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.
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".
The food and beverage selection inside PNC Arena is better than what you will find at most college basketball venues, although probably a little on the high side comparatively as well. There are a couple of North Carolina BBQ Company carts located in the concourse, and that would be my recommendation if you're hungry. They have a great BBQ pork sandwich ($7.50) with a variety of sauces, or you can go caveman and get a smoked turkey leg ($8.75).
The smells that waft through the concourse from the Sinnfully Sinnamon stand will also catch your nose, so if you're looking for something sweet, then try their cinnamon bun ($5).
You can also locate the concession selling slightly elevated arena food which includes grilled chicken panini, turkey bacon panini, and portabella wraps ($10 each, includes chips and a pickle). The pizza stand offers a specialty buffalo chicken pizza, which is very good ($5).
If you're hungry for Mexican food, then you can have that as well. Quesadillas ($5.50), fish tacos ($6.50), and a "Super Burrito" is on hand ($6.50). What college student wouldn't love to go for a burrito on a Saturday afternoon or evening?
Overall, there's more than I can list, so if you didn't see something that caught your eye, then you may want to visit the PNC Arena Concessions page, which also includes the sections near which each concession can be found. The selection is great and the quality is good, so if you are hungry as a wolf, then you should find something to fill up on and be satisfied here.
The other perk is that beer is served since the venue is not located on campus. You can stop by the Locker Room and grab a Foothills Brewing company beverage, made just down the road in Winston-Salem, or go with a more traditional offering. Pepsi is the soda provider at PNC Arena. Unlike many arenas, the selection is ostensibly the same in the lower and upper concourse, so no need to go out of your way to get food before heading to your assigned seat.
All stands accept credit cards, so you won't have to get cash if you don't want to. ATMs are available inside the arena, and will cost you $3 for a transaction if you are a non-PNC bank customer.
Coming in through the southern entrance to PNC Arena (the side closest to the football stadium), you will find students lined up waiting for the doors to open so they can descend to their floor seats. This energy sets the tone for what will likely be an exciting night of ACC basketball. If you have a ticket for the 100 seats, you can expect to find a red padded chairback seat with below average legroom and a cupholder. If you are a taller individual, you can expect to feel rather pinched and uncomfortable throughout the game.
If you are sitting in the upper level, then there will be better pitch between rows, much better legroom, and a cupholder built in to the arm rest. The seats are also padded (although less than the lower level), and you will have a great view of the floor and be able to see plays develop. That is unless you are sitting on one of the ends behind the basket. These seats feel miles away from the court, and you may find yourself watching play on the far end of the court on the scoreboard video screen rather than on the court itself.
The important recommendation here is that you should try to find an upper level seat (300 level), but ensure you are in sections 323-326 or on the opposite side in sections 301-305. The perfect section would be section 304 so you are mid-court and facing both benches.
The center-hung scoreboard is very nice, with four video screen and eight additional screens atop the scoreboard used for displaying statistics. It is big enough to see clearly from anywhere in the arena, but not so big as to be gaudy.
The pep band is large and energetic, and really help to make this a special place to see college basketball.
Immediately surrounding PNC Arena, there are a couple of places to go if you would like to get a bite to eat or have a celebratory post game drink. The Backyard Bistro is very close, and you could even park your car at the arena and walk there if you wanted. If you want to be among the fans, then this is a great place to go and the food is good as well. It will be crowded on game days, so keep that in mind. If you are staying in the area, and want to be in a hotel nearby the arena, then there is a Comfort Suites located just behind the Backyard Bistro.
My recommendation though is to take the 12-15 minute drive to downtown Raleigh. There are some really terrific restaurants. I attended a Sunday game and missed the opportunity of visiting one of the great BBQ joints in the state of North Carolina, Clyde Cooper's BBQ. If you want to get a taste of the local flavors and you are a carnivore, then this is the place for you.
However, I was able to visit Beasley's Chick & Honey instead, and loved it. They serve really delicious southern-inspired and inventive cuisine, and have local beers on tap as well. Try the classic chicken and biscuits, or have one of their bar snacks. Whatever you go with, I highly recommend this downtown location.
Stroll around the City Market downtown, a Raleigh institution since 1914. There is a beautiful park nearby, and plenty of restaurants and shopping to enjoy.
One of the reasons that this doesn't feel like a hockey arena is the allocation of 3,000 seats for the student section of NC State down in the lower bowl. This is a huge arena, and if the students didn't turn out in large numbers, then it may feel cavernous. However, I saw some students arriving as early as four hours before tipoff, and for big-time rivals they may be there even earlier. Outside of the student section, fans are very attentive and can be noisy. The energy is fantastic from the moment you arrive in the parking lot to the moment you drive away, and the fans are a huge part of that.
The school can boast that they have been in the Top 25 nationally for attendance every season since PNC Arena opened. The cynic might say that this is just a function of having a large arena, but packing it with fans game in and game out, year in and year old, is no small feat, and the fans are to be commended for coming out to support their team.
There is plenty of parking surrounding the arena, and with several entrances/exits, the ingress and egress of traffic is rather painless, even for an arena that seats this many people. Parking will cost you $10, which isn't outrageous, but I would certainly appreciate it if they waived the parking fee all together, or reduced it to $5.
Concourses are very spacious and the restrooms are clean, large, and modern.
Public transportation isn't readily available, but if you're willing to walk a mile or so, you can catch a Capital Area Transit (CAT) bus to downtown. There's a stop on Blue Ridge Road at the State Fairgrounds.
When you enter the arena, you can expect to go through metal detectors and a search of any bags you may have. Do make note of the long list of prohibited items list on signs outside the arena, but also note that this is not all-inclusive. I saw no mention of any camera restrictions, yet when entering the arena I was told I could not bring my camera in because it has a detachable lens. Eventually I was able to talk my way in, but some fans may have to make the trip back to the car to drop off the camera, and if you like to take a couple of pictures to commemorate the occasion, then you are likely going to be disappointed.
Parking will cost you $10, and you can plan on another $15 for a beer and a sandwich. Add in $30 for a seat in the recommended section 304, and you're looking at $55 for one person for a game. This is pushing a little as far as overall price. There is a lot to love here, but overall, I wish the total experience cost was just a little bit lower.
There are NC State souvenir stands on both the upper and lower concourse, but unfortunately the Carolina Hurricanes merchandise stand is closed on gamedays. Seems like it would be pretty easy to have this open during games. I know I would have purchased an item during my visit, so there's at least one missed opportunity among the 19,000 or so in attendance.
One extra point for the two championship banners and two championship trophies that can be found in the concourse. Their placement seems like kind of an after thought, which is good for fans who may want to get up close for a photo opportunity.
Another extra point for the rendition of the National Anthem. Instead of the word "brave" during the anthem, fans yell out "Wolfpack!", and also punctuate the word RED in "rocket's red glare."
The crowd will also chant "WOLF-PACK" from alternating sides of the arena preceding tipoff.
I love the NC State fight song, played to the tune of "The Caissons Go Rolling Along."
I really enjoyed my visit to Raleigh and PNC Arena for NC State Wolfpack basketball. While it isn't the first venue that will come to mind for most people in this state, it would be a mistake to overlook the experience. Raleigh is a great town, and PNC Arena does a wonderful job of transforming from a hockey arena, to the home of Wolfpack basketball.
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.
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!
109 E Davie St
Raleigh, NC 27601
237 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601
214 E Martin St
Raleigh, NC 27601
3908 Arrow Dr
Raleigh, NC 27612
1200 Hurricane Alley Way
Raleigh, NC 27607