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  • Will Halpern

Truist Field – Wake Forest Demon Deacons


Photos by Will Halpern, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Truist Field 411 Deacon Blvd Winston-Salem, NC 27105



Year Opened: 1968

Capacity: 31,500

 

Don’t Sleep on the Deacons


Note: BB&T Field name changed to Truist Field after the writing of this review.


Wake Forest University was founded in 1834 and for over a hundred years, the school was based in the northern Raleigh suburb of the same name. The town was started after a physician, Dr. Calvin Jones, sold his over 600-acre farm to the North Carolina Baptist Convention, who opened up the Wake Forest Manual Labor Institute which eventually became first Wake Forest College and then Wake Forest University. The school stayed in its Wake County location until, with the financial support of the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation, an agreement was made to move the school a hundred miles westward.


The football team was founded in 1888 and played on the original campus, including sixteen years at Groves Stadium from 1940-56, which is now Trentini Stadium, the home of Wake Forest High School’s football team. Upon settling in their new home in Winston-Salem, the Demon Deacons played ten seasons at Bowman Gray Stadium, which also served as the home field to the cross-town football program of Winston-Salem State; the venue also hosted NASCAR races.


Finally, in 1968 Wake Forest got a stadium of its own with the opening of Groves Stadium, a tribute to their old stomping grounds, but in 2007 BB&T Bank, whose headquarters are in Winston-Salem, bought the naming rights, and the stadium has been known as BB&T Field ever since, one of several stadiums in North Carolina to be named after the bank. The stadium has gone through three rounds of renovations, but at a capacity of 31,500 it is the smallest stadium of any Power 5 school. However, while the stadium may be small, like the University, it has a lot to offer.


Food & Beverage 5

BB&T Field offers a wide range of food offerings from its concession stands and the increasingly popular food trucks. The main concessions stands offer Nathan’s Hot Dogs, chicken tenders, and a cheeseburger basket (with fries) at eight, nine, and eleven dollars respectively, as well as various snacks for five dollars; Chick-fil-A sandwiches and Domino’s Pizza are also offered. There are also Pepsi products, with a regular fountain soda size for three dollars, a bottled soda for five dollars, and a souvenir option for six. Coffee is also offered for three dollars, while canned domestic beer such as Budweiser and Miller Lite go for eight dollars, and for seven dollars you can get a bottle of the local brew Foothills. There are also numerous places throughout the stadium to get domestic and local brews if you don’t feel like standing in line at the concession stands.


Going beyond the main stands, there are some local favorites such as Henry’s Gourmet Popcorn Shop, Hoka Hey Legendary Popcorn, and Ghassan’s Fresh Mediterranean Eats which serves up gyros, pitas, and more. Another favorite local food truck is Curb Your Appetite which offers a Curbside Soul Burger, which is a burger stuffed with peppers and onions and the eatery’s own seasonings with your choice of toppings. Other options from this truck include a 24-hour marinated ribeye steak sandwich, a club sandwich, a three-cheese grilled cheese sandwich, and a chicken or Philly Cheesesteak sandwich; this food truck is truly a place to check out.


Finally, the Greensboro based Porterhouse Burger Truck offers a variety of burgers, including the Twisted Carolina, the Jam-Tastic, and the “Some Like It Hot” Burger. My personal favorite is “The Big Lebowski” Burger, which at thirteen dollars is a little more expensive than the other options but comes with everything the truck has and tastes delicious. This truck also serves other sandwiches as well as pulled pork egg rolls and fries. And, if you have room for dessert there is a stand selling funnel cakes and Dippin’ Dots, but the two main highlights are a Duck Donuts truck outside the stadium and Chewy on Top, which offers funnel cake bites and sticks. In addition, Chewy offers four types of funnel cake, fried Oreos, cinnamon roll bites, and a brownie sundae – truly something for everyone with any sort of sweet tooth.


Atmosphere 4

A lot of times people tend to feel that bigger stadiums are better stadiums; at bigger universities with tens of thousands of students and a huge alumni base that makes sense. However, Wake Forest has a student body of just over eight thousand students, so a large college football stadium – even with additional support from the local community – would mean a subdued atmosphere. BB&T Field’s game day experience is anything but tame: the marching band, cheerleaders, and the Demon Deacon mascot help to energize the Black and Gold in the stadium – see the Demon Deacons take the field here:


Even beyond the confines of BB&T Field, the parking lots around the stadium and adjacent Joel Coliseum, home of the men’s and women’s basketball programs, are home to numerous tailgaters. It’s exciting to go through the tunnel under Deacon Boulevard, with its paintings of the nearby campus lining its wall, and then arrive in the Fan Zone, right outside the stadium’s main gate, with black and gold balloons draped all around, There are games and entertainment, a live band, a large statue of the Demon Deacon, and the aforementioned Duck Donuts Truck with twelve different varieties of donuts to choose from.


Most of the seating inside is bleacher-style, with some chairback seating on the west side in sections 4-7, with only a few chairback options on the stadium’s east side in sections 15 and 16. The north end zone features the Bridger Field House, with its premium seating, and a small rectangular strip showing the time and score. Behind the south end zone is Deacon Hill and a large video board. Any seat here is a good one, as the intimate nature of the stadium allows for a good view of the action from anywhere. This includes Deacon Hill, though that does not offer a good view of the video board.


Neighborhood 3

BB&T Field is located in the Winston-Salem Entertainment and Sports Complex, three miles north of downtown, and a mile southeast of Wake Forest’s main Reynolds Campus, along with Joel Coliseum and David F. Couch Ballpark (home to the Demon Deacons baseball team), and next door to the Dixie Classic Although it’s true that there is not a lot to do in the immediate area of the stadium, there are a few places to eat on University Parkway less than a mile away. For example there is Putters Patio and Grill, claiming to have the best steaks in Winston-Salem, all served with your choice of side, salad, bread, and butter. Options include New York strip steak, filet mignon, ribeye, and tenderloin tips. While it may be a bit pricey for some, averaging around thirty dollars per plate, if you’re stopping by for lunch they offer a special eight-ounce ribeye with a side for just $13.75.


If steak isn’t your thing, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and fajitas are among the other options offered on their large menu. Alternatively, on the next block over is Elizabeth’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, which is your classic Italian trattoria offering numerous hot and cold pasta dishes, specialty pizzas, sandwiches, and meat entrées. Or, just one more block down you’ll find Prime Tyme Soul Café, offering down-home southern soul food including fried chicken, shrimp, pork chops, and fish, along with numerous sides like coleslaw, mac and Cheese, fried okra, collard greens, and hush puppies, along with sandwiches, wings, and homemade cakes, pies, and banana pudding.


Winston-Salem is North Carolina’s fifth-largest city, and there is a lot to see and do inside the city limits. A ten-minute drive south will take you to Old Salem Museum and Gardens, a historic preserved Moravian Village from the mid-1700s and a great place to walk around and experience a simpler time. Those who enjoy art should make the three-mile trek west to the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, which houses an impressive collection of pieces from colonial times to the present day, and with the nearby 129-acre Reynolda Gardens and Wake Forest’s Main Campus, there are a lot of places to walk around and take a nice stroll on a late summer or autumn day.


Those who enjoy shopping could head downtown to browse the various galleries, boutiques, and local shops, or, for those looking for chain stores, Hanes Mall is located fifteen minutes from BB&T Field and offers more than 200 stores (until 2004 this was the largest enclosed shopping mall in North Carolina). Those with young children should venture out to Kaleideum North or Kaleideum Downtown, the former with a science theme, nature park, and planetarium, and the latter focused more on literature and the arts, including a theatre showing different performances for children – the stadium sits an equidistant ten-minute drive from either museum.


The majority of places to stay near BB&T Field are going to be found closer in and around the downtown core. The two hotels within a mile of the stadium are Best Western Plus and Courtyard by Marriott, but if you’re looking for something different, the historic Brookstown Inn is four miles south; opened in 1837, this hotel features a wine and cheese reception with a free glass of wine, fresh-baked cookies and milk at night, and a hot breakfast as well.


Fans 3

Deacon fans are a rowdy bunch, and they are not afraid to be bold with their black and gold. The Deacons averaged fourth in attendance in the ACC two years ago, filling the stadium to 90.27% capacity, but last season they dropped to eighth in a fourteen-team ACC with only 85.21% filled. While it would be easy to go by pure numbers and percentages, on my most recent visit it seemed that the stadium was maybe three-quarters full, even as Wake Forest was off to a fast start against the rival NC State Wolfpack.


The stadium can get loud at times for sure, and the passion is there, but the energy just doesn’t match that of larger schools like App State, ECU, NC State or UNC, and playing in a Power 5 Conference like the ACC, which has some of the most passionate college football fan bases in the nation like Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Clemson, expectations tend to be higher. If the Deacons’ winning ways continue, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that more fans from NC’s Triad region of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point start showing up, but a lot of the attendance situation boils down to the smaller numbers of Wake Forest students and alumni, compared to some of the other in-state universities with big football programs.


Access 4

Traffic can be a little tricky getting to the stadium but it’s nothing too unbearable. Like most college football stadiums, most of the lots near the stadium are reserved, in this case for Deacon Club members, but there are plenty of public parking lots behind Deacon Boulevard next to Joel Coliseum. Parking is ten dollars, and handicapped parking is available in the Couch Ballpark lot a little further down Deacon Boulevard, with a shuttle available from there as well.


If you’re looking to take public transportation from the Greyhound Station downtown, the 90, 91, 92 and 106 buses will all bring you close to the stadium and will only cost you a dollar each way. Piedmont Triad International Airport is 30 minutes to the east, and PART buses can connect you from points throughout the Triad, including the airport, for just $2.50 each way including downtown Winston-Salem.


There are five gates around BB&T Field to gain entry, and none of them have any outrageously long wait times. The concourse is moderately wide and easy to traverse. Restrooms are clean, and handicap seating is available in sections 8-13, 17, and 18, as well as at the top of Deacon Hill.


Return on Investment 5

Tickets start as low as twenty dollars for some of the lower-tier teams, and can go up from there to the $30-$35 range, but to watch ACC Football it’s still a fantastic deal, given some of the opponents that come in, and the level of talent of the Deacons and the teams they might be playing. The food is fairly priced – not super expensive, but nothing ridiculously cheap either. Parking costs are fair as well, so when you combine it all, it’s a great value for high profile college football, with not a bad seat in the house.


Extras 5

The first point goes to the new aforementioned Fan Zone outside the stadium, which contributes immensely to the pre-game atmosphere, and adds energy for Wake Forest and visiting fans alike. The second point is for the unique mascot – it’s always a plus to have a mascot that no one else has. A third point for the Deacon Walk, which is done a little more than two hours before kickoff and allows fans a chance to watch the Black and Gold enter the stadium through the aforementioned Fan Zone.


Another point for the wide variety of local food trucks serving up both the sweet and savory, and finally a point for the incredibly friendly people inside the stadium; from the fans to the game day staff to the parking attendants, everyone is just super nice and willing to lend a hand.


Final Thoughts

Wake Forest University has a rich football tradition over two counties and a hundred miles, but one thing that remains consistent is the loyalty that fans of the Demon Deacons exhibit. Black and Gold is worn with pride in Winston-Salem, and while there is always room for growth in terms of fan attendance, the program seems to be on the right track. The school and stadium may be among the smallest in college football’s Power 5 conferences, but the energy, enthusiasm, and passion is never to be underestimated at BB&T Field.


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