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Preview Of The Belk Bowl

December 22, 2012 6:00 AM

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(photo credit: panthers.com)

(photo credit: panthers.com)

(photo credit: panthers.com)

(photo credit: panthers.com)

Belk Bowl
Bank of America Stadium
800 S. Mint St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 358-7000
www.panthers.com

Hours: Dec. 27 – 6:30 p.m.
Price: $54 to $236

The Belk Bowl began in 2002, when West Virginia played Virginia. Once the teams had been announced, tickets to the game sold out in less than a week, in what was the fastest sellout to an inaugural bowl game ever. At more than 73,000 fans, it was the second most attended inaugural bowl game ever, and the largest non-BCS bowl game crowd. This year’s game promises to be a clash of two great teams, one from the state of North Carolina and the other from Ohio. This year the Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) will meet the Duke University Blue Devils (6-6) on the field at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte.

Cincinnati has had a great year, winning its first five games of the season and not struggling until meeting a strong Toledo team in week six. This was a surprise to a lot of college football fans, as Cincinnati lost most of the top players after a 10-win season in 2011. Coach Butch Jones was able to help his team overcome that, losing team leader Walter Stewart (defensive end) to a back injury, and switching to a new starting quarterback in the last month of the season, to win a big share of the Big East.

Duke Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe was named ACC coach of the year after Duke made it to its first bowl game since 1994. Conner Vernon (wide receiver) broke the ACC record for career receiving yards this year. Duke struggled late in the season with a tough schedule playing top conference teams such as Florida State and Clemson, but secured its bowl eligibility (winning six games) early on in the season. This will be its first bowl in state.

Getting There:

Bank of America stadium is easy to find. Close to Downtown Charlotte, follow signs from every major route through Charlotte. This includes both directions on I-77, I-85, I-277, US 74 and NC 49. NC 49 runs right to the stadium. If driving and parking downtown seems like too much of a hassle, there is always the LYNX service. Charlotte has a light-rail with stops convenient to the stadium (Carter and Convention Center on the Blue Line are the best stops to use).

Parking:

There is a parking lot adjacent to the facility. Parking in the stadium lot should be purchased beforehand, and can be done so here: vividseats.com. Purchase parking reservations for $20 to $35. Once the lot adjacent to the stadium fills up, there are still more than 30,000 parking places within a 15-minute walk of the stadium.

Belk Bowl Battle of the Bands
NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza
400 E. Martin Luther King Junior Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 654-4400
www.nascarhall.com

Hours: Dec. 26 – 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: free

The Battle of the Bands will feature the marching bands of the two teams playing in this year’s Belk Bowl. Cincinnati’s marching band will march in and battle Duke’s marching band, and the two will compete for the applause of the fans to get everyone primed for a great game the following evening. This is a must see for anyone gearing up for the big game.

Belk Bowl Fan Central Party
EpiCentre
210 E. Trade St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 688-5980
www.epicentrenc.com


Hours: Dec. 26 – 
5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Price: free

Pep Squads, mascots and cheerleaders will be on hand at the official fan party for the Belk Bowl. There will also be a DJ (beginning at 7 p.m.) and a cash bar. The school bands for Cincinnati and Duke will play beginning at 9 p.m. All of this and more may be found in the Commons Area at EpiCentre.

Belk Bowl FanFest
Bank of America Stadium
800 S. Mint St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 358-7000
www.panthers.com/

Hours: Dec. 27 – 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Price: free

The official Belk Bowl FanFest is like a carnival with games, food carts and face painting. Also available for purchase will be Belk Bowl merchandise and merchandise for fans of the two schools. Cheerleaders and ,arching bands will be on hand, and Lady Antebellum is headlining the live music at FanFest this year.

Related: College Football Sports

Dining:

Energy Cafe (at Duke Energy Center)
550 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(980) 355-0240
energycafecharlotte.com

It is unusual to find a restaurant that promises not to use processed foods and only use organic food when possible. This is exactly what makes Energy Café special. It is not necessary to sacrifice a healthy lifestyle when getting food away from home, as Energy Café promises only tasty, healthy meals and beverages. The café is on Tryon Street and Graham Street, two blocks southeast of the stadium.

American Roadside Burgers
440 S. Church St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 335-3352
americanroadsideburgers.com

From sweet potato fries to a Carolina-style barbecue burger, American Roadside Burgers is the place to get southern cuisine before or after the game. It even offers a signature burger called “The Roadstar” that has four beef patties, four slices of cheese, onions, tomatoes and lettuce. American Roadside is kid friendly, but also adult friendly with specials on beer every day but Sunday. It is less than two blocks east of the stadium, on First and Church streets.

Mama Ricotta’s
601 S. Kings Drive
Charlotte, NC 28204
(980) 228-9127
mamaricottasrestaurant.com

For a bit of heartier fare, residents and regular visitors to Charlotte have long known that the best place for an authentic Italian meal is Mama Ricotta’s. It is a bit further from the stadium — about a mile and a half — but well worth the trip. Mama Ricotta’s is an award-winning restaurant that has grown in recent years to be a more than 200-seat, 250-employee establishment, but the food and the atmosphere has not suffered one bit. All of the food served is made from scratch, and portions are generous. There are even family sized options, and Mama Ricotta’s is gluten-free friendly.

Lodging:

Queen City Inn
1025 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28203
(704) 334-3663
www.queencityclt.com

The Queen City Inn is just steps away from the stadium — finding a place to stay that is more affordable and closer would be impossible. Best of all, anyone who stays here will have free parking, and may walk to the game. Some suites also feature 11-foot ceilings, hot tubs, wet bars or kitchens. Free cable TV and free WiFi Internet are available as well.

The Dunhill Hotel 
237 N. Tryon St.

Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 332-4141
dunhillhotel.com

The Dunhill is a downtown luxury hotel. It features beautiful, spacious rooms, fine dining at the Harvest Moon Grille, valet or self parking (there is a charge for this), shuttle service (it won’t be needed for the game; the stadium is walking distance), dry cleaning, WiFi and even a concierge. The entire facility is smoke free. Originally this 10-story hotel opened in 1929 and was one of North Carolina’s first luxury establishments. 

Related: Tailgate Packages in Charlotte

Vincent Eagan, III is a minister who has preached and taught Jesus in 30 states and Peru over the last 15 years. He currently lives in Monroe, NC, and is working on his MTh in Theology. He has been a life-long student of the Bible and other religious texts, and loves to discuss history. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

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