Going to a live professional sports match can often be a great experience, but it depends on so many variables. First and foremost, if the team you cheer for wins the game, the experience is obviously going to be better than if they lost. Outside of the actual gameplay, though, what makes a live sporting experience special?
There are other factors involved of course, but one of the biggest is the quality of the venue. Venues are always a hot-button issue, mostly because public money is often used to help build them, they're very expensive, and there seem to be a lot of taxpayers who don’t give a hoot about sports. In any case, the better the venue, the better the overall fan experience.
The quality of the venue isn’t all that matters when it comes to ranking them. The atmosphere is huge, as well as history. This list features the 10 best and 10 worst pro sports stadiums here in North America, and you’ll find that for it to rank on the good side of this list, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a new stadium—indeed, some that are over 100 years old made the cut. Conversely, other stadiums that have only been around for a couple of decades have made their way onto the bad portion of the list.
Without further ado, read on to discover the best and worst pro stadiums in use today:
19 Best: Amway Center (Orlando Magic)
The Orlando Magic moved into their new digs in 2010, and today the Amway Center remains a premier venue. The only reason the Amway Center doesn’t rank higher here is the garbage product that the Orlando Magic have rolled out onto the court since they moved in as permanent tenants.
The Magic won its first preseason game at Amway Center in 2010 by a margin of 54 points (historic, really), but the venue hasn’t hosted an NBA playoff game since 2012 and that 54-point preseason win is pretty much the coolest thing that's happened at Amway. The venue also hosts NCAA March Madness games and is the permanent home of the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.
18 Worst: Scotiabank Saddledome (Calgary Flames)
While there’s no doubt that the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary looks unique from the outside (yet the shape of the roof makes it difficult on sight lines for concerts), there’s no denying that it’s dated and in need of major renovations. The Flames ownership group has been lobbying for approval from the city to start construction on a new home, but to no avail thus far.
The venue opened in 1983, and in addition to the Flames, it also serves as home to the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL and the Calgary Roughnecks of the NLL. One has to think that the city eventually buckles and assists in funding a new arena, especially considering that AB rival Edmonton opened its new downtown digs in 2016.
17 Best: Fiserv Forum (Milwaukee Bucks)
If I sat down to write this list one year ago, the Milwaukee Bucks home arena would have certainly landed on the other side of this list. However, the Bucks recently moved into the brand new Fiserv Forum, and it still has that fresh new stadium smell.
In addition to the Bucks, Fiserv Forum serves as the home to the NCAA’s Marquette Golden Eagles. The venue also has become the go-to barn for the larger musical acts who come through town, as it’s already hosted big names such as Justin Timberlake and Metallica since first opening with a Killers concert on September 4.
16 Worst: New Era Field (Buffalo Bills)
The Buffalo Bills as a franchise are probably one of the worst-run in professional sports these days, so it only makes sense that they’d have one of the worst stadiums. New Era stadium is actually (despite its name) quite old, originally built in 1973, and the venue is really showing its age.
While a new stadium for the Bills in Buffalo is far from imminent, comments made by new-ish owners Terry and Kim Pegula suggest that work towards approval for new digs is coming soon. Until then, Bills Mafia will have to continue to slam each other into tables outside of New Era Stadium on 1 Bills Drive.
15 Best: PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates)
If you poll MLB players, PNC Park in Pittsburgh often comes back as one of the players’ favorite parks to visit. Opened in 2001, it’s old enough to have developed some character, but still young enough that the venue isn’t in a state of disrepair.
The Pirates are the only full-time tenants at PNC Park, and have been since its opening. In addition to Pirates’ home games, the venue has hosted some pretty big concerts, including Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band, The Rolling Stones, Ed Sheeran, and Billy Joel. The only problem is that the Pirates have been competitive just for a short period of time (2013-15) during PNC’s existence.
14 Worst: FedEx Field (Washington Redskins)
It's baffling that a franchise located in the nation's capital, while being one of the NFL's most valuable franchises doesn't have a better home field. Many have complained about the quality of the playing surface at FedEx Field and the lackluster fan experience at the games. Washington players themselves have lamented that they never truly feel like they have a home field advantage as the noise in the stadium doesn't travel well and we all saw what that turf did to Robert Griffin III in his rookie season. Washington used to play their home games at RFK Field and players and fans have almost unanimously said that FedEx Field just doesn't cut it.
13 Best: Rogers Place (Edmonton Oilers)
A few years ago Edmonton’s dilapidated Rexall Place would have certainly appeared on the wrong side of this list, but their new state of the art complex is now one of the top venues in North America. Built in the heart of downtown—as opposed to Rexall, which was in the city’s north end, a mostly forgotten area otherwise—Rogers Place is a sight to behold.
While some critics have pointed out that the atmosphere isn’t quite what it was at Rexall, but give it a few more years to develop an identity. It shouldn’t be hard when you have Connor McDavid playing 41 games per season there, but then again, if management continues to surround him with plugs? Well…
12 Worst: Target Center (Minnesota Timberwolves)
The Target Centre in Minneapolis serves as home to the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, and it has since it opened in 1990. Despite three different renovations since its opening, the venue still falls short of modern-day standards.
With the latest renovations in 2017, the Target Center has admittedly improved drastically, but their new lease keeps them there until 2035, which I see as a bit problematic for the team. By the time the lease is up, the T-Wolves will have been in the building for almost half a century. How many more $100M+ renovations will it undergo? Would they have been better off just building a new venue?
11 Best: Golden 1 Center (Sacramento Kings)
The Sacramento Kings moved into their brand spanking new digs for the start of the 2016-17 season, and initial reviews are great. They had previously resided in the venue known as Sleep Train Arena, which is now aptly named because it sits empty for nearly 365 days of the year.
The Kings don’t care much though, because they’re enamored with their fancy new home. While the design of the structure itself is pleasing and unique, what’s even cooler is that the roof is equipped with solar panels which help power the building. The big screen at Golden 1 Center is also something to behold, currently the largest in all of the NBA.
10 Worst: Stub Hub Center (L.A. Chargers)
This, of course, comes with an asterisk, as it was always intended as just the temporary home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers until Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park is ready for (hopefully) the start of the 2020 NFL season. In any case, the Stub Hub Center definitely earns its spot here.
It’s not necessarily that the venue itself is bad; in fact, it’s a perfectly fine venue for soccer, and it serves as home to the MLS’s L.A. Galaxy. However, the fact that NFL football games are being played there is very odd. It only holds approximately half of the number of spectators as your average NFL stadium.
9 Best: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta Falcons)
The now-demolished Georgia Dome would have certainly earned a spot on the “worst” section of the list, but the new Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is so nice that the Falcons’ home is now one of the tops in North America.
Among its several redeeming qualities is the retractable roof (completed just this past summer), one of only five NFL stadiums that have one today. The venue didn’t come cheap, though, as the 71,000 seat venue cost an estimated $1.6 billion. The Atlanta United FC of the MLS also calls Mercedez-Benz Stadium home, and it hosts several other marquee matchups throughout the year, including the Peach Bowl.
8 Worst: Gila River Arena (Arizona Coyotes)
Location, location, location. The Gila River Arena is actually a fine establishment, opened in 2003 and serving as the home rink for the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes ever since. When the original Winnipeg Jets moved to Arizona, many doubted the viability of the market for hockey in the desert, which is fair.
The Coyotes have been in Arizona for over two decades now, and the club still struggles to attract fans out to Gila River Arena. Perhaps that’s because the Coyotes are perennially not very good; perhaps it’s because hockey was set up to fail in the desert, as it barely cracks the top-10 most popular sport in the region; or, perhaps it’s because Phoenix residents have to drive 45 minutes to an hour through rush hour to get to Gila River Arena in Glendale, just to see a shoddy product.
7 Best: Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)
Much like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Camden Yards in Baltimore is one of the most raved about parks in all of baseball. The 2018 version of the Baltimore Orioles was pretty terrible, but at least fans of the home team could always count on a great experience at Camden Yards, despite what was happening on the field.
Opened in 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards started the trend of retro parks being built in the 1990s and early 2000s. While many parks have tried to emulate Camden Yards, none have come close. The Orioles are the only full-time tenant for the park, and that’s essentially the only thing the facility is used for, which likely has helped it keep its unique feel.
6 Worst: Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)
This is just a personal opinion, but I hate most domed baseball stadiums. Many baseball fans probably agree. Half the fun of going to a baseball game is to enjoy the sunshine and outdoors, something made impossible when you play all your home games indoors.
Of all domed baseball stadiums, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg is probably the worst. Opened in 1990, it has served in the past as the home venue for the AFL’s Tampa Bay Storm and the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Today, the Rays are its only tenant, and the stadium has the lowest seating capacity of all parks in the Major Leagues.
5 Best: Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs)
Wrigley Field shows up here on our list at number six, as it ranks as a top three venue in all of sports. Look, is Wrigley a little dated? Of course, it is, it’s 104 years old. Is it falling apart? Like, just this past season, didn’t a chunk of the scoreboard break off and fall onto the head of a spectator, whose life was saved only because he was wearing one of those novelty batters’ helmets? Yes.
Nonetheless, Wrigley offers something that very few other parks can, and that’s over 100 years of history. Yes, it took until 2016 for the Cubs to finally win a championship while calling Wrigley home, but we shouldn’t hold that against the park.
4 Worst: Barclays Center (Brooklyn Nets, NY Islanders)
While the Barclays Center does serve as home to both the New York Islanders of the NHL and the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA, it really makes an appearance on the bad side of this list thanks to its impracticality for hockey spectating. It’s a new venue, opened in 2012 for the Nets, but the Islanders didn’t move in until 2015.
It’s really the sight lines for hockey that’s the main issue here. From some seats, you can’t even see the nearest fifth of the court or ice surface, which is a pretty crucial part of the ice to see, as it’s where one of the nets is located. The Islanders recently received approval to build a new complex, and until then they are splitting their home games between the Barclays Center and the old Nassau Coliseum, which is actually equally worthy of a spot on this list.
3 Best: AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants)
Located on the shores of San Francisco Bay in the city's South Beach neighbourhood, AT&T Park is one of the premier parks in the majors. Replacing the historic Candlestick Park (demolished in 2015 after serving as the home of the 49ers through 2013), AT&T has served as home for the Giants since 2000.
Despite its relatively young age, the Giants have written a lot of history here. They, of course, rattled off three World Series championships over five seasons from 2010 to 2014, and Barry Bonds also hit his 756th career homer there, beating Hank Aaron for most of all-time.
2 Worst: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (L.A. Rams)
It may seem like a terrible thing to put a stadium with so much history on the bad side of this list, but if you think the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is even close to sufficient for the NFL at its age, you’d be wrong.
Of course, this disappointing venue will only be disappointing for so long. It will soon undergo a renovation as the historic venue will continue to serve as home to the USC Trojans (as it has since 1923) even after the L.A. Rams move into their new stadium at Hollywood Park in 2020. Today, though, the place is an eyesore and offers one of the worst fan experiences in the NFL.
1 Best: Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)
Even though some players admit that the visiting locker room facilities are still lackluster and in desperate need of an upgrade, that doesn’t mean that Fenway Park isn’t still the greatest park in all of baseball. Especially as a fan, there’s no better place to watch a ball game.
The ballpark is equipped with many unique features, including the infamous “Green Monster” in left field. The Red Sox struggled in the 20th century at Fenway, but have made up for it in the 21st, winning three World Series titles, including breaking the 86-year "Curse of the Bambino" in 2004.
Worst: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland Athletics, Raiders)
We move from one Bay Area city to the next, going from the glamour of San Francisco’s AT&T Park to the disappointment that is the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. This abomination won’t be appearing on these lists five-or-so years from now, because neither the Oakland Raiders nor the Athletics will be playing here come 2024.
This stadium is so insufficient that the Raiders have already committed to ditching town because of it, and they’ll be playing in Vegas by 2020. The A’s will continue to play here until 2023 or 2024, but they're exploring all possible options to get themselves a new ballpark in the near future.