Cameron Indoor Stadium – Duke Blue Devils
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Crazy For Cameron
Is there a more famous combination of wild fans, historic venue and historical success in college basketball than those that reside in Durham, North Carolina? That’s up for debate, but there’s no debating the legend of Cameron Indoor Arena as one of the toughest places to play in all of college athletics. It’s not big, it’s not modern, but none of that takes away from its legend.
Opened in 1940 as Duke Indoor Stadium, the legendary arena has continuously hosted Blue Devils basketball for three-quarters of a century. In 1972 it was renamed for Eddie Cameron, who coached the Blue Devils from 1928-1942 and was involved in Duke athletics until 1972. The arena has been the home of a Blue Devils basketball team that has won five national titles and 24 ACC titles. It’s truly a legendary arena for a legendary team.
Food & Beverage 3
There can be some downsides to the simple and historic approach to a basketball venue, and concessions can be one of them. While food options aren’t bad at Cameron, they also aren’t exciting in any form of the word. Concession stands are small and spread throughout the narrow concourse. The highlights of the offerings include barbecue pork sandwiches ($5) and Bojangles’ chicken ($5).
After those options, you get to the plain old-fashioned menu items of hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and pizza. There are a sprinkling of small vendors around the concourse selling things like ice cream, but nothing that will really catch your eye. Coke products are available for $4 at all stands. No alcohol is served in Cameron. There’s nothing particularly special here, so feel free to partake in Raleigh/Durham’s excellent restaurants before the game. All you’re missing out on is a pretty basic barbecue sandwich.
The seats are small and ancient, aisles narrow and fixtures old. Yet somehow, none of that matters even in the slightest. This is Cameron Indoor, and that’s part of the experience. On the walk up, you wouldn’t even know you’re entering a historic arena, except for the
mass of blue-clad fans making their way to what appears to be just another historic building on campus. Goosebumps raise as you see the “Krzyzewskiville” sign where fans camp out for tickets. You won’t even notice that the concourses are more like high school hallways because they are adorned with memorabilia and banners reminding you of the history that has occurred here.
Walking the steps to the seats and getting your view of the court is one of those great anticipation moments you get when you are only the best venues. The student seating is immediately courtside and lowers than general seating. It is ringed by a wooden barrier with gold/metallic trim (a theme throughout the venue). Up in the rafters are countless banners representing titles and legendary players. The walls at either end of the court have large, wooden, cathedral-like doors that were likely used in another era. The best way to describe the feel of this stadium is true “college basketball royalty.”
In terms of in-game entertainment, sometimes simpler is better. Almost all of the entertainment is generated by the fans themselves, particularly the student section. The pep band is a great one and the Blue Devil mascot roams the sidelines. But they play second fiddle to the students themselves. And truly, isn’t that the way it should be? It’s a small venue, so all of the seats are close enough to have a good view. And it’s not a cheap ticket, so unless you’re willing to shell out a pretty penny, you’ll want to take whatever is available. Don’t worry, it doesn’t disappoint.
Duke University is one of the more beautiful college campuses in the country and has the added benefit of being in the Raleigh/Durham area, so there’s a lot to do. There’s not much within walking distance, but there’s a lot within driving distance.
Nosh is a fairly popular burger joint just off of campus. Chubby’s Tacos and Enzo’s Pizza are other specialty item restaurants in the immediate area. Downtown Durham also has a great restaurant for any sports fan. Tobacco Road Sports Cafe is a bar and restaurant that has a balcony literally overlooking the field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Even though it’s not baseball season, it’s still a cool experience.
One of the best attractions in the area is the Duke campus itself. Every building has a gothic cathedral feel, with the iconic Duke Chapel towering over the heart of campus. Take a stroll around the grounds and enjoy the sites. Just down the road in Raleigh is the North Carolina Museum of Art, which is a great little art museum with a beautiful park and walking trails around it. You can also check out Eno State Park if you’re an outdoors lover.
Hotels are in abundance in the Raleigh/Durham area, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a suitable option. The University Inn is practically on campus if you’re looking for something nearby. The Hilton Garden Inn Durham/University Medical Center is also nearby on Main Street.
Kentucky fans may argue, but Duke may have the best fans in college basketball. While Duke isn’t going to break any attendance records by volume, due to the size of the venue, Cameron Indoors Arena is ALWAYS full. The stadium seats just over 9,000 and averages just over 9,000. While that means tickets are pricey, it’s also the hallmark of a great fan base.
And in case you haven’t heard, the fans at Cameron don’t sit on their hands. The student section, known as the “Cameron Crazies,” is easily the most famous in all of college basketball. They are loud, ring the court and have chants of everything under the sun. From famous incidents like “speedo man” to the signature horizontally-striped blue and white shirts, everything the student section does here is special. The rest of the fans are engaged, as well. Duke basketball fans do have a bit of a reputation of being “elitist” in terms of their history, and you’ll likely experience some of these fans. But when you’ve won so much in your past, it’s understandable that you’re critical of anything less.
All the historic architecture and isolation of campus is spectacular, but it has a considerably negative impact on getting to a game. Parking is $10 and lots are generally a considerable walk to Cameron. Arrive early, because these lots fill up fast and the walk only gets longer. There are some shuttles that will take you from the lots to the venue, but those seem infrequent and tough to catch. If you arrive early and enjoy walking the campus beforehand, it’ll eliminate a lot of this problem. But try to cut it close and you’ll find yourself arriving well after tip. Entry into Cameron is relatively easy. Just follow the crowds, because you may not even identify the building as a basketball arena.
Once inside, things will get a bit difficult. The concourse feels like a high school hallway and will almost always be packed with Duke fans. Restrooms are small and old, so there are often lines. And if you arrive late, the seating aisles and rows are narrow, making stepping over people to get to your seat a challenge. Cameron wasn’t built with the convenience of modern stadiums in
mind, but it’s a small price to pay for the wonderful atmosphere.
Return on Investment 5
This one really depends on you and the value you see in a college basketball game. ButI’m assuming if you’re reading this, you want to make a trip to Cameron, so we’ll go from there. Tickets to a Duke basketball game aren’t cheap. We’ll start there. Face value can range
over $100, but you aren’t going to find tickets at face value. Duke tickets are generally sold out and difficult to come by, so you’ll need to use re-sellers.
Depending on the game, this might run you from $100 to $500 or more. But if you’re a college basketball fan, Cameron Indoor is in the pantheon of greats of bucket list stadiums. Ticket price shouldn’t sway you from attending a game here. Parking is $10 and the food is generally around $5, which will seem completely irrelevant after spending the price on the ticket.
Cameron Indoor Arena might as well define the category “Extras.” Even before you enter, the prospect of students camping for months in Krzyzewskiville for tickets is completely unique to college basketball. The historic campus and architecture of Cameron and the surrounding buildings are completely worthy of praise. Once you’re inside, the historic and royal feel of the venue with banners galore in the rafters and gold trim on everything suits the reputation of the venue. And once the Cameron Crazies get going, you’ll experience an atmosphere like no other in college athletics.
The Duke Basketball Museum adjoins the arena. It’s free and is worth spending a considerable amount of time in. Jerseys, pictures, memorabilia and even the five national title trophies are all among the spectacular collection sure to humble even the most ardent Duke-hater out there. It’s worth a stop, without question.
For all of the things that aren’t modern or convenient at Cameron Indoor Arena, it really just doesn’t matter. It’s a must-see venue and one of those experiences that will stay with you forever. Even if it’s just one time, you have to check out Cameron.
Food and Drink Recommendations
Tobacco Road Sports Cafe
280 S Mangum St
Durham, NC 27701
Hampton Inn & Suites Durham North I-85
1542 N Gregson St
Durham, NC 27701
Hilton Garden Inn Durham/University Medical Center
2102 W Main St
Durham, NC 27705
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