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  • Will Halpern

Wallace Wade Stadium – Duke Blue Devils

Photos by Will Halpern, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Wallace Wade Stadium 110 Bassett Rd Durham, NC 27708

Duke Blue Devils website

Wallace Wade Stadium website

Year Opened: 1929

Capacity: 40,004


Blue Devils on the Rise in The Bull City

Duke University was founded in 1838 as Brown’s Schoolhouse. Eventually it became Trinity University, in the town of the same name, located about ten minutes south of High Point in Randolph County. In 1892 the school packed up and moved to Durham, thanks in part to Julian Carr and Washington Duke. The school took the latter’s name in 1924 and became what we know today as Duke University.

The football program began in 1888 four years before the move to Durham. Duke Stadium, built in 1928, was renamed Wallace Wade Stadium in 1967 in honor of the Blue Devils’ legendary head coach. The stadium is known for having hosted the 1942 Rose Bowl game, the only time the game has ever been played outside of Pasadena California (this occurred due to concerns about Japanese attacks after Pearl Harbor).

Duke’s football program is no doubt in the shadow of the nationally prominent basketball program, but the football team has seen a return to respectability after nearly two decades of tough seasons, led by the arrival of coach David Cutcliffe, who had a hand in coaching both Peyton and Eli Manning. Duke did not appear in any bowl games between 1995 and 2011, but since 2012 the Blue Devils have appeared in six bowls in the past seven seasons, and in fact won the last three of them; the Blue Devils have put themselves back on the map in the ACC.

Food & Beverage 5

Wallace Wade Stadium offers a variety of local food and beverage options throughout the stadium, while traditional fare is also offered, for example hot dogs, chicken tenders, and fries, as well as quesadillas, cheesesteaks, and veggie burgers. Bojangles Chicken sandwiches and Pie Pushers individual pizzas deviate from the norm. You can also find a couple of local stands like Hog Heaven serving up not just BBQ sandwiches and plates, but also BBQ hot dogs and BBQ parfait cups, which combine BBQ, baked beans, and slaw for some truly tasty vinegar-based pork goodness. You can also order chicken and waffles, catfish nuggets, or mini corn dogs if BBQ isn’t your thing.

There is also Highway 55 serving burgers, shakes, and fries. Ice cream, Italian ice, cotton candy, and hot chocolate are some of the sweeter options offered at Blue Devil football games. Coke products are offered throughout the stadium, and while alcohol is offered at other NC colleges, Duke has opted not to sell it in the concourse.

Atmosphere 4

Wallace Wade Stadium underwent a major facelift in 2016 when changes were made throughout the stadium. The track around the field was removed, and in place of bleacher seating, blue chair back seating with individual cup holders were added on the stadium’s east and west sides, with bleachers remaining in the stadium’s corners and behind the north end zone where the band and a lot of students sit. The video board behind the south end zone is larger than the original video board, and the press box and media area were renovated and are much larger now than they were before the renovation.

The stadium still keeps its iconic horseshoe shape, which many stadiums are starting to get rid of, and it is unique in retaining a single seating bowl with a capacity of 40,004. It’s one of the smaller stadiums in the ACC, but with a school of Duke’s size it’s perfect, and with the stadium’s track a thing of the past, the seats are close to the field, giving a great view of the action from wherever you decide to sit.

The Duke Marching Band, along with the cheerleaders and the iconic Blue Devil Mascot, also help to add to a great game day experience.

Neighborhood 4

Wallace Wade Stadium is located on the southern end of Duke’s West Campus, with Duke’s other athletic facilities including Jack Coombs Field and Koskinen Stadium. It is also adjacent to the iconic Cameron Indoor Stadium, where Duke’s basketball teams play. There are an abundance of places to eat near Duke University and throughout Durham. The first place that comes to mind is Elmo’s Diner located two miles to the northeast on Ninth Street, which is where many Duke students and Durham locals hang out. Elmo’s features classic breakfast food as well as traditional American diner fare. It is a must-try spot, but be prepared to wait for a table, as it is a small restaurant. Still, it is well worth the wait.

Also on Ninth Street is Cosmic Cantina, a Mexican restaurant that offers delicious burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and chimichangas. Ninth Street has a sweet side as well, with delicious doughnuts offered at Monuts, and organic Mexican style popsicles, both in ice cream and fruit varieties, at Locopops right around the corner. In addition, downtown Durham offers some great places to eat and drink – the city was voted 2013’s Tastiest Town in the South and that is proven by the eclectic restaurants and bars in the city’s core three miles to the east of Wallace Wade Stadium. Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, Bull City Burger and Brewery, and Tobacco Road Sports Café are three places that are worth checking out if you’re in the heart of the Bull City.

Durham has lots to see, do, and explore. For those who enjoy being in the great outdoors, Eno River State Park is a fifteen-minute drive to the north, with miles of picnic areas, hiking trails, and camping areas. Then, a brisk twenty-minute walk from Wallace Wade Stadium is Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a 55-acre green space with plenty of places to stroll, relax, or just stop and smell the numerous varieties of flowers. Next to the gardens is the Nasher Museum of Art, which offers permanent and traveling exhibitions and events, while those with children would enjoy the Museum of Life and Science just ten minutes from the stadium, which offers an indoor/outdoor museum, a butterfly house, and a train ride.

Speaking of an indoor/outdoor experience, shopaholics will enjoy the Streets at Southpoint, a mall and shopping center only a fifteen-minute drive south of the stadium, offering more than 150 stores, restaurants, a two-story Barnes and Noble, and a movie theatre. There are also plenty of places to stay throughout Durham; the two closest to the stadium and West Campus are Millennium Durham, a luxury hotel with spacious rooms, an indoor pool, and a fitness center, and on Duke’s campus itself is JB Duke Hotel, a luxury hotel with a restaurant, business center, and a free shuttle around Duke including to/from Duke’s Medical Center, Ninth Street, and Wallace Wade Stadium itself. Downtown Durham offers many places to stay as well, including both chain hotels and luxury options.

Fans 3

Duke is known first and foremost for its men’s basketball program that routinely packs Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the football program has seen a resurgence of late. This is due to both the stadium’s renovations as well as the team’s consistent bowl game appearances. However, during the last two seasons Duke has only averaged 12th in a 14-team ACC in terms of attendance, averaging right around two-thirds capacity both years. The fans that do show up are loud and passionate and sport their Blue Devil apparel, but the student body is less than half as large as schools like NC State and UNC. This is the one drawback of the renovations; the increased capacity can make fan attendance look sparse.

That being said, there is no reason not to think that attendance could increase at Blue Devils football games – during prime-time games against ranked opponents the stadium will nearly sell out. Attendance could also rise if Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils schedule some strong non-conference opponents that could pique the interest of Blue Devil Nation, outside of ACC action and natural rivals like UNC and Wake Forest.

Access 3

Getting to Wallace Wade Stadium can be a bit challenging as traffic tends to increase once you get west of downtown out towards Duke University. There are parking lots throughout campus, but they tend to be a fifteen-minute walk or more from the stadium, though some lots have shuttles to the facility. Guests with disabilities who have the right identification are able to park closer to the stadium, but like at most college football stadiums, the parking in the immediate vicinity of the stadium is for boosters and season ticket holders, which here means Iron Duke club members.

The C1 or C6 buses from downtown take about ten minutes and are a dollar each way. Those coming out of town on either the Greyhound, Megabus, or Amtrak can take these buses to the stadium and avoid the hassle of parking, though parking is free in the general lots. The main point of entry is next to Cameron Indoor Stadium, and with many lines, wait times are not too long. But the concourse is wide and can be traversed easily, restrooms are clean, and there is handicap seating above the general admission seating and throughout the stadium.

Return on Investment 5

The fact that Wallace Wade Stadium is not routinely sold out provides an advantage, as it allows you the opportunity to see high-quality ACC football at a modest price. Season tickets for general admission are just $78, which is often less than what a single game costs at other venues, and you can attend a game without spending more than twenty dollars per ticket. Food is reasonably priced and with free parking, you are able to attend a Power Five Football game for no more than $30 to $35 per person. This is an unbelievable deal, and with Duke playing better in recent years, your money goes a long way at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Extras 5

One point for the local concessions options offered at the game – those from out of town can take in the best in local pizza, burgers, and BBQ. A second point for an impressive team store right outside the stadium, with a giant screen TV and a plethora of Duke Blue Devils apparel, as well as the large numbers of places to buy Duke gear inside Wallace Wade Stadium itself. A third point goes to the wonderful sight lines in every seat of the stadium, as having a single level allows for no one to be far from the action. A fourth point for the Gothic feel throughout the stadium, evidenced in the stadium’s inner walls, keeping with the theme of the rest of the campus’s architecture. Finally, a point for the fantastic Duke Marching Band, both for keeping the fans engaged on the Duke side and for playing their opponent’s fight song (Notre Dame’s on my most recent visit) – a sign of good sportsmanship.

Final Thoughts

Duke University has a proud athletic tradition, specifically with its national championship-winning men’s basketball team. However, their football team should not be overlooked. While they do play in a tough Atlantic Coast Conference, the Blue Devils can hold their own. After recent renovations, Wallace Wade Stadium has become the perfect backdrop for a resurgent Blue Devils club led by coach David Cutcliffe. While it can be a challenge to fill the stadium at times, with affordable tickets, concessions, and parking, and a program that expects to win in any given year, Wallace Wade Stadium is not a place to ignore in a football-rich state.

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