If you are not a Duke men’s basketball fan, you will probably want to stop reading now.
Visiting Cameron Indoor Stadium is top on the list of any college basketball fan. I have been fortunate to visit numerous times and it never gets old. Thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend from Disney & a second acquaintance from the Y, I have had the thrill of attending one game every season since 2005. I usually make a long weekend of it – stay in the same hotel 1 mile from campus, eat the same local Buffalo chicken pizza, run the campus trail, raid Bojangles and spend $100+ at the bookstore. If it was an early game during preseason, I would also bookend a trip to my alma mater or family close by for auntie time.
That first visit……we walked all throughout campus & even though I had graduated 10 yrs prior, could pass for an eager student. And I’m embarrassed as a fan to not being able to find Cameron. Yep we got lost. And I certainly wasn’t going to be the bozo that asked where it was. Besides one Krzyzewskiville sign, it is a small, old brick building. So we naturally clued in when everyone was taking pictures in front of this iconic place.
Inside has serious old school vibes and smaller than you would ever expect. But the energy is larger than life. Over the years the lobby has slowly expanded and new innovative displays have been added, but the seats and floor still remain the same.
Our seats…….gates only open 1 hr prior & my main objective was to see it all! You have to climb the stairs to get to the main concourse and after making a loop to see all the memorabilia from past legends, we still couldn’t find our seats. Hmmmm. One more loop than I asked an usher. “You are downstairs”. Hmmmm. Another usher confirmed – “yeah just walk on the court in front of the Duke bench & then you will just have to hop over the press box desk”. Speechless. One row behind the announcers at dead center court looking straight across at the Cameron Crazies and I cried the entire game of pure elation. I can only remember 2 times in my life so far that my tears were uncontrollable. One of the highlights of my life.
Our seats were never that good again, but in my book, anywhere inside was a treat that I still don’t take for granted. Every year I tried to take a different friend & diehard Duke fans so they could also share in this crazy, over the top experience. From seeing JJ Reddick’s jersey retirement to Zion’s monstrous dunks to my alma mater men’s team playing on Coach K court, to watching the women’s games from media row & many more, those 3 hours I was mesmerized.
The stadium has been sold out since who knows when & tickets are almost impossible to find. A few years I even got relegated to the rafters joining media row. Say what??!! We had to go to the top row of seats then climb a rickety old ladder to the “crow’s nest” and I even mistakenly sat in Dicky Vs seat. Oops. What a crazy vantage point from high above all the madness – an unobstructed, perfect spot. It was so hot we were dripping (the temp is purposely kept scorching adding to the home court advantage but that high I’m surprised we didn’t get nose bleeds too).
Another memorable yearly sight is always tent city, which usually pops up about a month prior to the UNC game. Students will camp out in below freezing weather for weeks (not days but WEEKS) to get their shot at front row to the best rivalry in all of sports. Truly CRAZY!
We will just pretend Covid year didn’t happen, so my last experience was extra special….. as I got to take my niece Olivia to her first basketball game. Now granted, she had no idea what she was getting into or the trance that her favorite aunt can’t help but get swept up in. But to see her wear a blue devil shirt (which my brother swears he burned as soon as we got home – a true Hokie household), plus start cheering and dancing like a maniac, was truly priceless!
To end each visit……if you wait long enough after the end of the game, it is such a thrill to walk onto this historic court to take pictures. I’m not a big autograph seeker, but I love just seeing the players interact with young fans. And then I typically just sit on the bench and take a few moments to myself.
Until next year…… 🏀💙😈