From stadium size and cleanliness to capacity and fan experience, there are many factors that can impact the atmosphere. While every sport has a unique fan culture, so too does every city.
For example, most NHL arenas in Canada and the northern US States will sellout regularly, while teams in the Southern US have had issues filling stadiums.
The Florida Panthers set a record low for attendance earlier this season, attracting a measly 7,311 fans for their matchup against the Ottawa Senators.
Here is a list of some of the best sports venues in North America:
Wrigley Field (MLB)
Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is the 2nd oldest stadium in the MLB and is commonly referred to as “the friendly confines of Wrigley Field”. The neighbourhood that surrounds the field, known as Wrigleyville, is home to many bars and restaurants. Fans have been known to line the streets outside Wrigley during Cubs games, waiting to catch home run balls. As is tradition, fans promptly throw any balls hit by the opposing team back onto the field. Another Wrigley tradition included the singing of “Take me out to the ballgame” by long-time announcer Harry Caray.
Fenway Park (MLB)
The Boston Red Sox play their home games at Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in the MLB and the second smallest in terms of total capacity. The small size gives the stadium a very intimate feeling. Fenway is home to the famous Green Monster in left field, which is the largest outfield wall in the MLB, and has seating above for fans to watch the game from a great perspective. The ballpark also features one of the last hand-operated scoreboards in the outfield that helps contribute to Fenway’s historic feel.
Bell Centre (NHL)
The Montreal Canadiens (aka the Habs) play their home games in the Bell Centre. The arena is the largest in the NHL, with a capacity of over 21,000. Habs fans are some of the most passionate in the entire league, and have been known to riot after playoff games, whether the team wins or loses. If you are going to watch a game there, don’t dare wear an opposing team’s jersey!
Madison Square Garden (NHL & NBA)
Also known as The Garden, MSG is home to the NHL’s New York Rangers as well as the NBA’s New York Knicks (and apparently Billy Joel plays there monthly as well). While Rangers fans can be very intense, nothing brings the Big Apple together like a Knicks game (for some reason). The stadium is the oldest in the NHL as well as 2nd oldest in the NBA, and is commonly referred to as “the world’s most famous arena”.
Air Canada Centre (NHL & NBA)
The Air Canada Centre is home to the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors. As any Leafs fan will tell you, finding tickets to games is not an easy task, as almost every game sells out. The atmosphere at the ACC during Leafs games can vary greatly depending on who they are playing.
Raptors fans have an easier time finding tickets and have also become known as some of the best fans in the NBA. During the playoffs last season, around 10,000 fans crowded outside the ACC to watch the game in Maple Leaf Square, which was dubbed “Jurassic Park”. Some fans even showed up to cheer the team on during road games.
Lambeau Field (NFL)
Wisconsin is best known for two things: cheese and the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned professional sports franchise in the entire United States. As a result, their fans have a deep connection with the team. Every week a Lambeau Field, they don cheese hats (not made of actual cheese) to show their support. Packers players return the favour by doing the “Lambeau Leap” (jumping into the fans behind the end zone) every time they score a touchdown. Lambeau is the 2nd largest stadium in the NFL in terms of normal capacity.
CenturyLink Field (NFL)
It has long been acknowledged that Seattle Seahawks fans are amongst the loudest in sports. The team has embraced the ferocity of their crowd by designating their fans as the “12th man” (each team plays with only 11 men on the field). Opposing teams dread playing in Seattle because the fans can be so loud that it makes it difficult to communicate during the game.
Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field (CFL)
According to a recent survey, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have the third strongest brand in Canadian sports, behind the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. Although they play in the smallest market in the CFL, the Roughriders still have the rowdiest fans in Canadian sports, according to an MSN Sports study, ranking them higher than fans of the national junior hockey team and the Montreal Canadiens. The rowdy Riders fans are also known for wearing crazy outfits to games, including many who sport watermelon helmets.
Michigan Stadium (College Football)
Also known as “The Big House”, Michigan Stadium is the largest stadium in the United States, with a normal capacity of 109,901 (although it can host crowds in excess of 115,000). The field plays host to the University of Michigan football team, and was also the site of the 2014 NHL Winter Classic game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Churchill Downs (Horse Racing)
Since 1875, Churchill Downs has been home to the famous Kentucky Derby, which is usually the best-attended horse race all season, with crowds reaching up to 150,000 on Derby Day. The Derby has many traditions, which include the drinking of Mint Juleps and the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” by the University of Louisville marching band as the horses are first paraded onto the track. The amazing grounds at Churchill Downs also feature the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Car Racing)
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first racing facility formally called a Speedway and it is actually located in Speedway, Indiana. The Speedway is home to IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500, NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, and formerly hosted Formula One’s United States Grand Prix. In addition to the race course, the grounds also features a golf course, which has 14 holes outside the track, as well 4 holes in the infield of the track.
Oregon Track – Hayward Field (Track)
Originally the home of the University of Oregon football team, Hayward Field was later expanded to include a track surrounding the football field. Today, the facility is used exclusively for track and field. The Pro-Turf surface of the track gave it the reputation of “the world’s fastest track”.
Aztec Stadium (Soccer)
The Aztec Stadium in Mexico City is home to the Mexican national soccer team. It is the 6th largest stadium in the world, with a normal capacity of 105,000 (although the record attendance is 119,853). The stadium was the first in the world to have hosted two separate FIFA World Cup Finals. The 1970 Finals included “The Game of the Century” and saw Pelé raise the trophy for the last time, while 1986 saw Diego Maradona’s “Goal of the Century” in their 2-1 Finals win over England.