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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
In 2008, construction was completed for the John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center on the campus of Campbell University. The building houses the Gilbert Craig Gore Arena, home to Campbell’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as volleyball and wrestling.
With a capacity of just over 3,000 the arena provides an intimate space to watch basketball in the Big South Conference.
It’s been more than two decades since the Camels made their lone appearance in the NCAA basketball tournament, a first round loss to Duke in 1992, but the fans at Campbell love their team, and you’ll hear that support when you come to Pope Convocation Center.
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It's a modest offering for food and drink when you come to Campbell. There are two main concession stand offerings in the single concourse. Each one serves up hot dogs ($3), nachos ($3), candy ($2), popcorn ($2), and cotton candy ($3). Coke products and bottled water is available ($2), and Powerade is on hand as well ($3). The prices are reasonable, but there's not much here, so if you're hungry, then plan on eating before or after the game.
Behind the basket on the Campbell end, there's also a sno-cone stand which is popular with fans, offering several different flavors and generous sizes for either ($2 or $3.)
The team will enter through an inflatable tunnel for their final warm-up. When the buzzer sounds you can expect a prayer to be given over the PA, followed by the National Anthem. The visiting team is introduced, then the lights go down for the home team. I particularly enjoyed watching the team's mascot, a camel. Originally the athletic teams were known as the Hornets, but became known as the Camels in 1933 or 1934. According to Campbell University, "There is no explanation why the nickname was changed to Camels, only this one sentence was printed in the Jan. 13, 1934 issue of Creek Pebbles: 'Eight new men were recently initiated into Campbell's monogram club, which has changed its name from 'Hornets' to 'Camels.'"
Only 13 rows of seats surround the court. The seats are a light orange, almost sherbet color, with slightly above average legroom, and cupholders throughout. It's a very comfortable arena in which to see a basketball game.
There's no center-hung scoreboard which keeps the fans' attention on the game in front of them and makes for a very clean game presentation overall. The one main scoreboard is found behind the basket nearest the Campbell bench. There's a video screen here that displays the live game action, and advertisements during breaks. The opposing end has a smaller scoreboard with just the score, time, and half displayed.
There's a large cheerleading squad and a bigger than expected pep band which will entertain the crowd during most breaks. Overall, this really has the expected feel of small school collegiate athletics, exactly what you would want when coming to a game at Campbell.
No need to worry about the best seats, because every seat is a good one.
Campbell University has a beautiful campus with lots of newly constructed buildings. If it's a nice day, then take a stroll around and get a feel for the university.
A popular spot to grab a bite before the game is the Campus Grill. You'll find Campbell students here talking about tests and other college life issues. The signature item here is called the Jacked Up Burger. It contains bacon, cheddar cheese, homemade BBQ sauce, grilled onions, and mustard. It's pretty darn good. Pair that with a side of "Camel Bites" (deep fried mac and cheese) and you should be set for the game ahead.
If you want to keep with a known quantity, then you should be able to find Subway and a Chick-fil-A Express nearby the Pope Convocation Center as well.
About three miles north is the C&G Sports Bar if you are looking for a spot to grab a beer and watch the day's games.
Even though there are only 3,000 seats, you can expect to find a crowd that is into the game, cheering on their squad, and giving the referees a hard time. The fans will stand to start the game until the team makes their first field goal of the contest.
The student section is dubbed the "Camel Crazies," and while they won't conjure up any images of their northern namesakes in Durham, they will do their best to make their impact known. The students sit underneath the basket nearest the opponent bench, one section over from the pep band.
Campbell University is in Buies Creek, NC which is about a 45 minute drive south of Raleigh. You shouldn't expect a lot of traffic, but the roads can be a bit slow going as there are stop lights and small towns to get through, making the trip longer but also a bit more interesting. Once you arrive on the Campbell campus, you can park in the visitor parking lot which is right in front of the Chick-fil-A Express and Barnes & Noble, or there is another lot on the side of the Pope Convocation Center. The arena is a beautiful building, standing out from the rest of campus. If the building doesn't signal you, then look for the giant camel statue, and you'll know you're in the right place.
Inside the Convocation Center, there is one concourse that is located above the seating area. It is spacious, with pictures of the men's and women's basketball players from past years along the walls.
Restrooms are new and clean, and plenty big for the size of this arena. You shouldn't plan to have to wait to use the facilities even at halftime, so you can stay in your seat and not miss any of the game action.
Reserved seats are only $10, and all other seats are $5. Unless you really like to sit along the sideline, then the $5 seats will work fine. In either case, this is a great value. Combine this with the low price of concessions and the free parking, and you can get a great night of entertainment for less than $20.
I found the staff at Campbell to be friendlier than most arenas that I visit. It always amazes me that this is not true of every arena, but unfortunately it is the exception that staff working a game are exceedingly friendly.
Another extra point for all of the shooting contests that the Campbell staff employ during the game. It feels a little like minor league baseball, but it keeps the fans rooting for something even when play is stopped.
Pope Convocation Center is one of those arenas that fits perfectly with its university. The arena is bright and clean, and just the right size for this Big South school. If you're passing through Buies Creek, NC, then you should check the Camels' schedule to see if you can come on in for a game.
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19 Marsha Banks Rd
Buies Creek, NC 27506
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