Current (and Defunct) Teams That Have Called Asheville Home
Asheville has become renowned nationwide for a diverse range of unique attributes. From its characteristically beautiful locale at the intersection of The Smoky Mountain Range and the Blue Ridge Mountains to its eclectic and charming downtown replete with local breweries, coffee shops, boutiques, and live music venues, the town certainly has established quite the reputation. But did you know that athletics have also played an important role in shaping the history and culture of Asheville? Many professional sports teams both past and present have called Asheville home, and for some, their legacy in town has impacted the growth of Asheville in both dramatic and surprising ways.
Remembering The Asheville Smoke
Though its tenure was relatively short, The Asheville Smoke made quite an impact as Asheville’s first United Hockey League team, playing at The Asheville Civic Center from 1998 to 2002. The team was coached by Keith Gretzky (brother of renowned hockey legend Wayne Gretzky) and had a banner year in 2000 with 45 wins and only 22 losses, a record that brought The Smoke to the final round of League championships before a devastating loss. Financial struggles and a strained relationship with the Asheville Civic Center brought about the ultimate demise of the franchise in 2002. Yet the popularity of the team spurred the creation of The Asheville Aces, a Southern Professional Hockey League team created in 2004. Unfortunately, neither The Smoke nor The Aces were meant to last long in Asheville, as The Aces’ franchise was disbanded after only one year in 2005 thanks to mediocre ticket sales.
A Short-Lived Legacy for The Carolina Ghostriders
Indoor football may ultimately not have been meant for Asheville, as its only team, The Carolina Ghostriders, lasted just one year. The Ghostriders (originally The Carolina Sharks) began in Charlotte in 2005. The team folded quickly and was purchased and renamed The Greensboro Ghostchasers, but upon moving from Greensboro to Asheville, was renamed again to Ghostriders. The Ghostriders, like the Asheville Smoke, played at the Asheville Civic Center, and like the Asheville Smoke dissolved very quickly. The team was disbanded only four games into its 16-game 2006 season.
Yet football is anything but a far-gone pastime in Asheville today. Young athletes hoping for a shot at the big leagues can try out for The Blue Ridge Raiders, a minor league development football team with a track record of excellence. In fact, more than one young hopeful from The Raiders has made it to (or almost to) the NFL. Among development teams, The Blue Ridge Raiders are decorated and known as the team to beat.
Minor League Baseball Has Long Been at Home in Asheville
While hockey and indoor football have yet to take root for the long haul in Asheville, the same cannot be said for Minor League Baseball. As far back as 1897, some team or another has played in Asheville under the moniker “The Tourists.” Today’s Tourists date back to 1976: they’ve won three minor league championships, most recently in 2014, and are a feeder team for the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball club. So renowned are The Tourists, in fact, that they’ve even made a splash in Hollywood. The Tourists featured in the Kevin Costner film “Bull Durham:” Costner joins The Tourists after having been cut from The Durham Bulls towards the end of the film. Attending a Tourists’ game today, then, is participating in both a slice of Asheville history and a little piece of Hollywood magic.
UNC Asheville Bull Dogs are an NCAA Power House
While the NBA has yet to dabble in an Asheville team, college basketball is alive and well in this Western North Carolina hamlet. Just ask the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. The Bull Dogs are impressive on the court: in fact, they’re record-holders. UNC’s Bulldogs are the only Big South league team to have won at least 15 games for a consecutive 11 seasons (Winthrop, the previous record-holder, only maintained its wins for 10 seasons). It’s a record Asheville may very well maintain: The Bulldogs began their wins in the 2007-2008 season and continue winning at least 15 games per year to this day.
Taking the Field at Home in Asheville is the Asheville City Soccer Club
Finally, The Asheville City Soccer Club may be young, but they’re anything but novice among National Premier Soccer League teams. Founded in 2016, The Asheville City Soccer Club plays their home games at Memorial Stadium in downtown Asheville. The team, ever proud of its Asheville roots, designed its logo and color scheme with the town in mind: its blue symbolizes The Blue Ridge Mountains, and its white alludes to all colors, a nod to the incredible diversity of the team. Asheville City Soccer Club games are a true celebration of Asheville and an event not to be missed – find yourself at Memorial Stadium to witness both powerful athleticism and a strong sense of community here in this beautiful mountain city.
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