Announced in conjunction with Western Carolina’s football home opener back on Labor Day weekend, the Catamount Club, the Athletics department fundraising arm, is celebrating a milestone this year with its 50th year of operation. Fifty years of supporting student-athletes; fifty years of celebrating successes both on and off the field. Fifty years of connecting and engaging with alumni and community friends; fifty years of investing in the unlimited potential of student-athletes to inspire the WCU campus community.
This Saturday as campus welcomes everyone for Family Weekend, WCU Athletics will also celebrate Catamount Club Day honoring the long-standing history and tradition of developing champions through the generosity of its members – a philanthropic legacy that leaves a lasting impression on the life of every student-athlete it touches.
With that in mind – and in honor of 50 years of service – the Catamount Club has announced numerous changes looking ahead to the membership year 2019-2020 that begins with the launch of a new giving level – the Legacy Level – beginning at $50,000. This Legacy Level creates a new standard of leadership and transformational annual fund support that will challenge others to follow.
On the heels of the most successful fundraising year in its history, a by-product of success and continued growth of the Catamount Club is a need to change and alter operations to manage expectations. Through a joint effort of Western Carolina Athletics, the Catamount Club and its advisory Catamount Club Board of Directors, and corporate partner Ingles, and in a constant effort to reevaluate, numerous changes were proposed through on-going discussions and recently approved by the Board to take effect in the 2019-2020 membership benefit year.
Additional changes to the giving levels beginning next fall center around the Cullowhee Cat, Top Cat, and Super Cat giving levels, while also eliminating current lowest membership level – Catamount – with the new threshold for membership beginning at $100, a move that is standard across much of collegiate athletics development. The board has also approved the elimination of the “Cullowhee Cat ($1,500)” giving level, moving the Super Cat level from $500 to $600 annually and the Top Cat level going from $900 to $1,200 to absorb those from the Cullowhee Cat level.
Along with the giving level changes come subsequent benefit restructuring for Catamount football game day activities such as Paws Porch and Purple Zone. Among the many successes of the Catamount Club that are a direct reflection of its donors and the partnerships formed with the common goal of supporting student-athlete scholarships is the popular pregame hospitality event in Purple Zone. Through the support of Ingles’ high-end catering business, “The Chef’s Kitchen,” this pregame event is second-to-none not only within the Southern Conference but in the entire NCAA FCS level of football.
As word of this successful venture spread, so did the pregame attendance – again, a by-product of success and growth. This year, the Catamount Club made the move to require RSVPs in advance for admittance that has helped cap and curtail the number. Beginning in 2019-20, the giving level benefits that include Purple Zone and Paws Porch access will be reduced. The current Cullowhee Cat access of four passes and Top Cat access of two passes to both Paws Porch and Purple Zone will be eliminated, while the Coaches’ level access drops from four passes down to two for both locations.
These changes we necessitated by the Catamount Club and its partner, Ingles “The Chef’s Kitchen” in an effort to provide guests in Purple Zone with the best game day experience.
“Ingles and The Chef’s Kitchen are proud to be part of these changes,” said Melissa Leavell, Director of Advertising for Ingles. “We are excited to continue bringing Purple Zone members new and amazing game day menus that include only USDA CHOICE BEEF, hand wrapped cheeses from around the world, fresh seafood, amazing local produce and mouthwatering deserts with every detail managed by our 5-star chef and her team at a level of excellence and creativity suited for Catamount Club members.”
Also, beginning in 2019, the number of Paws Porch access credentials for qualifying Catamount Club members will directly coincide with the number of season tickets purchased. While this crucial move will initially help control the number of patrons in that area and heighten the enjoyment factor for all, this alteration is much more strategic to the continued success of the department. The matriculation process from casual fans and occasional ticket purchases to fans that embrace season tickets and donate to the Catamount Club annually is essential to the financial health of the Athletics department.
Keeping the reductions of both in mind, the Catamount Club is actively looking at ways to re-invest the space and improve the overall atmosphere, amenities, and experience.
Looking ahead to next fall, WCU and the Catamount Club are proud to announce the addition of premium VIP seating and hospitality for 70-to-100 on the Northeast Patio of the Ramsey Center. Though the project remains in the design phase, the anticipated setup will be similar to the front row of tables enjoyed on Paws Porch with tables and chairs located along the railing overlooking the football field with the potential of a second row of raised seating on a platform directly behind. This new area will be covered and will have in-game alcohol options. This highly-sought-after, premium option will be ticketed separately.
Western Carolina Athletics and the Catamount Club greatly appreciate the continued support of each and every donor over the first 50 years – and look forward to the next 50 as together we continue to change lives at Western Carolina University.