OT: Worst Basketball Arena?

Submitted by Ron_Lippitt on February 23rd, 2012 at 11:24 AM


Hey Folks,

Just got back from Chicago where I had the occasion to see our boys take care of business. Awesome experience seeing Michigan on the road, particularly in such a Wolverine-friendly venue.

Outcome aside, this was my first time at Welsh-Ryan Arena and let's just say it's hard not to feel a little sorry for the Northwestern fanbase/players having to call this cracker box their home. For those that haven't been there, it's essentially a large highschool gym with no amenities sitting on an athletic campus that's a mile from the actual campus. The gym looks like it's 100 years old, even though it was built in 1952 (yes I looked it up). I should also mention that, apparently, there's no HVAC in the building, so you might want to find seats as low as possible. Otherwise you'll get back sweat.

The only redeeming quality of the venue is the proximity of the fans to the floor. It COULD be a fairly intimidating place to visit if Northwestern ever coordinated a fanbase who didn't bring books to study during timeouts. I'm wondering how they expect to recruit top talent. One look has to have a negative impact. Don't get me wrong, I get it. It's Northwestern where academics are first. But they are still in the B1G, and last I checked we're still trying to reshape this conference competitively. Where is all the private school endowment money going?

It got me thinking. If you factor in location, amenities, and overall lack of coolness of a venue -- where is the worst D1 college basketball arena? Because IMHO - we might not have to look further than across Lake Michigan to find it.




February 23rd, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

I grew up not too far from NU, and there are probably HS gyms with capacities close to 8100 in the immediate area (I'm looking at you, New Trier).

While looking this up, however, I just found out that a friend of mine from HS (and recent Wisconsin grad) won a Rhodes Scholarship. So there it is: justingoblue has done keg stands with a Rhodes Scholar.


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:57 PM ^

That's surprising to me. I would have guessed you guys, Stevenson, and one or two others would be at the top of the list.

I can't find the capacity for my HS (HD Jacobs in Algonquin), but I wouldn't be surprised if it was 4500+, and it's not a huge school. Interestingly enough, we also did our graduation off-site, but we held it at the Sears Centre.


February 24th, 2012 at 12:30 PM ^

NT's current enrollment is 4300+ students, I graduated with just over 900 in 2005, but the 2006 freshmen were like, 1200 students in that class. Between the 2 campuses and everything it's a huge school. But the Gym (at least at East) wasn't that huge, I'd guess it seats abour 2,500. and the gym at west probably only 2000.


February 23rd, 2012 at 11:32 AM ^

I don't have firsthand knowledge but I have heard that the Dean Dome (UNC) is one boring, sterile environment without a lot of character.  I've heard it compared to an NBA venue, and not in a favorable manner.

Naked Bootlegger

February 23rd, 2012 at 11:43 AM ^

Way too sterile for me.  I've been there twice and did not like.   I much preferred the old NC St facility (Reynolds Coliseum?).   A positive, though, are the bathroom facilities.   I had raging diarrhea while attending a UNC-NC St. game awhile back, so I was thankful for the modern bathrooms.

aMAIZEN slot ninja

February 23rd, 2012 at 11:33 AM ^

I went to the Michigan vs NW football game back in 05 and was able to check out the NW basketball Arena. Color me unimpressed. Now they have that purple inside the three point line....what the hell were they thinking?

Hardware Sushi

February 23rd, 2012 at 11:33 AM ^

I like it. I think it's a helluva lot more unique than Value City Arena (and let's be honest - Crisler is ugly on the outside, too) and fits Northwestern basketball's needs - they don't have a large enough fanbase to support a 10K arena for every game.

I do agree about the back sweat and being off-campus, though. Both of those parts are pretty bad, although I think NW is in the process of doing a big time athletic facilities update.


February 23rd, 2012 at 12:23 PM ^

Toledo is really the only MAC school with a good basketball arena (which is funny, because Toledo sucks at basketball since they had to fire Stan Joplin over point shaving allegations.)

Actually, Toledo's arena is nice for any school, not just a MAC school. Luxury boxes, students right on the floor. Plenty of amenities.


February 23rd, 2012 at 2:22 PM ^

Maybe this is the hometown bias, but I've always enjoyed Read Fieldhouse. Solid sightlines, and it's connected to the Rec center. So after a run on the track or a workout you can hop over and catch a basketball game for free with your student ID.

Mi Sooner

February 23rd, 2012 at 5:18 PM ^

Was built in the late 70's. This was when toledo had a great program under Nickles. The first game was against one of bobby knights better Indiana teams with Toledo winning by two: 59-57. When Nickles retired, they haven't been the same since.

And yes, I must admit that I was a student at UT when Sabin was the coach just before he escaped to coach in the EL

Naked Bootlegger

February 23rd, 2012 at 11:40 AM ^

That scoreboard looks so out of place in that picture (is it even structurally safe hanging from those rafters?!).   There should be two scoreboards on each end of the gym, preferably with half the bulbs burned out so a few numbers are indecipherable.   And a possession arrow that is manually flipped.  

I do tend to love the few old "barns" that still exist in college sports.   But my penchant for nostalgia probably clouds reality.   I just read an article in the local Madison paper about the old Field House (two words, both capitalized) that preceded Wisconsin's Kohl Center.  I actually am not a big fan of the Kohl Center.  Too sterile for me.  I'd much prefer to watch hockey at Yost.   Anyway, the Field House windows were often broken, and minimal snow would accumulate in the top rows during winter (home court advantage?).   So sweating my balls off in Evanston or freezing my arse in Madison's old Field House probably wouldn't suit my current tastes.

This is why I love Yost Arena.   A classic barn that has been updated enough to have some semblance of modern amenities, yet still retains the old charm...and is extremely loud.   Stay strong, Yost.


February 23rd, 2012 at 11:51 AM ^

The Field House was awesome. The upper deck was literally a series of overlapping planks with no backing. If you weren't careful and you pushed your coat (or your flask) too far back under your seat, it would fall to the lower deck below. That place was also incredibly loud, even though the teams playing there were usually incredibly bad.


February 23rd, 2012 at 11:47 AM ^

I actually love Welsh-Ryan. I like college basketball better when its played in gyms. Fans are right on the court. It sounds better. It feels better. I find the new style arenas like the Kohl Center and OSU's arena (and even Crisler, which is, to be fair, much less of a masoleum post-reno) terribly sterile and boring. The most famous locations for college basketball are much like Welsh-Ryan. Assembly Hall at Indiana, Cameron, the Palestra, Pauly Pavilion, etc. Name one arena that has the same rep.