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Thursday, September 18, 2008
Updated: September 19, 3:31 PM ET
America's 100 most important sports venues

By Jim Caple
Page 2

No. 1 | Nos. 2 through 5 | Nos. 6 through 10

Fenway Park
Built in 1912, Fenway Park and its odd angles remains baseball's cathedral.

11. Fenway Park
Location: Boston. Opened: 1912. Capacity: 39,928.

Because it's the oldest ballpark in the major leagues and still among the best. Because it's where Babe Ruth pitched, Ted Williams hit, Carlton Fisk danced and Big Papi went yard. Because its Green Monster is the most famous wall outside of China. Because it is such a part of baseball and America that we all have heard the voice that commanded Ray Kinsella to visit it in "Field of Dreams." Because while the Yankees are tearing down their historic stadium, the Red Sox not only opted to keep theirs, they've improved it year by year. Because you can see the influence of its quirky architecture -- its angles, its walls -- in modern ballparks that were built 90 years later. Because it is baseball's official cathedral.

12. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
Location: Los Angeles. Opened: 1923. Capacity: 93,607.

Because a stadium that calls itself a Coliseum better host events worthy of the title -- and it has. Because it has hosted a World Series and the first Super Bowl and two Olympics (top that, Minute Maid Park). Because it has been home to seven Heisman Trophy winners and 11 national champions. Because it has been the site of so many Hollywood endings that everyone from John Wayne (at USC) to Warren Beatty ("Heaven Can Wait") played football here, while Flash Gordon (1932 Olympic gold medalist Buster Crabbe) marched here.

13. Wrigley Field
Location: Chicago. Opened: 1914. Capacity: 41,118.

Because Wrigley is baseball's own little Way-Back Machine, a way to step into the past and remember what the game used to be like in our parents' time and our grandparents' time (not counting the beer prices). Because an afternoon in the bleachers is as quintessentially an American experience as a trip to the Grand Canyon or Disneyland. Because it is so stubbornly resists modern convention that there weren't lights until 1988 and there still isn't a replay board. Because if you don't like Wrigley, you might as well renounce your citizenship now.

14. Churchill Downs
Location: Louisville, Ky. Opened: 1875. Capacity: 165,000 (including infield and paddock).

Because it is so ingrained in American history that it was opened by Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. just seven decades after his grandfather and namesake's famed expedition.

15. The U.S. Olympic training center
Location: Colorado Springs, Colo. Opened: 1978. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because this former Air Force base and NORAD headquarters is now where Olympic athletes train in six gymnasiums, a 45,000-square foot aquatic center, a velodrome, a shooting facility, a research center with a hyperbaric chamber that can simulate training conditions from sea level to 8,000 feet and, for the best ones, a Hall of Fame to honor their performances.

16. Caesars Palace
Location: Las Vegas. Opened: 1966. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because few spots so thoroughly combine America's twin love of sports and gambling than the casino where Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and Sugar Ray Leonard all boxed, and where millions more have gambled billions on games.

17. Louisiana Superdome
Location: New Orleans. Opened: 1975. Capacity: 72,000.

Because it has hosted six Super Bowls (more than any other stadium), three BCS championship games and four Final Fours, plus the Sugar Bowl. And because it became a refuge of last resort and a national touchstone during Hurricane Katrina.

Notre Dame
The program may have fallen on rough times, but Notre Dame Stadium still echoes of greats like Hornung, Montana and Ismail.

18. Notre Dame Stadium
Location: South Bend, Ind. Opened: 1930. Capacity: 80,795.

Because no matter a school's tradition, history, legacy, fight song or cheerleaders, none can match the mystique of Notre Dame.

19. Lambeau Field
Location: Green Bay, Wis. Opened: 1957. Capacity: 72,928.

Because the only thing that's better than sitting inside this classic is standing outside drinking beer and eating brats at a tailgate party.

20. Daytona International Speedway
Location: Daytona Beach, Fla. Opened: 1959. Capacity: 168,000.

Because it's the home of NASCAR but they aren't finicky: If it has an engine, they'll race it here.

21. Pebble Beach Golf Links
Location: Pebble Beach, Calif. Opened: 1919. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because the most beautiful site in all of sports, with the possible exception of the USC song girls, is worth the $500 greens fee.

22. Sports Illustrated headquarters
Location: Manhattan. Founded: 1954. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because from here, Sports Illustrated has helped influence sports coverage and opinion, as well as male adolescent fantasies (Cheryl Tiegs in a fishnet) for more than half a century.

23. Soldier Field
Location: Chicago. Opened: 1924. Capacity: 61,500.

Because even though the 2003 remodel ruined the aesthetics, we can still fondly remember it in its previous incarnation where it saw everything from the Dempsey-Tunney "Long Count" fight to the Super Bowl Shuffle.

24. Talladega Superspeedway
Location: Talladega, Ala. Opened: 1969. Capacity: 175,000.

Because NASCAR's largest track, and the course where Dale Earnhardt earned 10 Cup wins, is home to such speed that it should be named Talladega International Airport.

25. Boston Marathon course
Location: Boston. Started: 1897. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because competing in the country's oldest annual marathon is such a badge of honor that runners must meet a qualifying time to enter.

26. NCAA headquarters
Location: Indianapolis. Opened: Moved to Indianapolis in 1999. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because the decisions made here affect more athletes, more programs and more fans than any other sports body in America.

27 (tie). Michigan Stadium
Location: Ann Arbor, Mich. Opened: 1927. Capacity: 106,201.

Because The Big House has been home to five national champions and the biggest crowd in college football history (112,118 against Ohio State in 2003).

The Ohio State Buckeyes marching band
There are few experiences in sport like dotting the "i" in front of more than 100,000 fans.

27 (tie). Ohio Stadium
Location: Columbus, Ohio. Opened: 1922. Capacity: 102,329.

Because there is no greater signature moment in American sports than dotting the "i" in script Ohio at the Horseshoe, where six Heisman Trophy winners, plus track legend Jesse Owens, have run. (And because if we placed it any further lower than Michigan, there would be hell to pay.)

29. Shea Stadium
Location: Queens. Opened: 1964. Capacity: 57,333.

Because while it might have always played in Yankee Stadium's shadow, this stadium is where Broadway Joe, Tom Terrific and the Fab Four all played (as well as the Yankees in 1974-75). Because, with its dual baseball-football configurations, it helped usher in the multipurpose stadiums of the late '60s and early '70s.

30. The Metrodome
Location: Minneapolis. Opened: 1982. Capacity: 64,111.

Because as unloved and unappreciated as it is, the Metrodome is the only stadium to ever host a Super Bowl and a World Series and a Final Four. And because no one was complaining about the roof when Jack Morris took the mound for the 10th inning of Game 7 in 1991.

31. Rucker Park
Location: Harlem. Opened: 1956. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because not only is this the site of the best and most competitive pickup basketball in the world, it's the former site of the Polo Grounds.

32. Allen Fieldhouse
Location: Lawrence, Kan. Opened: 1955. Capacity: 16,300.

Because it is home to so storied a college basketball program (Wilt Chamberlain and Dean Smith both played at KU) that the only coach to have a losing record for Kansas is the very man who invented the game, James Naismith.

33. Autzen Stadium
Location: Eugene, Ore. Opened: 1967. Capacity: 59,000-plus.

Because this relatively intimate stadium not only is a great place to watch a game, its many perks (plasma screen TVs and internet ports at each locker) has helped raise the bar throughout college football.

The Palestra
The Palestra represents the heart and soul of college basketball.

34. The Palestra
Location: Philadelphia. Opened: 1927. Capacity: 8,722.

Because it was one of the first arenas built without "obstructed-view" pillars and posts (what a concept) and has hosted more NCAA basketball games than anywhere else.

35. Durham Athletic Park (the original)

Location: Durham, N.C. Opened: 1939. Capacity: 5,000.

Because this was the location for the best sports movie ever filmed, "Bull Durham," which in turn helped lead to the minor league baseball boom.

36. Pro Football Hall of Fame
Location: Canton, Ohio. Opened: 1963. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because it has everything you feel should be here but is not so overwhelming that you feel as if you can never see it all.

37. Saratoga Race Track
Location: Saratoga, NY. Opened: 1863. Capacity: 40,000.

Because the oldest organized sporting venue in the United States opened when technically, we weren't the United States but were two years into the Civil War. And not much has changed here since.

38. The Spectrum
Location: Philadelphia. Opened: 1967. Capacity: 18,136.

Because it's been the site for six Stanley Cup finals, four NBA Finals, two Final Fours, the Christian Laettner shot in the 1992 NCAA East Regional and, unfortunately, the Wing Bowl. And had only "Rocky" actually been filmed here (see No. 73), it would rank even higher.

39. Gold's Gym
Location: Venice, Calif. Opened: 1965. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because with more than 600 locations around the world and the old gym of The Arnold, this original location is such a mecca of bodybuilding that you should drop and give it 20 during a visit.

Dodger Stadium
Even though it's soon to be the third-oldest ballpark in the majors, Dodger Stadium is as good as ever.

40. Dodger Stadium
Location: Los Angeles. Opened: 1962. Capacity: 56,000.

Because if this stadium had a voice, it would sound like Vin Scully and it would tell you about Sandy Koufax, Steve Garvey and Kirk Gibson and a sun-dappled jewel in the Los Angeles hills.

41. Mall of America
Location: Bloomington, Minn. Opened: 1992: Capacity: Not applicable.

Because modern sports are still alive (though not necessarily alive and well) at the former site of Metropolitan Stadium, where so many stores sell sports merchandise that Carlos Baerga actually bought an autographed photo of himself here.

42. Basketball Hall of Fame
Location: Springfield, Mass. Opened: 1968. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because it devotes itself not only to the NBA but to college basketball and about every other level of the sport except the Nerf hoop in your old bedroom.

43. Yale Bowl
Location: New Haven, Conn. Opened: 1914. Capacity: 64,246.

Because it was the first bowl stadium, leading the way for the Rose Bowl and Michigan Stadium, among others.

44. Pauley Pavilion

Location: Los Angeles. Opened: 1965. Capacity: 12,829.

Because they hang banners only for national championships here … and there still are plenty.

45. Lamade Stadium
Location: Williamsport, Penn. Opened: 1959. Capacity: 30,000 (including outfield).

Because in a country filled with travel teams for 10-year-olds, no venue better exemplifies America's over-emphasis on youth sports than the home of the Little League World Series.

46. Bank of America Stadium
Location: Charlotte, N.C. Opened: 1996. Capacity: 73,904.

Because this stadium is widely credited as the first built with one of the most noxious trends in sports, the personal seat license, in which you have to pay through the nose just for the right to buy an overpriced ticket.

47. Busch Stadium
Location: St. Louis. Opened: 2006. Capacity: 46,861.

Because no other stadium better represents how important the beer industry is to American sports than the third ballpark in St. Louis named after the country's largest brewer (recently acquired by Belgium's ImBev) -- which spent more than $200 million on sports advertising last year. Or maybe that's just the beer talking.

48. Arthur Ashe Stadium
Location: Queens. Opened: 1997. Capacity: 23,200.

Because this is the home of the U.S. Open and the unofficial home of U.S. tennis.

49. The Kronk Gym
Location: Detroit. Opened: 1920. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because this legendary gym, which closed two years ago but remains standing, is where 37 world champions trained, including Thomas Hearns, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

50. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Location: Kansas City, Mo. Opened: 1990. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because while the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown makes you want to grab a glove and play catch with your father, this museum makes you think.

51. Rosenblatt Stadium
Location: Omaha. Opened: 1948. Capacity: 25,500.

Because a pilgrimage to the home of the College World Series might be even better than a trip to the Final Four.

52. TD Banknorth Garden
Location: Boston. Opened: 1995. Capacity: 18,624.

Because no venue better exemplifies the corporate naming right scheme than this one, which has officially had 34 names since funding was approved for its construction.

53. Vero Beach training facility, aka Dodgertown
Location: Vero Beach, Fla. Opened: 1948. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because this is the way spring training ought to be, but no longer is.

54. Herb Brooks Arena
Location: Lake Placid, N.Y. Opened: 1980. Capacity: 13,000.

Because, duh, it was the site of the greatest game in American sports history.

55. Ratliff Stadium
Location: Odessa, Texas. Opened: 1982. Capacity: 19,500.

Because it's the home of Permian High School, the famous high school football program immortalized in "Friday Night Lights," the book, the movie, the TV show and eventually, no doubt, the ice show.

56. Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative
Location: Burlingame, Calif. Opened: 1984. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because no facility is more notorious, not even the bleachers of Yankee Stadium.

TPC Sawgrass
Even pros hit it into the water at the famous island green at TPC Sawgrass.

57. The TPC Sawgrass
Location: Ponte Vedre, Fla. Opened: 1980. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because the home of the Players Championship was the first stadium course.

58. Cameron Indoor Stadium
Location: Durham, N.C. Opened: 1940. Capacity: 9,314.

Because it's a wonderful lesson that sometimes old-school is still best.

59. Hayward Field
Location: Eugene, Ore. Opened: 1919. Capacity: 10,500.

Because this historic stadium is the home of Steve Prefontaine and is the soul of U.S. track and field.

60. Eddie Robinson Stadium
Location: Grambling, La. Opened: 1983. Capacity: 19,600.

Because it's a monument to the man who meant more to Historically Black College and University football than any other.

61. Joe Louis Arena
Location: Detroit. Opened: 1979 Capacity: 20,066.

Because it's the city hall of Hockey Town, USA (but bring your own octopus).

62. Hinkle Fieldhouse
Location: Indianapolis. Opened: 1928. Capacity: 10,757.

Because Butler University's historic gym served as the site for not only the climactic game in "Hoosiers," but for the game it was based upon, The Milan Miracle, as well as the lesser known Indiana championship game in which Oscar Robertson's Crispus Attucks team became the first all-black team to win a state title.

63. Tiger Stadium (LSU)
Location: Baton Rouge, La. Opened: 1924. Capacity: 92,400.

Because while Death Valley has been home to spectacular college football moments, it is ingrained in American history as a lasting testimony to Huey Long's influence.

64. Los Angeles Forum
Location: Inglewood, Calif. Opened: 1967. Capacity: 17,505.

Because magical things happened on the way to (but mostly at) the Forum.

65. Raymond James Stadium
Location: Tampa, Fla. Opened: 1998. Capacity: 65,000.

Because that pirate ship is so damn cool, it's one of the few distinguishing features in an NFL stadium.

66. Conseco Fieldhouse
Location: Indianapolis. Opened: 1999. Capacity: 18,345.

Because this superb blend of old and new is what all arenas should aspire to.

67. Bethpage Black
Location: Farmington, N.Y. Opened: 1936. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because where else can you play a U.S. Open course for just $60?

Candelstick Park
The Giants have moved on, but the 49ers still call Candlestick Park home.

68. Candlestick Park
Location: San Francisco. Opened: 1960. Capacity: 70,207.

Because the old home of Willie Mays and Joe Montana has survived the worst Mother Nature could throw at it (the 1989 earthquake and the wind) and was the site of the Beatles' last commercial concert.

69. Pipeline
Location: North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii. Opened: Not applicable. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because this famous, breathtaking -- and occasionally deadly -- stretch of surf is the proving ground for surfers from around the world to show they have the guts necessary to be a champion.

70. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
Location: Louisville, Ky. Opened: 1968. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because the company has been an integral part of baseball history for even longer than Jamie Moyer.

71. Franklin Field
Location: Philadelphia. Opened: 1895. Capacity: 52,593.

Because this is considered the oldest college football stadium in the country, has been the site for the Penn Relays for more than a century and is where one of the most infamous moments in American sports occurred when Philadelphia fans booed and pelted Santa Claus with snowballs.

72. Texas Stadium
Location: Irving, Texas. Opened: 1971. Capacity: 65,675.

Because its roof design keeps fans dry while allowing even God to peek in on the five-time Super Bowl champions and their equally famous cheerleaders.

73. Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena
Location: Los Angeles. Opened: 1959. Capacity: 16,141.

Because at one time or another, it's been the home of the Lakers, the Clippers, the Bruins, the Trojans, the Kings, Olympic boxing and, most notably, it also was where Rocky lost to Apollo Creed (the Oscar-winning movie was filmed here, not the Spectrum).

74. Field of Dreams
Location: Dyersville, Iowa. Opened: 1989. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because this former cornfield where "Field of Dreams" was filmed prompts more family reunions and invokes more tears than any other diamond (well, maybe Wrigley provokes more tears).

75. Iditarod course
Location: Willow to Nome, Alaska. Started: 1973. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because no other race tests the participants, especially the dogs, more than this 1,150-mile race in conditions that have reached 130-below (with the wind chill).

76. AT&T Park
Location: San Francisco. Opened: 2000. Capacity: 40,930.

Because regardless of what you call it, the prettiest park outside of Yosemite is where Barry went deep (literally) and made history, and because the team paid for it the old-fashioned way -- by itself.

77. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Location: Gainesville, Fla. Opened: 1930. Capacity: 88,648.

Because The Swamp is where Gatorade got its start, leading to the entire sports drink industry and, of course, the ubiquitous Gatorade shower.

PNC Park
PNC Park lacks history, but it may be the most beautiful in the big leagues.

78. PNC Park
Location: Pittsburgh. Opened: 2001. Capacity: 38,496.

Because a team that gets almost everything else wrong got everything right with this, the finest sports facility in the country. Because it is the perfect blend of architecture and environment. Because if the Pirates ever produce any historic moments here, this baby is going to wind up in the top 10.

79. Topps Baseball Card Company
Location: Manhattan. Opened: 1951. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because this is where the cards that your mother wound up throwing away originated (and because in case of nuclear attack, you should make your way here -- the gum will likely be the only food that survives).

80. Thompson-Boling Arena
Location: Knoxville, Tenn. Opened: 1987. Capacity: 21,000.

Because nowhere symbolizes better how far women's basketball has come than the home of Pat Summitt's Lady Vols.

81. Cotton Bowl
Location: Dallas. Opened: 1932. Capacity: 92,107.

Because the Cotton Bowl (to move to the Cowboys' new stadium in 2010) used to be a very big deal indeed in America sports, and the annual Oklahoma-Texas game still is.

82. Legion Field
Location: Birmingham, Ala. Opened: 1926. Capacity: 71,594.

Because for years it served as the site for the biggest rivalry in college football -- the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn -- and for many of the biggest games coached by Bear Bryant. And because while Forrest Gump never actually played here, Broadway Joe did.

83. Beaver Stadium
Location: State College, Penn. Opened: 1960. Capacity: 110,793.

Because it's the largest non-racetrack stadium in the country. (And because where else can you get more than 100,000 people to watch an 81-year-old man in flood pants?)

84. United Center
Location: Chicago. Opened: 1994: Capacity: 21,711.

Because it was the second home for Michael Jordan.

85. Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic
Location: Los Angeles. Opened: 1965 (renamed in 1985). Capacity: Not applicable.

Because while you might wish you never have to walk into his clinic, if you do, Dr. Frank Jobe, who revolutionized sports medicine, and his staff might just save your career (even if it is just on the company softball team).

86. Mitchell and Ness
Location: Philadelphia. Opened: 1904. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because no retail company has been more responsible for the vintage jersey craze than this one, which has been producing old-time big league jerseys since the late '80s.

87. Oakland Coliseum
Location: Oakland, Calif. Opened: 1966. Capacity: 63,000.

Because though one of the country's nicer stadiums was ruined by Mount Davis, this home to four World Series champions, two Super Bowl champs and the Bash Brothers could possibly wind up as the last stadium from the multipurpose era still in use for the NFL and major league baseball.

88 (tie). Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Location: Norman, Okla. Opened: 1925. Capacity: 82,112.

Because the stadium where the Sooners ran off their record-winning streak continues to be the main focus for an entire state of football-crazy fans.

Memorial Stadium
On football Saturdays, Memorial Stadium becomes the second-largest city in Nebraska.

88 (tie). Memorial Stadium
Location: Lincoln, Neb. Opened: 1923. Capacity: 81,067.

Because "Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football," and that inscription on the stadium entrance might not be hyperbole.

90. Dean Smith Center
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C. Opened: 1986. Capacity: 21,750.

Because you can't look at the replica jerseys of former players and not have your jaw drop to the floor.

91. KeyArena
Location: Seattle. Opened: 1962. Reopened: 1995. Capacity: 17,098.

Because perhaps no facility better represents the unfeeling corporate nature of modern pro sports leagues than this arena, which was rebuilt to the exact specifications of the Sonics in the mid-'90s, only to have the team leave with the full culpability of the NBA barely a decade later because if was deemed somehow inadequate.

92. Midway Stadium
Location: St. Paul, Minn. Built: 1982. Capacity: 6,329.

Because this is the home of the St. Paul Saints, the team that brought independent baseball back to the minors (and provided everyone from Darryl Strawberry to J.D. Drew with employment).

93. Coney Island
Location: Brooklyn. Opened: Pre-1900. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because the site of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest and the Brooklyn Cyclones is also the home of the famous Cyclone roller coaster, while its midway has resulted in more torn rotator cuffs than all professional and amateur baseball leagues combined.

94. Bill Armstrong Stadium
Location: Indiana University. Opened: 1981. Capacity: 6,500.

Because this is where they hold the annual Little 500 bike race, which provided the inspiration for "Breaking Away" and is also the best weekend in college sports.

95. Assembly Hall
Location: Bloomington, Ind. Opened: 1972. Capacity: 17,456.

Because this is the focal point for the most basketball-obsessed state in the country.

96. Neyland Stadium
Location: Knoxville, Tenn. Opened: 1921. Capacity: 102,037.

Because there are few sporting experiences better than a Saturday game here.

97. Rickwood Field
Location: Birmingham, Ala. Opened: 1910. Capacity: 10,800.

Because the only things missing from the oldest pro ballpark still in use (albeit once a year) are players walking in from a cornfield.

98. Staples Center
Location: Los Angeles. Opened: 1999. Capacity: 18,997.

Because it is home to the Lakers, Clippers, Sparks and Kings, and also because the number and location of its luxury suites tells you more about modern sports than you want to know.

99. Van Cortland Golf Course
Location: The Bronx. Opened: 1895. Capacity: Not applicable.

Because it's the oldest public course in America.

100. Memorial Stadium
Location: Berkeley, Calif. Opened: 1923. Capacity: 72,516.

Because one of the most beautiful stadiums in college football was the site of the greatest play in college football history.

No. 1 | Nos. 2 through 5 | Nos. 6 through 10