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Official Review by Harrison Huntley, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
In the basketball-rich state of North Carolina, football can sometimes fall through the cracks. Ten-win teams are few and far between, and most rivalry victories are met with “we’ll get them in basketball.” Of the three triangle schools (North Carolina, NC State, and Duke), many would say NC State puts the most focus on football. Their stadium is a great reflection of their attitude: it’s not their biggest sport, but it’s not something they gloss over. It may not be Death Valley or Doak Campbell, but Carter-Finley is one of the better stadiums in the ACC.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
All four ends of the stadium come complete with their own identical concession stands, so you won't have to walk far to get food and drinks. At Carter-Finley, you can find Chick-fil-A sandwiches, barbecue sandwiches, and pizza. Additionally, fans can snack on soft pretzels, frozen lemonades, popcorn, and peanuts. North Carolina is famous for its peanuts, so of course they are a fan favorite here.
Among the many dessert options, one stands out above the rest. Howling Cow ice cream is an absolute must in your visit to Carter-Finley. NC State is one of the few schools with an on campus creamery, and they sell their ice cream at Wolfpack games. And the best part is that it's only $2.
Though they're often classified as basketball fans, NC State fans love their football. Even through a few lackluster seasons, fans still remain devoted to the team. With the exception of some early out of conference games, fans fill the entire stadium for nearly every contest.
Similar to other stadiums, Carter-Finley has enhanced their security. Make sure to arrive early as it takes some time to get through security, especially if you have to take a bag into the game. The longest lines start about 30 minutes before the games, the fastest way in would be to show up early.
"The Power Sound of the South," or the NC State marching band, performs throughout the game. Though they're smaller than other schools' bands, they do a great job with their pre-game and halftime routines. Once the band is lined up, the team enters the field through a wolf den accompanied by fireworks and the fight song.
The seats in Carter-Finley are metal benches, but some season ticket holders have purchased seat covers. If you bought tickets second-hand, you might have scored these. Otherwise, fans are welcome to bring their own seat covers, but beware, you won't be sitting for very long.
There isn't much time for sitting. Fans get excited and are constantly jumping to their feet when big plays happen. This creates an exciting atmosphere that's really fun to experience as a fan.
All the seats around the seating bowl are the same, so there's no reason to choose one seat over another. The seats directly in front of the scoreboard are a little loud (since the speakers are so close), but you can get a great view of the action from anywhere. The 2,660-square foot video screen will keep you updated on the action even if the ball is at the other end of the field.
Over the years, the city of Raleigh has grown towards the stadium. Carter-Finley is still a short drive from the city, but it is no longer considered the outskirts of town. There's new development in any direction from the stadium, meaning you won't have to look far to hang out.
The closest place would be Backyard Bistro; it's just across the street from Carter-Finley. Backyard Bistro is a sports bar, and its proximity to the stadium makes it a popular spot when the Wolfpack are in town.
If you'd like something a little more local, you simply must try the local barbecue. The Pit is a class above the local hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint. Located in downtown Raleigh, this classy restaurant serves traditional NC chopped pork cooked the traditional way, in a pit. It's been featured on Food Network, Travel Channel, and many network morning shows.
For barbecue on a budget, try Ole Time BBQ. Ole Time is only five minutes away from Carter-Finley and is probably what you expect when imagining a barbecue place. There's only a few tables inside, but most customers don't care. The food has been popular in Raleigh since it opened in 1993. Ole Time will usually be very crowded especially on game days, so plan accordingly.
NC State's fan base is nothing if not loyal. The team has been everywhere from three wins to nine wins in the last five years, and the fans have stayed true. Their favorite tradition is to have one side of the stadium yell "wolf" and the other side respond "pack." Otherwise, they stay in the game. Of course, no school is without the die hards, but unless you're openly rooting for a rival, visiting fans will be respected for the most part.
You should have no issues finding the stadium. Taking the Wade Ave. exit from I-40 will put you right outside the parking lot. Unfortunately, it is tough to find parking, but space is usually available in the lots surrounding the NC Fairgrounds for around $10. There is other parking in nearby office complexes, but either way, it's tough to find a close parking spot.
As long as you aren't looking for tickets to a rivalry game, the NC State athletics website should have some single game tickets for sale. You can also try our ticket partner, Ticket Monster, to see if there are better deals on the second hand market. Most tickets cost around $50, and are usually more in the second hand market. Inside the stadium, food prices are as expected if not a little cheaper than typical stadium prices.
Experience NC State football by walking in through the north entrance, where signs stand in honor of former NC State greats. Continue through the west concourse to see signs for the great moments in the program's history.
The entrance to the field looks like a cave tunnel, or a wolf den. It's a great accent, and the students sitting near it have the tradition of hitting the top of it while the players enter.
Just 10 years ago, Carter-Finley wasn't even a full bowl stadium. Now, you wouldn't even know it. The press and luxury tower, the scoreboard, and seats all fit in seamlessly.
Finally, the hospitality staff are extremely nice. I'm sure they deal with many wild and unruly fans, and the fact that they can remain tempered is great.
This isn't quite a top notch college football stadium, but it's definitely one of the top in the area. This isn't an SEC quality or anything amazing, but it's a solid stadium that should absolutely be on any football fan's bucket list.
Member Review by pderrick
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.
Member Review by johndenton21 on Jul 14, 2012
nc state university has some of the best athletic facilities and stadium in the country
Member Review by paul on Jan 28, 2013
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
Member Review by Josh Greene on Feb 12, 2013
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.
Member Review by ciscopack on Feb 14, 2013
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.
Member Review by hhuntley17 on Oct 24, 2013
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.
Member Review by lmulax25 on Oct 08, 2015
Having attended a game at all three ACC schools on Tobacco Road I can say that NC State is the best atmosphere for a game. I saw Duke and UNC play ACC rivals and Nc State played Troy and it was close to capacity crowd and fans were in it it all game. I paid $40 dollars for tickets on the thirty yard line and parking with food and a drink. Great deal and well worth the six hour trip.
Member Review by Aaron S. Terry on Nov 04, 2015
Parking is a little tricky b/c you have to park far away in these random lots around the neighborhood (unless you have a pass) but the atmosphere is great, and the fans are really loyal. Plus there is a lot to do in the area.
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