Beginning in April, Cameron Indoor Stadium will undergo the first major expansion in its 70-year history.
The $20 million construction project will not change the size of the famously intimate arena but will create an indoor entry space designed to improve fan traffic flow on the building's south side. The expansion will include a new scaled lobby, memorabilia space and two areas for game-day ticketing on the first floor. A 6,000 net-square-foot hospitality area will also be added on the second floor.
“We’re trying to make it look like it isn’t really an expansion,” said Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, noting that the expansion will use the same Duke stone from which Cameron was built. “We’re hoping when we’re done, you didn’t really know what we did.”
As in past athletic facility upgrades, money for the project was raised through donations as part of the Bostock Group and Duke Forward campaign. The south side of the arena will host construction for at least 15 months. One of the reasons for the length of the project is that renovations will use Duke stone and Cameron's original doors to to maintain the stadium's authenticity, Trask said.
Trask explained that, during the conception of the project, many materials other than Duke stone were considered. For everyone involved in the decision, it was clear that the expansion did not need a more modern feel.
“We looked at any of the materials that are in that precinct. There’s glass, there’s brick, there’s precast, there’s metal—we looked at all of them and finally just decided Cameron needs to be Duke stone,” he said.
As is the case with the other athletic facilities upgrades, improving hospitality and fan traffic flow to the arena will come with its share of challenges. In addition to dealing with potential delays in the construction process, project manager Floyd Williams will be tasked with getting fans in and out of the arena during the 2015-16 basketball season and overseeing a major utilities overhaul as part of the project.
“Some of our primary goals are to create premium game day amenities for our fans and to formalize a Cameron Indoor Stadium Experience and Tour on a year-round basis,” Jon Jackson, senior associate director of athletics and external affairs, wrote in an email Tuesday. “Experience and Tour plans will be announced at a later time.”
Williams wrote in an email March 17 that a protective pedestrian tunnel will be installed in an opening in the fence around the construction area, so fans can enter the arena but was much more concerned about the utilities installation. Because the utilities around the south and west sides of the arena also affect nearby academic buildings, the new water and electrical utilities will be his main challenge, Williams said.
Despite the bevy of modifications occurring outside the arena, both Trask and Williams said that the court and the seats will not be affected, with the only real inconvenience for fans being for those using the south entrance. Trask said the sole change inside the arena will be the installation of sprinklers in the rafters—noting the only other fire-safe method to accompany the new lobby were enormous fire doors that Trask called “expensive, ugly and difficult to operate.”
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One of the most devoted Duke athletics fans—Herb Neubauer, Trinity '63, better known as “Crazy Towel Guy" for more than 50 years of intense support at basketball and volleyball games—said he is on board with maintaining the history of Cameron Indoor Stadium while still making it more fan-friendly.
Neubauer emphasized that fans should consider the long-term benefits rather than any short-term inconveniences.
“Things are going to change—you either accept them or move on. That’s where everybody makes a decision one way or the other,” he said. “I don’t think you should look at the short-term of everything. I think you should look at the long-term and what it will do as an expansion of the whole athletic facilities at Duke.”