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.
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The concessions at Wallace Wade are quite different from most college football stadiums. Similar to a state fair, there are multiple booths around the north end, with a wide variety of food ranging from mini doughnuts to chili cheese nachos. One of the best booths is by a local chain, Highway 55 Burgers. They serve some of the best burgers in the area, and the burgers are one of the cheaper options in the stadium ($5). Over at the university-run stand, there is a good variety of stadium and snack foods. Overall, I found the prices a little high. Maybe a $3 hot dog is standard, but I can't justify $5 nachos (chips and microwaved cheese).
Duke is a Coke school, and many of the stands sell $3 bottled drinks. For cold weather games, some of the stands sell hot cocoa and coffee, which is much appreciated for those late fall games. When it gets hot, Duke sets up cooling stations, complete with misting tents and free water.
If you come to Wallace Wade looking for an ACC atmosphere, you'll be disappointed. Duke is home to the second-smallest stadium in the ACC, and rarely sells out. The stadium is set up as a horseshoe, with the large video board standing in the open end. All the seats are metal benches, though temporary stadium seats are available for rental on the concourse above. The concourse is above all the seats, and here you will find all the merchandise and food tents. All of the merchandise tents are run by non-profit organizations, and a portion of the profits go to those organizations. Because of this, the staff at these tents are normally very nice and willing to help you find what you are looking for.
Even with the track circling the stadium, the seats are close to the action. It is a really cool experience to be able to watch major college football so close to the action. Along with the cheerleaders, the Blue Devil is patrolling the stadium with his headband. There is always some catchy saying written on the headband (against NCCU, it read "NC C U later"). Unfortunately, I never saw him leave the field and walk around in the actual seats. He mostly stayed with the cheerleaders and in front of the student section.
Wallace Wade is in the athletic section of campus. The soccer, tennis, swimming, and basketball stadiums are all visible as you walk in to the stadium. This is hard on those looking for somewhere to go after the game. You will probably need to drive if you're looking for a place to eat. One of the better options is over at Duke's east campus on 9th Street. This is where you get more of the "college town" atmosphere. One of the local favorites is Elmo's Diner. Elmo's serves breakfast all day, along with sandwiches and a few other meals. Elmo's consistently wins awards for the friendliness of its wait staff and its breakfast.
I'll start by saying that I have been to many games at Wallace Wade, so I know that what I saw was not a one-time thing. Rain or shine, hot or cold, no matter what the situation, the stadium empties out at halftime. The only exception I have ever seen was a close game against rival UNC. The attendance at the beginning is pretty good. Seating is sporadic, and some sections are much more full than others. There is good student turnout, and many alumni and their families are also in attendance. After halftime though, the visiting team probably has as many fans as Duke does.
This is one of the first stadiums I have encountered where I've had trouble finding parking. There are several lots close to the stadium, but they all require a pass. I finally found a $5 deck on Flowers Street near the University hospital. The deck provides free bus service to the Duke chapel. From there, it is 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 worthwhile.
Ticket prices fluctuate game by game, but general admission is normally around $20, while reserved seating is normally around $40. Unless you absolutely must sit on the sideline or in the shade, general admission is the better value. You get the same kind of seat for about half the price. General admission seats are in the end zone, and are just as close as any other seat in the stadium.
The big points are here because of the fact that you can sit in the lower level at an ACC game for $20. While the atmosphere may not be the same, you can still enjoy nationally-ranked football teams in an up-close environment.
I enjoyed the homage to the campus icon, Duke Chapel, on the team's entrance doors. The doors are shaped to look just like the chapel.
I really appreciate the fact that Duke lets non-profits run their merchandise stands. As a fan, it is much easier to buy that $25 t-shirt when I know that I am supporting local groups.
An interesting fact is that Wallace Wade hosted the 1942 Rose Bowl. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the government did not want large crowds on the west coast. The game was moved to one of the bigger stadiums on the east coast, Wallace Wade Stadium.
There is no doubt that Duke fans love basketball much more than football. While Wallace Wade will never be Cameron, it doesn't try to be. The stadium is what it is, and the school seems to be happy with that. As a fan, I like that I can see some of the best football in the nation, up close, for just $20. Even without the tailgates and rowdy fans, that's enough to make me come back.
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.
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.
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.
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