College Football: Ranking Division I Indoor Stadiums

Alan BlackAnalyst IIIMarch 24, 2012

College Football: Ranking Division I Indoor Stadiums

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    College football stadiums come in a variety of sizes, designs, functions and scenery.  Their uniqueness is part of what makes college football so incredible.  However, not all college football stadiums are outdoor stadiums. 

    Nine Division I football teams call unique indoor stadiums "home."  Two more (Tulane and Georgia State) play in indoor stadiums whose main tenants are NFL teams.

    Following is a ranking of the unique indoor football stadiums in college football (Tulane and Georgia State's stadiums will not be included in these rankings because they are NFL stadiums, not college stadiums).

    Let's see how well these teams did at bucking the trend and deciding to play their home games indoors.

9. Holt Arena (Idaho State Bengals)

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    Location: Pocatello, Idaho

    Capacity: 12,000

    The Holt Arena, opened in 1970, was the first indoor stadium in college football.  Unfortunately, its age shows.  The arena is cramped, due to the roof sloping steeply downwards towards the endzone. 

    The seats are set up in color-coordinated rows that are quite unpleasant to look at.  The bright colors of those seats are about the only bright things in the arena, as it is quite dark inside, lacking natural lighting. 

    The Holt Arena is also a multi-purpose arena, and that unfortunately also shows.  Wrestling mats, segments of the track and all sorts of other non-football elements are readily visible at football games.

    Idaho State is at least trying to make the Holt Arena pleasant.  New turf was installed in 2011, replacing AstroTurf that had been in place since the Arena opened in 1970. 

    Although the Holt Arena was innovative when it first opened in 1970, it has since been eclipsed by all other indoor stadiums in college football.

8. DakotaDome (South Dakota Coyotes)

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    Location: Vermillion. South Dakota

    Capacity: 10,000

    Less than a decade after the Holt Arena ushered in indoor college football stadiums, the DakotaDome opened as the home to the South Dakota Coyotes.  While it has also become somewhat outdated, it does have a few positive attributes.

    The roof of the DakotaDome is quite high in the air, giving the entire the illusion of being much more spacious than it actually is.  The roof is relatively new, having been installed in 2001 as a replacement for an air-supported roof that had previously collapsed.

    Unfortunately, not much else has been updated.  The wooden bleachers and curtains covering the walls are eerily reminiscent of a middle-school auditorium. 

    Despite its flaws, the Coyotes seem to enjoy playing at the DakotaDome, boasting a home winning percentage of over .700.

7. Alerus Center (North Dakota Fighting Sioux)

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    Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota

    Capacity: 12,283

    The Alerus Center is relatively new, having opened in 1998.  Despite its small football capacity, it is actually a fairly nice indoor stadium

    Despite being indoors, there is actually some pretty good scenery at the Alerus Center.  From the myriad of crisscrossing beams in the ceiling to the many nooks and crannies found throughout the Alerus Center, there is quite a bit of interesting architecture to be admired.

    Overall, the Alerus Center is a nice little indoor stadium.

6. Alamodome (Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners)

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    Location: San Antonio, Texas

    Capacity: 65,000

    The Alamodome is an anomaly amongst indoor college football stadiums.  It was built for the purpose of being an NFL stadium, but San Antonio was never able to attract an NFL team.

    When the University of Texas-San Antonio started up a college football team in 2011 and became the main tenants of the Alamodome, the stadium became the largest indoor stadium whose main tenant is a college football team.

    The large capacity of the Alamodome has been a huge help for the upstart Roadrunners.  In their inaugural home game, they managed to attract over 50,000 fans, who were able to fit comfortably into the spacious Alamodome.  They also managed to set the record for highest average attendance for a first year college football team, averaging over 35,000 per home game.  The spacious confines of the Alamodome are a major reason for that.

    The downside to the Alamodome is because it was a stadium designed for football that went almost two decades without a major football team as a tenant, it has not been kept up very well as a football stadium.  The inside needs some renovations in order to modernize it and make it a more enjoyable football stadium.

    With a little tender love and care, the Alamodome could become one of the premier indoor stadiums in all of college football.

5. J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome (Northern Arizona Lumberjacks)

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    Location: Flagstaff, Arizona

    Capacity: 16,230

    Built in 1977, the Walkup Skydome has aged incredibly well.  One of the unique things about it is that the Skydome is actually wooden, as opposed to metal.

    The playing field itself sits at just under 7,000 feet above sea level and 20 feet up from the field, there is a mark on the building to showcase where 7,000 feet above sea level is.

    The turf has been modernized, as AstroTurf was replaced with FieldTurf in 2008.  Overall, the building has been kept up quite nicely.

    The Walkup Skydome is a unique, quirky stadium that is a shining example of how stadiums can add to the beauty of college football.

4. UNI-Dome (Northern Iowa Panthers)

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    Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa

    Capacity: 16,324

    Opened in 1974, the UNI-Dome has been renovated several times, and it shows.  Without knowing its age, you would never guess that the UNI-Dome is almost 40 years old. 

    The roof was originally an air-supported one, but was replaced in 1994 by a metal one.  However, a large skylight takes up a considerable portion of the roof, making the UNI-Dome feel light and open. 

    The roof is not the only part of the stadium that has received a considerable upgrade.  In 2009, the old turf was replaced with ultra-modern Mondoturf.

    The UNI-Dome is proof that good upkeep and renovations can make good football stadiums enjoyable for a long, long time.

3. Kibbie Dome (Idaho Vandals)

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    Location: Moscow, Idaho

    Capacity: 16,000

    Just a few short years ago, the Kibbie Dome would have been near the bottom of these rankings.  At 16,000 seats, it is the smallest in all of FBS football.  For years, it was also dark, poorly tended to, and rather unpleasant.

    As of 2011, the Kibbie Dome has undergone a dramatic transformation into one of the best indoor stadiums in the country.  Windows were installed in the top half of the walls behind each endzone.  The turf was upgraded.  A press box and private suites were added.

    The Kibbie Dome may still be the smallest stadium in FBS football, but thanks to these major renovations it is a great place to both play and watch football.

2. Fargodome (North Dakota State Bison)

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    Location: Fargo, North Dakota

    Capacity: 19,000

    The Fargodome is 20 years old, but feels quite vibrant and full of life.  That could have something to do with the fact that it is home to reigning FCS champs North Dakota State.

    The Fargodome is large, but not too large.  There is still a comfortable feel to it.  Walls jut in at some corners to serve as natural separation and prevent the Fargodome from being just another boring, cookie-cutter multi-purpose building.

    By far the most impressive trait of the Fargodome is how loud it gets inside.  The boisterous Bison fans rival any in college football.  The noise levels inside the Fargodome during Bison home games have been measured at levels matching those found at some NFL games.  The intense noise levels inside the Fargodome have earned it the nickname "thunderdome."

    Regardless of the fact that it is an FCS stadium, the Fargodome is one of the most intimidating places to play in all of Division I football.

1. Carrier Dome (Syracuse Orange)

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    Location: Syracuse, New York

    Capacity: 49,250

    The pinnacle of indoor stadiums in college football, it is surprising to discover that the Carrier Dome is over 30 years old.

    The Carrier Dome is quite large.  Despite the fact that it seats almost 50,000 under one roof, the Carrier Dome is not cramped or unpleasant.  It still has great sightlines as well.

    The Carrier Dome can also get quite loud.  Although the Orange haven't had much success on the football field in the last decade, the Carrier Dome can become deafening when the home team is doing well.

    The dome is also very well-lit.  It's not dim inside at all.

    If all indoor college football stadiums were as well-executed as the Carrier Dome, there would probably be a lot more than nine of them.