Ranking the six sporting arenas I visited this year

Arenas offer more than just sporting events

A photo of the jumbotron at Chase Center
PHOTO: Izzy Cheung

By: Izzy Cheung, Staff Writer

This year, I’ve had the privilege of visiting six major sporting arenas across North America. I watched a Colorado Avalanche playoff game in Ball Arena, saw Pitbull (Mr. Worldwide himself) in concert at the Saddledome, took a tour of the world-renowned Madison Square Garden, and saw Aaron Judge, Elias Pettersson, and Steph Curry play their respective sports in their home arenas. I’ve ranked each of these arenas based on five different categories — concession, historical background, efficiency, aesthetic, and my overall preference.

  1. Scotiabank Saddledome 

Home of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Calgary Flames, and National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) Calgary Roughnecks. 

While I’m a firm Calgary Flames hater, this ranking is completely unbiased. It’s no secret that the Saddledome is in need of some repairs, and luckily, those will be coming soon. A new arena is coming to cowtown, financed in part by the Flames.

My visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome was to see Pitbull, who was headlining one of the first nights of the Calgary Stampede. Before going to Calgary, I’d been warned plenty of times about the rough shape the Saddledome was in, and in this regard, my visit didn’t disappoint. The concourse was relatively outdated, the stands didn’t feel particularly safe, and the only food options available were burgers, pizza, and other variations of typical festival fare. Overall, this venue did what it was asked to — hosting a concert — but didn’t particularly wow me. Kind of like NHL’er Jonathan Huberdeau this past season (if you know, you know).

My favourite part: watching Pitbull put on a cowboy hat for “Timber.”

  1. Rogers Arena

Home of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, and NLL’s Vancouver Warriors.

Rogers Arena is the perfect definition of “mid” for me. It’s not terrible, but it could definitely be better. The arena made a few changes over the summer, making improvements to the scoreboard and adding a new dining area that allows visitors to watch players take the ice at the beginning of each period. Of all the arenas on this list, Rogers is the one I’m most familiar with, so it’s hard to really review it from one specific experience. However, after visiting some of the other arenas across North America, I’d have to say it takes a backseat to some of the wonders provided by the others. In a way, Rogers Arena is the same spot as its home team — middling about in mediocrity.

My favourite part: Cin City mini donuts.

  1. Ball Arena

Home of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Denver Nuggets, and NLL’s Colorado Mammoth

If this were a biased review, this arena would be at number one. As mentioned, my visit to Ball Arena was to watch the Colorado Avalanche in a playoff game. While they did eventually end up losing that game (as well as the series, unfortunately), the energy and excitement of playoffs was unlike any other. But this is an arena review — not an “experience” review — so review the arena, I shall.

Ball Arena was okay. It was large, clean, and had a decent selection when it came to food. I ate tacos while taking in warmups. I could tell that the arena itself was on the older side, but the design and layout of the jumbotron made me reconsider that for a second. One of the cooler parts of this arena was the main entryway, which had a large, hanging sculpture depicting various sports.

My favourite part: pom poms on each seat to celebrate Avalanche goals. 

  1. Yankee Stadium

Home of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees.

This stadium gets its ranking largely due to the history associated with it. I know next to nothing about baseball, but upon arriving at Yankee Stadium, I could quite literally feel the importance of the franchise in the air. Seeing the large, gold “Yankee Stadium” signage above the gate made me feel like I was Percy Jackson coming to return the lightning bolt to Olympus in Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief (which is an interesting comparison, I know — but it just makes sense).

Options for concession were alright — nothing to phone home about, but also not completely devoid of options — and the stadium itself was clean. We got seats in the grandstand, so we could see pretty much everything on the field that needed to be seen. As a sports fan, the allure of this stadium came from the various signs and old logos that served as a reminder of how important the Yankees are to sports culture.

My favourite part: golden hour occurring in the background of the game.

  1. Madison Square Garden

Home of the NHL’s New York Rangers, and NBA’s New York Knicks

You know an arena is important when people are paying good money to go on tours of it (guilty as charged). Madison Square Garden is one of, if not the most famous arena in the world. While I didn’t get to see a performance or sporting event here, doing so is definitely on my bucket list. The arena is massive, with a capacity of around 20,789. Level 100 is stippled with various athletes’ memorabilia and placards of important events that have occurred within its walls.

My favourite part: seeing at least 20 banners hanging from the rafters. As a sports fan, it’s surreal seeing all those names and knowing everything that’s occurred in this very arena. 

  1. Chase Center

Home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors

As great as each arena on this list was, Chase Center was on a different level. Ball Arena was about the playoff experience, Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden were centered around history — but Chase Center checked all of my boxes. The exterior of the arena was a sleek, modern white, with a couple of sit-down restaurants and a stair-like seating area out front.

If I could describe this arena in one term, it’d be high-tech. The walls and floor were all as white as polished enamel, and concession stands were clean, hosting a variety of foods. I grabbed tacos (yes, again) and sat down to watch the Golden State Warriors warm up. The jumbotron was, well, jumbo — and the bright lights made the arena appear much more modern.

My favourite part: fan interactions, bright lights, and not having to wait in a long line to go to the bathroom.

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