Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, is about a 30-minute drive from Beech Mountain. App State fields men's and women's NCAA Division I varsity sports at the highest level, competiting in the Sun Belt Conference. In football, the ASU Mountaineers won three straight NCAA FCS national championships between 2005 and 2007, and also upset the University of Michigan during that span. In 2013, the Mountaineers made the jump to big-time athletics with a move from the Southern Conference to the Sun Belt Conference. As a member of the Sun Belt, App State is eligible to compete in post-season bowl games and hosts regular home games against such teams as Georgia Southern, Arkansas State, South Alabama and Georgia State. Tailgating is a big draw before games at the 25,000-seat Kidd Brewer Stadium, which is also known as "The Rock."
Appalachian State's George M. Holmes Convocation Center is a state-of-the-art baskerball arena that seats 8,325 for men's and women's basketball games each winter. During spring, the Mountaineers' baseball team plays home games at the $5-million Jim and Bettie Smith Stadium on campus.
Lees McRae College
Lees-McRae College in nearby Banner Elk, NC, is a small private college attended by more than 900 students from approximately 20 states and countries. The four-year liberal arts college fields eight men's varsity sports and nine women's varsity sports at the NCAA Division II level. The Bobcats compete in Conference Carolinas, which is made up of similar-sized institutions in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Lees-McRae's basketball teams play home games on campus at the Williams Gymnasium, and the softball team competes at the picturesque Bobcat Field on campus. Lees-McRae's mountain biking team is a powerhouse that regularly competes for the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Biking National Championship at the Division I level.
Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway, located about an hour away in Bristol, Tenn., is a NASCAR short track with seating for 160,000 and parking for more than 12,000 vehicles. Known as the “World’s Fasted Half Mile,” the concrete track held its first NASCAR race in 1961. Despite its small size, Bristol’s extraordinarily steep banking and other distinctive features make the track one of the most popular in NASCAR.