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Official Review by Harrison Huntley, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
To say the culture of Duke football has changed in the last few years would be an understatement. Prior to David Cutcliffe’s tenure, the Blue Devils hadn't had a winning season since 1994 and hadn’t enjoyed back-to-back winning seasons since the late '80s. With the recent resurgence, Duke fans find themselves with a competitive football team, but a subpar football stadium. 2015 was the first of a two-year renovation project, and the reaction has been great. Wallace Wade Stadium looks promising with the new renovations, but hasn't seen many improvements yet.
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 school hasn't mentioned any concessions improvements, but they were already above average. Vendors set up booths around the concourse, with everything from Bojangles' sandwiches to doughnuts. My recommendation would have to be Highway 55 Burgers. Their burgers only cost $5 and remain one of the best values in the stadium. You can find a full list of food offerings here.
Coca-Cola products are served for $3 at most university stands. When it gets hot, Duke sets up cooling stations, complete with misting tents and free water, which are very useful due to the lack of shade. For those chilly late fall games, the school sells coffee and other hot drinks.
With the few adjustments made over the 2015 off-season, there's already a change in atmosphere. The track is gone, and in its place are a few rows of seats. The field was slightly lowered to accommodate the new seats. This may seem like a small change, but it has a huge impact on the sightlines. Fans are closer to the action, and those in rows above can see more of an overhead view of the action.
Even with the track gone, this isn't a great atmosphere...yet. There's lots of construction going on, so the stadium looks unfinished. There aren't any permanent structures around the stadium, so it's hard to get a good feel of the atmosphere. When everything is built, you can then expect the change.
Along with the cheerleaders, the famous Blue Devil usually paces the sidelines. His costume is more form fitting than other mascots, so he's more agile than others. He also creates custom headbands for himself each game. For Pittsburgh, for instance, the headband read "Kinda PITTiful."
Duke is renowned for the beauty of their campus. Yet, a beautiful campus isn't a good thing for those looking for a pregame or postgame hangout. There's almost nothing on campus or within walking distance. For pregame, head to 9th Street on Duke's east campus for Elmo's Diner. Just like any classic diner, Elmo's serves breakfast all day, as well as other sandwiches. You can never go wrong with a local diner, where you'll always get great service and tasty food.
If it's late, take a short trip to downtown Durham and Tobacco Road Sports Cafe. This place was named one of Stadium Journey's top sports bars, even though the restaurant would rather be known as a sports cafe. They combine the best food with the best atmosphere to watch a game. The result is a near perfect sports experience.
With the rise of Duke football, the number of fans at these games has grown dramatically. The once-empty stadium now fills up for some of the bigger contests. Even at smaller games, fans turn out much better than they did when the team wasn't as successful. This isn't to say they were fair-weather fans, but that they have started to turn out to what is essentially a new sport for the school.
Sadly, the behavior of the fans hasn't changed. Many fans head for the exits at halftime. Some fans try to make their way back in, but a good portion of the crowd doesn't return. This is a problem that will hopefully be remedied in the future. Fans leaving at the half isn't uncommon in college football, but most go to tailgates and make their way back.
Duke's historic campus is quite beautiful, but doesn't offer much parking. There are several lots within a few blocks of the stadium, but they all require a pass. My personal favorite spot is a $5 deck on Flowers Street next to the University hospital. At this deck, you can take a free bus service to the Duke chapel. After that, take a short walk through campus to the stadium. There are some $10 lots around campus as well, but the walk through campus makes the $5 difference not matter.
General admission tickets range around $20, and reserved seats normally cost around $40. It's hard to recommend a place to sit, not knowing what views will come in the future, but general admission is clearly the better value. General admission seats are in the end zone, but are just as close as any other seat in the stadium.
The true value is that you can see an ACC game for just $20. While the atmosphere may be a little different, you can still enjoy nationally-ranked football teams in a very intimate setting.
Similar to other schools, Duke allows local non-profit groups to operate their merchandise stands.
I should also note the great job the school is doing in upgrading the stadium. Wallace Wade Stadium was the joke of the ACC for so many years, and I know that everyone involved with the school is very excited that it's finally getting a long-needed facelift.
All of that said, I'm looking forward to a return trip next season. There wasn't much to see other than construction in 2015, but that should all be done by 2016. If you have a chance to see a Duke game in Durham in 2016, it's almost a must-see. There's no guarantee it'll be amazing, but it's definitely worth seeing a stadium that a year ago had a track become a modern venue.
Member Review by collegiatestdms
Wallace Wade Stadium was built in 1929 and lights were added in 1984. The stadium is built as a horseshoe design, with the scoreboard located at the open end of the stadium. The largest crowd ever was on November 19, 1949 when 57,500 watched Duke play North Carolina. The current configuration of the stadium holds 33,941.
Member Review by oldskoolberk on Feb 09, 2013
If you are going to Duke with high expectations on the place for football, then this is not the place for you. The stadium is very small for a program which resides in a BCS Conference and for the longest time hasn't been very good. It seemed to me that the fans were just waiting to pass the time for the basketball season to arrive.
Food & Beverage: Overall it was a great variety of food for a small stadium as the official reviewer said. It wasn't the BEST food in the world and you could probably have the same quality at a high school game, but overall the selection is pretty varied.
Atmosphere: It was okay. But there was not a vibe of a football place like I've been to other college stadiums. It seemed like football was to pass the time for basketball.
Neighborhood: Probably overrating this but it is situated on the campus and while there aren't any major places to hang out after the game, you have Cameron Indoor Stadium (which they will allow you to tour for free after the game), the athletic complexes where you can check where the basketball teams practice, and the souvenir store (albeit limited). The campus area is very nice, clean, and one of the best scenic places I've ever been to.
Fans: Somewhat coincides with atmosphere. I will they they had knowledge of the sport when they talked about the teams of years' past, but most fans kept it to themselves. But I went when Duke was still pretty rough to watch so fans had a hard time cheering for the Blue Devils when they got behind. It was "oh, here we go again." And a large fraction of the fans were Florida State fans too.
Access: The problem with this is, the stadium is so small you cannot see it until you get to the stadium itself. It is on a low level where you walk in and you walk down to the bleachers. The only real architecture is the press box/luxury boxes. So you won't see anything until you get up and you really have to follow the masses to figure out where you were going.
ROI: Just a small football stadium. Nothing out of the ordinary and it isn't going to ever be mistaken for Michigan, Alabama, or Clemson for the stadium itself. They had a nice scoreboard though.
Extras: Prices to watch a Duke game are very cheap regardless of who comes to town. The scenic view around the stadium is one of the best around however and I really liked how they made it nice all over.
Overall it was definitely not the worst experience I had. It was nice and cozy, but just not really a place that screamed college football.
Member Review by ciscopack on Feb 14, 2013
18,000 fans doesn't make me think D-1 football. The restrooms are the worst I've seen and the fans are waiting for basketball. Even their rowdy basketball fans are mostly students in a gym that holds about 8000. Wallace Wade is a storied old stadium but little has been done to improve it since it was built. It makes a nice outdoor track venue but for football you'd be better off at some high school games. Durham isn't an easy city to drive around either, especially off the beaten path.
Member Review by hhuntley17 on Sep 15, 2013
When you hear “Duke Blue Devils”, your thoughts probably drift to Cameron Indoor Stadium, the basketball team, and its famous fan base, the Cameron Crazies. Duke football doesn’t have all the fame that its basketball program has, but with David Cutcliffe at the helm, the program is taking huge strides in the way of national relevance. While Wallace Wade Stadium may not be on par with other ACC stadiums, it is an inexpensive way to watch some of the nation’s top collegiate football.
Member Review by Aaron S. Terry on Oct 16, 2015
Wallace Wade Stadium feels like a high school stadium, is rarely very full, but does have some interesting food items, like what you might find at the fair. The Blue Devils do occasionally show flashes of greatness, like a couple great years in a row when they were invited to real bowl games (which they subsequently lost). But the program does not have enough success (consistently) to justify a new stadium, or even major renovations. Nice neighborhood though, some cool sights to see around campus.
280 S Mangum St
Durham, NC 27701
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