Ranking Arenas I’ve Attended Games At Part 1 (26-49)
By: Ethan Hennessy
I’ve had the opportunity to attend lots of college basketball games over the years at many different arenas. I’ve seen division one games at 56 arenas and over the course of the next two posts on HappeningHoops.com I’ll be telling you which places I enjoyed the most.
Honorable Mention: There are seven venues that I have seen games at but are not typically home to regular college basketball contests currently. These arenas either were the former home of teams but have since been replaced by newer venues, are the on campus gyms for teams and don’t typically host games (with the rare exception), or are the arena for a city that hosted a conference tournament or exhibition game. I did not include Madison Square Garden or Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in this group because they are the current hosts for conference tournaments.
- BMO Harris Bradley Center – Marquette (Milwaukee Wisconsin)
- Al McGuire Center – Marquette (Milwaukee Wisconsin)
- Royal Farms Arena – CAA Tournament (Baltimore Maryland)
- RAC – UMBC (Baltimore Maryland)
- Van Andel Arena – Michigan State (Grand Rapids Michigan)
- All State Arena – DePaul and Northwestern (Rosemont Illinois)
- McGrath Phillips Arena – DePaul (Chicago Illinois)
49. Hill Fieldhouse – Morgan State
As I mentioned last time when I did arena rankings four years prior on this website somebody has to be last and unfortunately for Morgan State they round out my rankings. The building did not seem like it was updated much since it had opened in 1974, you had to exit the main part of the gym to acess the upper deck where most of the seating was, tickets were overpriced, and there was a foul odor throughout the gym during the game I attended there.
48. Hytche Athletic Center – Maryland Eastern Shore
UMES is a place not many college basketball fans will get to given its geographic isolation. I’ll let you know you aren’t missing out on much. I drove five hours round trip to see what turned out to be at the time the literal two worst teams in basketball that year (352 vs. 353) Delaware State and UMES. Similar to Morgan the gym is old and outdated. There are no bells or whistles but as you can see in the picture a ton of empty space behind both baskets.
47 – Indiana Farmers Insurance Coliseum – IUPUI
I went to a game at the Coliseum way back in 2017 when the Jaguars were in the Summit League. They faced at the time first place NDSU on a cold Wednesday night in February. The Farmers Coliseum has the unique distinction of being the only arena in all of division one located on a state fairgrounds. The arena is multiuse hosting everything from hockey, to livestock shows, to even the NCAA Tournament during the 2021 season when the entirety of the tournament was played in Indiana. The versatility of the arena hurts it for basketball though as the seats were far away from the court, and the hockey boards still surround the floor. For an Indiana school of 30,000 the student section was extraordinarily minimal. Not all of the blame for the atmosphere can be put on the students though IUPUI just struggled to draw fans in general for what was a great game where the Jags almost upset the first place Bison.
46. Liacouras Center – Temple
Some folks might be surprised to see Temple this low on the list, but I ranked it here for two reasons. First is the atmosphere when I went there last November the Owls hosted USC, a good high major PAC 12 team, on a Saturday night but you would have though they were playing LIU or Rider on a Tuesday (sorry LIU and Rider). The building was mostly empty. I’m not sure if that is just because their arena is too big, or if the fan support is that little. Either way it was disappointing to see such a proud program draw so little for a marquee matchup. The second reason the Liacouras Center is low is because its too cookie cutter. Part of the fun of college basketball is that no two venues are the same. Not everybody can be Long Beach State or Syracuse in their arena design, but when other places pull off the generic cavernous arena better than you its not good.
45. Panther Arena – Milwaukee
You know the drill by this point. Not an arena primarily for basketball, way too big for the team they host (they tarp off most of the upper deck like the Oakland A’s), and difficult to get juice in the building. Panther Arena’s location is right downtown though which is cool. The configuration in my opinion reminds me of Caver Arena home of Bradley.
44. Allen County War Memorial Coliseum – Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne is the only school that I have in the main 1-49 portion of the rankings twice. This is because they actually do a pretty good job of splitting their home games between the off campus Allen County War Memorial Coliseum which is the city of Fort Wayne’s primary arena hosting the NBA G-League’s Mad Ants and national concert tours and the on-campus Hilliard Gates Sports Center. The split is probably 2/3rds Coliseum 1/3rd Gates. I did prefer seeing games at the Gates, but I’ll at least give the coliseum credit that it is unique. There are towering stands along both sidelines that gives it an Assembly Hall-esque feel. It gets downgraded though because the rows are super tight and the building is showing its age.
43. Eagle Bank Arena – George Mason
The iconic yellow and green seats of northern Virginia’s only division one college basketball venue are an acquired taste. I’ve only been to one game at the venue, the 2017 CBI First Round where my Loyola Greyhounds upset a 20 win George Mason team! I was disappointed though to see a tiny crowd for a postseason game. There were some good things though George Mason’s band the green machine was one of the better one’s I’ve heard in my travels and it was cool to see the 2006 Final Four banner in the rafters.
42. SECU Arena – Towson
Towson is a school that I think would benefit from a 3,000 seat building as opposed to the 5,200 capacity they have now. I liked the band and the building is newer, but even when the Tigers are good the crowd still leaves something to be desired. Just like George Mason… again with the yellow seats. Its memorable but also so bright on the eyes for two hours.
41. NIU Convocation Center – NIU
These next two arenas are tough to place on the list because both of them I have only been to one game at, but it was a massive game. For the NIU Convocation Center I covered NIU’s game when they hosted #14 Buffalo. As a result I am ranking both places slightly lower than I normally would if I were just going off my own experience alone because I think the crowds they drew for these games are anomalies. For NIU they likely would have had a great turnout if it weren’t for an ice storm making its way through Northern Illinois that evening. It was still a decent turnout though, and the fans were not disappointed as they got to storm the court after NIU knocked off Buffalo. For the arena it wasn’t anything special. I think normally all of the upper bowl seats are pushed back as opposed to just the baseline upper bowl seats. It gives it a weird feel. The giant husky eyes on the court are also a little weird.
40. Burr Gymnasium – Howard
As I hinted at in the previous arena my singular trip to Burr was for the MLK Day game this past year when Howard hosted Notre Dame. Burr was like a mini Mackey Arena in both configuration and because it was sold out and a great environment. I wasn’t a fan of all of the seats being separate from the court, and there only being one tunnel on and off of the floor, but this might have been mainly because I was covering the game, and trying to squeeze through the tight and crowded concourses.
39. Tom Gola Arena – La Salle
Tom Gola Arena gets a bad rap traditionally. Is is as nice as virtually all of its counterparts in the A10? No. However that doesn’t mean its a bad place to see a game. I was there for the homecoming game this past season and the place was packed to the gills. Yes, its older and very tight in there, but on the bright side they drew a good crowd. La Salle has made some improvements too. They added a large video board in the corner, and personally one of my favorite arena features in all of college basketball the giant neon L along the baseline which they ceremoniously light before every game. It also flashes after a win! Additionally, the banners showcasing the program’s success are cool. The explorers are one of the few CBB programs to win both the NCAA Tournament and NIT plus they made a sweet 16 trip in 2013. Tom Gola Arena actually actually reminds me a lot of the ARC at my alma mater Valpo. Both arenas always get ripped for allegedly having the worst facilities in their leagues, both are older tight gyms with character, both have seats close to the court, both even have a similar smell perhaps that has something to do with the indoor pool in both buildings.
38. Bender Arena – American
Bender has grown on me a little bit since the last ranking where they were in last place. I had only been to 27 arenas when I wrote that article in October of 2018 (see below). The Eagles have drawn better crowds in the handful of times I’ve been there since 2018. One thing that is interesting about American is they have a beautiful court on top of an older hardwood court. The configuration is different from most arenas with large sections behind the baselines and not as much seating along the sidelines. Overall its not a bad place to see a game.
37. Capital One Arena – Georgetown and Atlantic Ten Tournament
Wow three DC arenas in a row! Capital One Arena is home to the Georgetown Hoyas. I also spent a lot of time there this past March covering eight A10 Tournament games in 48 hours. For both Georgetown and the A10 the venue is way too big. Neither could fill anything beyond the lower bowl. It is a nicer arena though because it is home to the NBA’s Washington Wizards. Good luck with finding affordable parking.
36. Boardwalk Hall – MAAC Tournament
Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City New Jersey is home to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. The legendary venue is steps from the Atlantic Ocean. When I went there this past March I saw Saint Peter’s defeat Monmouth in the MAAC Championship before the Peacocks captured the hearts of fans across the country during their run to the elite eight of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Boardwalk Hall is a very old venue opening in 1929. It has seen better days as you can tell there is a lot of wear and tear on the inside of the building. I wouldn’t want to see a team permanently call the building home, but for a week of MAAC basketball the building works just fine. Fun fact: Boardwalk Hall is home to the largest pipe organ in the world though it is no longer operational.
35. Crisler Center – Michigan
As we start to transition from the lower ranked arenas to the middle of the pack in this 1-49 ranking we land at the Chrisler Center home of Michigan. There’s nothing really bad per say about the Chrisler Center there just isn’t really anything to write home about either.
34. Stroh Center – Bowling Green
The only venue I’ve seen a game at in Ohio checks in at number 34. Bowling Green’s Stroh Center is mere yards off I-75 in Northwest Ohio. You enter the arena at ground level and have to ascended up a long flight of stairs to get to the concourse which runs around the top of the stands. Overall it is a nice arena. They display the banners celebrating successful falcon teams in program history, and the crowd was pretty good.
33. Alumni Hall – Navy
At Alumni Hall there is nothing when you are in the arena distracting to draw your attention away from the court. In the stairways though there are paintings and models of naval vessels. Another bonus of going to a game at Navy is you get to see one of the longest benches in college basketball. The service academies carry 20 to 25+ man rosters. The downside of going to a game at Alumni Hall is you have to park at the football stadium and take a shuttle over because civilians are not allowed to drive on campus.
32. Redbird Arena – Illinois State
This MVC arena located in Normal Illinois much like the rest of the buildings in the middle of the rankings is fairly normal (pun intended). Their mascot Reggie the Redbird was playing the drums when I was there which was pretty cool. The Redbirds do own the title for weirdest ceiling. You can see a little bit in the picture. Its a cross between a circus tent and the old Minneapolis metro-dome.
31. Bob Carpenter Center – Delaware
“The Bob” as the locals call it is one of only two division one basketball arenas in the first state. It is home to the Blue Bens of the CAA. The arena itself is a little boxy, but the symmetrical design and royal blue color scheme are fairly ascetically pleasing. Its not a bad place to see a game. I was there in 2018 for the Route One Rivalry against Delaware State.
30. University Arena – Western Michigan
Ah, Western Michigan the rich man’s UMES. Western Michigan just like Maryland Eastern Shore also has a track running around it’s court. but I think the Broncos pull it off better probably because they don’t give off the feeling of a basketball court just placed in a fieldhouse and bleacher slapped up along the side. Instead the stands feel more built in. The crowd was decent, and WMU does a cool thing where they upgrade a few fans tickets for every game to their courtside couch. Yes, that’s right they have a giant leather couch courtside at games (you can see the corner of it in the picture above).
29. John Paul Jones Arena – Virginia
A couple of unique features about Virginia’s arena are the southern architecture style columns on the exterior of the building. On the inside there is a giant section of the 2019 final four court from the year that the Cavs won the national championship.
28. Credit Union One Arena – UIC
UIC’s Credit Union One Arena has the feel of a ballroom. The ceiling is low, its dark except for the court, and there is carpet surrounding the court. Its unusual but I like it. Adding to the quirkiness the stands are also in a U-shape and don’t go fully around the court. Outside the arena you will find some incredible views of the Chicago skyline.
27. Physical Education Complex – Coppin State
I’ve been to five out of the eight current MEAC arenas and Coppin State’s is one of the nicer ones. You will have to tune into the 1-25 rankings to find out which one I like better, but most mid majors would love to call the PEC home. The court has a sleek clean look, and the grey brick pillars above the stands add some character.
26. Gentile Arena – Loyola Chicago
Gentile Arena falls just outside the top 25 and will round out part one of this arena ranking list. I went to games at Gentile twice in my freshman year of college for games against San Diego State and Wichita State. The location in the Rodger Forest neighborhood of Chicago is right on the lake. There is a lot of concrete in the arena which causes sound to echo off the stairs and walls and makes it loud in there when the crowd gets going. I was there before Loyola Chicago’s famous trip to the final four, but they did still have the 1963 national championship banner hanging in the upper part of the stands where fans could go take a picture with it.