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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Cameron Hall was built in 1981, and has a capacity of 5,029. The venue is home to the Virginia Military Institute Keydets basketball team, but also hosts the school's annual commencement ceremony, as well as other large scale events, such as plays and concerts.
The facility was named after brothers Bruce and Daniel Cameron, both of whom graduated from VMI, and who contributed $2.3 million toward Cameron Hall's construction. The venue has been upgraded several times since it was built, most recently in 2007 when a new court was installed. In addition to the basketball arena, the facility also houses VMI's athletic department offices, including a library and reception area, as well as five racquetball courts (in the basement).
In July 2013 Cameron Hall was named one of the top venues in mid-major basketball by MidMajorMadness.com. The highest attendance ever recorded at Cameron Hall (5,029) came in 2009 during a game versus Liberty University, and that remains the venue's only sellout.
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Cameron Hall has two concessions stands, one on each end of the facility (in the hallways behind the nets), and both serve the same items.
There are only seven items available, namely hot dogs, chicken breast sandwiches, Papa John's pizza slices, and popcorn ($3 each), as well as chips, packaged candy, and bottled beverages ($2 each). Beverage selections include Pepsi products, Gatorade, and VMI H2O, which is school-branded bottled water.
The best thing about attending a VMI basketball game is seeing all of the cadets and alums wearing fatigues, which is a pretty impressive sight. The kangaroo mascot is also really cool, and has been known to get in the ref's face if he or she makes a call against the Keydets.
In terms of amenities, the concourse surrounding the arena is a bit depressing, with mostly plain gray concrete. However, the staff has recently added lots of décor to the walls, include large pictures, a trophy case, and a "Wall of Fame" showcasing notable players. There are also lots of banners hanging above the court.
On the plus side, once you get into the arena itself, all of the seats are chairbacks, and they are painted different colors in each section, making is easier to find your seat.
Lexington, VA is a very small town with a population of only about 7K, but nevertheless is home to two colleges: VMI and Washington and Lee University. The architecture in the area around Cameron Hall is very stately, and looks elegant despite its uniformity, or perhaps because of it.
There are several restaurants not far from the arena, so you should be able to park on one of the neighborhood streets for a couple of hours and eat before or after the game; just be sure to check the signs to make sure you aren't parking for too long, or during off hours.
Bistro on Main is a great choice, with a menu that includes southern and French-inspired dishes, or you might try the Red Hen, known for its Shenandoah cuisine. Alternatively, if you are in the mood for some outstanding barbecue, a few minutes from downtown is BeameupBBQ & Café (the owner's name is Scottie); while fantastic, this eatery is only open from 11-4 Tuesday through Friday, and 11-3 Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday).
Like much of Virginia, Lexington is a hotbed for military history, and there are several attractions of this type in the area. First is the Stonewall Jackson House, located just off Main Street; this is where the famed Confederate general resided prior to the Civil War. You can also visit the gravesite of Robert E. Lee, which is inside the Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University, or the Virginia Museum of the Civil War, located on Letcher Avenue. In addition, the George C. Marshall Museum is also located in Lexington, and celebrates the career of the main architect for European reconstruction following World War II.
Unfortunately, for most of its games Cameron Hall does not draw a very large crowd, averaging only about 1,000 in attendance, except during the annual rivalry game versus The Citadel, and even that game only draws about 3,500. The venue hasn't had a sellout in nearly a decade, so there generally won't be much energy inside the building.
However, given that VMI is a military school, it is neat to see so many cadets and alums showing up in fatigues, which is a pretty impressive sight to see (although during certain games you may see cadets wearing matching red shirts with fatigue pants instead). Furthermore, even though the rest of the stands may not fill up, there is an incredible amount of passion from the cadets and alums in particular, thanks to the camaraderie they feel for the school; the cheers and shouts from these two groups of fans is especially loud.
See the video below to witness the fans in fatigues during a game:
Getting to Lexington is fairly easy, even though it may be a bit off the beaten path depending on where you are coming from. You also should be able to park for free during VMI basketball games, but there are no "real" lots to speak of; you just have to find parking on one of the side streets, or in one of the small lots dotted around campus.
One you get inside Cameron Hall, moving around is simple enough. The concourse may seem a tad bit narrow, but there is plenty of room inside, especially given the small crowd size, and the bathrooms are enormous, with plenty of stalls. Lines at the concessions are minimal, and inside the arena itself there are plenty of stairways that crisscross through the seating area, so getting to your seat is simple enough. In fact, there is even a walkway above the last row of seats, which you can use to go up and over to get where you need to be.
Fans should plan to enter Cameron Hall through the main entrance, on the Main Street side; there is a back entrance, but it seems to be reserved for staff and other officials.
Tickets to VMI basketball games at Cameron Hall are only $5 for general admission, and considering that you can park for free and eat cheaply at the concessions, this represents a really good value for college basketball. Given that the Keydets have not made the NCAA Tournament since before this writer was born, you may not always see the team pull out a victory, but the chance to see the swath of military clothing in the stands makes a visit worthwhile.
The additional décor on the walls in the concourse has added some color, and makes it a little less stark as you walk around. The mascot also deserves some credit for his antics, and you can see him interacting with fans throughout the game, especially the cadets.
While probably not seen as a powerhouse program, seeing a VMI basketball game at Cameron Hall should not disappoint. For the best experience, you may want to wait for the annual game against the Citadel, when the venue will be at its fullest, but any game would still be enjoyable, and easily manageable from a cost perspective. Also, there is plenty to see and do in Lexington and the surrounding area.
Member Review by paul on Feb 12, 2013
To say that Cameron Hall is a tough place for opponents to play is an understatement. You can start by looking at the winning percentage of VMI in the building, well over 70% of home games are won by the Keydets. The reason for that success has to be largely due to the student section, one of the most animated and menacing in all of college basketball. Everything that comes out of their mouth is not exactly “clean,” but it is difficult to question their loyalty or enthusiasm for their squad.
Cameron Hall looks like a pretty bland square building, and when you enter the seating area, you aren’t wowed by anything you see there either. Chairback seats extend 20 rows up on each side of the court. However, as the students file in to their seats, the building becomes more and more electric, and you can expect that energy to continue until the final buzzer.
The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a unique school in the scope of college basketball. Students who attend this public university are required to join the ROTC, and many choose to pursue military careers in any one of the four branches of the United States military. However, service in the military is not required after graduation. The school focuses on discipline and many of the majors and degrees are aimed toward engineering and mathematics. However, English, social science, arts, and humanities are also offered.
If you expect the students to be well behaved and respectful while attending a VMI basketball game, then you will quickly reverse that expectation. This group of students, at least while inside Cameron Hall, are some of the most foul-mouthed and relentless fans in all of college basketball. If you have thick skin and are not easily offended, then this will likely be a big part of the entertainment value. If you are easily offended, then I would suggest sitting as far away from the student section as possible.
8 N Main St
Lexington, VA 24450
8 E Washington St
Lexington, VA 24450
11 Letcher Ave
Lexington, VA 24450
8895 George Collins Parkway
New Market, VA 22844
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