Holy Ground: 10 Sports Venues You Must See in Person
With the original Yankee Stadium now off the list, which ten sports venues surpass all others in the "Need to See Before You Die" list?
Fan bases honor them.
Purists study the intricacies of them.
Sports fans yearn for the day to visit them.
Truth be told, it's hard to be a sports fan and not think about the great venues where sporting events have taken place during our lives. Even before some of us were born, memories of great baseball games at Yankee Stadium and races at Churchill Downs have spanned the generations, bridging the gap between the memories of yesteryear and the world of today.
Regardless of how passionate a fan you are, there's always some part of you that's willing to acknowledge the charm or historical importance behind a rival team's digs. The venues our teams play in are as much an extension of the team identity as the players are. In some cases, the stadiums have become more famous than the teams on the field!
If you were making a list of the 10 sports venues you must visit, then, this would be as good a place as any to start. We're crossing the Atlantic Ocean several times, beginning with Number 10...
10. Anfield (Liverpool FC, English Premier League)
Though there are plenty of stadiums with rich histories in England, few match the charm of Anfield.
Anfield. To most in the United States, the name might not ring a bell. But if you're a fan of association football (hitherto known as "soccer" in America), then you can immediately recognize it as the home of the Reds, Liverpool F.C.
Liverpool was the most successful football team in all of England during the 1900s. And during those glorious years, the action took place at Anfield. Refurbished in the mid-1990s, Anfield remains as gorgeous as ever (especially to fans of Steven Gerrard), and there's nothing quite like taking in English football from the Main Stand. For an American looking to truly experience the Premier League, Anfield is where you go.
There are several notable features worth mentioning to American fans, but I could think of none more moving than the famous Bill Shankly Gates, dedicated to Liverpool's greatest manager. Over the gates is written the team's adopted anthem, "You'll Never Walk Alone," taken from a song.
From an outsider's perspective, it's a powerful monument to a wonderful coach.
9. Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke Blue Devils, NCAA Basketball)
There are few venues in sports that captures the pure fanaticism of the fan base like Cameron Indoor Stadium does.
With respect to the North Carolina Tar Heels and their rabid fans, this is one category where Duke reigns supreme.
The Blue Devils of Duke University play their home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, one of the loudest and most intimidating places in all of college basketball. The venue is quite small compared to other basketball arenas in its conference especially and is the smallest of the major Tobacco Road arenas. As such, there exists an intimacy at Cameron that cannot be found at other schools in the area.
Of course, one of the arena's biggest features is the fan base that makes the joint come alive on game day. Known as "Cameron Crazies," Duke's fan base can come up with some of the most bizarre, ritualized antics this side of a Raiders home game. They also get more xcardio during one game than most people get on the treadmill in a week.
For days on end, the Crazies camp out in a tent city known as "Kryszewskiville" outside of Cameron, waiting to get their seats for the big games, notably against Tobacco Road rival North Carolina. With the intimate charm and the crazy atmosphere, Cameron Indoor Stadium stakes a serious claim at being college basketball's premier venue.
8. Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox, Major League Baseball)
Beloved Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts is a throwback to a different era.
With the recent success of the fabled "Old Towne Team," Boston's Red Sox certainly aren't hurting for fans these days. With so many bandwagon jumpers and casual fans filling up Red Sox Nation as of late, a lot of newcomers don't appreciate just how special of a place Fenway Park is.
As the oldest baseball park still in use, Fenway Park is a throwback to a mystical era when baseball was a sport, not a business. There are so many distinguishable features at "the Fens," including the iconic Green Monster in left field.
Newer fans may not understand the importance of the other famous landmarks at Fenway though, including the difficult-to-play Triangle out in deep right center, the Fisk (in left field) and Pesky (in right field) Poles, each with their fair share of history. Older fans may still refer to the bullpen area out in right as "Williamsburg," and die-hard fans know the story about the off-colored seat in the outfield.
For most of us, though, Fenway is simply a reminder of everything that was once right with America. Anyone that's been can still remember the street vendors hawking their goods before game time. They can remember vividly how Yawkey Way would come alive on game day.
There are few places more special than Fenway Park.
7. Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers, NFL)
The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field is one of the best football stadiums in the country. And, its currently home to the reigning Super Bowl Champions!
How many times have we heard Chris Berman lower his voice to deliver "the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field!" in the past? As a football fan, was it possible to grow up over the past twenty years and not see at least two Green Bay highlights every weekend during the Favre Era?
The Green Bay Packers, one of the NFL's two most successful franchises ever and the only publicly owned team in the league, play in one of pro football's most legendary venues. Lambeau Field has become synonymous with the popular image of "Title Town" and has given the sports world the famous "Lambeau Leap" celebration.
Lambeau's charm lies in its history more than anything. Two of the game's greatest quarterbacks played there—Bart Starr and Brett Favre—along with the game's most legendary coach, Vince Lombardi (for whom the Super Bowl Trophy is named).
Lambeau is not the oldest stadium in the league (that honor goes to their rival's stadium, the Chicago Bears' Soldier Field). Yet Soldier Field has undergone radical face-lifts in the past few years, almost as much as the change that took place between the old Yankee Stadium and the new Yankee Stadium.
By comparison, Lambeau has retained its historical image much more so than Soldier Field. As such, the history and character of Lambeau make it the National Football League's crown jewel of stadiums.
6. All England Club (Wimbledon, Pro Tennis)
The grounds of the All England Club play host to the worlds most famous tennis tournament in June and July.
Ashe. King. Borg. Navrátilová. McEnroe. Graf. Connors. Agassi and Sampras.
The names that have taken the top prize in all of Tennis extend far back in time, into the 19th century. Yet Centre Court at Wimbledon remains one of the most cherished sporting locations in all the world. Serving as the centerpiece of Tennis's Grand Slam, Wimbledon serves as the litmus test for legendary tennis figures.
Wimbledon, for the uninitiated, takes place at the All England Club, a prestigious tennis venue that has multiple courts. The architecture and the landscaping are impeccable, and serve as tennis's most stunning tournament backdrop. The Aorangi Terrace beam where British fans gather to cheer for their countrymen is also well known.
Even today, people still remember the classic 1980 Championship Final between American John McEnroe and Swede Björn Borg. Recently, the historic match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships again brought a renewed interest to the last grass surface remaining in Pro Tennis's Grand Slam. The three-day marathon finally ended with the American Isner's victory.
Today, just as it was decades ago, the Wimbledon Champions serve as the premier event in all of tennis. It's only fitting that tennis's most spectacular venue serves as its host location.
5. Augusta National (The Masters Tournament, Golf)
The Hogan Bridge at Augusta National is one of many iconic locations on the legendary course.
Harry How/Getty Images
When you think of the Masters, two things come to mind. First, it's one of the unofficial starting points of spring to most sports fans. Second, it conjures up the beautiful majesty of America's greatest Golf venue, Augusta National.
Augusta, the permanent home for the Masters Tournament every Spring, is as breathtaking as you've been led to believe. So many intricate features dot the course, becoming inseparable with the legacy of the name itself. The Sarazen and Hogan Bridges. Amen Corner. Rae's Creek. The 18th Green.
Pro Golf's most important annual event showcases the pinnacle of American course planning. Augusta National is a private club, but the Masters Tournament in April gives fans a chance to see the legendary course for themselves.
Whether or not you're a golf fan, sitting at the 18th Green on the final Sunday can be one of the most powerful moments in all of sports. You owe it to yourself to experience it live.
4. The Rose Bowl (UCLA Bruins, NCAA Football)
The Rose Bowl in Pasadena is truly a sight to behold on the first day in January.
With respect to UCLA, the primary tenant of College Football's most holy grail is rarely identified with their home field. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena has transcended sports in a way, becoming an American tradition with the annual playing of the Rose Bowl game on New Year's Day.
As the first of the five major BCS Bowl Games, the Rose Bowl enjoys a particularly famous following, owing to the Tournament of Roses Parade that precedes it on the streets of Pasadena, California. Beyond that, the stadium has been home to the NFL's Super Bowl five times, the last in 1993.
There are plenty of famous stadiums in College Football, like Notre Dame Stadium, Michigan Stadium, and the Cotton Bowl. But none of them have garnered the identity of the Rose Bowl. The festivities surrounding the game merely enhance the already-staggering value of being in attendance on New Year's Day.
Oh, did we mention that the UCLA Bruins play their home games at the Rose Bowl?
3. Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs, Major League Baseball)
The "Friendly Confines" takes the top spot amongst the baseball stadiums, because the stadium itself is practically more identifiable than the team that plays there!
Despite the intricacies of Fenway Park, the stadium is recognizable because of the team that plays there. Not so in Chicago, where the historic Wrigley Field stands as Major League Baseball's greatest remaining venue.
Wrigley Field is arguably more identifiable with the American people than the lowly Cubs who play there! It is one of those rare sports venues that have transcended the sport which is played there to become a fixture in American culture.
One of the two oldest parks in all of baseball still in use, Wrigley is best known for the green ivy that grows on the brick outfield walls. The giant manual scoreboard in center field is also well known, with the pennants flying over it prone to whip about with the gusty winds that frequently whip up off Lake Michigan.
Some of Wrigley's charm is due to some features that aren't even apart of the actual stadium! If you look out from behind home plate to the outfield, you'll notice sections of bleachers that aren't attached to the outfield. That's because several businesses on Sheffield and Waveland Avenues have put grandstands on top of their buildings, allowing more fans to watch the action across the street on game day.
Everything about Wrigley is beautiful, from the ivy covered walls to the architecture and the panoramic outfield view of Chicago. If you're a baseball fan, a pilgrimage to the "Friendly Confines" must be on your to-do list.
2. St. Andrews Links (The Open Championship, Golf)
St. Andrews Links in Scotland holds onto the title of "Best Golf Course in the World".
It's the oldest golf course in the world. And, perhaps, its most famous.
Whenever the (British) Open Championship is held at St. Andrews in Scotland, the event takes on a whole new level of significance. The St. Andrews Links contains seven public golf courses—most notably among them is the appropriately titled "Old Course", the oldest golf course in the world.
Several identifiable features readily come to mind, including the famous Swilcan Bridge, as famous to St. Andrews as the Hogan Bridge is to Augusta. The infamous 17th hole on the Old Course is among the most difficult in all of Professional Golf, while many of the holes share greens with one another!
The weather at St. Andrews can be a bit tricky, as the players found out during the 2010 Open Championship. Despite that, there is an undeniable sense of history about the Old Course. For golf fans, a visit to St. Andrews is almost like stepping back in time, returning to the birthplace of the game.
Few venues in sports are so sacred.
1. Madison Square Garden (New York Knicks, New York Rangers, Others)
Whether boxing, professional wrestling, basketball or hockey is your passion, chances are you have heard about Madison Square Garden before.
Unlike the previous nine spots on the list, New York's Madison Square Garden has the unique distinction of being the legendary homes of multiple teams and events. Known simply as "the Garden" by many fans, MSG is the home of the New York Knickerbockers of the NBA and the New York Rangers of the NHL. It holds the distinction of being the greatest sports venue in all the world.
And while men like Patrick Ewing, Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier and Willis Reed made struck their claim as some of basketball's greatest legends, and Mark Messier immortalized the 1994 New York Rangers in hockey lore, Madison Square Garden has so much more history beyond its primary tenants.
The arena plays host to four primary tenants, including the WNBA's Liberty and College Basketball's St. John's Red Storm team. The Garden is a legendary venue in College Basketball, playing host to the Big East Tournament, along with the Jimmy V Classic at the start of every college basketball season.
Boxing has been well represented at Madison Square Garden, which at one time was the sport's premier venue. The first fight between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali took place at MSG, and the arena also played host to a number of other big fights, including Roberto Durán vs. Ken Buchanan, Joe Louis vs. Rocky Marciano, and Jake LaMotta vs. Sugar Ray Robinson.
Even Professional Wrestling has called MSG home. The world's largest brand, World Wrestling Entertainment considers the arena their home venue, holding the inaugural supercard WrestleMania there in 1985, along with their first SummerSlam card in 1988. More heavyweight titles have changed hands at Madison Square Garden than at any other location in the promotion's history.
And to think, we've only brought up the reasons why sports are famous at Madison Square Garden...