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Athlon Sports has polled league experts to rank the Big Ten stadiums for 2014.
Ranking anything in sports is subjective. We may all agree on certain things — like Michael Jordan is better than Kobe Bryant or that Lambeau Field is better than the Edward Jones Dome — but for the most part, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Ranking college football stadiums is not only subjective but also extremely intricate. General atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, the surrounding campus and the college town should all be considered when trying to rank college football stadiums.
Basically, there is no right or wrong answer. Athlon Sports polled Big Ten experts and asked them to rank their favorite Big Ten stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:
David Jones, Harrisburg Patriot-News (@DJonesHoop)
Herb Gould, Chicago Sun-Times (@HerbGould)
Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network (@BTNTomDienhart)
Kevin McGuire, NBC Sports (@KevinOnCFB)
Sean Callahan, HuskerOnline.com (@Sean_Callahan)
Kevin Noon, BuckeyeGrove.com (@Kevin_Noon)
Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network (@BTNBrentYarina)
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)
|1. Ohio St||1||1||2||1||2||2||1||1||1||1||1||1|
|4. Penn St||4||3||3||4||4||1||5||5||3||5||4||2|
|7. Michigan St||5||7||12||7||7||7||7||7||7||6||7||7|
1. Ohio Stadium, Ohio State
Opened: 1922 Capacity: 102,329
There is little doubt that the Horseshoe is the Big Ten’s best place to watch a game. A great nickname, awesome traditions, tremendous fan support, elite level of success, High Street and the Banks of the Olentangy make Ohio Stadium a bucket list destination for fans of every team. And with a new video board, audio system and LED lighting, Ohio State boasts one of the top college football venues in the nation. Watching the "Dotting of the I" before a Buckeyes game is something all college fans should experience. Finishing in the top five in average attendance every year doesn’t hurt either.
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2. Memorial Stadium, Nebraska
Opened: 1923 Capacity: 91,000
Towering over the sprawling Lincoln campus, Memorial Stadium rises high into the horizon for all Big Red faithful to see. The façade of Memorial Stadium is extremely intimidating to those down on the field and the crowds are the most committed in the nation. This venue has been sold out since 1962. (1962!) The latest round of multimillion-dollar expansions grew this college football cathedral by nearly 10,000 seats and is even more luxurious.
3. Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin
Opened: 1917 Capacity: 80,321
Madison is routinely considered one of the nation’s most enjoyable college towns. Nestled between two picturesque lakes, the downtown campus “jumps around” on fall Saturdays. The brat haze that floats over State Street and down Regent Street ushers fans through a gorgeous campus and into the House that Barry built. Camp Randall got its name from its time as a Civil War army base in the 1800s long before Big Ten athletics were created. Wisconsin has consistently poured money into renovating its prized gem of a stadium over the years, with some finishing touches still yet to come. One of the nation’s best game day atmospheres is only getting better with time.
4. Beaver Stadium, Penn State
Opened: 1960 Capacity: 106,572
From a massive city like Columbus to a sleepy college town like State College, Beaver Stadium nearly matches The Horseshoe’s every facet. Penn State’s home stadium is as intimidating as any in the nation — especially when 100,000 fans are all wearing white. Massive, boisterous crowds steeped in rich tradition and history make the Nittany Lions’ home games a sight to behold. And climbing nearby Mount Nittany is a right of passage of sorts for all who attend a game at Beaver Stadium.
5. Michigan Stadium, Michigan
Opened: 1927 Capacity: 109,901
The biggest stadium in the nation is located in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was capable of holding upwards of 80,000 people at the time it opened, making it well ahead of its peers in terms of sheer size and capacity. Built down into the ground, the massive bowl doesn’t tower over the land or hold in the sound like some of its 100,000-seat brethren, however, the renovations completed in 2010 installed new luxury boxes, added a massive video scoreboard and thousands of club seats. These changes have contained the noise to some degree and made The Big House more inhospitable to opposing teams and more majestic to the Maize and Blue faithful.
6. Kinnick Stadium, Iowa
Opened: 1929 Capacity: 70,585
Formerly Iowa Stadium, the name changed in 1972 when a local sports writer convinced the powers that be to rename the building after former Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick. The Hawkeyes' home field took its current shape in 2006 when an $86 million renovation added a new press box, video scoreboard and built permanent seating in the south end zone, complete with upgraded amenities. The no-frills, straightforward seating can be as loud as any stadium in the Big Ten and the famous pink visitors’ locker room only adds to the building’s rich tradition.
7. Spartans Stadium, Michigan State
Opened: 1923 Capacity: 75,005
Entering the 2012 season, Michigan State has put together an extremely respectable 70 percent winning percentage (341-142-13) at home since taking up residency in Spartan Stadium. The perfectly symmetrical walls of Spartan Stadium are the last of the Big Ten’s “big” stadiums. Renovations completed in 2006 upgraded the luxury suites, club seats, concourses and amenities and added The Grand Entrance, a sharp looking glass and brick façade that welcomes Green and White faithful each Saturday.
8. TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota
Opened: 2009 Capacity: 50,805
The newest building in the Big Ten is home to the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The on-campus, outdoor facility opened in 2009 and cost roughly $300 million to build. Seating capacity can be expanded to 80,000, which is one of the reasons why the Gophers' home also will host the Vikings the next two seasons while a new downtown stadium is under construction. The west end zone is open air, holds a massive HD video board and provides a scenic view of downtown Minneapolis. “The Bank” or “Gopher Hole” has dramatically improved the game day atmosphere for home games and provides Minnesota an on-campus home of its own for decades to come. The amenities are also among the league’s best considering it’s the newest building in the conference.
9. Memorial Stadium, Illinois
Opened: 1923 Capacity: 60,670
The exterior of Illinois’ facility has always had a classic and traditional feel that welcomes home and road fans. But prior to 2008, this facility lacked the passion and intensity of the bigger Big Ten buildings. However, a brand new press box and luxury suites on the West side coupled with 10,000 new seats in the north end zone have helped rebuild the Memorial experience. The multimillion-dollar video board, new sound system, ribbon video boards and new commemorative lettering on the press box wrapped up the latest round of renovations and has only added to the game day experience.
10. Byrd Stadium, Maryland
Opened: 1950 Capacity: 54,000
Dr. H.C. Byrd was a multi-sport athlete and University of Maryland alumnus who went on to coach the football team and also served as university president. The building, nestled at the foot of campus’ North Hill, has gone through various rounds of renovations (1995, '04, '07, '09). Although it has taken time for the building to round into form, the improvements, including upper decks seating, presidential suite and state-of-the-art scoreboard, make Terps games much more enjoyable today than just 15 years ago.
11. Ryan Field, Northwestern
Opened: 1926 Capacity: 47,130
Formerly Dyche Stadium, the Wildcats' home stadium was renamed Ryan Field in honor of Patrick G. Ryan, who was the chairman of the Board of Trustees at that time. The unique gentle curves of the stadium allow for great sight lines and few bad seats. Located in northeast Chicago along Lake Michigan, the Evanston campus offers plenty for fans to enjoy. However, similar to Duke or Vanderbilt, this venue struggles to match the rabid intensity of bigger, more powerful athletic departments.
12. High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers
Opened: 1994 Capacity: 52,454
This on-campus facility grew from 41,500 seats to its current capacity after an extensive round of additions in 2009. The Knights use a signature two-tone green field turf for football games and the atmosphere performed well in signature moments — see Jeremy Ito’s field goal in 2006. It lacks a great name due to corporate sponsorship, but its symmetry, fan support and view of the Raritan River give it a lot of upside with an influx of Big Ten dollars expected in the near future.
13. Memorial Stadium, Indiana
Opened: 1960 Capacity: 52,959
The Hoosiers’ home field is one of the few in the nation that has remained largely unchanged throughout the years. The signature, solitary press box rests gently atop the single-tier bowl nicknamed “The Rock.” A rare 2009 renovation expanded seating slightly, added the brand new Hall of Champions athletic facility and enclosed the north end zone. Bloomington is an awesome college town and Memorial offers the homely experience of a laid-back Midwestern campus. But until the team can win at a higher level more consistently, The Rock won’t be nearly as intimidating as most places in the league.
14. Ross Ade Stadium, Purdue
Opened: 1924 Capacity: 62,500
Purdue’s home stadium could be the next Big Ten stadium to get a makeover. It has plenty of tradition, a rich history of elite players and has provided plenty of upsets — just ask Ohio State. But an upper deck on the North and East sides as well as a facelift for the amenities would go a long way to improving the status of this once-proud venue. The rumored additions would balance out the currently western heavy feel to the building — due to the massive press box and luxury suites towering over the single-bowl facility. Winning more games, of course, would go a long way to pushing forward these potential renovations.