We’re seeing arenas pop up everywhere across the country, as the entertainment and sports industries shatter the old notion that a market cannot support more than one large facility. Here are the five best markets in the U.S. for fans seeking the best arena experiences.
Here we are focusing primarily on sports and entertainment. There are other facilities we’re not considering that may also excel at hosting concerts and traditional arena sports: U.S. Bank Stadium, for example, has already made a mark in the Twin Cities as a concert venue and will host the 2019 NCAA Final Four for men’s basketball. This list focuses on traditionally configured arenas and doesn’t include baseball or football venues.
New York City Any city hosting a historic and vibrant arena like Madison Square Garden needs to be on a list like this. After undergoing a billion-dollar renovation in the past few years, Madison Square Garden is still a flagship in the United States for professional and college sports. (Indeed, the list of sports events hosted at Madison Square Garden is long: NHL’s New York Rangers, NBA’s New York Knicks, St. John’s Red Storm basketball, the Big East and Big Ten basketball tournaments, and the postseason NIT tourneys.) Barclays Center may suck for hockey, but it works well for basketball, and being so close to great restaurants and public transit in the heart of Brooklyn is a big plus. Both MSG and Barclays Center are also major concert venues. Heck, let’s throw Nassau Coliseum and Prudential Center into the mix, and you have a large market with plenty of outstanding sports and entertainment venues.
Minneapolis-St. Paul The Twin Cities went from a market with no major arena venues to one with several important venues, both big and small. Target Center, home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, was upgraded over the past two years, as the shrine to cinderblock became a warm, inviting venue better integrated into downtown Minneapolis. Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, has been a top NHL venue since opening in 2000 and has aged remarkably well. Williams Arena, home to University of Minnesota basketball, opened in 1928 and exemplifies everything that is good about NCAA sports: an intimate venue where fans are a key part of the formula. 3M Arena at Mariucci presents a great college hockey experience. And, let’s not forget The Armory, a former home to the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers rescued from the scrap heap and transformed into a trendy music venue.
Las Vegas It seems like every casino has its own arena, ranging from the Orleans to the MGM Grand, each with its own niche in the local music scene. T-Mobile Arena raised the stakes upon opening, first as a major international music venue and then as home of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. This is a market with several major arenas—T-Mobile Arena, Thomas & Mack Center, Orleans Arena, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Mandalay Bay Events Center—with more major venues on the way.
Los Angeles Staples Center is a very good facility, but the claim to greatness lies in the total Los Angeles Lakers/Los Angeles Clippers/Los Angeles Kings experience, with time spent before and after games at the L.A. Live entertainment district-a pioneering effort that has been copied at other sports venues. The Forum has emerged as a major music venue, with perhaps the best acoustics in a major music venue anywhere. Add in USC’s underrated Galen Center and recently renovated Pauley Pavilion, home to UCLA Bruins basketball and certainly one of the most historic college-basketball venues out there, and the L.A. arena scene is strong.
Montreal Begin with Bell Centre, arguably the best NHL arena and home to the most passionate fan base in the league. But there are some other fascinating arenas in the market as well. Maurice Richard Arena is a classic 1962 arena used in the past for junior hockey and today hosts concerts as well as figure and speed skating. And Place Bell opened this season as home of the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
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