When you travel down Tobacco Road, there is no question that basketball is king. Duke, UNC, and NC State all have tremendous basketball traditions. Out of those three, NC State probably embraces football the most, as seen in their stadium. Over the last decade, the school has worked hard to make the stadium the best that it can be. In response, the fans really get behind the team and make Carter-Finley Stadium a great place to be on Saturday.
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One of the great things about Carter-Finley is the availability of concessions. No matter where you sit, you will probably find a concession stand around you. Even better, the stands sell most of the same items, meaning no walks around the stadium to find that one item. For those looking for more of a meal, there are three options: Chick-fil-A sandwiches, barbecue sandwiches, and pizza. Most notably, the barbecue is from a local restaurant, The Pit, which is known in the area for great barbecue (more on that later).
For those looking for more of a snack, there are soft pretzels, frozen lemonades, popcorn, and fresh NC peanuts. North Carolina is one of the country's largest peanut producers, making peanuts at NC State farm fresh.
For dessert, look no further than Howling Cow ice cream. NC State is one of the only universities with an on-campus creamery. As part of its food science program, the creamery sells its ice cream in the student center, at the state fair, and at athletic events. Like the peanuts, the ice cream is very fresh, tastes amazing, and at $2 a cup, is a good value, as well.
Wolfpack fans are the type that come early and stay late. Several hours before kickoff, you will see the parking lot begin to fill with tents, grills, and other tailgate gear. I would definitely suggest coming early and joining the fun. If you walk around long enough, someone is bound to invite you to enjoy a tailgate with them. There is no loss of southern hospitality around these tailgates.
The time you enter the stadium will determine your gate experience. If you come early, there is usually little to no hassle at baggage check or ticket scanning. If you arrive anytime within 30 minutes of kickoff, beware. The lines become very long and you may miss kickoff, something you won't want to miss.
Like most football teams, NC State has their share of pregame traditions. "The Power Sound of the South" (the marching band) is a sight to see as they march all around each other and spell out "NC STATE" in cursive. After the alma mater, national anthem, and the fight song, the team enters through a "Wolf Den" shaped tunnel.
When you find your seat, you may be surprised to find that it is nothing more than a metal bench. This may seem like a problem, but don't worry; you won't be using it much anyway. That is because, in fact, not many people use their seats. Any play by any team worth ten yards or more will cause many fans to leap to their feet.
Normally, I will say "there is not a bad seat in the house", meaning that all the seats are generally the same and are above average. This time, it's different. The atmosphere at State is the same no matter where you sit. There are just as many die-hard fans sitting the first row as there are in the rafters. Also, sight lines are not a huge problem, either. If you are having trouble seeing things, just watch the replay on the 2,660-square foot video board.
Usually, I am not a fan of off-campus stadiums, as they lose most of the college neighborhood with the move. Fortunately for NC State, the move has worked out to be a plus. Back when it was built, Carter-Finley's only neighbor was the North Carolina Fairgrounds. Over time, the city of Raleigh has grown towards it, and Carter-Finley is now within 15 minutes of everything Raleigh has to offer. Like any city, there is an overwhelming number of shops, hotels, and restaurants. Here are a few of my favorites.
If proximity to the stadium is a factor for you, look no further than Backyard Bistro. Located across the street from Carter-Finley, this is a great post-game hangout. Backyard Bistro is a casual sports bar, and an all-around great place to eat.
Now for the barbecue portion of this review. No NC review is complete without talking the local barbecue. In Raleigh, there are two favorites for barbecue. The first is in the middle of downtown: The Pit. In what was formally an old meat packing warehouse, The Pit is an upscale barbecue restaurant with traditional NC chopped pork that is, as the name suggests, pit-cooked. The atmosphere is what sets it apart from most barbecue restaurants.
If upscale isn't quite your taste, there is also Ole Time BBQ. Ole Time is only five minutes away from Carter-Finley and is a much more traditional barbecue place. With only a few tables and chairs, it is not the most spacious property. Even in its small size, it is a favorite for local barbecue lovers.
Many people not from the area will write off Tobacco Road schools as "basketball-only." If this is the case, don't let NC State fans know. The fans come early and stay late. Many of the fans, especially the student section, are the type that will be heard all game long. Not only will they cheer for their team, but you can be sure that as the visiting team enters the field, there will be a chorus of "boooo." In addition to being loud, Wolfpack fans' favorite cheer is when one side cheers "Wolf", while the other responds "Pack."
Getting to the stadium is a piece of cake. Located just off I-40, North Carolina's main highway, it couldn't be easier to arrive at Carter-Finley Stadium. The problem arises when it comes time to park. It is tough to find parking, but space is usually available in the lots surrounding the NC Fairgrounds for around $10. Don't be mistaken, though; it will take some time to park. The lots fill up very fast, and traffic is not great around the stadium.
While season tickets quickly sell out, fans can normally find single game tickets on the NC State website, as long as it is not a big matchup (UNC and Thursday night games are usually popular). Tickets sell for around $50, and while this isn't exactly a value, it is to be expected for a major FBS game. Inside the stadium, prices are pretty good, compared to what I've seen at other venues.
The north entrance is home to signs honoring the retired numbers for the team. These include Phillip Rivers, Torry Holt, and Ted Brown. The historical markings continue inside the stadium under the Vaughn towers near the west entrance. They honor notable moments in NC State football history.
Another point goes to the student section. They do a good job of staying in the game and making themselves heard.
NC State gets a point for all the renovations to this stadium to make it what it is today. Not too long ago, the stadium had two open ends. One end was a grass hill, while the other was simply the scoreboard. Now, the stadium is an entire bowl, and with several other upgrades, is a great modern facility.
Finally, I enjoy the radio crew for the Wolfpack. They do a good job of calling the game and are not always trying to talk up their own team. The color commentator is NC State football legend Johnny Evans, who is always ready to share a story from his playing days.
Most likely, Carter-Finley is not on your bucket list of college football stadiums to visit. However, you may want to consider adding it. Carter-Finley may not be like any of the famous SEC stadiums, but you can count on a unique atmosphere that only NC State and ACC football can provide.
They are simply known as the Pack and have been a staple of ACC football since they moved from the southern conference back in 1953. The Wolfpack may not be an elite college football team to most college football fans, but since joining the ACC in 1953 they have won 7 ACC championships and have been in 25 bowl games.
Since 1966 the Wolfpack have called the 57,583 capacity Carter-Finley Stadium home, routinely "packing" the house as they have now sold out of season tickets for nine straight years. Carter-Finley Stadium may not have the reputation of fellow stadiums like the Doak or Death Valley, but State fans fill the seats and can make Carter-Finley Stadium a pretty loud atmosphere for visiting teams.
nc state university has some of the best athletic facilities and stadium in the country
Love Raleigh, and this stadium puts you very close to be able to enjoy downtown Raleigh. Plenty of parking, and located right next to the home of NC State basketball/Carolina Hurricanes
Overall not bad, but the fans are obnoxious. Many get drunk while tailgating and show it while in the stadium. The Student Section is really good though, and they get the rest of the crowd going. Excellent venue, by far one of the best in the ACC if not the best.
Home of the best football and football atmosphere in NC. The Wolfpack faithful know how to have a good time and they enjoy their teams. On average games I'd rate the atmosphere at a 7.8 and on big games it can really be electric and as loud as any stadium in the country....a true 10.
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