If you’re visiting the Triangle during college basketball season and are hoping to catch a game in person, don’t count on being able to buy a ticket at the box office. In fact, count on not being able to. The 20,000-seat Dean Dome, UNC’s Dean E. Smith Center, routinely sells out for men’s in-conference games, and PNC Arena, the NC State Wolfpack men’s 20,000-seat home arena, often does as well. Duke plays at the comparatively quaint and tiny Cameron Indoor Stadium, and its 9,000 seats are the hardest of all to obtain.
The most prized and scarce treasure of all is a ticket to the Duke-UNC men’s game. Unless a current student at one of the schools really, really likes you, or you’re a major benefactor with a building named in your honor, your chances of paying face value for a ticket are slim to none. When the game is played at Duke, students follow an elaborately codified protocol of camping out next to Cameron in “Krzyzewskiville,” a whimsical tent city named for the legendary Duke coach, for a chance at getting into the game. The university provides K-Ville with its own Wi-Fi; however, no heaters are allowed in the tents, and someone must always occupy a tent to keep its place in line or else the whole tent is disqualified. Some students spend the better part of a semester living at least part-time in K-Ville.
During basketball season, tickets appear on eBay, Craigslist, and ticket-scalping search engines. For a minor out-of-conference game, such as those played early in the season—the Wolfpack versus the Flying Menace of Snickelfritz County Community College, let’s say—you should be able to get a reasonably good ticket for $10-20 above face value and without much difficulty. For a sold-out game between ACC teams, prices go up steeply. If you want to go to a UNC-Duke game, seats up in the rafters will be in the hundreds, and a good seat could easily set you back $1,000 or more.
Scalping is illegal in North Carolina; it’s also pretty common. On game day, the scalpers are the people hanging around outside the arena, or on nearby street corners, holding signs that say “Need Tickets,” code for “I’ve got tickets.” If you ask one of them if he has a ticket, he’ll ask cagily what you’re looking for. Draw your line in the sand—you want a really good ticket for not a lot of money. If you ask for courtside seats for $20 each, you’ll only get laughter and lose your bargaining chips, but if you start not too far from the bounds of reason, he’ll talk business. Be firm, and be willing to turn down a best offer. There’s another scalper just a few steps away. If you don’t mind missing the first few minutes of the game, you’ll find that prices start going down at tip-off.