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Welcome to The Review: Arenas.  The Review is the place for college basketball fans to learn and talk about everything related to the college game that happens off the court.  See what CHN Experts, College Coaches & Players, Media Analysts, and other fans have to say about everything related to college hoops.

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by CigarBoy

February 15th, 2003



Top Venues to Watch College Basketball


As any true fan will tell you, there is something very unique and special about college basketball arenas. They vary as much as baseball stadiums. Unlike the NBA arenas that are large, sterile, skewed more to service the corporate world, and expensive for the average attendee, the college basketball arenas come in all shapes, sizes and variety. Their features are intrinsically different and reflect the culture not only of the campus, but of the fans who attend.

From the little gyms like St. Francis’ (NY) Pope Center, that seats 1,200 if you have people sitting on each other, to Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, which seats 23,000, some are truly gyms, while others are large arenas with club seats and corporate boxes. But size is not an ultimate criteria for determining if it is a great place to watch basketball.

The debate when choosing the best venues is between comfort and atmosphere. Is it the traits of the physical structure including the charm and history of the building or is it the actions and enthusiasm of the fans? Rating high on the structure end are the Kohl Center at Wisconsin, the Goodman Convocation Center at Cleveland State, the Nutter Center at Wright State, and Carver-Hawkeye Arena at Iowa. These all have great seating bowls that give the fans a great view of the action with various amenities targeted to make the fan comfortable inside and out from cup holders and wide seats, to wide concourses full of tasty treats. But physical comfort alone does not determine if it is a great place to watch basketball.

As I was visiting arenas, it became clear to me that the unique atmosphere, from the antics and energy of the crowd plus the sometime indescribable charm of the older buildings, are what really create a memorable experience. So, I have landed firmly on the side of atmosphere. The newest building on my list is almost 50 years old. I get chills from the thrill of watching a game in all five of these arenas. Any time I visit one of these arenas, I find myself just walking around soaking in the history and becoming absorbed in the home team frenzy, and for that night they become my favorite team. A visit to any of these arenas is something that serious basketball fans should try to schedule.

CigarBoy’s 5 Best Venues to Watch College Basketball

1.Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse - built in 1955 it gets 16,300 fans surprisingly close to the action and they are loud! It has a charm to it that you just can’t find in many arenas. It is almost all bleachers so they really get a lot fans into a building that is not all that big. It was ahead of its time with the bleachers in the corners angled in toward the court and three concourses that spread out the crowd to relieve pedestrian congestion. (picture courtesy of University of Kansas Athletics.)

2.Minnesota’s Williams Arena - built in 1928 is historic and charming. It has a raised playing floor where the first row of fans are looking at the players at about knee level. They also did a good job of honoring their history by having large banners hanging in the arena of past Gopher greats. The food prices are pretty good too. It seats 14, 395 for basketball.

3.Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse - another one built in 1928. Try to catch an afternoon game when the sun is shinning in from the windows at the top of the arena as if the heavens are watching the game too. If it doesn’t send chills down your back, you are not a genuine hoops fan. It seats 11,000 for basketball.

4.The historic Palestra home court for Penn, but I think it really belongs to the Big 5. It was built in 1927 and seats 8700 for basketball. It is loud and when you walk around the outer concourse, you get a real sense of the history of this sacred basketball building. There are pictures of many of the past greats from the Big 5 who played there hanging on the wall and in display cases.

5.Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium - the student crowd, known as the “Cameron Crazies”, are incredible with their well-ingrained actions and chants for all 60 minutes of the game and a robust half-time show too. The building is a little tight from a comfort standpoint, but the history is great from the architecture of the building to the numerous displays documenting the past. It seats 9,314 screaming fans.

E-Mail the Author: CigarBoy

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