Improving Cameron Only A Start

Last Friday night Countdown to Craziness featured more than one noticeable debut. Aside from the public getting an initial look at the Blue Devils, a number of noticeable upgrades to Cameron Indoor Stadium were unveiled. It's part of an ongoing process amongst the various Blue Devil athletic programs. So what's new? What's next? What's hoped for? TDD investigates.

Over the last few years there have been a number of visible enhancements to the overall facilities utilized by the Duke basketball and football programs. From Cameron Indoor Stadium's new video boards and sound system to similar enhancements in and around Wallace Wade Stadium. And, of course, there's the new visitor's locker room and Brooks Practice Field which were completed over the last few months. It's all part of the athletic department's continuing commitment towards improving the university's roster of athletic facilities through smart planning and private fundraising. Perhaps the most effective vehicle utilized so far has been the Legacy Fund which is headed up by Mike Cragg.

The Legacy Fund was established in 2000 with the goal of fully endowing the scholarships for the basketball program while also raising funds to meet operational and expansion needs of both the program and the athletic department as a whole. To date the Legacy Fund has raised in excess of $50 million. As of this season the organization has fully endowed 11 of the 13 allowable scholarships along with two coaching positions as well as one manager position. In addition Legacy Fund dollars have been used to accomplish a number of projects including the Schwartz-Butters building as well as the new basketball practice facility.

The new practice facility, officially dubbed the Michael W. Krzyzewski Center for Athletic Excellence, has been a big hit for both current players and coaches. As well as those members of the basketball community at large.

"There hasn't been one person connected with the game of basketball - NBA personnel, college coaches/administrators, or high school coaches, etc... - who has not said that our practice facility is not the nicest they have seen," said associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski. "It has been a huge addition to our program as it gives our players 24 hour access to a state of the art facility that helps them get better in every way - physically, academically(houses all academic services for all athletes), and skill-wise. It shows how committed Duke and Duke Athletics are to the well being and continual improvement of our student athletes."

Cameron Indoor Stadium has also been a recipient of a number of improvements in recent years including the installation of the video board, the new video screens in front of press row, revamping the concourse area and upper level seats, and installing a state of the art sound system.

Many of those enhancements were a big hit with fans as the 2009-2010 season was introduced at Countdown to Cameron with a plethora of digital media that was once thought impossible for a stadium that is now more than 70 years old. And while several plans and potential improvements are being bandied about including the idea of luxury boxes to wireless interaction during games, Cragg and his fellow department heads are acutely aware of a most important balancing test.

"[Duke Athletic Director] Dr. Kevin White said it best," said Cragg. "He likened Cameron to a classic sports car. You can update it to a point, but you have to keep it as beautiful as it was when it rolled off the assembly line. That's what we are doing with Cameron. We want to make it the best experience possible for our students and our fans."

In addition to repainting the seats in the upper section, Cragg reports a re-organization of the seating around the court which will likely enhance the Cameron Crazies' ability to influence the opposition in crunch time. Previously the graduate student section had begun to creep into the baseline area. However, with some sponsor or and donors being moved to new sections in the crowd, the grad students will now occupy both end zones as well as the corner near section 19 (near the Duke bench). This will allow the Crazies to be directly behind both baskets.

One thing that is unlikely to occur in Cameron in the near future is an expansion of seating or a reconfiguration of seats.

"We cannot add more seats or change the style of seats in the upper level because of building codes. Because of that we are focusing on sprucing things up and making it more of a tourist attraction and improving the things we can control such as game day experience. We want Cameron to be on the cutting edge of technology while maintaining the iconic status. We have reached out to high-tech companies to get their ideas on what we can do and we're excited to see what comes of it."

One of the potential add-ons may very well include hospitality suites and other such amenities. One particular plan incorporates Wallace Wade - thanks to proximity - into those plans, which would be unique among high major collegiate sports. Linking the two historic stadiums is another goal facing the athletic department with University's recent re-commitment to the football program and head coach David Cutcliffe.

Having already completed the practice field and visitors' locker room there are some exciting plans for the future of Duke Football as well according to Cragg.

"The next big project is constructing an indoor practice facility that will also double as a recreation facility for Duke students. The football team would be able to practice indoors from eight until ten and then the facility would be open the rest of the day for students to play soccer, frisbee, or whatever else inside."

In addition to improving the practice conditions of the football program, there are a number of plans for Wallace Wade Stadium on the docket.

"We look at [the football program] and see a revenue generating sport. We may need to increase the seating capacity with the idea our program becoming a national level program. Like Cameron we want to make Wallace Wade a destination for football and other events. We want to make it a better place to host. Some of the things we're looking at is the idea removing the track while studying how to reconfigure the seating. One option would be suites that are on the field level which gives you another level of access. Whatever we do it will not be at the expense of the structure and history of Wallace Wade. Right now you see buildings built in the 70s, 90s, and 30s. That's not Duke. The new structures with the stone, that's Duke and that's what we want for Wallace Wade."

Another thing that "is Duke" that has begun to receive a push has been the reemergence of Duke blue in and around the various programs and facilities. It's part of an initive to promote the color and the spirit it evokes.

"We have a beautiful school color. We need to celebrate it more than we have in the past. That's a priority for the athletic department. We see more Duke fans wearing blue more recently, and we want to go down that road on the football side as well."


Notes:
  • The player entrances seen at Countdown to Craziness will be a sporadic occurrence more than likely. The lights in Cameron take too much time to come on and off. In order to go dark, each light would need to be fitted with a "shutter". Unfortunately the age and model of the current lights do not support such shutters. Thusly entrances would need several minutes before the game could start.
  • The three video boards in front of press row are part of a series of five. The remaining two boards will be brought out during the regular season games - extending the video board the length of the court.

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