Athlon Sports has polled 12 experts to rank the ACC 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 12 ACC experts and asked them to rank their favorite ACC stadiums based on all of the above factors. Here is how things shook out:
Wes Durham, ACC/Fox Sports Net (@WesDurham)
David Hood, TigerNet.com (@MDavidHood)
Mark Ennis, ESPN 680 Louisville (@MarkEnnis)
David Glenn, ACC Sports Journal (@DavidGlennShow)
Greg Barnes, InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina)
Jerry DiPaola, Pitt Tribune-Review (@JDiPaola_Trib)
Gary Ferman, CaneSport.com (@CaneSport)
Bob Ferrante, BleacherReport (@BobFerrante)
Adam Powell, TarHeelIllustrated.com (@HeelIllustrated)
Nate Mink, Syracuse.com (@MinkNate)
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports (@AthlonSteven)
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)
|2. Florida State||2||2||2||2||2||1||2||1||3||2||2||3|
|3. Virginia Tech||3||3||3||3||4||5||1||3||2||3||3||2|
|5. NC State||4||5||6||4||7||7||8||4||5||9||5||4|
|6. Georgia Tech||5||7||10||5||8||4||4||6||10||7||7||7|
|7. North Carolina||7||6||7||7||5||6||9||11||7||6||6||6|
|12. Boston College||11||9||12||12||13||14||7||12||9||8||11||12|
|13. Wake Forest||13||14||8||13||11||13||13||13||11||14||13||13|
1. Memorial Stadium, Clemson
Opened: 1942 Capacity: 81,500
Dubbed “Death Valley” by the late Presbyterian coach Lonnie McMillan after watching his teams get thumped by the Tigers for years, CMS has been home to historic moments and raucous crowds for more than 70 years. The fifth-oldest venue in the ACC, this college football cathedral witnessed the first meeting between father and son head coaches (Bowden Bowl I) and is filled with timeless traditions. One of the most well known, of course, is the rubbing of “Howard’s Rock.” One legend has it that Memorial Stadium set the record for the loudest college football stadium at 133 decibels in 2007. Current Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney certainly likes the comforts of home. He is 31-5 at Memorial Stadium during his five years as Clemson's head coach.
Listen to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast:
2. Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State
Opened: 1950 Capacity: 82,300
Named after former Florida State president Doak S. Campbell, The Doak is known for its vicious football teams and gorgeous student section. It was renamed in 2004 as Bobby Bowden Field, and a nine-foot statue and three-story stained-glass window of the legendary coach were added to the facilities. The Noles are 267-86-4 all-time in the largest stadium in the ACC and, interestingly enough, the gorgeous brick façade makes DCS the largest continuous brick building in the United States. The cowgirls go crazy when Chief Osceola rides in on his steed and plants his flaming spear into the 50-yard line before each home game.
3. Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech
Opened: 1965 Capacity: 65,632
The beautiful venue is the largest stadium in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Frank Beamer is 55-10 at home during his career in the ACC and 32-9 in Lane Stadium while a member of the Big East. The Highty Tighties, Marching Virginians and “Enter Sandman” get the crowd riled up before every home game as players rush out from the tunnel slapping a slab of Hokie Stone en route to the field. Aside from the boisterous crowd (and excellent football team), part of what makes this venue so intimidating is its altitude of 2,057 feet above sea level — making it the highest stadium in the Eastern United States.
4. Papa John’s Stadium, Louisville
Opened: 1998 Capacity: 55,000
The “Pizza Box” was opened in 1998 with just one level and roughly 42,000 seats. The very serious $63 million expansion in 2006 added over 13,000 seats, an upper deck and various suites and luxury boxes. The stellar row of cabooses behind the stadium is ideal for tailgating in style and is extremely convenient. As support for the team grows — moving to the ACC will help immeasurably — the need for more seats is likely to generate another round of expansion. Some plans are calling for 80,000 seats, which would make PJS one of the largest and loudest in the ACC.
5. Carter-Finley Stadium, NC State
Opened: 1966 Capacity: 60,000
Two unique aspects to Carter-Finley Stadium that add to its value are that fans are allowed to leave and re-enter the stadium — I wonder what they do in the parking lot? — and that it has the smallest clearance between the stands and the field in the ACC. The crowds are right on top of the field and it makes it difficult on opposing teams. This venue has some of the better fan support and one of the better atmospheres in the league.
6. Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech
Opened: 1913 Capacity: 55,000
The ACC’s oldest venue is located right in the heart of downtown Atlanta and was built for just $15,000 a century ago. Originally named Grant Field, Georgia Tech renamed the venue in 1988 Bobby Dodd Stadium after the legendary Tech head coach. Many changes over time — Astroturf and the demolition of the South Stands and the 2003 expansion, for example — have made this stadium an ever-changing home for the Ramblin’ Wreck. And when the 1930 Ford Model A Sport coupe and Buzz the Yellow Jacket come flying across the field, the Bobby Dodd faithful erupt.
7. Kenan Memorial Stadium, North Carolina
Opened: 1927 Capacity: 62,980
One of the most picturesque places to watch a football game, Kenan Stadium was named after dairy farmer and 1894 UNC graduate William Kenan. It is the second-oldest football venue in the ACC, and could be, in the very near future, the ACC’s nicest as major renovations are underway. The “Blue Zone” turned the horseshoe into a complete bowl with premium seating and innovative features while upgrades to the overall stadium facilities across the board made the fan’s experience one of the best in the conference (as long as fans are at the game).
8. Scott Stadium, Virginia
Opened: 1931 Capacity: 61,500
Located on one of the most historic and culturally rich campuses in the nation, the Cavaliers' home is named after former university rector Frederic Scott. The signature white columns and grassy hill in the Northwest end zone are flanked by Monticello Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Scott Stadium has been witness to many historic ACC contests — namely, the Warrick Dunn goal-line stand. The Wahoos’ stadium is the seventh biggest and fourth oldest in the ACC.
9. Carrier Dome, Syracuse
Opened: 1980 Capacity: 49,262
If one can get past the fact that a dome named after a HVAC corporation doesn’t have air conditioning, the Orange’s home has plenty of character to offer. Nicknamed “The Loud House,” the Cuse’s home has a Teflon-coated, fiberglass inflatable roof that is one of the loudest in the nation. However, while it has been home to many historic showdowns and is the nation’s largest basketball arena, the Carrier Dome has seen better days and is failing to reach capacity on a regular basis.
10. Sun Life Stadium, Miami
Opened: 1987 Capacity: 80,120
The building is 25 minutes from campus and the fans don't exactly pack the bleachers to watch the 'Canes. While the building has the amenities of a stadium capable of hosting an NFL franchise and college football's title game, it lacks the connectedness most campus locations produce. It's a nice place to play a football game but it's distant, half-filled and devoid of character.
11. Heinz Field, Pitt
Opened: 2001 Capacity: 65,050
From an amenities standpoint, few college stadiums can match the posh NFL home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Panthers' swanky digs, of course, come with the stigma of being the “other” team that plays at Heinz Field. While the venue has a great view of the Ohio River and features state-of-the-art technology, it isn’t located on campus, features roughly 20,000 empty seats each game and the home locker room doesn’t have Pitt Panthers logos plastered all over it.
12. Alumni Stadium, Boston College
Opened: 1957 Capacity: 44,500
The Eagles had been one of college football's most overachieving programs until recently. Not surprisingly, the team's struggles on the field have likewise resulted in a dip in attendance in the stands. Alumni Stadium can be a difficult place to play when it comes to big-time games (see College Gameday in 2009). However, it's tough to draw crowds to Chestnut Hill and when the team struggles, so does the stadium.
13. BB&T Field, Wake Forest
Opened: 1968 Capacity: 31,500
To Wake's fans' credit, there are typically never a ton of empty seats in BB&T and the recent round of upgrades have improved the fan's experience. However, failing to draw more than 30,000 fans per game in a major conference makes this venue inferior to the massive coliseums of the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12. The tailgating is picturesque and offers the quaintness of a homely, small-town college campus. But Wake Forest home games will never be confused with those in Columbus, Norman or Tuscaloosa.
14. Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke
Opened: 1929 Capacity: 33,941
Attendance has gotten better under the David Cutcliffe regime due in large part to winning more games. However, the stadium has seen its fair share of blowouts — and sparse crowds. The Duke faithful will pack Cameron Indoor long before filling Wallace Wade.