2018-2019 Basketball Arena Updates

Villanova’s signifcant renovation coincides with a name change to the Finneran Pavilion

The most noteworthy arena opening is in the NBA, where the Milwaukee Bucks moved a few hundred feet to the Fiserv Forum. Designers did a terrific job making the building unique as the arena really stands out from all the others in the Association. The folks at Arena Digest have a great recap of the new home for the Bucks (and Marquette). There were plenty of other expensive renovations across the league, most notably in Atlanta. An arena not even 20 years old received nearly $200 million in renovations to make it more “social”. Minnesota and Cleveland are undergoing multi-year renovations as well. For those that share their facility with an NHL team, we covered the other arena upgrades in the hockey post last month.

In the G-League, it’s more of the same…move the affiliate closer to the parent and remove any unique likeness from said team. This year, it’s the Sacramento Kings that do the honors as they decided to leave Reno after ten seasons. They save a whopping 1 hour and 15 minutes in drive-time by putting the franchise in Stockton, where they of course are going to be known as the “Kings”. Stockton Arena will now have AHL Hockey and G-League basketball this season, while up in Reno, the departure of the Bighorns means that the Reno Events Center is off The List. The Big Sky’s basketball tournament ended their three year run in the city and moved to Boise. On the flip side, other G-League news includes three new arenas, which is exciting. With a surprisingly generic name, DC opened the Entertainment and Sports Arena this fall. It is home to a team with a name that is anything but generic: the Capital City Go-Go. I think this 4,111-seat facility fits a niche market in a big city and it should be successful for not just the Go-Go, but also the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. While most in the arena world knew about the debut of the DC building, another arena to open was much quieter on the headline front. Close to the Mexican border in the Rio Grande Valley is Edinburg, Texas and despite a 15-year-old arena just 30 minutes away in Hidalgo, we see the opening of glistening Bert Ogden Arena. The Vipers move in to it from Hidalgo as owner and developer Alonso Cantu leads the way in Edinburg. Keep in mind this is also a city that just finished a pretty nice soccer specific stadium in the USL. The other arena change in the G-League is more of a practice facility. The renamed Delaware Blue Coats will use the 76ers new complex in Wilmington which includes a 2,500-seat arena.

Renovations remain the theme as we turn to college basketball. There are five teams that had such a transformation with their arena, that it could essentially be called a new building. Cincinnati, Houston, Northwestern, Portland State and Villanova all have finished an overhaul and as a result, we get to see some pretty nice basketball arenas. These changes were warranted, except maybe in Cincy where Fifth Third Arena was already in OK shape. The other four will enjoy massive changes and a more comfortable, fan-friendly arena. We also can’t forget that there is one new arena opening out of the 353 Division I Schools. Elon is the location as the Phoenix welcomed North Carolina for their opening debut of the Schar Center. I’ve gotta say that they have a snazzy fly-trough preview video and the arena looks awesome. But forward to 1:33 in…what in the world is a “Vomitorium for Team Areas”?!? Sounds disgusting. Also noteworthy are the two schools who have moved up to Division I from D2. North Alabama joins the Atlantic Sun Conference and they play out of long-time home Flowers Hall. The other team has an arena that just opened last year as Cal Baptist adds a sparking facility to the WAC.

2017-2018 Basketball Arena Update

Conceptional image of Wofford’s new basketball home: Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium (image from athletics.wofford.edu)


Let’s start this edition with the college game, where we have three new arenas. The first two are small, on-campus facilities that look really nice. In Spartanburg, Wofford College debuted the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium with a game against South Carolina a few weeks ago. Pictures both inside and out are beautiful and I love how they changed it up with the name and went with “Indoor Stadium”. Too bad, it has a 3,400 seat capacity as that falls just short of making it onto The List. One that did make it by having 500 more seats is the Wellness and Events Center over at NJIT. This arena is less than an hour from my home, so I’m looking forward to making it to Newark in the coming years to visit. The Highlanders continue to toil in their out of place conference (Atlantic Sun) and each time I hear their four-letter acronym, I get mad that they are not a logical 10th member of the America East or 12th member of the MAAC. Finally, we have DePaul, who moved into Wintrust Arena. This new building gives Chicago yet another arena with 10,000+ (I believe that is four in the metro area) and it is located in McCormick Place, not far from the downtown core. It is also closer to DePaul’s campus and a much better location then their previous home in Rosemont. Speaking of Allstate Arena, Northwestern will actually take up residence there for this season as Welsh-Ryan Arena is redone in a renovation that is badly needed. They are not alone as Cincinnati and Portland State move to temporary digs while their buildings get redone. Also, Robert Morris is opening a new arena in 2019 and it is going in the same place where the Sewall stands stood. It’s now torn down and RMU will share PPG Paints Arena and the AJ Palumbo Center.

In the Professional ranks, the biggest story in the offseason is the odd, hasty move that the Pistons made in leaving the Palace in Auburn Hills to the Red Wings new arena. I certainly understand the suburb to city move along with the luxuries of being in a new building, but the whole thing seemed so odd in that Little Caesars Arena was supposed to be just a hockey/Wings building. They may be racking in the dough, but they have some horribly embarrasing games with tons of empty seats. Other noteworthy arena news in the league include renovations that cost more than the original construction cost of the building. Minnesota, Utah and Atlanta have either completed or are ongoing with what they call “necessary” changes.

Down a level, we have the first professional league in the US and Canada to have a sponsor name as the NBA Development League (D-League) has become the G-League with the G standing for Gatorade. Not to be outdone is a team being commercialized as the Agua Caliente Clippers, representing the Native American tribe using the name to promote their Casino Resorts. Wow, we have sunk to a new low. That team will play in Ontario, CA and while baseball trends to become more “local” in their minor leagues, I can’t imagine Ontario will feel any love with their team. A couple of other new franchises include the Lakeland Magic, who will use the RP Funding Center, a big complex that contains Jenkins Arena. The Memphis Hustle are going to play in nearby Southhaven, MS and the pre-existing Landers Center. Finally, Oshkosh is building a brand new building (Menominee Nation Arena) and that is very close to opening as it becomes home to the Wisconsin Herd. The LA team was re-branded to the South Bay Lakers and they will now play in the UCLA Health Training Center. That feels like an odd step back for the league as the training center holds less than 1,000. Finally, the renovated Nassau Coliseum is back on The List as they are now home to the Long Island Nets. Curious to see if they will eventually host hockey again, whether it is the ECHL, AHL or….wait for it….please, please, please….NHL? 



Bucket List – Basketball Arenas

Siegel Center Interior

VCU’s Siegel Center is at the top of the Basketball Bucket List

A couple weeks ago, I talked about my Bucket List and began in the world of football. Now, let’s move onto basketball, which includes my favorite group of stadiums: College Basketball Arenas. I love the diversity of these facilities as they come in all different shapes, sizes and ages. Note that the Basketball Bucket List below only features 2 NBA arenas as those sterile, manufactured places just don’t do it for me.

Alaska Airlines Arena – Washington Huskies:  Despite the corporate name, this remains a historic gem at heart. I prefer still calling it Hec Edmundson Pavilion
Assembly Hall – Indiana Hoosiers:  Recent renovations made this place even better. Remarkably unique seating design and very loud
Bankers Life Fieldhouse – Indiana Pacers:  One of only 2 NBA arenas on the list. Designers did it right and the arena just ‘feels’ like Indiana
Breslin Center – Michigan State Spartans:  The Izzone! I also really like the soft lighting near the top of the arena bowl
Cameron Indoor Stadium – Duke Blue Devils:  Despite my dislike of all aspects regarding Duke, this is an amazing place that needs a visit 
Charles Koch Arena – Wichita State Shockers:  The Shockers were on my list even before the Gregg Marshall era. People underestimate the atmosphere in The Roundhouse
Dean Smith Center – North Carolina Tar Heels:  Mainly on here just because they are a basketball blueblood
Dee Glen Spectrum – Utah State Aggies:  So sad how far the Spectrum has fallen in recent years. The student section is nowhere near doing stuff like this. Hope they come back to glory soon.
Gallagher-Iba Arena – Oklahoma State Cowboys:  Another atmosphere that has dropped off. However, the near-100 year old arena itself is worth visiting 
Hinkle Fieldhouse – Butler Bulldogs:  No words needed as Hinkle is on a level of its own
Hilton Coliseum – Iowa State Cyclones:  Hilton Magic.
Marriott Center – BYU Cougars:  Huge place with great crowds
McKale Center – Arizona Wildcats:  Arizona is perennially good and their tightly packed arena is always quite loud
McCarthey Athletic Center – Gonzaga Bulldogs:  I’d love to go to pay homage to a remarkable program and what they have done in the sport the last 20 years
Memorial Gym – Vanderbilt Commodores:  Like a theater. There may not be a more unusual college basketball arena than Vanderbilt’s. Awesome.
Pauley Pavilion – UCLA Bruins:  I’ve always been blah about UCLA and Pauley, but, history.
Phog Allen Fieldhouse – Kansas Jayhawks:  Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk. Cue goosebumps.
Rupp Arena – Kentcucky Wildcats:  Generic downtown arena in a shopping center. But it’s Kentucky!
Siegel Center – VCU Rams:  Been Here!  Blown away by the game-day atmosphere. Get here an hour early to fully take in The Peppas
Staples Center – Los Angeles Lakers:  It’s LA. It’s The Lakers. Gotta go once.
The Palestra – Penn Quakers:  Been Here!  Walking from that tight concourse into that incredible gym for Penn-Saint Joseph’s is something I’ll never forget
The Pit – New Mexico Lobos:  Yes, literally built in a Pit, New Mexico has always been at the top of basketball places to visit.
Viejas Arena – San Diego State Aztecs: Viejas looks like a Pit as well with the no-frills floor to top seating. The Show is an entertaining student section.
Williams Arena – Minnesota Golden Gophers: The Barn is similar to Vanderbilt in that no arena is like it.


2016-2017 Basketball Arena Updates


In the world of basketball this season, years of anxiety have finally disappeared in Sacramento as the Kings move in to their new digs, ensuring that they will remain in Sactown for years to come. The arena formerly known as Arco has given way to the Golden1 Center, a facility right in the middle of downtown. This new arena continues the trend for California stadiums to lead the way in technological design, both inside and out. By all accounts, it seems like AECOM did a terrific job as the first few months have been received well, though a couple people falling on the stairs in the upper deck is not good. With the Kings now in Golden1, it looks like the days of functional arenas built in the 70s and 80s is just about over as Milwaukee and Detroit are soon to depart as well. Moving down to the D-League, more NBA affiliations come on board as the Long Island Nets and Windy City Bulls debut this season. If you read this site enough, you’ll know how much I loathe those moves. The Bulls at least will be at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, while the Nets will probably play in front of 137 people at Barclays. A little better is the arrival of the Greensboro Swarm and even though the colors/nickname have nothing to do with Greensboro and everything to do with the Hornets, at least they are in another city. The Swarm will play in the Greensboro Coliseum. A couple of team moves: Utah’s affiliate in Idaho has gone to team headquarters as they set-up shop in the Salt Lake City area, specifically the 5,000-seat arena at the Community College in Taylorsville. Lastly, a relocation I do like is the one that involves Bakersfield as the Jam (who played in what looked like a YMCA gym) have gone to Prescott Valley and a legit minor-league arena. The name could use work: Northern Arizona Suns. Argh, why is it only baseball that embraces local community!

In College Basketball…Well, Hello Dakotas! The two new arenas opening this year come to us from the Northern Plains and both are significant upgrades. In Fargo, North Dakota State University moves in to a new basketball home for the Bison: The Scheels Center (not to be confused with the city’s main indoor facility: Scheels Arena, where the Fargo Force plays). It’s nice, but it does feature telescopic seating. Pictures seem to indicate that the new Sanford Coyote Sports Center at the University of South Dakota has a nicer interior as there is plenty of red school color with the permanent seating in what looks like an intimate seating design close to the court. There were some arena renovations this year as well, most notable is a place that is an icon in the sport: Indiana’s Assembly Hall. A $40 million gift from Cindy Simon Skjodt led to needed renovations and designers did a terrific job of focus efforts on maintaining the remarkable atmosphere and seating, while still producing upgrades. Their focus on that preservation is evident, while their upgrades include a beautiful new lobby/atrium that highlights Hoosier history. Great job treating one of the special and unique places in the sport with care. Other renovations debuting this season occur at Florida’s O’Connell Center and at the Cajundome down at Louisiana-Lafayette.


Unexpected In More Ways Than One

Tom Gola Arena Interior.

After spending the week getting back into college basketball and then watching a good chunk of the season’s start Friday evening, I really got the itch to head to a game. Usually, this process is a thoroughly thought-out one, however this venture was not. After scouring the schedules, I saw that La Salle was playing at home Saturday afternoon. That game started at 2 PM, then I found Penn was playing Temple in the Palestra at 5 PM. Oh Yeah! The wheels started churning and quickly a doubleheader was in place, though time and tickets were in question. This is highly, highly unusual for me since I am super organized, but on a nice Saturday with nothing going on, spontaneity got a hold of me. I also likely decided to do it since these weren’t official visits. I have been to the Palestra before (Visit #94) and La Salle’s Tom Gola Arena, falls just shy of making The List as the capacity is 3,400.

Anxiously, I started the two hour journey down to North Philadelphia, for me to get to. An hour is spent on Route 31, a single lane road most of the way with lights and my biggest pet-peeve, traffic circles. After a brief stint on I-95, I got on US-1, the Roosevelt Expressway, which was the best route into La Salle. This was my first time on that road and hopefully it is my only time. A split, semi-highway that is constantly stop and go thanks to traffic lights. I gave myself plenty of time and made it to the shopping center that is used for game-day parking about an hour early. The Explorers made the Sweet 16 last year and this was their first home game, which included a banner-raising ceremony, so I thought a sell-out was possible. I did a powerwalk to the building’s tiny ticket window and was able to get a single seat scrunched in the upper end of W5. With that being taken care of, I went back outside to take a look at this arena and snap photos. It is underwhelming to say the least for a building that opened in 1998. After a small entrance, fans walk upstairs to the floor of the arena. On the right is a lone foyer that hosts a concession stand vastly overwhelmed at times. The arena features sideline seating only and once you get to the top, various overhangs partially obstruct views. After surveying the scene, I went up into my little corner of the facility and ate a snuck-in turkey wrap while awaiting what I thought would be a solid game: LaSalle vs Manhattan.

My rooting interests sided the Jaspers way because they are in the MAAC, one of 16 geographically and sensibly organized conferences that I will be following this year. The game started ugly as most season-opening contests do. Missed shots and turnovers were common, but by the end of the first half, both teams started to put it together. It was tight much of the game, but late in the second half, Manhattan started to push the lead and George Beamon played like a stud. Down ten with four minutes left, La Salle fought back and Tyrone Garland nailed a three with 13 seconds left to tie the game. It went into Overtime and this time, it was La Salle’s turn to blow the lead. With the Jaspers down three, they pressed the Explorers into a turnover and the ensuing lay-up cut the lead to 1. After split success at the line on the other end, Rhamel Brown tied the game with seven seconds left and we would go to Double Overtime! In that session, it was all Jaspers and they went back to Riverdale with a 99-92 win. This exhilarating game was made all the better by the great crowd. Kudos to the La Salle home fans who filled most of the place up and were very vocal throughout. They knew when to get on their feet and it was a surprisingly knowledgeable and passionate group. The noise in the arena when Garland nailed the tying three was terrific. Fans in my little section were also a great group, conversing with each other and friendly with the traveling Jasper fans. Also, a nod to those fans from Manhattan as there were probably about 500 that made the trip.

Through all of this excitement and craziness, I kept looking down at my phone for the time. It takes twenty minutes on a good day to get to the Palestra and when La Salle had the ball down three, it was 4:00 PM. Unfortunately, overtime meant making it to Penn-Temple would be dicey and then double overtime sealed my fate as the game ended at 4:45 PM. I think the long game was a blessing in disguise because I later saw in the box score that the Palestra was sold out. Though Big Five basketball is one of my favorite sporting events to see live and the Palestra is an incredible place, probably a good thing I didn’t head to West Philly. I headed home from Tom Gola completely satisfied after that amazing game (I love college basketball!). Thinking about the arena on the trip back, I started wondering if this should be an official visit. Though it fell 100 seats short of my capacity cap, it felt bigger than other college venues that I have been to on The List. After going back and forth, I decided to make an exception and put it on there as the clincher was that all of the other basketball venues in the ever-changing Atlantic 10 qualify (five of which I have now been to). An official review thus will be forthcoming on what was one of the most unexpected visits that turned out to produce arguably the best game I have seen in 143 venues.


Where Conference Tournaments Should Be

Madison Square Garden Should be Good Enough to Host Two Conference Tournaments

Though this post is kind of late, I wanted to get something up before it becomes irrelevant. By now, you’ve probably gathered I love college basketball and this is the penultimate fortnight with all of these conference tournaments as everything gets whittled down to a nice, tidy 68 teams in bracket form. The conference tournaments can be just as fun as the main tournament, especially those where the only way to get in to the dance is by winning your league. The venue is important too and though I enjoy when the home team hosts and a raucous environment ensues (along with a possible court storming), a conference tourney in my opinion should be held at a neutral (or almost neutral) court. Some have it right the way it is now, but others could use some help on where to place their tournament. So below are some thoughts on which arena should be the home for each of the 31 conference tournaments. And if the Ivy had one, I’d put it in MSG.


Good the Way it is
Atlantic 10: Atlantic City, NJ – Boardwalk Hall
…….I would rather they not move to Brooklyn and the Barclays next year

Big XII: Kansas City, MO – Sprint Center
…….Perfect spot in a basketball and championship-rich city

Big East: New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
…….Home to St. John’s, but its the Big East and MSG…it needs to be here

Big Ten: Indianapolis, IN – (insert financial organization here) Fieldhouse
…….Basketball’s home state is perfect for a Big conference tournament

Big West: Anaheim, CA – Honda Center
…….The California Bus League features most if it’s members in SoCal, so Anaheim works well

Colonial: Richmond, VA – Richmond Coliseum
…….VCU gets an unfair home advantage, but this tournament always will belong in Virginia’s capital

C-USA: Memphis, TN – FedEx Forum
…….Spaced out conference that I can’t really think of a more improved spot

MAC: Cleveland, OH – Quicken Loans Arena
…….Excellent location and fans travel well here. Too bad they switched to a stupid staggered bracket format

MEAC: Winston-Salem, NC – Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum
…….Good centralized spot in the conference

Missouri Valley: St Louis, MO – Scottrade Center
…….In my opinion, the best conference tournament in the country

Pac-12: Los Angeles, CA – Staples Center
…….It may not have the history like the Big East, but it’s similar in that the tournament just deserves to be here,
…….despite being home to UCLA and USC. Maybe they should follow suit though with MSG and dim the lights for those
…….weekday afternoon games when the arena is 20% full.

Southern: Asheville, NC – Asheville Civic Center
…….Terrific move by the Southern Conference this year to move the tournament to beautiful Western NC

Southland: Katy, TX – Merrill Center
…….Small arena in a Houston suburb became the spot a few years and should be here to stay. Happy with this tourney

SWAC: Garland, TX – Garland Special Events Center
…….I’m indifferent here, but this new spot seems like a good idea

Sun Belt: Hot Springs, AR – Summit Arena
…….Spread out conference, but at least Hot Springs is a destination to spend a few days

Summit: Sioux Falls, SD – Sioux Falls Arena
…….See C-USA

West Coast: Las Vegas, NV – Orleans Arena
…….You can’t beat Vegas and this change in the last few years has paid dividends. Great tourney and site

WAC: Las Vegas, NV – Orleans Arena
…….Another Vegas site that works well with the conference. Not sure how ideal it is next year though with all those
…….Texas teams joining

Could Do Better
Big Sky: move it to Boise, ID and the CenturyLink Center
…….A wide-ranging small conference might do well in a mid-sized, mid-city venue

MAAC: move it to Newark, NJ and the Prudential Center
…….Kudos to the MAAC this season for the first time going to a neutral site in Springfield, MA. But I like America East
…….there, making Newark a good spot for the MAAC

Mountain West: move it to Salt Lake City, UT and the EnergySolutions Arena
…….Las Vegas is great, but let’s get it off UNLV’s home court. I like Salt Lake, but things may get weird with no more
…….Utah or BYU

Ohio Valley: move it to Louisville, KY and the Freedom Hall
…….Nashville and the Auditorium is fine, but Tennessee State is home. How bout Louisville as host? Freedom Hall
…….gets back to the spotlight and the state gets to show us whether it truly is basketball-crazy or just UK/UL-crazy
…….(I’ve always thought the latter)

SEC: move it to Birmingham, AL and the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex
…….I have no problem with New Orleans, but I think of Birmingham with the SEC (not sure why). Atlanta works too

Definitely Change to This
ACC: return it to Greensboro, NC and the Greensboro Coliseum
…….My bias towards tradition comes out. The ACC should always be in Greensboro

America East: move it to Springfield, MA and the MassMutual Center
……Pretty much the geographical center for all schools

Atlantic Sun: move it to Savannah, GA and the Savannah Civic Center
…… A nice destination town within driving distance of most schools. Get rid of having your second-best team host

Big South: move it to Charlotte, NC and the Bojangles Coliseum
…….Time Warner Cable Arena is obviously too big for the “Big South”, but Bojangles and Charlotte is a nice fit

Horizon: move it to Fort Wayne, IN and the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
…….Midwestern City School league deserves a neutral site

NEC: move it to Bridgeport, CT and the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard
…….Not ideal as there’s not much to the city and Sacred Heart is close by…might be better options out there

Patriot: move it to Philadelphia, PA and The Palestra
…….Love for this to happen. Make it a nice and tidy Fri-Sat-Sun eight team tournament. Plus I’m sure there are ton of …….alumni in the city to make for decent crowds

More from the Patriot League

I’m ashamed to say the basketball arena at Lafayette College in Easton, PA alluded me the last few years. Not sure why last Saturday was my first appearance there as the drive is relatively short. This was the second straight Patriot League facility and fifth overall visited. The 3,500 seat Allen P. Kirby Sports Center first made its appearance on The List last year, when I lowered the minimum capacity from 4,000 to 3,500. Sitting up on College Hill, the small private school rises well above the city and provides a nice birds-eye view of Easton and the Delaware River as a winding road brings you to the top of the hill. The football stadium parking here was awful and for basketball it wasn’t much better with one small deck available, but luckily that was enough and it was no problem getting to. Speaking of football, it was a very strange walk to the Sports Center as you walk through Fisher Field. Despite the cold and wind, it was great because that gave me the opportunity to walk the stadium and take some pictures that I didn’t get during my first visit there in 2006.

The Kirby Sports Center has a nice, modern exterior and concourse that was aided by renovations. The opening foyer looks more like a student union as opposed to an arena, but once you push in a little further, the hallway before entering the gym is nicely decorated with Lafayette maroon on the walls and complete with several trophy display cases. The gym itself is meh. All wooden bleachers with three sides of seating, while at the other end is a food stand before it opens up to the rest of the “sports center” (indoor track and other training), giving it a less than appealing look and feel. Lafayette-Bucknell was the game I saw and had an interest for, as I am a big fan of the lower-level in college basketball. Both teams were 2-0 coming in, but Bucknell is the prohibitive league favorite and they showed it. Hardly ever trailing they outclassed the Leopards and Mike Muscala was impressive scoring 27 with ease. The Bison won 79-65 with a 9-2 run to start the second half pushing them to the insurmountable lead. It was nice seeing a good crowd on hand (a legit announced attendance of 2,515) and the fans all were reading the free program as they were into the game. They seemed to know a lot about the team and league, too bad Bucknell never really gave them a chance to be more vocal.

For more on the whole arena experience, be sure to check out #112 Kirby Sports Center on the right side of the page