- Joseph Oakes
Gilbert Craig Gore Arena At John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center – Campbell Camels
Photos by Joseph Oakes, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Gilbert Craig Gore Arena at John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center 56 Main St Buies Creek, NC 27506
Gilbert Craig Gore Arena at John W. Pope Convocation Center website
Year Opened: 2008
Campbell University is located in Buies Creek, NC, and competes in the Big South Conference. After playing basketball for over half a century at the venerable Carter Gym, Campbell University opened a new basketball arena in 2008. The $34 million John W. Pope Convocation Center at Gore Arena opened on November 15, 2008, as Campbell knocked off Chowan. The arena seats 3,095 and is arguably one of the nicest basketball facilities in the Big South Conference.
Food & Beverage 3
Gore Arena offers standard concessions, nothing spectacular, but enough to get you by if you are hungry. If you are looking for more of a meal, you have three choices: a grilled hot dog ($4), a chicken sandwich ($6), or a personal pan pizza ($7). To go along with these choices are several snack items: popcorn ($3), nachos and cheese ($3), potato chips ($1), soft pretzels ($3, $4 with cheese), and a candy bar ($2). Beverage choices include bottled Pepsi products and Aquafina water for $4. Combos are also available which include a bottled soda: hot dog combo ($8), chicken sandwich combo $10, popcorn combo $7. Since Campbell is a Baptist-affiliated school, alcoholic beverages are not sold.
Gore Arena is a beautiful basketball facility and is the perfect size for Campbell University. Upon entering the concourse from the lobby, there is no doubt that you are at the home of the Camels. Campbell orange and graphics are plentiful throughout the arena. There is not a bad seat in the house as the seating bowl is a single level with fifteen rows of orange seats all the way around the court. There is a spacious concourse at the top of the seating bowl that also provides great views of the action. All seats are plastic molded chairback, except for the three center sections opposite the benches which are padded seats. Directly above the padded suites is a 1,200 square foot presidential hospitality suite. In 2016, Gore Arena added a four-sided, center-hung LED videoboard and scoreboard. There is also a scoreboard on each wall above the baskets.
The Campbell pep band, cheerleaders, and dance team are all extremely into the game, and do a great job setting the atmosphere. Campbell’s nickname is the Fighting Camels, and there are not one, but two camel mascots. Gaylord and Gladys are the two Camel mascots that make their way around the arena during games. These mascots do not just stay in the corner like in many places. They are actively engaged with children and older fans alike throughout the game.
All seats are chairback. Due to the intimate design of the arena, there is not a bad seat in the house. No matter where you sit, you will have a great view of the action on the court.
Campbell University is located in the tiny town of Buies Creek, NC, between the larger towns of Lillington and Dunn on US 421. Its population is just over 2,000. Other than a couple of fast food places on campus (Chick-fil-A, Moe’s Southwest Grill), there is not much else to choose from. If you are looking for somewhere to eat or stay, our recommendation is to take the short drive to Dunn. It is located on I-95 and has a few restaurants and hotels to choose from. The larger cities of Raleigh and Fayetteville are approximately 30 miles away in either direction and offer many more activities if you desire.
Most games at Gore Arena draw anywhere from 1,000-1,500 fans; however, for conference games on the weekend expect 2,000+ fans to pack Gore Arena. Campbell broke attendance records during the 2018-19 season as they posted four of the top 10 crowds in Gore Arena history. A record crowd of 3,351 was on hand for the final regular-season game on March 2, 2019, as Campbell won the Big South regular-season title.
Other than the fact that Campbell’s campus is “in the middle of nowhere,” accessing Gore Arena could not be easier. Since Buies Creek is such a small town, there is almost no traffic when approaching Campbell’s campus. The arena is sort of the front entrance to campus as it sits at the corner of Main Street and Lesley Campbell Avenue. It is easily accessible from US 421. Parking is available in a large lot directly behind the arena.
There is one main entrance and lobby area at the front of the arena. The ticket office sits just inside the main entrance adjacent the lobby. Once you enter there are steps to both your left and right that will take you up to the concourse level. There is little security to enter, just a staff member at the top of the stairs scanning tickets as you enter the doors to the concourse. For those who need handicapped assistance, there are elevators to take them to the concourse level. Handicapped accessible seating is plenteous on the concourse at the top of the seating bowl.
Return on Investment 4
A visit to Gore Arena is a great value for those wanting to see quality Division 1 basketball. Reserved tickets are $12 in advance and $8 for general admission (in the corners). Parking is free, concession prices are reasonable, and game programs are free.
Gore Arena has hosted the men’s Big South Tournament twice: in 2016 and 2019. Also, two mascots are always an extra, and as mentioned earlier, Campbell has Gaylord and Gladys.
There are numerous championship banners hanging from the rafters of Gore Arena. These are not just for basketball, but for all sports that Campbell fields. This is a great way for the university to showcase the accomplishments of non-revenue sports that the general fan might not be aware of.
All the staff are extremely friendly and are not overbearing. In addition, Campbell hosts the nation’s oldest basketball camp each summer, which has been in existence since 1956. Basketball legends such as Pistol Pete Maravich, John Wooden, Michael Jordan, and Ralph Sampson have all been counselors at Campbell’s legendary basketball camp.
Despite being in the shadow of three ACC schools (Duke, UNC, NC State), Campbell has done a great job building a consistent winner in the Big South Conference. Campbell University may not be on your list for basketball trips in NC; however, Gore Arena has proven to be a great home-court advantage for Campbell and a visit to the beautiful arena will not leave you disappointed.