CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM
Home of the Preseason No. 8 Duke University Blue Devils
Our trip through the stadiums of the Top 10 men’s college basketball teams shifts gears today as we arrive in Durham, NC and visit Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke University. Unlike the modern, multi-purpose O’Connell Center at the University of Florida, and Syracuse University’s mega-venue Carrier Dome, Cameron Indoor is a seventy-year-old throwback of an arena with a capacity of under 10,000.
Cameron Indoor Stadium was built in 1940 as part of a larger university re-construction following a major donation from tobacco baron James Buchanan Duke. To design the new campus and basketball arena, Philadelphia-based architect Horace Trumbauer was hired, having designed Duke’s private residence. However, Cameron Indoor Stadium itself, together with a large number of buildings on the Duke campus, including Duke Cathedral, was designed by Julian Abele, lead designer in Trumbauer’s office and one of the country’s first African-American architects.
Duke’s campus buildings were built in the Collegiate Gothic style, a look familiar to college buildings but quite unique for sports arenas, particularly those still in play in the 21st Century. That said, sports facilities are often the result of copy-cat design (see Multi-Purpose Stadiums of the 60s & 70s, Modern Retro Ballparks of the 90s & 00s) and Cameron Indoor bears striking similarity to the University of Pennsylvania’s Palestra.
Cameron Indoor feels like a large high school gym, not the home court for one of college basketball’s perennial powers. With its lower section of fold-out wooden bleachers, ceiling-hung baskets and press facilities high up in the rafters, Cameron exudes old-school charm that exemplifies the squeaky clean program Coach Mike Krzyzewski has built since taking over in 1980. The love affair this private University of 15,000 has with its basketball team is evident in the passion on display by the Cameron Crazies and by the lawn adjacent to Cameron Indoor that has been dubbed Krzyzewskiville in honor of the temporary village that sprouts up with Crazies waiting to get tickets to big home games.
Cameron Indoor sits within a cluster of athletic buildings on the University’s West Campus. Along with the 34,000-seat Wallace Wade Football Stadium and Coombs Field Baseball Stadium, the recently completed 56,000 sf Michael W. Krzyzewski Center for Athletic Excellence brings Duke’s athletic facilities up to speed with other major college programs. Cameron Indoor is a much smaller building than the Carrier Dome or O’Connell Center, and has none of the mixed-use, multi-purpose nature of those two buildings – simply put, it is just a basketball gym. Within its walls, there is little else besides the court, bleachers, locker rooms, concessions areas and a few trophy cases. The gym is shared by both men’s and women’s basketball teams and the women’s volleyball and men’s wrestling teams. Although it was the biggest college basketball arena south of The Palestra when it opened in 1940, Cameron is now a bandbox compared to its ACC rivals.
Renovations to the building over the past twenty years have added locker rooms, new wood paneling and brass railings, air conditioning and most recently a new video scoreboard over center court. These changes though have not affected the overall capacity of the arena and Cameron remains very much the same building it has been for the past seventy years. In an era when college campuses across the country are expunging their gyms to replace them with world-class arenas, it is so great to see Cameron Indoor remain, in all its cramped glory, a treasure to old-time basketball and up there with Fenway Park and Lambeau Field as landmarks of American sport.
Main photo credit: Cameron Indoor sleeps, via Adam Gerik EYE