John M. Belk Arena – Davidson Wildcats
Photos by Jared Goodman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
John M. Belk Arena 200 Baker Dr. Davidson, NC 28036
Year Opened: 1989
Wild And Styled For The ‘Cats
Twenty minutes north of the bustling business hub of Charlotte is the quiet, charming college town of Davidson. But on basketball game days, Davidson is anything but quiet. The school’s Wildcats put on a nightly show for their raucous fans, and it all goes down at the on-campus John M. Belk Arena.
Food & Beverage 3
The concession options at Belk Arena are pretty limited and basic, but that isn’t to say that they aren’t of good quality. The items that you’ll find in the food court are also priced simply and fairly. Snag a cheeseburger, pork barbecue sandwich, or chicken sandwich for $4, or chow down on a hot dog or corn dog for $3. Also for $3, enjoy snacks such as nachos, popcorn, or pretzels. Wash everything down with a Pepsi fountain soda or bottled water for $3. There are also some vending machines located near the food court. Additionally, you’ll see some alcohol stands and a Domino’s Pizza booth in the main lobby.
Belk Arena holds more than four times the amount of people than the entire college enrolls. The 5,295-seat venue has more than enough space for the entire 5,295-seat1,800-plus student body, yet it is continually filled to the rafters with alumni, faculty, family, locals, and just casual fans.
The building was built in 1989, but it doesn’t show. Everything from the chair back seats to the architecture appears to be modern and fresh. Of particular note are the Romanesque arches in the end zone, a neat touch that adds flair to the otherwise brown-brick arena. In the upper levels of the seating bowl, you’ll find bleachers, but they’re unique in the fact that they have collapsing chair backs. This ensures that every fan in the arena is comfortable during the game. And despite lacking a center-hung video board, the end zone screens do a great job of providing insights about the action on the hardwood.
During the game, the ‘Cats put on a performance and the school band follows suit. They play, loudly too, at almost every break in the action. The Wildcats’ cheerleaders and pep squad sometimes accompany the music, providing a little entertainment when Davidson isn’t mopping the court with their opponent.
Davidson College is located in a small lake town of the same name, and it’s exactly what you’d picture a southern college town to be. A quaint and walkable downtown is just down the street from Belk Arena, offering fans a chance to take a stroll and check out the local shops and eateries. Closer to the interstate in both Davidson and the town of Cornelius next door, one will find national chains and the like, in addition to some big brand hotels and stores.
The rowdy crowd that packs Belk Arena for ‘Cats home contests is unlike anything in the state, barring the obvious magical fan bases of Duke and Carolina. The red and white striped band, while reminiscent of a Where’s Waldo convention, works hard throughout the night to pump up the energy in the building and provide an intimidating atmosphere for the opponent. Whether it’s a far-away A10 foe or a local rival like Charlotte or Winthrop, anticipate a hostile (yet paradoxically friendly) crowd.
The town of Davidson is located just off I-77, about 20 minutes north of Charlotte’s city center. I-77 heads south to Columbia and north up to Cleveland, providing access to many major cities via intersecting roads.
There’s ample parking available on parts of the campus surrounding the arena.
The huge lot just outside the main entrance is $10, as well as the large lot behind the building. If you’re lucky enough to find a spot elsewhere along the streets of the campus, you can enjoy complimentary parking – but expect a short hike to the arena.
Once inside Belk, there shouldn’t be any issues moving around. While there isn’t much of a concourse (but rather a lobby of sorts), the venue isn’t so large that it’s difficult to figure out where to go.
Return on Investment 3
Ticket prices typically vary depending on the opponent, but are generally around $22-$27 per seat for most Atlantic 10 contests. With fees and such, expect to pay $30. Parking can run you anywhere from nothing to $10, depending on how far you’re willing to walk. Concessions are the fairest price point: a sandwich or burger and a drink totals $7. In summary, a family of four is looking at around $160 for a wild night out in Davidson.
The hallways leading to the main lobby and the bowl are lined with murals and banners celebrating the history of Davidson athletics. The most prominent of these is a feature of local legend Steph Curry, who led the Wildcats deep into the NCAA tournament and helped them advance to their first-ever Elite Eight appearance.
Head coach Bob McKillop was also instrumental in the Wildcats’ success during the Curry years, having been at the helm since John Belk Arena opened in 1989. In 2014, Davidson named the court at the arena in his honor.
John Belk Arena is an intimate building with some impressive history already under its belt. Both college basketball aficionados and casual fans alike will enjoy both the building and the game played beneath its roof. And the game, if the Wildcats’ exciting past is any indication, is destined to be a good one.