end of the third quarter), and a cheer squad complete with flags that they run across the field after scores, but no marching band. Also the scoreboard is not a videoboard, so you are not able to watch replays.

On the plus side the PA announcer plays great music throughout the game, including dance songs and hits from my second-favorite band Bowling for Soup, which I haven’t ever heard played at other stadiums.

Neighborhood 4

Mars Hill is a small town, but not far from I-26 so there are plenty of restaurants, hotels, etc. in the area, and it isn’t hard to go up the freeway an exit or two to find more if you need something specific. A few local favorites in the restaurant category include Wagon Wheel, Stackhouse, and Original Papa Nick’s Take Out, while not far from campus is a Comfort Inn if you plan to stay the night. The obvious tourist attraction around here is of course the Blue Ridge Mountains, with plenty of hiking and driving trails, including a few nice waterfalls, and of course if you want to drive 20 miles south into Asheville you can visit Biltmore.

Fans 3

Meares Stadium has a solid fanbase, and you can see plenty of blue being worn at the venue – gear is sold from a stand behind the southwest end zone if you need to pick up something. The visitor stands are a little less populated, but that is probably because the seats on the main side are a bit nicer, and the tickets don’t have any specific section assigned so you can sit wherever you want – in fact plenty of fans just stand behind the southwest end zone and watch from there.

While the stands are by no means full, the crowd is polite and respectful, and there is a good amount of crowd noise during big plays.

Access 4

It would be hard to find a venue which is easier to get in and out of than Meares Stadium – the only potential drawback is you might have to walk down a small hill to get to the stadium, as a lot of the free parking sits above the stadium (or you can walk along the road, but down the hill is the direct route). A lot of fans just park along a winding road south of the stadium, but since you can park there for free it is hard to complain. Also there is very little traffic in the area, which is another plus.

Once you get into the stadium itself there is plenty of room to move around and very short lines at the concessions, especially if you walk across to Southern Cross, which has no line at times. The only bathrooms are near the main gate, however, so be aware of that.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets to Mars Hill football are $15 – they only accept cash at the door, but you can buy online by purchasing in advance or by using your phone to scan a QR code, which is posted on a sign as you walk up to the main gate. A visit here is definitely well worth the price given the beautiful setting, ease of access, free parking, and low-cost concessions options.

Extras 3

One cool tradition at Mars Hill football is the small mountain lion statue behind the southwest end zone, which the players touch for luck as they go onto the field – you are welcome to touch it yourself or take a selfie with it, something you can’t do at larger stadiums.

Touching the Lion, Photo by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey

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