1-27 Ranking All the College Basketball Arenas I Have Seen Games At
27. Bender Arena (American)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: Jan 2nd 2018
Sorry to Bender Arena at American University, but out of 27 College Basketball Arenas you claim the prize of the one I least enjoyed seeing a game at. When I went to Bender Arena home of the American Eagles you can see the teams were playing in basically an empty arena. The official Wikipedia attendance is listed at 135 people for this game. As always with a game over Holiday breaks that needs to be taken into consideration for attendance numbers, but still 135! That combined with the overpriced tickets, rude ushers, and poor product on the court has them sitting in last.
26. All State Arena (Northwestern)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: Nov 10th 2017
The temporary home of the Wildcats came in 26th here. I saw my Loyola Greyhounds nearly upset the number 19 team in the country here back on opening night of the season. You know you have an environment problem when I can yell out and cheer for the opposing team, and be heard perfectly clearly in the opposite corner of the arena. This was not only the first time ever Northwestern was ranked starting a season, but it was also the first game they were playing since making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history, and commemorative banner giveaway night. With all of those factors it made it disappointing to see the arena less than half full. Now I’ll admit not all of this is NU’s fault. The situation of playing at All State was not optimal, and some students might not want to ride an hour to go to a game, but the things they could control like making the arena feel a bit more like home instead of just slapping up a few wildcat signs or keeping the building temperature higher than 50 would have moved it higher on the list.
25. All State Arena (DePaul)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: Nov 17th 2016
Tough going for All State as they find themselves twice in the bottom three arenas. There is a lot about DePaul’s All State home similar to Northwestern’s. The student section is equally underwhelming, and parking is equally expensive. One thing I can say that was better was ticket price. I paid $3 for 7th row tickets to a Big East vs. Big Ten game. Granite it was DePaul vs. Rutgers, but still.
24. Indiana Farmers Insurance Coliseum (IUPUI)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: February 1st 2017
IUPUI will never have the draw of their crosstown counterparts Butler, but given the fact that they are a school of 30,000 students located in a major US city, in a basketball crazy state I would have expected a much better crowd when number one in the league NDSU came to town. The arena is listed at a capacity of 8,200, but they never even come close to filling it halfway in any of their games including this one. They are the only college basketball team to play at a state fairgrounds which gave it a unique feeling.
23. Verizon Center (2018 A-10 Tournament)
Number of games seen at venue: 2 Most recent trip to: March 8th 2018
Perhaps the experience of taking in a college basketball game at the Verizon Center is different when it is a Georgetown home game, but I was not wowed by much at the Atlantic Ten Tournament. Everything was more overpriced than in most arenas, and no matter whether you take the metro or drive it seems like it is always a pain trying to get to and navigate downtown DC. The environment was okay, but for a conference of this size they are playing in way too big of a venue in my opinion. I will give a bonus point because I had a ticket for one of the suites, and it was nice.
22. University Arena (Western Michigan)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: February 18th 2017
Right off the bat I have to give it up for the student section there were not many of them, but they were great at being loud and distracting. The fans were very polite and friendly. Also, the geographical area of Western Michigan and the town of Kalamazoo are nice. However, the seat configuration inside the arena is odd my guess is it is to accommodate the indoor track surrounding the basketball court. Additionally, this was a rivalry game against Eastern Michigan I attended, and as you can see from the picture there were many open seats for this Saturday matinée game.
21. SECU Arena (Towson)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: February 14th 2016
I have nothing extraordinarily negative nor positive to say about SECU Arena on the campus of Towson University. It is your average mid major venue. The pep band was good, and the dance team I believe is nationally quite good. The tigers probably could have done without the upper deck in their relatively new arena as it rarely gets used. The arena has a capacity of 5,200, and I think if they cut 1,000 seats out it could make it a louder more intimate environment. Lastly, I say this as a guy who enjoys bright colors, but staring at that many yellow seats for 2 hours is a bit harsh on the eyes.
20. Mackey Arena (Purdue)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: December 10th 2016
I have two main problems with Mackey the first is the seating for almost all the arena is these old uncomfortable wooden benches where you are crammed in like sardines. You can barely move you arms, your knees are in the back of the person in front of you, and you have knees from the person behind you in your back. Secondly, I have been to dozens of college and pro arenas, and this was the furthest I have ever felt away from the court. It felt like I was a mile away from the action. I sat in the last row in the building in the State Farm Center at Illinois, and the Upper Deck at NBA arenas such as the Verizon Center, BMO Harris Bradley Center, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse all of which I felt way closer to the action than Mackey. For these reasons Mackey is the lowest on the list out of the Indiana Big 4.
19. Patriot Center (George Mason)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: March 15th 2017
The only other time I had been to the Patriot Center was for a Keith Urban concert in high school that I was able to go to by calling into a radio station to win free tickets. Not really related to college basketball or GMU, but I thought was cool to mention. The game I went to at GMU was part of the 2017 CBI tournament which made the fact that the arena was only 1/10th full even more disappointing. However, it did have some cool features such as a picture mural commemorating the 2006 final four team right when you walk in the door, as well as the banner hanging in the rafters in the main part of the arena. Additionally, the Green Machine pep band directed by Doc Nicks with his flashy suits and cane are regarded as one of the best in college basketball, so they were a treat to listen to. The primary reason this arena is further down on the list is because it was 90% empty for a postseason home game. Also, the design for the arena is very bland and box like. That being said personally have nothing but good memories at this building between the concert and my Loyola greyhounds winning a postseason road game there it has treated me well!
18. Royal Farms Arena (2014 and 2015 CAA Tournaments)
Number of games seen at venue: 4 Most recent trip to: March 6th 2015
Moving from one venue I have nothing but good memories to another. I went to the 2014 CAA tournament, and then went back in 2015. These were special events. The CAA did a fantastic job in putting on the tournaments, and I am glad they came to Baltimore. The venue was perhaps a bit old and big, but it worked fine for the tournament. I also loved that the CAA and Towson University had partnerships with the Special Olympics of Maryland. This is actually how I got tickets because I volunteered with the Special Olympics of Howard County in high school, and they were given extra tickets.
17. Van Andel Arena (Michigan State)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: October 29th 2017
This game happen under unusual circumstances as you might be able to tell from the date it took place in October a month when college basketball is not usually being played. That is because this was one of the many charity exhibitions taking place at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. I have to give it up for Grand Rapids Michigan; the town does not have a division 1 college basketball team, but they came out in force for this game selling it out in a matter of hours. I was also walking around downtown prior to the game, and there was green and white everywhere. I hope to one day be able to experience the true Michigan State basketball home court in East Lansing, however, this is probably the closest thing you can get to it, and it was impressive! The downsides of the arena were the seats were very narrow, and the building felt on the older side. It remined me of Royal Farms Arena in its configuration.
16. Welsh Ryan Arena
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: December 3rd 2016
We have reached the sweet 16! Checking in at number 16 is Welsh Ryan Arena home of the Northwestern Wildcats. This place is tight, but it is a good kind of tight. While I have not been to all 14 of the Big Ten arenas I have been to 5 (6 if you count All State for 2017-18), and this is the probably the Big Ten arena where you most feel involved in the action just due to the size. The place was sold out which is to be expected since the game was against crosstown rival DePaul. A bonus for me was I got to meet Michael Wilbon of Pardon the Interruption when I was there. A downside is parking is very expensive. I am eager to get back to Evanston either this season or next to check out the renovated Welsh Ryan Arena!
15. Wintrust Arena (DePaul)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: January 12th 2018
The only reason Wintrust is higher than Welsh Ryan is because Wintrust is less than a year old. This was the first season DePaul has not played in Rosemont, and coincidently the first season Northwestern did. DePaul’s brand new shinny arena in the loop of downtown Chicago is impressive, but the product on the court just doesn’t match it. Parking and navigating around this area of Chicago is also always a nightmare. Also, I didn’t notice at first, but there was not really much going on during timeouts in the arena. I do have a soft spot though for this place because this is the first place I covered a Big East game at. DePaul granted this at the time 19 year old kid who had only ever gotten a press pass once before (at UMBC before they were big) the ability to cover DePaul vs. Providence.
14. Retrievers Activities Center (UMBC)
Number of games seen at venue: 4 Most recent trip to: Nov 24th 2017
Speaking of UMBC, this was the home of UMBC basketball until the tail end of the 2018 season which coincidentally was the same time they became a household name by pulling off the biggest upset in basketball. I had a lot of memories in the four games I have been here from going to my first college basketball game with my brother in 2015 to covering my first ever college basketball games with media credentials at the battle for Atlantis mainland tournament with Presbyterian, Chicago State, UMBC, and Nichols State in 2017. This is the closest division one school to my childhood home, and it is sad that I won’t be able to go to any more games here, but hopefully some point in the near future I will get to check out the new UMBC Events Center. This arena always provided a quaint environment close to the action.
13. Xfinity Center (Maryland)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: November 21st 2015
It has been a while since I have been to the Xfinity Center this is actually the venue where the longest time has passed since I went to a game there (other than Royal Farms Arena). Maryland’s home arena was the first power five arena I visited, so at the time it seemed massive to me because when you go from only watching games at 2,100 seat Reitz Arena to a Big Ten venue it is a bit shocking at first. At the time I saw them the Terps were number three in the nation, and they were able to avoid a scare against the Rider Broncos of the MAAC. The tickets were a great price for only a few rows up from the court. The student section was great, but the best part was without a doubt the lowering of the flag. As a guy who rocks some Maryland state flag clothing and has had a flag hanging in my dorm room in Indiana since freshman year this is so cool. It is one of the best traditions in college basketball. At the under four timeout in the second half a giant Maryland state flag is lowered over the entire student section.
12. BMO Harris Bradley Center (Marquette)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: January 28th 2018
Since I was aware the 2017-18 season would be the last that the Marquette Eagles would be playing in this building that also houses the NBA’s Bucks I figured if there was ever a game to go to it is when Marquette was facing the number one ranked Villanova Wildcats. Therefore, I made the drive up to frigid Milwaukee Wisconsin for this late January matchup. I have been to 76 college basketball games, and I have been in many loud arenas, but the crowd at the BMO Harris Bradley takes the crown of the loudest college basketball arena I have been in. There were times when Marquette forced a turnover or made a key shot that the roof came off the building. It was truly defining, so hats off to Marquette fans. The eagles actually made it a game too almost knocking off the eventual 2018 champions. I was all ready to storm the court with the students if they did so. Now that we have covered the positives lets get to the negatives the building was extremely old, and you could feel the age at every turn in the building whether that be from the seats to the stairs to the concourses. The food was very overpriced. The most disappointing part was there was not a single place in the entire arena where you could pick up a free memento from the game like a poster, magnet schedule, or even a program. The ushers seemed very confused when I asked them where I could even buy a program. I usually want to grab one, but in this case I especially wanted one because I was seeing the number one team in the nation, and thought they had a real chance to make a deep run in March (which they did by winning it), so it would have been cool to have a memento other than the ticket from the game. Therefore, because of all of these factors that is why I have the loudest arena I have experienced at number 12 on the list.
11. Emile and Patricia Jones Convocation Center (Chicago State)
Number of games seen at venue: 4 Most recent trip to: January 18th 2018
This newer arena is very unique, but I feel it is a hidden gem in the college basketball world tucked in the south side of Chicago. It all started from the first time I went to a game there when my friends and I walked through the tunnel almost on to the court, and the then coach of the cougars Tracy Dildy thanked us for coming. It just didn’t feel like any other division one college basketball game I had been to for some reason. Sure the team that plays here isn’t that good, and the games with the exception of the 2017 GCU game I went to aren’t that close, but there are still many good things about the arena. One of the things that is the biggest positive for me is that Chicago State plays in the WAC, so I can just head on over to the Jones any given week in January or February, and see teams from Arizona, Utah, Washington, California, Texas etc. that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. As not only a diehard college basketball fan, but also geography major I love that the WAC is so geographically diverse, and more importantly that there is a WAC school in my backyard from where I go to college. Also, the cheap tickets are general admission so you can literally sit in any seat in the building for $10 and get supper close to the action. You are also able to park for free 50ish feet from the door.
10. State Farm Center (Illinois)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: January 14th 2017
We have reached the top ten of this count down! The State Farm Center was always a venue that was on my bucket list, so I was thrilled to take a trip there in my freshman year. The game I went to go see was when the Terps took on the Fighting Illini. Being from Maryland and since I mentioned earlier that I own some Maryland state flag clothing I went head to toe in Maryland flag apparel. I liked the State Farm Center for a number of reasons first off was how nice the fans were despite me cheering for the visitors. Also, Illinois had some of the best timeout entertainment that really got the crowd involved. Lastly, I was sitting in the last row in the building and unlike Mackey Arena it was a great experience. I could still watch the game on the actual court (not just from the jumbotron), and the seats were all padded chairbacks! The only negative I have is the drive through the valley of central Illinois is just over a hundred miles of pure nothing, and the town of Champaign is really not much better it is pretty dull.
9. Purcell Pavillion (Notre Dame)
Number of games seen at venue: 3 Most recent trip to: December 10th 2017
This is the second arena of the Indiana big four to appear on this list checking in at number nine. The best aspect of Notre Dame is probably the value of a gameday experience. The bang you get for your buck is really second to none. First of all close parking is free which is shocking for the ACC. Also there are always free programs and schedules when you walk in. Furthermore, the ticket prices are actually not bad for the ACC. The being siad I haven’t been to any marquee games like Duke (hopefully one day though), but I’ve been to three games there: Wake Forest, Boston College, and Saint Francis Brooklyn. The last game was when Notre Dame was ranked number 5, and the average I spent was like $9! The student section, band, cheerleaders, and mascot are all great. Also, it is a very small arena for a major college hoops program, so even if you are sitting in the upper deck you still feel very close to the action. There aren’t really a lot of negatives the only one would be I am not really able to go to the big games here because it is prohibitively expensive. The reason this arena isn’t slightly higher on the list is really nothing negative against Purcell it is just the other ones have slightly more positives.
8. Al McGuire Center (Marquette)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: October 22nd 2017
The Al McGuire Center is a great place to see a college basketball game. I went there for the battle of Milwaukee in October 2017 for a charity exhibition. I would like it if Marquette played all or even just some of their games here. I know the environment at the BMO Harris Center is electric as I talked about earlier, and for bigger games that is fine to accommodate all of the people, but this venue seems just the perfect size for a great crowd for some of Marquette’s lesser non conference games. The place is the home for all of Marquette’s basketball history with their 1977 national championship banner hanging, the 2003 final four trophy and exhibits on current NBA players like Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. I also like how there is a huge glass wall along one of the baselines that looks out on the street. The band is good, and sound really resonates in this place. The 6 feet tall padding along the baselines is a bit odd, but it gives it a unique charm. My only negative is most of the seating is bleacher style. I wish I could go back to this venue more often because I really enjoyed my trip there, but unfortunately I’ll only be able to return if the Golden Eagles host another charity exhibition there, or make the NIT again.
7. Hillard Gates Sports Center (Fort Wayne)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: February 24th 2018
I wasn’t able to go to the Gates Center until the final week of the regular season my sophomore year of college, and I wish I had discovered it earlier because I loved it, and now I only have two more years to go to games here. This arena is the perfect embodiment of Indiana basketball. The facility is very new and polished. The lobby of the building is impressive. The capacity is 2,300, and it feels like a cross between Reitz Arena at Loyola Maryland and a big high school gym. Part of the reason I probably like it so much is it reminds me of Reitz where I went to so many games growing up, and had such great memories. In Fort Wayne just like most Indiana cities they love their basketball. The one game I’ve been to here they packed the place for first in the Summit League South Dakota State and Mike Daum. More bonus points for this arena I like how instead of having flags or banners they actually have murals of the other conference schools logos. It was a bit awkward to see the blank white space though where IUPUI used to be, but they were probably just waiting out the year, so that this year they could put North Dakota in, and not have to re-do the whole thing because the spacing was off. More bonus points for actually hanging banners for the times they made the CIT. The Mastadons are the only team in Indiana to make five straight postseason trips. Lastly, Fort Wayne has a plus that is similar to Chicago State in that you can go there for any conference game and see teams from places as far away as Colorado, Oklahoma, and the Dakotas thanks to the footprint of the Summit League. Thank you Summit League; I like that!
6. Knott Arena (Mount Saint Mary’s and 2017 NEC Tournament (Mount Saint Mary’s))
Number of games seen at venue: 2 Most recent trip to: March 4th 2017
Nestled in the small town of Emmitsburg Maryland at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains is Mount Saint Mary’s University. A small university with a unsuspectingly great college basketball experience. The configurations of the arena a very similar to Welsh Ryan at Northwestern (before these new renovations at NU). Long wooden bleachers along one side, chairbacks along the other, and a student section on the baseline. I went to one regular season game over Christmas break against a bad team which was okay, but then I went to the NEC tournament semifinals that same season vs. Robert Morris. This is no hyperbole when I say the environment at Knott Arena was perhaps better than the one I experienced at the ARC at Valpo when number 21 Rhode Island came to town, and we beat them. This place gets loud. If you are playing a mid afternoon game (which was the case at the NEC tournament) the sunlight comes through the skylines as you can see in the picture at just the right angle to blind the visiting coach in the eyes for 20 minuets. I have to think that is an unfair advantage. The student section is great. There is a cool balcony over one of the baselines that you can watch the game from. Similar to Fort Wayne there are no individual flags for conference schools, but it is one big mural hanging from the balcony. Additionally, this is the cheapest ticket I have encountered at any college basketball arena general admission bleachers are $5, and chairbacks are just $10.
5. Gentile Arena (Loyola Chicago)
Number of games seen at venue: 2 Most recent trip to: February 12th 2017
I joke with my friends that I have only go to big games at Gentile Arena. I went to the Mountain West Missouri Valley Challenge my freshman year when the Ramblers took on San Diego State, and then that same season when Wichita State came to town for the last time as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. Gentile is like a concrete cell, so the noise just bounces off everything. Since I have only been there for two marquee matchup games naturally the environment is great. However, the main reason this arena is higher is because when I went you could walk up and take pictures with and touch the 1963 national championship banner. It is probably the only arena in the country in which you can go touch a national championship banner. I have since heard that this past season they moved the location of it, so I don’t think this is longer possible to do, but it was very cool while it lasted. When I had Porter Moser head coach of Loyola Chicago on the Happening Hoops Radio Show in January one of the things we talked about is his dream of having Gentile sold out and loud every single night no matter the opponent. Well I think he won’t have to worry about that now after making the Final Four last season. I am looking forward to being at Gentile opening night this year when they raise that new banner, and for the Nevada game when a top ten team should come to town.
4. Assembly Hall (Indiana)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: November 12th 2017
Going to see a game at Indiana’s Assembly Hall in Bloomington feels like a college basketball pilgrimage. This place is near the top of any fan’s bucket list. The configuration of the arena is unlike any other in the country the stands just rise up off the sides of the court and keep going so high that if you are on the court you probably can’t see all the way to the top. The game I went to was actually a pretty bad crowd and student section, but I’ll give IU the benefit of the doubt and just chalk it up to a 8pm game on Sunday against Howard. The matchup was particularly symbolic to me because the first ever college basketball game I went to was Loyola MD vs. Howard in 2009. Then two days later my greyhounds went to Assembly Hall and knocked off the mighty Hoosiers in the two teams only meeting ever. Flash forward to 2017 two days before I was set to go to Assembly Hall to see one of the teams from my first ever college basketball game I saw my Greyhounds nearly upset number 19 Northwestern up in Chicago. So it was cool how that came full circle. This building oozes history and memorabilia from the Big Ten and NCAA tournament. Tickets are expensive even for Howard I ended up paying a fair amount, but it is worth it. Even when I was there I realized between the distance from Valpo and price of tickets there is a good chance I might not be back here in college, so I wanted to soak up the experience, and I felt like I did. I hope I can return, but that will wait to be seen. The only negative I have other than the price is the absolute mess they have with the parking situation. They close off almost all of the town, and send you in one giant one way circle around the campus. There are different lots only people with specific tags can park in, but they don’t tell you that. If you miss your turn you have to go all the way around again. If you are a bucket list destination like Indiana you have to realize that many people every game will be experiencing your arena for the first time and therefore are not familiar with the parking, so make it clearer.
3. Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler)
Number of games seen at venue: 1 Most recent trip to: February 13th 2018
When you step into Hinkle Fieldhouse it feels like you are stepping back in time. This is truly a great gameday experience. The students are great; the history in this place is phenomenal banners and trophies everywhere. A cool thing about Hinkle fieldhouse is they let anybody walk on the court after the game. I have a soft spot in my heart for Butler because this program with so much history granted me media credentials after only having covered really two other games at UMBC and DePaul. There is a reason this place is on people’s bucket list. I would recommend if you have the money and means to get to a game here that you do so it is magical. I don’t think I have a single negative about the place.
2. Reitz Arena (Loyola Maryland)
Number of games seen at venue: 18 Most recent trip to: November 21st 2017
I grew up on MAAC basketball at Reitz Arena on the evergreen campus of Loyola. Since my Mom is a professor there we got free tickets to every game, and went to 1-4 every year during when I was in middle and high school. Even now that I am at Valpo for college I still try to get up to Baltimore for one game every year over thanksgiving or winter break. There is just something about Reitz that feels like a familiar warm fuzzy blanket. The greyhounds have been and will always be my team. Reitz Arena is the template I base all subsequent college basketball arenas I have been to off of.
- Athletics Recreation Center (Valparaiso)
Number of games seen at venue: 19 Most recent trip to: February 20th 2018
If Reitz Arena is like the warm fuzzy blanket of childhood then the ARC is like my favorite cozy sweatshirt of young adulthood. This has passed Reitz as the venue I have seen the most games at on senior night of this past season against Northern Iowa. Even though it is close to a toss up between the arenas ranked one and two of my favorite places to see games at I’ll give the nod to the ARC. My seat at the ARC, yes I said my seat, is the first row righthand most seat of the student section along the baseline. I am probably about five feet from the end of the opposing team’s bench, and I am in their ear all night long. I lead chants, I wear my cape, cheer for Valpo, and make individualized signs for each opponent that comes to town. My favorite memory is when three games into my college career we beat number 21 ranked Rhode Island and stormed the court. I was the first one out there leading the charge by a long shot. Valpo has accumulated a home record of 16-3 when I attend games at the ARC, and it took 437 days from seeing my first Valpo game (a win opening night of freshman year vs. Southern Utah) to see my first loss at the ARC midway through my sophomore year vs. eventual Final Four team Loyola Chicago. There is just something special about going to games at your school. The memories you make in that arena last a lifetime!
By: Ethan Hennessy
All pictures taken by or of Ethan Hennessy
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