Mark Thomas

Niner: Top nine NC sports venues

Posted July 9, 2009

9 - Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (ECU) - What makes this stadium special begins with the fans that fill the seats.  When Jimmy Hendrix's "Purple Haze" comes blaring out the Pirate faithful rock this house!  It's always been considered a "fast" turf.  But the main reason players love playing at "The Fick" is because of the fan support.

8 - Durham Bulls Athletic Park (Bulls) - I love hearing from opposing players and managers that talk about how impressive the DBAP is.  Sure you have the Bull sitting high about the Blue Monster in left field that reminds them of Bull Durham.  But the reason for accolades have to come from the major league backdrop of the American Tobacco Campus that truly makes the park unique to any they will see in the minor leagues.

7 - Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke) - Yes seventh.  It ranks number one for Duke players, coaches and Cameron Crazies.  But for me and anyone over six foot tall, it is one of the hottest most uncomfortable places to watch a game.

6 - Dean Smith Center (UNC) - The Dean Dome gets respect on this because it houses a team that seems to have a hard time losing in it.  Not to mention  the close to 22,000 seats that makes it the 5th largest college basketball arena in the country.  Regardless of the seating arrangement of the "older" Rams club members, if you get that many people in one building, it has no choice but to get loud.


5 - RBC Center (Raleigh) - "The Big ATM" gets a good billing because it houses two teams.  One has won championships while tearing the roof of the place and the other has really nice place to play ACC games.  Not to mention the NCAA tournament having high praise of the facility!


4 - Kenan Memorial Stadium (UNC) - A beautiful backdrop with probably the WORST parking in all of college football.  The stadium has added enough seats to bring it to a respectable 60,000. 


3 - Bank of America Stadium (Carolina Panthers) - Great locker rooms and spacious tunnels for games.  I have played their 3 times.  They've got to have the worst turf in the NFL.  And that's hard to do with Heinz Field up in Pittsburgh.  But not a bad seat in the house and it can get loud.  Even though it's 13 years old it still has the feel of a new stadium. 


2 - Lowes Motor Speedway (Charlotte) - Pick any three venues on this list and they can't seat as many as the over 200,000 that show up for Nascar races in Concord.  You can tell "Humpy" Wheeler knew what his people wanted as this has become one of best tracks for fans and participants in all of racing.


1 - Carter-Finley Stadium (NC State) - The passion of the fans, Vaughn Towers, and seating all the way around the stadium.  But most importantly the turf is ALWAYS in great shape.  Now that they've removed the crown in the middle of the field, this will be one of fastest fields in the ACC!!


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  • cutclifferules Jul 15, 2009

    View quoted thread

    Yes, so hateful am I. Those of us in Chapel Hill are quite impressed with your architectural prowess and design. I must say, "The Carter's" smaller stature is only surpassed in esteem by it's Fisher-Price wolf tunnel and Jiffy Lube ads.

  • DukeBlueGuru Jul 15, 2009

    Mark, I have been around college athletics a lot longer than you and getting back to the original question, "Top Sports Venues". Sports Illustrated ranked Cameron Indoor Stadium 4th on a list of the world's top 20 sporting venues. I think that says it all.

  • Mark Thomas Jul 15, 2009

    I actually went as a fan to the Davidson game this year. No doubt if your a Duke fan that is very passionate about your team, the heat and the uncomfortable seating don't bother you a bit. I respect Cameron for the tradition it has and how the kids get into it, but I have been around college athletics a long time. I like the "passion" the Crazies bring. But do you think it may be a bit of a "show"? The kids are more interested in doing the right cheers as opposed to cheering for the Blue Devils?

  • DukeBlueGuru Jul 14, 2009

    He must have gone to one of those December games when the students are away. I still say Cameron is the best and most well known sports venue in the state. I've been going to games there for years and it's still as loud as ever in my opinion...No place like Cameron for college basketball! The noice, atmosphere, fans close to the court, etc.

  • kennywalters Jul 14, 2009


    Cameron probably got rated down because Mark went to a game there when there wasn't a marquee opponent. He then saw the student section not full and all the old geezers in the upper bowl being every bit as wine & cheese as the ones in the Dean Dome. Of course, Duke is very loud when they're playing an opponent of consequence and then Cameron begins to approach what legend claims it to be. However, I don't think Cameron is nearly as intimidating a venue as it was 20 years ago. Perhaps that may be due to the quality of that era of Duke basketball or it may be due to the lack of originality exhibited by today's Duke student section as compared to what they were from the mid-80s to mid-90s.

  • r u crazy too Jul 13, 2009

    Got to admit that the Dean Dome is a great place for a ball game. Could be cause Carolina usually has a good team. Duke really needs a new arena and then they would probably be as good as any place there is. Parking at Dean Dome is really bad, as several have stated. RBC would probably be higher, and better if it was closer to NC State. Reynolds was always an exciting b-ball place. Most of those older arenas seemed to have more atmosphere than the newer ones.

  • DukeBlueGuru Jul 13, 2009

    Unbelievable list! I guess it is how you define top sports venue. By your comments on Cameron Indoor Stadium I guess you are talking about the most comfortable place to watch a game. I define greatest sports venues as the place with the most die hard fans, the loudest, the better known arenas, the history: Fenway Park for example...Believe me Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are far from comfortable. Ask any die hard college basketball fan anywhere in the country to list the 3 most famous college basketball arenas and Cameron will make that list...Can the same be said about Carter Finley Stadium in football...I guess since you played at Carter that is why you listed it...I played American Legion baseball at the old Durham Athletic Park and have fond memories so using your logic maybe I should list the old Durham Athletic Park...

  • chivegas Jul 13, 2009

    View quoted thread

    Don't hate because you have inferior facilities.

  • cutclifferules Jul 13, 2009

    Glad to hear that Mark thinks the biggest stadium in the Triangle has brought its seating capacity up to "respectable". If only this list were as such. Who hired this guy?

  • StunGunn Jul 12, 2009

    Glad to hear Kenny say Cameron is overrated. I haven't been there, but from what I see on TV, I wouldn't even want to go. The place is swealtering - the color analysts are always drenched in sweat, the "crazies" have lost their sharp wit,it seams, as they used to be a lot funnier. A guy in a chef hat isn't funny and neither is the dude wearing a Burger King crown.
    While I thoroughly enjoy watching my Heels play, I think the parking at the Smith Center is horrible. You have to drive all around campus to find a spot and then hike up to the arena. All the close spots are taken up by the fat cats. They need a parking deck. Park and Ride is probably a better option. If you have a good seat, the Smith Center is one of the best venues; if you're in the nose bleed section, not so much. There was one game where the only player I could identify was Brendan Haywood because he was the tallest guy out there - the visibility was that bad. But there is nothing like watching Carolina Basketball, at least in my opinion.

    I like the RBC for both hockey and basketball. The fans blow the roof off watching the Canes. The Pack fans are spirited at times, other times,you can hear a pin drop in there. But you can't beat the parking situation there.

    I think Reynolds is a great venue - fans are closer to the players - it just has this spirit about it that I really like. The RBC is beautiful, but Reynolds is a better, old-fashioned basketball atmosphere. It has such a history.

    I like Kenan - its a beautiful venue to watch a game; too bad the tickets are so expensive. The parking isn't good, but there's always the hospital parking deck which isn't too far away.

    The DBAP is a great venue to watch a game. I liked the old stadium as well - it had a certain "charm". I agree that AAA baseball is truly a bargain.

    All in all, we're very fortunate to have such a wide range of options to watch a great selection of sporting events.




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