The 15 Best Outdoor Venues in Sports

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2014

The 15 Best Outdoor Venues in Sports

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    When fans think of the ultimate hallowed grounds in sports, great history and even better moments probably pop into their heads, as they're generally associated with winning.

    But what are the best?

    I'm tackling that tough question by giving you the best outdoor sporting venues—so if you haven't already been to these places, make sure to add them to your bucket list.

15. Providence Park (Portland Timbers)

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    As someone who lives just a short drive from Portland, Oregon, I can tell you just how soccer crazy that entire city is about the Portland Timbers.

    Providence Park is intimidating and raucous, with 20,000 insane fans yelling at the top of their lungs to both intimidate opponents and cheer their team on.

    And as you can see in this video, the fans have a unique way of showing how united they are, getting the opportunity to sing the national anthem before a match.

    It's no wonder the league picked this spot as the host for this year's MLS All-Star Game.

    Best Moment: Serving as the home stadium for the 2013 Western Conference's top seed—though the Timbers lost 5-2 on aggregate in the West finals to Real Salt Lake.

14. Charles River (Head of the Charles Regatta)

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    MICHAEL DWYER/Associated Press

    A treacherous three-mile course that is difficult for any rowing crew to navigate without obstacle, the Charles River is renowned as the most significant spot for rowing in the United States.

    Featuring a total of six bridges along the course, it plays host to the annual Head of the Charles Regatta each October, which brings together a slew of age groups, countries and levels of experience for hundreds of thousands of fans to enjoy.

    Best Moment: Although it has a variety of records and personal bests, the biggest impact the race has is on the local community, generating over $750,000 in donations to charities since the program began in 1998.

13. Howard J. Lamade Stadium (Little League World Series)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    I remember one of my former bosses once telling me about just how special Howard J. Lamade Stadium is during the Little League World Series. He used to take his four boys to Williamsport, Pa. while they were growing up to experience the tournament.

    Although I've never personally been there, the passion from these young athletes is something that everyone can admire.

    Hosting the event since 1959—with an additional stadium being built in 2001—Lamade regularly meets its 45,000-seat capacity anytime these youngsters are on the diamond.

    Best Moment: The walk-off home run in 2007 by Dalton Carriker of Warner Robins, Ga. to win the international championship.

12. Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football)

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    michael conroy/Associated Press

    Touchdown Jesus. The dashed end zones. The long, thick grass.

    These elements all help make Notre Dame Stadium one of the top places to see a college football game in the country.

    While it may lack the pizzazz of newer stadiums or others with levels on levels of seating, the venue is set for a $400 million facelift, which will expand it from about 80,000-plus to nearly 85,000 while also offering fans a unique experience to showcase the history of Irish football.

    Best Moment: While it would be easy to list the Rudy moment we're all familiar with, how about just serving as the home stadium since 1930 for one of the most prestigious college football programs ever. The stadium has seen plenty of great history over the years.

11. Boston Marathon

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    We all know about the unfortunate tragedy that happened at last year's race—which brought together a city and a nation to rally behind, but as someone who has run multiple half and full marathons, the Boston Marathon is still the creme de la creme of all marathons.

    Not only do many avid runners like me strive to qualify for the marathon each year, but it's also the world's oldest annual race, bringing together a host of participants from all over the world.

    If ever given the chance to either run or spectate, make sure to watch the struggle up the esteemed "Heartbreak Hill," where runners have to hit nearly a half-mile of incline between miles 20 and 21 of the 26.2-mile event.

    Best Moment: In 2011, Kenyan runner Geoffrey Mutai completed the race in an insane two hours, three minutes and two seconds to set the all-time course and world record.

10. Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees)

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    Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    You may be asking yourself why Yankee Stadium is so low on this list, but honestly, I debated whether or not I should even include the new building because it lacks the history of the original.

    Still, the new Yankee Stadium is home to the most recognizable sports team in the world and remains a stadium that every baseball fan should visit at some point in their life.

    It may not be the "House that Ruth Built," but I'm sure it will collect its fair share of moments over the next century or so.

    Best Moment: Other than becoming the most expensive baseball stadium ever built, it housed the clinching Game 6 of the 2009 World Series, when Yanks prevailed to win their 27th title.

9. CenturyLink Field

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    While CenturyLink Field in Seattle is famous for its earthquaking noise level during Seahawks games, one can't overlook the building's explosion of noise during any sporting event held there.

    Need further proof?

    Just ask any of the U.S. men's soccer team members who, following a World Cup qualifying match played there last May, said that the atmosphere was top notch.

    As someone who has been to this stadium a few times, I can say it's the craziest, loudest and one of the best places to ever witness sports.

    Best Moment: Besides holding the world record for being the loudest stadium, it was host of this year's NFC Championship Game, which the Seahawks won to enter the Super Bowl—which they won handily.

8. Churchill Downs (Kentucky Derby)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Now, although Churchill Downs is in Louisville, Ky., even a rival graduate of the University of Kentucky like me can admit that it's one of the best places in all of sports.

    Whether it's guys getting pampered in seersucker suits or ladies wearing their big hats, fans enjoy the races with mint juleps the first weekend of May to kick off the summer.

    Serving as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports," it's the first leg of the U.S. Triple Crown and sets the stage for a horse to make history like those in the past.

    Best Moment: With a number of great moments, one can't argue the incredible colt Mine That Bird who, going off at 50-1 odds in 2009, became the second-biggest upset winner in Derby history.

    Congrats to anyone who tossed money down on that one.

7. Daytona International Speedway (Daytona 500)

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Known as "The Great American Race," the Daytona 500 is the equivalent of the Super Bowl in NASCAR driving.

    And as someone who generally doesn't watch the sport, every single person I've ever heard describe the place has raved about the experience.

    Fans say that there's nothing like watching a race live, so if you're going to go all out, get drunk and watch the excitement of cars going nearly 150 miles per hour, Daytona International Speedway is the place to do it.

    Best Moment: With the first live broadcast coming in 1979, the nation witnessed a fight between drivers Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough after a wreck during the last lap that led to Richard Petty winning.

    This little incident piqued interest in the sport, serving as a great advertisement to show the passion of the athletes.

6. Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Anyone who has ever been to a game in Fenway Park knows the feeling of being in a cathedral of sports, because it's quite the experience.

    The smell of the stadium is just a little bit different in Fenway, as only the rustic history of a park opening in 1912 can bring.

    With the Green Monster and all the nooks and crannies of this old-time park, Fenway holds its own atop all other places to watch a baseball game.

    Best Moment: Although the Red Sox broke the 86-year curse years earlier, when the team won the World Series this past season, it was the first time the park and city witnessed the team hoist the trophy at Fenway in 95 years.

5. The Rose Bowl (Various)

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    Doug Benc/Associated Press

    Tabbed as "The Granddaddy of Them All," the Rose Bowl is a game that every college program hopes to someday be a part of—with a bevy of fantastic finishes and memorable games over the years.

    And the stadium that shares the name just happens to be pristine in its own right.

    Located in the sunny haven of Pasadena, Ca., the Rose Bowl has also hosted a number of Super Bowls on top of its annual bowl game, making it just about a perfect place for a gridiron battle.

    Best Moment: While I'm sure my grandparents or parents could make a case for other moments, in my lifetime, nothing can beat the 2006 national title game between the Texas Longhorns and the USC Trojans.

    It's one of the best games in college football history, so it has to serve as the top moment in the great stadium.

4. Centre Court (Wimbledon)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    As host of one of tennis' major championships, Centre Court is the place that every participants hopes to be playing on—especially on championship Sunday.

    With its pristine grass and audience expected to be both classy and educated, Centre Court holds a spot in tennis like no other venue in the sport.

    Best Moment: Like others on this list, I'm going with a more recent one here—and it belongs to Brit Andy Murray.

    Failing to win Wimbledon in 2012 after reaching the final—but then capturing Olympic gold a few weeks later on the same court—Murray finally ended a 77-year drought of a British man winning its most famous tennis event.

3. Augusta National Golf Club (The Masters)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    As soon as one pulls up to Magnolia Lane to drive through the flanking magnolia trees, the excitement and rich history of The Masters is in full effect.

    With a number of famous features such as Eisenhower Cabin, Founders, and the Hogan, Sarazen and Nelson Bridges, August National is a golfer's dream course.

    Whether playing for a green jacket, getting the opportunity to play with a member or just walking the grounds while in attendance, few moments in sports can top a spring Sunday at Augusta.

    Best Moment: Again, there are some unbelievable moments, but who can argue with Tiger Woods?

    His stunning 12-shot victory in 1997 as a 21-year-old was his first major title—he's won 13 more since, including three green jackets—and it marked the first title by an African-American.

2. Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers)

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    Simply put, there is no other place like Lambeau Field in football.

    With its frozen tundra and small-town feel, the cheesehead-wearing fans are as passionate and knowledgeable as any in sports, and the hometown Green Bay Packers are arguably the greatest franchise in the league.

    It also served as the home to the most accomplished coach in football, Vince Lombardi, so who can argue with the rich history and tradition of Lambeau?

    Best Moment: Without a doubt, the greatest game ever played in the stadium is the 1967 NFL Championship Game—otherwise known as "The Ice Bowl."

    With temperatures reaching as low as minus-46 with the wind chill, the Packers hosted the Dallas Cowboys for a chance to go to Super Bowl II.

    The Packers won 21-17 in one of the best games in NFL history.

1. Old Trafford (Manchester United)

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    Most of us probably reside in the U.S., but I'm sorry to say that the best outdoor venue in sports happens to be across the pond in Manchester, England.

    Old Trafford has been the home of esteemed soccer club Manchester United since 1910, and it has seen a number of tremendous moments and squads in its 100-plus years of existence.

    As the second-largest soccer stadium in the U.K.—behind just famed Wembley Stadium—Old Trafford has hosted a number of top-notch events, such as the FA Cup semifinals, World Cup and European matches, and the 2003 Champions League Final for soccer, along with the rugby league's annual Super League Grand Final.

    Heck, it was even part of the 2012 Olympic Games.

    Best Moment: With all of the events the stadium has hosted in its time, I just can't help but acknowledge the big games that featured longtime Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

    That might be a bit of a cop-out, but this is one of the most historic places in all of sports, so how can I choose just one?