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Official Review by Harrison Huntley, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In the fall of 1999, the NC State basketball team played its first home game in an arena other than Reynolds Coliseum since the 1940s. PNC Arena (as it is now known) became the new home of both NC State basketball and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. It was a new era for the team, as they followed the football team off campus. As with any change, many were displeased. Reynolds was full of tradition and memories, but lacked many modern amenities (such as air conditioning). The new arena brought several facility upgrades like suites and HD video boards. Without fans, PNC can feel a little big. When the fans fill the arena, though, there are few places like it.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Being a professional sports arena has its benefits, especially in food. The same menu that is available for hockey is also available for basketball, as well (not including alcohol). This makes the food and beverage offerings quite expansive. If you want to sample the local food, make sure to grab a pulled pork sandwich. For something a little more gourmet, try a panini. Overall, check the full list, as there are way too many food listings to discuss here.
As with many large venues, PNC Arena can feel like two different places, depending on who is there. If you come to a game over a holiday break or other games where there aren't many fans, the place feels cavernous and empty. On the other hand, when the team is facing a conference rival or is playing another important game, it can get very loud and you can really experience Tobacco Road basketball.
Overall, any seat in the arena offers a good view. It really just depends on how you plan to watch the game. From the lower level, the game is right in front of you. On the second level, you get more of a club style, complete with in-seat ordering. The third level offers a chance to see plays develop from high up. Finally, students have the best seats, as they sit with only press row separating them from the game.
No matter where you sit, you will have a clear view of the hanging video board. Hanging over center court are four large video screens showing the game, eight smaller screens displaying stats, and a video ribbon showing scores from other games.
PNC Arena shares its parking lot with NC State's football stadium, which, like some other college football stadiums is built into the state fairgrounds. This makes the area around the arena a little bare. The only things within walking distance are Backyard Bistro, which is a sports bar, and a Comfort Suites. If you're looking for something to do after the game, take a 15-minute drive to downtown Raleigh, NC. In recent years, Raleigh's downtown has emerged as a hot spot for dining and nightlife.
One of the most famous places in downtown Raleigh is The Pit. The Pit is a more modern barbecue restaurant, with traditional NC chopped pork that is pit-cooked, hence the namesake. The atmosphere is what sets it apart from most barbecue restaurants. Many barbecue joints are small rooms consisting of a couple of tables and chairs. The Pit changes the game, mixing southern comfort food with upscale surroundings.
Also recommended is the Tobacco Road Sports Cafe. A local chain, its more famous Durham location overlooks the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. While the Raleigh location may not overlook a stadium, the food and atmosphere are still there. Offering much more than the usual sports bar, Tobacco Road has TVs all over the place, as well as some amazing food. If you're a sports fan, you can't go wrong at Tobacco Road.
NC State basketball fans are nothing if not loyal. With both UNC and Duke in the same metro area, it's easy to forget the Wolfpack. For that reason, you won't find many bandwagon fans. NC State is also in the ACC and in the heart of basketball country.
Even though I visited over a holiday break, there were still times in the game where my ears were buzzing. It only takes a few big scores to incite the crowd at PNC. The students, alumni, and even families in the crowd will stand up and get loud over exciting moments. The fans here represent the experience of college basketball in North Carolina.
As expected at any big event, PNC Arena has its share of traffic problems. That being said, the police and arena staff do a good job of keeping traffic moving, and it shouldn't take you very long to get in and out.
Inside the arena, there is very little "traffic." Once again, this is a modern professional arena. At PNC Arena, you won't have any problems fighting crowds in the concourses or seats. Restrooms are easy to find and usually do not have lines (except at halftime).
The experience at PNC Arena can be as expensive as you want to make it. Third level tickets run about $30, and parking is $10. Adding in about $15 for food gives you a grand total of $55. Personally, I would say that's a little steep for a college game. It is a very nice place to see a game and a fun atmosphere, but the cost is a bit deterring.
After each win, the NC State pep band plays its rendition of Old MacDonald. This is a nod to the school's agriculture history (and current programs). The pep band as a whole, just like the other students, stays loud throughout the game, especially when free throws are shot in front of them.
Speaking of free throw distractions, the students have adopted the tradition of holding up large head shot signs during opposing free throws. Heads of characters ranging from Roy Williams to Steve Urkel are always behind the basket, in hopes of causing some misses.
Though PNC Arena is a shared space, NC State dominates the ceiling with dozens of banners. The biggest belong to the school's two national titles, 1974 and 1983.
Finally, NC State changed their court design in 2014 and made some improvements. Most notably, the Wolf logo was placed in the center, making the court look a bit more unique.
In the land of Tobacco Road basketball, legendary gyms like Cameron Indoor and the Smith Center cause many people to overlook the PNC Arena. While it may not be a bucket list item, PNC Arena is a great college basketball environment, and a fun overall place to watch a game.
Member Review by paul on Feb 06, 2013
There’s a smell of Carolina pine as you meander around the outside of PNC Arena in the state capital of the Tar Heel State.
In 1999, the NC State basketball team moved from their long-time home at Reynolds Coliseum, and into the newly constructed Raleigh Entertainment & Sports Arena. Today the arena is known as PNC Arena, after the bank bought the sponsorship rights in March of 2012. The location of the arena, next to the home of NC State football, Carter-Finley Stadium, makes for a great hub for Wolfpack athletics.
PNC Arena is shared with the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL, but the arena staff do a good job of making the venue feel like the home of North Carolina State basketball, and not just a hockey arena where they also play hoops.
Since the Wolfpack won their first college basketball championship in 1974, only 11 schools have won as many or more titles than North Carolina State (1974 and 1983). Yet, because of the tremendous success of nearby conference foes Duke and North Carolina, State has sometimes been overlooked. The program seems to be on the rise under Coach Mark Gottfried, who led the Pack to the Sweet Sixteen in his first season.
North Carolina has such a wealth of great college basketball experiences, and while fans may make pilgrimages to the Dean Smith Center or Cameron Indoor Stadium, you would be remiss if you didn’t include Raleigh on your list of cities to visit for NCAA basketball.
Member Review by Josh Greene on Feb 12, 2013
Very interesting experience. The students section is place perfectly in the arena, right at court level. The students are very loud as well. The upper deck did not sell well, and the fans up there could not be heard because the arena is so big. The first deck gets very loud though and is a great atmosphere. The seats are all cushioned and very comfortable. The extras at half-time are great, and the scoreboard is one of the nicest in the country. Overall, a good experience.
Member Review by ciscopack on Feb 14, 2013
The best fans in NC beyond a shadow of a doubt; the 2nd best would be the Pirates of ECU. The basketball and football arenas for the Wolfpack are located near the NC State fairgrounds, about 5 min. from the main campus but there are parts of NC State University (largest in NC) that are within site, such as the world class veterinary school. The Wolfpack seem to improve things in that area almost every year and the fans are great tailgaters and friendly people. Both the basketball and football venues are great places to enjoy a game and both are located near good roads for expediting traffic. The city of Raleigh is a great host city too!
Member Review by ianmccor on Apr 19, 2014
Like at Evansville, better suited for hockey. Feels more like a pro venue as well than a college venue, which brings pluses and minuses to it.
Member Review by WolfBenz on Jan 09, 2016
NC State shares PNC Arena with the Carolina Hurricanes and benefits from a joint investment in the facility. Clean, if not sparkling, with great amenities and a loyal, dedicated fan base. Students have access to roughly 3,000 tickets all around the floor and behind each basket, which creates a enthusiastic experience for the players and fans. The only drawback may be that the location of PNC Arena is away from the downtown area and does not have access to restaurants or post-game nightlife. You need to drive about 15 minutes to downtown Raleigh for that, but on the flip side, there is plenty of parking and access to the arena.
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