Archive for the ‘blog’ Category

College Football Spring Games a Good Way to See New Stadiums

Thursday, April 7th, 2011


Alabama set a Spring Game record with 92,138 fans in 2007. That record has since been broken. (AP Photo)

When I attended the University of Michigan I made it a point to attend the annual Spring Game at Michigan Stadium.  By April, more than three months had passed since the bowl game and almost five months since the last home game they had played. The Spring Game at Michigan provided a capper of sorts to the school year, which begins for all intents and purposes at the first home game at the end of August or early September. Seeing the squad for the first time in the new year serves to energize you through the news-devoid summer months and hold you over until pre-season Fall camp starts.

While they lack the significance and full experience of the games in the Fall, college football Spring Games offer fans a good opportunity to see their team up close and personal and get a taste of college football in April. They also give a large number of fans the opportunity to get inside a stadium they may not otherwise get a chance to see a game in. The weather is turning in many areas of the country and April weather often equates to that of October; just like the Spring Game itself, the weather is somewhat reflective of how things will be in the Fall, but not quite there.

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Help SPW Donate to American Heart Association and NFL Play 60

Monday, April 4th, 2011



Working for the NFL for four years gave me the opportunity to see first-hand how hard the league’s community relations and corporate social responsibility teams work on a variety of initiatives, most notably NFL Play 60, a campaign designed to tackle childhood obesity by getting kids active through in-school, afterschool and team-based programs. In order to help with this great cause, Sports Power Weekends, Inc. will donate $1 to the NFL Play 60 Challenge via the American Heart Association for each new @SportsPowerWknd twitter follower and Facebook ‘Like’ on our page in the month of April.

You can follow us on twitter here, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook here.

SPW in Review: Charlotte, March 20-21

Monday, March 28th, 2011



img_0895Until last week, my only trip to North Carolina had been during an ambitious Sports Power Weekend drive from New York to Durham for a Duke basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Michigan. It was only fitting then when I decided to make my second trip to North Carolina for another Duke-Michigan game; this time in Charlotte at Time Warner Cable Arena for an NCAA Tournament Game. Being that the NCAA Tourney doubleheader was on a Sunday, I decided to stay through Monday to explore the city a bit, giving me a nice taste of what Charlotte was all about. I was not disappointed.

The Queen City isn’t necessarily a must-visit destination. It doesn’t really have a defining attraction or an attribute that separates it from other cities in the south or east coast, but that doesn’t really hold it back. It is a quaint city that is very walkable and easy to navigate. Being as focused on sports as I am, naturally I was interested in checking out the Time Warner Cable Arena – home of the Charlotte Bobcats, Bank of America Stadium – the Carolina Panthers’ stadium, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I came away impressed by all three and convinced that Charlotte is a desirable stop for an SPW over a Panthers home weekend, particularly when coinciding either with a Bobcats game, or even a Duke or UNC game two and a half hours away in Durham or Chapel Hill. It is actually often overlooked how close Charlotte is to Columbia, South Carolina. It is only an hour and a half, making an SEC-NFL combo weekend very possible.

img_0863I flew in to Charlotte bright and early, giving me some time to get some breakfast and walk around prior to the UNC-Washington 12:15 PM tip-off at TWC Arena. The airport is massive but incredible clean and well kept, providing a nice welcome to the city. More importantly, it is only about 15-20 minutes from Uptown – an odd moniker for their downtown area – and the ride is a flat $25. We passed up on the Queen City Diner to check out Harvest Moon Grille, a farm to table restaurant connected to the Dunhill Hotel. The food was fresh and fantastic, and two of the people I was with said it was some of the best bacon they had ever tasted. After breakfast we walked on over to the arena for the NCAA doubleheader featuring UNC-Washington followed by Duke-Michigan. TWC Arena is accessible, modern and clean, and overall very impressive. It reminded me a bit of walking into The Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It has tall, wide concourses, plenty of concessions with locally popular foods, and an open feel once you are in the court area. Being that the two local darlings – UNC and Duke – were playing, the crowd was full of powder and royal blues. It was a treat that both games came down to one shot as time expired; there isn’t much more a crowd can ask for than that. As expected, Duke and UNC were victorious, leaving the locals happy and the traveling fans from Michigan and Washington dismayed, but entertained. We went for a drink at one of the handful of Irish pubs a couple of blocks from the arena before heading back to the Courtyard Marriott, a good hotel well situated in the heart of Uptown.

A good area to head to at night is the recently built EpiCentre, a hub of restaurants, bars, and entertainment situated around an open-air pavilion. It is about a five-minute walk from the Courtyard, as well as Time Warner Cable Arena. They have a handful of restaurants, both chain and otherwise, as well as a number of bars, a bowling alley called Strike City, and the post EpiCentre Theatres, a movie theatre situated in a nightlife setting with a restaurant and bar.

img_0908Monday I spent a lot of time walking around the city and exploring the streets. I noticed a lot of young professionals, likely involved in banking since that is so heavily ingrained in the fabric of the city’s industry. You can probably cover most of the city in an afternoon walking around, but in addition to seeing the streets, I wanted to check out the stadium and NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Bank of America Stadium is a nearly 74,000-seat stadium that opened in 1996 in uptown Charlotte. It took about 15 minutes to walk from my hotel to the stadium, making staying in uptown ideal for a Panthers weekend. I don’t think I can stress how rare it is to be able to stay in a city and walk to both their basketball arena and football stadium with ease. The stadium itself was nice and clean, with a modern-looking façade. Having not gone into the stadium – they were not offering tours on Monday – I can’t speak on the interior. The grounds surrounding the stadium are well kept and green; you can easily envision that in September and October before the weather turns a bit this is just a great place to be on a Sunday for a game.

Walking from the stadium to the NASCAR Hall of Fame was once again a short 15-minute walk through town. On the way you can pass by the Levine Center of the Arts, a very upscale block consisting of cultural destinations such as the Mint Museum Uptown, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, and the John S. and James L. Knight Theater. This was formerly named the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus until the $83 million private endowment campaign to support new and renovated cultural facilities reached its goal on a generous gift from the Leon Levine Foundation.

img_0920Upon arriving at the NASCAR Hall of Fame I was blown away by how contemporary the exterior and Ceremonial Plaza itself were. The four-level Hall is a bit steep as far as entrance cost at $20 for an adult, but it does provide some good entertainment. There are exhibits such as Glory Road, which showcases 18 historic cars from legends like Dale Earnhardt and recent stars like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, the Hall of Honor, where Hall of Fame inductees are enshrined, and Race Week, an interactive area that provides a behind-the-scenes look at preparing and running on race day. The fact that it is connected to a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant offers another reason to be there on the day of a big event.

I didn’t make the trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway, a short ride from uptown, but I did make it to Mac’s Speed Shop, a BBQ joint with a location in the South End, just two miles or so from uptown. The South End itself, though more spread out, has some bars and restaurants that make it an attractive place for a night out. Mac’s serves hefty portions of some top notch BBQ, and somewhat contrary to its biker bar mentality has a nice patio area with picnic tables for outdoor eating. Overall, a good spot to hit on a nice night.

Ultimately, I would deem my two days in Charlotte to be a success, and I think that is the perfect amount of time to be in the city. That coincides perfectly with a Saturday and Sunday visit for a Sports Power Weekend; it fits well within the SPW motif when you can knock out multiple sporting events and see everything a city has to offer over the course of the weekend. The people are nice and the place is welcoming, making Charlotte a definite Sports Power Weekend destination.

Facility Roundup: Minneapolis-St. Paul

Friday, March 25th, 2011


NFL:

Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Minnesota Vikings)

Photo courtesy of Vikings.com

The Skinny: Built in 1982, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was the primary facility used for hosting almost all Minneapolis area major sporting events up until the last several years. Now called Mall of America Field at the HHH Metrodome, the $68 million stadium was the second dome of its kind, featuring a self-supported fiberglass fabric roof. The climate-controlled stadium appeased both the Minnesota Vikings, who were looking for an upgrade from their home at Metropolitan Stadium, and the Minnesota Twins and University of Minnesota football. The Metrodome has hosted many premier events including Super Bowl XXVI in 1992, the MLB All-Star Game in 1985 and nine different NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments. It is recognized as one of the loudest domes in all of sports. With two of its three primary tenants already occupying new stadiums and the Vikings planning to move in the near future, now is a good time to visit the Metrodome, before it’s too late (after the roof is repaired, of course).

Year Opened: 1982

Capacity: 64,111

Fun Fact: Given the fact that the Metrodome has played host to nearly all of the teams in the Minneapolis area, it may come as no surprise that the Metrodome has hosted a number of premier sporting events. Did you know the Metrodome is the only stadium to host the Super Bowl, an MLB All-Star Game, an NCAA Basketball Final Four and the World Series?

MLB:

Target Field (Minnesota Twins)

Photo courtesy of MLB.com

The Skinny: Target Field represents the first stadium built specifically for the Twins in the franchises history. After 27 seasons sharing the Metrodome with the Minnesota Vikings, the Twins moved into their new home at Target Field beginning in 2010. The stadium which is an open-air facility represents a major change for baseball in Minnesota. Acclaimed stadium design company Populous, who are credited with the designs of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, PNC Park and AT&T Park, were in charge of making Target Field a modernized, state of the art facility. The stadium features Target Plaza which pays tribute to all things Minnesota baseball including monuments of Twins greats, a large “Golden Glove” recognizing all the Twins that have won the award and all the previous Twins stadiums. A Minnesota hometown feel is kept throughout the stadium with many concessions dedicated to some of Minnesota’s most famous restaurants including walleye and Juicy Lucy burgers.

Year Opened: 2010

Capacity: 39,504

The Great Gates: Instead of naming the gates of Target Field with the conventional numbers 1,2,3… or letters A,B,C… the Twins decided to throw a curveball. The gates at the stadium are named after retired numbers worn by Twins players. The center field gate is Gate #3 for Harmon Killebrew, the left field gate is Gate #6 honoring Tony Oliva, the home plate gate is Gate #14 for Kent Hrbek, the right field gate serves as Gate #29 in tribute to Rod Carew and the plaza gate is known as Gate #34, honoring Kirby Puckett.

NBA:

Target Center (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The Skinny: One of two stadiums in Minneapolis sponsored by the Target Corporation, the Target Center represents one of the Midwest’s premier sports and entertainment venues. Besides for being the home court of the NBA’s Timberwolves, the Target Center is home to the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA as well as a frequent venue for concerts, WWE wrestling, UFC martial arts and PBR bull riding. In 2004, the Target Center underwent major renovations which included the addition of 1,500 new seats, a state of the art scoreboard, an array of LED signage and the first ever “green roof”. In 2010 industry publication Pollstar ranked the Target Center the #1 venue in the Midwest, #14 in the United States and #30 worldwide.

Year Opened: 1990

Capacity: 19,356

Fun Fact: In the 1989-90 season basketball returned to Minneapolis where the Lakers franchise had previously won five championships before leaving for Los Angeles. The expansion team the Minnesota Timberwolves were set to begin a new era in Minnesota basketball history. The Timberwolves got their name from a regional “Name the Team” contest which decided on “Timberwolves” over “Polars” by a 2-1 margin.

NHL:

Xcel Energy Center (Minnesota Wild)

Photo courtesy of XcelEnergyCenter.com

The Skinny: Located just 9 miles from the downtown Minneapolis area, Xcel Energy Center is situated in the heart of St. Paul, Minnesota. The one of a kind arena has an exterior made of transparent glass that welcomes fans to a unique stadium experience. With four separate concourses on four seating levels, Xcel Energy Center has been strategically situated to create great hockey sightlines and provide a fan-friendly, open view of the ice. In 2004, ESPN the Magazine ranked the Xcel Energy Center the #1 Arena in the United States, stating it had “the best stadium experience.” In the hockey capital of the United States, you will not find a better arena to see a hockey game. The Xcel Energy Center will be the host of the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four Tournament.

Year Opened: 2000

Capacity: 18,064

“Streaking!”: While it’s not uncommon for teams to post sellouts, the Minnesota Wild achieved quite a feat at Xcel Energy Center. Upon opening its doors on September 29th, 2000, Xcel Energy Center boasted a sellout crowd for 409 consecutive games. This streak was finally broken on September 22, 2010. It was third longest home sellout streak in NHL history.

NCAA Football:

TCF Bank Stadium (University of Minnesota Golden Gophers)

Photo courtesy of GopherSports.com

The Skinny: TCF Bank Stadium represents the first Big Ten football stadium constructed since the 1960’s. Designed as an open-air, horseshoe shaped bowl, the modern stadium still possesses an old-school collegiate style, look and feel. TCF Bank Stadium has all the amenities you need to enjoy the college football experience on the Twin Cities campus. The state-of-the art Daktronics HD video scoreboard is the third largest in all of college football measuring 48 feet high by 108 feet wide (comparable to the size of the basketball court in nearby Williams Arena).

Year Opened: 2009

Capacity: 50,805

“The Great Outdoors”: Due to a collapse of the Metrodome’s roof, the Minnesota Vikings’ Monday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears was held at the TCF Bank Stadium on December 20, 2010, marking the Vikings’ first outdoor home game since 29 years earlier when the Vikings old home Metropolitan Stadium was closed. The game ended with the Bears defeating the Vikings, 40-14.

NCAA Basketball:

Williams Arena (University of Minnesota Golden Gophers)

Photo courtesy of GopherSports.com

The Skinny: Affectionately known as “The Barn” to Gopher fans, Williams Arena is located in the Stadium Village section of the University of Minnesota’s campus. The 80-year old arena has an historic aura and is credited with being one of the first arenas to use the “raised floor”, which allows fans to feel closer to the court. The student section aptly known as “The Barnyard”, adds to the intimate feel inside Williams Arena

Year Opened: 1928

Capacity: 14,625

Fun Fact: While it’s not uncommon to see a stadium renovate and change its capacity, Williams Arena has done its fair share of adjustments to the seating over its 80+ year history. Its original capacity started at 14,100 in 1928 and expanded to 16,000 shortly their after. After further expansion, Williams Arena was the largest capacity arena in college basketball from 1950 to 1971 with over 18,000 seats. The capacity has been reduced to 14,625 in recent years due to renovation, fire-code restrictions and handicapped-seating construction.

NCAA Hockey:

Mariucci Arena (University of Minnesota Golden Gophers)

Photo courtesy of GopherSports.com

The Skinny: Named after John Mariucci, the legendary Golden Gopher hockey coach and “the godfather of Minnesota hockey,” Mariucci arena represents one of the best atmospheres for college hockey anywhere in the United States. Aside from being the home of the men’s hockey team, Mariucci arena has served as the host to a number of prominent NCAA Frozen Four matchups and an array of international skating competitions. The intimate 10,000 seat arena allows for the “the greatest fans in college hockey” to have an exceptional view from anywhere in the arena.

Year Opened: 1993

Capacity: 10,000

Best Moment: In 2007, Sports Illustrated on Campus named Mariucci Arena one the top ten venues in college sports. The facility was the only ice hockey arena to make the list.

March Madness the perfect opportunity for a Sports Power Weekend

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011



What is so great about the NCAA Tournament – besides everything – is that with the games slated for particular times on either Thursday and Saturday, or Friday and Sunday, fans can plan their weekends and budget their time accordingly. Also great is the one-day gap in games that allows the fan to explore the city they are in, and even see another sporting event or two if time permits.

For this reason, the NCAA Tournament (with the conference tournaments bundled in) is the greatest event on the calendar for a Sports Power Weekend. Check out the tournament sites below with the dates of the NCAA Tournament games being played, as well as any other sporting event that can be attended on the same weekend.

To customize a Sports Power Weekends package to any of these sites, contact info@SPWtravel.com for pricing and options.

April 2-4 (Final Four and National Title Game)

Houston Friday
  • San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets
  • Reese’s College All-Star Game
  • PGA Shell Houston Open
Saturday
  • Final Four
  • PGA Shell Houston Open
Sunday
  • Atlanta Hawks at Houston Rockets
  • PGA Shell Houston Open
Monday
  • National Title Game

Houston officials and schedule-makers did a great job bringing in the Shell Houston Open this weekend, as well as having two Rockets games in between the Final Four and Title Game at Reliant Stadium. This is a Sports Power Weekend option that not only offers a tent-pole event in the Final Four, but also a fun spectator event like a PGA Tournament, and two NBA games for the basketball nuts.

Guest Column: The Guide to Attending the NCAA Tournament

Monday, March 14th, 2011



Brian Litvack is an executive at Sportsvite.com and blogs about basketball, life, his career, and his interests at blog.littyhoops.com.

Brian Litvack can barely contain his excitement after San Diego upsets UConn in Tampa during 2008 NCAA Tournament.

I’m bracket surfing with the fam to Washington DC on Thursday for the first (oops, I mean second) round of the NCAA Tournament at the Verizon Center. This is an annual family tradition for the Littyhoopsters.  Pick a city.  Watch basketball.  Seems simple, right?  Not quite, my novice Bracketeer.

Here’s Littyhoops guide to KILLING IT at the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

First, for those non-fanatics, here’s the deal. The opening rounds of the NCAA Basketball tournament is played in eight different cities each year. Each region hosts eight teams. There are four games (doubleheader in the day and night) the first day and then all of the winners play in a second round doubleheader two days later.

1. Pick Your City

There are two different schools of thought on how to pick the right city. You can plan your trip months before Selection Sunday. In the case of my dad, he starts planning the next trip on the travel home from the current one.  This is a great way to visit different cities and arenas and lock down travel and hotel accommodations.  Our crew has been to Chicago, Philadelphia, Tampa, Providence, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Worcester and Long Island.  The big issue here is that you don’t know what schools you will see play until they are announced just a few days before.

The other method is to follow your favorite school or alma mater wherever they are sent to play.  For this strategy to work, your school has to actually make the tournament each year.  Fans travel in packs with each other and try to out-dominate the rooting sections of other schools with weird chants and cheers.  Until this year if I employed this strategy with the Johnnies or even Michigan this article might be about the NIT (NIT = not killing it).

2. Hotel Proximity

It’s imperative to stay at a hotel that is walking distance to the arena.  There’s a good chance you might make the trip 4x in one day since it’s crucial to get a cat nap between sessions.  Also, most hotels will be prepared for the tournament crowd adding to the Bracketville vibe in the lobby, bars and travel back and forth.   In some cases, the actual teams might be staying at the same hotel. In Tampa, I met my dad in the lobby and he was trembling. I asked him what happened and he said he just took an elevator ride standing next to the giant Hasheem Thabeet.  Colby and I ran into Tayshaun Prince at the Roosevelt Field mall when he was at Kentucky.  Last year, my dad stalked the Ohio Bobcat players at the food court to tell them how proud he was that a MAC team (he went to Bowling Green) knocked off Georgetown.

3. Know your Arena

For one shining day, the arena will be your home, so quickly get acclimated with your confines. Scout out the concessions.  Befriend the ushers.  Make sure you have quick access to the televisions in the hallway to watch the close endings of other games. At the Wachovia Center, I eat Crab Fries at Chickie’s and Pete’s.  At the Dunkin Donuts Center, I’m hopped up on coffee. Some arena’s have bars or lounges that are a great place to hang out between games or during blowouts.  I once found myself spending half the day in a secret stadium cigar lounge with leather sofas (can’t even remember the city). These days, it’s also important to check out the wireless and internet situation as you can now watch other games on your mobile device or iPad.  Ain’t technology grand! I remember back when we used transistor radios to get score updates from other regions.

4. Find Good Seats

The arena is never completely full as many fans buy tickets for all the sessions but don’t have the stamina of a true basketball junky. That means it’s usually pretty easy to move around and find open seats. Do it!

Yet another winning move is to go sit in the student section of the teams that are playing. In 2003, I was surrounded by cheeseheads as Wisconsin-Milwaukee held the ball for a final shot down by one point to Notre Dame.  The energy and noise was astounding only to turn to heartbreak moments later when a UWM big guy missed an open layup to end the game.

5. Know Your Teams

Obviously, if you’re following specific teams that will dominate you’re rooting interests.  But it’s great to learn about the other teams, coaches, players and fans.  At some point during every trip you’ll get a pure slice of precious college basketball.  So when a 7’5” British guy comes in on the last play of the game you can be the hero in your section who knows everything about him (Neil Fingelton for Holy Cross).

I’ve had the luck to see an under the national radar Dwayne Wade at Marquette, a before he was famous Rajon Rondo on Kentucky and I fell in love with a USC team in 2001 that featured Brian Scalabrine, Sam Clancy and David Bluthenthal. My first ever tournament action was watching Ivy leaguers Matt Maloney and Jerome Allen dismantle #6 Nebraska team led by the Polish Rifle Eric Piatkowksi.
My sister Courtney actually has begun to research each team and then jots color coded notes on index cards about the teams and players.  I wonder why she goes to all that trouble when she could just watch thousands of hours of college basketball during the season instead.

6. Root For the Underdog

There’s nothing better when the arena comes alive as an underdog makes a run at a traditional power.  It’s like everyone in the building just gulped a 5 Hour Energy.  The fans are suddenly infected with the madness and start rooting like crazy for a team that only hours before meant nothing to them.

In 2002, we lived and died with Creighton as they defeated Florida in overtime on a game winning three pointer.  In 2005, my sister Lisa lost her mind and started cursing out a section full of Syracuse fans after Vermont’s TJ Sorrentine pulled up from infinity to swish a three to knock out the defending champions.  In ’07, we watched #16 Albany take a double digit lead in the second half against UCONN in an attempt to make history only to get worked down the stretch.  But nothing tops 2008 in Tampa (aka Upset City) where all four games were upsets.  My little sister watched in horror as my dad taunted Vanderbilt as they were getting worked by Siena at the half.

7. Find the Best Sports Bar In Town

No matter where you go you will have a day off between games.  That means it’s time to watch more games. Tournament time is usually busy at sports bar so make sure you stake out the right spot and get a reservation.

8. Embrace The Madness

Eat, sleep, drink college basketball.  Remember, there are 12 other games going on that day and 16 more games the next day. It’s just the right amount for the human brain to comprehend and enjoy. So please don’t waste any room in your brain thinking or talking about anything else besides basketball.

Follow these few easy steps and I’m sure you’ll be hooked for life. Hopefully one day soon you’ll be dragging your wife and kids to random arenas to overdose on college basketball.  That’s my plan in life.

Heard from the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine

Thursday, February 24th, 2011



As players are made available at the media room at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, I will be grabbing quotes from some key players regarding their travel, favorite stadiums, most memorable moments, and NFL stadiums they are most looking forward to playing in. Check back for additional quotes as quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are made available on Friday.

Tennessee TE Luke Stocker

What was your most memorable moment as a college football player?

LS: It is hard to say because there are so many of them. There are two times that stick out huge in my memory. The first would be first touchdown at UT, which was against Alabama at Alabama in 2007. It ended up putting us up 14-10 at the half and we ended up losing that game but it was still a huge moment in my career getting my first touchdown and contributing as a freshman. Later on that year we went to four overtimes versus Kentucky and ended up beating them, which put is in the SEC Championship Game. That feeling of accomplishing winning the East and getting to go to the Championship Game was a great feeling.

What was the most hostile environment that you every played in?

LS: Alabama takes the cheese for that one. Especially in 2009 when we got down and they blocked a field goal to hold on and win the game. I made the catch to put us in field goal range, and you could hear a pin drop in that stadium, and it wasn’t two minutes later when they blocked the field goal and that place just absolutely erupted. Alabama doesn’t like Tennessee and their fans are so passionate down there and that is why it is the way it is down there.

What makes the SEC the best conference?

LS: I think it is the fans. SEC football is the premiere league. All of the top players wasn’t to play in the SEC and the majority of the top recruits go to the SEC, so you get these teams down there that are all loaded with talent from the top recruits in the country. They want to play in environments like Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn; their fans are so passionate about football and that is what makes it so great.

What NFL stadium are you most looking forward to playing in when you get the opportunity?

LS: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and not just because they just won the Super Bowl. All of the history that is there and Coach Lombardi and all of the trophies under him. Obviously Green Bay has a tremendous amount of history in the NFL and a tremendous legacy, so getting to play in Lambeau Field would be very special to me.

Villanova T Ben Ijalana

You have played road games at West Virginia, Penn and Lehigh to name a few. What was the most hostile road environment you ever played in?

BI: Delaware. They hate us and they are right over you. It is sick. It is one of the better stadiums in FCS football.

Is there a stadium other than Delaware that you were in awe of when you played there?

BI: Appalachian State. The Rock. As far as playing there during the Armanti Edwards years. I spoke to a former player and he was telling me that the playoff game that we had wasn’t even App State at full capacity. It was just sick.

Florida OL Maurice Hurt

What was your most memorable moment playing at The Swamp?

MH: My most memorable moment playing at The Swamp was probably the first time I ran out of the tunnel. There is nothing like it. Coming from high school into The Swamp with 90,000 people in there and the fans are going crazy – not to slight the National Championship or anything like that – but when you enter The Swamp, whether you are playing or not is an amazing experience. It is humbling and it is everything you could ever dream of. That was probably my most memorable time. Just running out of the tunnel for the first time at The Swamp.

Did you feel a similar rush going into any road stadiums? What was the most hostile stadium you played in?

MH: We play in the SEC so there are a lot of hostile stadiums. The first time we played at Rocky Top, we played at Death Valley at LSU, oh man. I’ll remember those experiences for the rest of my life. Being in those hostile environments, playing the game you love, facing that adversity with all of the fans going crazy. There is nothing like it.

What did you love most about Gainesville?

MH: Just being a part of the Gator Nation and trying to represent it well. That whole lifestyle of being a football player in Gainesville; the fans love you and little kids want to get your autograph and things of that nature. They don’t even care if you were on the field, they just want you to sign something. They know who you are. The fans in Gator Nation were great, so that was the best thing about being a Gator.

Michigan State TE Charlie Gantt

What was the most hostile road environment that you remember playing in during your days at Michigan State?

CG: It has got to be Iowa. The fans are crazy. When they get going, if they get momentum; their stands are right next to your bench and their fans are just so loud. They are on top of the other team and they hit you hard, and before you know it you are down a lot. This year we got our butts handed to us. It is a hostile environment and if you don’t come ready to play you are going to get your butt beat.

You felt that more than playing at Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State?

CG: Michigan is Michigan. It is hostile there but we still have about 30,000 fans there. There are 100,000 seats but you still have some of your fans there. At Iowa, it is pure Hawkeyes fans.

If there is one NFL stadium you are most looking forward to playing in when you get the opportunity, which stadium would that be?

CG: I’d have to say Ford Field. It would be cool because my whole family is in Michigan and I’d be playing at home. That is my team; they were OK this year but it has been tough the last couple of years. But that is my team and if would be great to play in that city as an NFL player.

Sports Power Weekends Destination: Indianapolis

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011


February 25-27 Friday
  • Jazz at Pacers
  • NFL Scouting Combine
Saturday
  • NFL Scouting Combine
Sunday
  • Suns at Pacers
  • NFL Scouting Combine


NFL Scouting Combine makes Indianapolis a classy town

Photo courtesy of White River State Park

When I worked for the NFL, one offseason event I always looked forward to was the NFL Scouting Combine. To the casual observer, going to Indianapolis at the end of February sounds more like a punishment than a reward, but I always looked at it in reverse. Indianapolis is a town that deserves much more praise than it receives; coming off of an ice storm in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV, I think most NFL fans and writers are expecting another Super Bowl marred by bad weather and inability to get around when the Big Game comes to town for Super Bowl XLVI, but the public is underestimating the Circle City.

Downtown Indianapolis features a number of nice restaurants and hotels, including the recently opened JW Marriott, and most importantly, indoor walkways connect these hotels to each other, the Circle Centre Mall, the convention center, and Lucas Oil Stadium. I don’t have delusions of Indianapolis’ grandeur, it is a somewhat sleepy Midwestern city, but fans who do come here will be pleasantly surprised, and fans who opt not to will be missing out.

Super Bowl XLVI is a story for another day, however. This weekend the annual NFL Scouting Combine rolls into town, bringing with it virtually every NFL coach, GM, and scouting department, as well as more than 350 of the top college players in the country, and a horde of NFL agents, media and other power brokers. While the casual fan can’t get into the stadium to watch workouts, the NFL is in the air. After a Super Bowl hangover, the smell is so sweet.

Friday

  • Conseco Fieldhouse
  • Howl at the Moon

The airport in Indianapolis is a short 20-minute drive to downtown, usually with minimal traffic, making your entrance into the city pretty seamless. Downtown Indy is compact and easy to navigate, particularly with the aforementioned indoor walkways that allow you to travel city blocks of distance without having to brave the cold. Conseco Fieldhouse, home to the Indiana Pacers since the 1999-2000 season, is just out of the reach of those walkways, but going there is worth the couple of minutes you may be outside. The 18,165 seat arena was modeled after Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, giving it the intimate feel of the high school gyms that dot the state of Indiana, but with the modern touches that made it the top-ranked venue in the NBA by the Sports Business Journal from 2005-07. The Fieldhouse hosts Pacers and WNBA Indiana Fever games, as well as the Big Ten Tournament and other high profile high school and college games.

While in previous years going to Pacers games was primarily a way to see other teams’ talented players, this year’s squad has been red-hot since late January and is fighting for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Led by Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough, the Pacers face off against the Utah Jazz at 7 PM ET. Don’t be surprised to see some NFL coaches or ESPN analysts in the house; games like this provide a nice break from the grind while in town.

After the game head out on Georgia Street to Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar and live music joint that always provides a good time. If you have had enough of seeing the performers tickle the ivories, there are some other good brewery-type options on Illinois Street across from the Circle Centre Mall.

Saturday

  • Café Patachou
  • White River State Park
  • NCAA Hall of Champions
  • Circle Centre Mall
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum
  • Dinner

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The best way to start your day in Indianapolis is with a nice breakfast at Café Patachou, located just south of the Indiana State Capitol at Capitol and Washington Streets. This spot has been receiving accolades from Indianapolis publications for more than a decade, and if the locals like it so should you. After filling up head a few blocks west to White River State Park. The park not only offers the trees, trails and waterways that you would expect from any state park, but also attractions such as the Indianapolis Zoo and the Indiana State Museum, as well as Victory Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates AAA affiliate Indianapolis Indians, and the NCAA Hall of Champions.

The Indians were the first professional sports team in Indianapolis, calling the city home since 1887. Twelve Baseball Hall of Famers, including Harmon Killebrew and Grover Cleveland Alexander played on the Indians, as did future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson. Victory Field, a 14,500-seat ballpark that opened in 1996, has received numerous national accolades including being named “Best Minor League Ballpark in America” by Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. The NCAA Hall of Champions is currently featuring a Big Ten exhibit that will be worth a look. It is expected to garner some traffic during the Big Ten Tournament in mid-March at Conseco Fieldhouse and during the Women’s Final Four on the first weekend in April.

From the park you can head back to the center of the city and stroll around the sprawling Circle Centre Mall. While you may not have any shopping to do, there is a Colts team store as well as some memorabilia stores that sports fans might want to take a look at. Plus, there is a Chick-fil-A in the food court, which is a very welcomed sight for someone not from the south.

Photo courtesy of AP Images

While you may not be able to enter Lucas Oil Stadium to see the future NFL stars at the Scouting Combine, there is nothing stopping you from checking out articats and trophies from some of the former legends of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Hall of Fame Museum is located on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a National Historic Landmark, about five miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis. There are more than 75 vehicles on display at any given time, including more than 30 Indianapolis 500-winning cars. The museum was established in 1956, 45 years after the first Indy 500, which celebrates its 100th Anniversary with this year’s race on May 29.

As the night approaches you have a number of dinner options, ranging from nice steak houses or seafood restaurants, to more inexpensive options. For the high-end visitors, a visit to St. Elmo’s Steakhouse is a must. This restaurant has been an Indianapolis institution since 1902 and features a cocktail sauce on their shrimp cocktail that will knock your socks off. Biter beware. In addition to some great food, it is pretty much guaranteed that you will see an NFL owner, coach, GM, college football player, or NFL analyst at one table or another. Another good fancy option is The Oceanaire Seafood Room, a seafood place located at Monument Circle, a nice downtown area east of the Capitol Building. Other options include the nearby restaurant and breweries such as Ram or Scotty’s, the Midwest fave Steak ‘n Shake, or even Buffalo Wild Wings if there is a game you want to catch during dinner.

A good post-dinner sports bar is Champions in the Marriott. I am especially fond of this place because of my shortly-held all-time high score at the Pop A Shot during the 2008 NFL Combine. My record has sadly since been broken.

Sunday

  • Paradise Bakery
  • Conseco Fieldhouse

With a rare noon Sunday start for the Pacers game against the Phoenix Suns, get an early breakfast at Paradise Bakery at Monument Circle before heading to Conseco Fieldhouse. Check out Steve Nash and the still high-flying Suns as they face the Pacers, who will try to keep their hot streak alive.

By the time you leave Indianapolis you will realize that this city is one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets. Let all of the other people stay in the dark about what Indy has to offer; it’ll just mean a better chance of a hotel room and ticket to Super Bowl XLVI.

Sports Power Weekend Destination: Los Angeles

Monday, February 21st, 2011


February 25-27 Friday
  • Clippers at Lakers
  • Wild at Ducks
Saturday
  • Celtics at Clippers
  • Arizona at UCLA
  • Arizona State at USC
  • Avalanche at Kings
Sunday
  • Avalanche at Ducks


NBA, College Basketball, NHL and Disney in One Weekend? A Magical Weekend in the City of Angels

Being a fan in the second-largest media market in the country comes in handy during the winter. With the two-time defending champion Lakers headlining the show, Los Angeles also features the Clippers, LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and UCLA and USC basketball in supporting roles. All of those teams are playing at home this weekend, and when you throw in some time checking out Universal Studios, Disneyland and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Sports Power Weekend in Los Angeles is certainly in order.

Friday

  • Staples Center
  • LA Live

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The Staples Center will get some serious play this weekend with the Lakers, Clippers and Kings all hosting games, but the atmosphere of the latter two simply does not match up to a Lakers home game. Throw in the fact that the Lakers are playing the Clippers, the “second” tenant in the building, and there will be some serious buzz in downtown Los Angeles on Friday night.

The Staples Center is a building of champions. The Lakers capped off each of their first three seasons at the Staples Center with NBA championships, and even the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks captured back-to-back championships during their first two seasons calling the arena home. The Kings and Clippers have made this place theirs as well, setting attendance and sellout records for their franchises since moving in.

The concessions at the Staples Center can certainly get the job done, but if you don’t want to fill up on arena food there are more than enough restaurant options surrounding the building in the L.A. Live sports and entertainment district. L.A. Live opened in 2007 featuring sports and music venues such as the Staples Center and Nokia Theatre, night clubs, restaurants, a bowling alley, museum and movie theaters.  The district has hosted the the GRAMMYs, EMMYs, American Music Awards, ESPYs, American Idol Finals and hundreds of other events, and is a great place to spend the evening.

If it is in your budget, they have a J.W. Marriott and a Ritz-Carlton right on the campus. The whole area really couldn’t be more convenient on a night such as this.

Saturday

  • Westwood
  • Pauley Pavilion
  • Hollywood Boulevard
  • Staples Center
  • Sunset Boulevard

Friday night may have seemed like a main course, but in reality it was just an appetizer for multiple basketball games on Saturday. With UCLA hosting Arizona at 1 PM, USC welcoming Arizona State at 4:30 PM and the Clippers facing the Boston Celtics at 7:30 PM, you can conceivably catch three high-quality games today.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Start off your day with a drive to the beautiful town of Westwood, home of the UCLA Bruins. Los Angeles’ usual perfect weather is a great complement to this walking town and picturesque green campus. Grab a bite to eat at Jerry’s Famous Deli, one of the many locations the restaurant has in southern California. Jerry’s is just down the block from the iconic Westwood Theater, where the red carpet is often rolled out for big movie premieres. Walk the streets and hop in and out of some apparel stores for some UCLA gear. Your best bet for some clothes for the game may be the UCLA bookstore right across from the John Wooden Center. Take a walk around campus before circling back near Bruin Plaza to Pauley Pavilion for the 1 PM game.

The Arizona Wildcats will visit the UCLA Bruins in a matchup of the two strongest teams in the Pac-10 historically. Pauley Pavilion opened in 1965 and has been called home to some of the greatest players in college basketball history, and undoubtedly its greatest coach, John Wooden. The court, named in his and his wife Nell’s honor, sits under 11 NCAA men’s championship banners and retired numbers from UCLA greats Kareem Abdul Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor), Bill Walton, Walt Hazzard, Sidney Wicks, Marques Johnson, Ed O’Bannon, Gail Goodrich, Ann Meyers and Denise Curry. A crowd of 12,829 fans will be on their game for what could be a pivotal Pac-10 showdown.

After the game you are faced with a “good problem.” You can either make your way to downtown Los Angeles to check out UCLA’s cross-town rival USC face off against Arizona State in the Galen Center at 4:30 PM, or you can go explore the city a bit and take in some of the famous sites. Think it over while getting an ice cream sandwich at Diddy Riese. You will not regret this. Unfortunately the timing is such that you probably won’t be able to go to the nearby Apple Pan for what is considered one of the best burgers in Los Angeles, if not California more generally.

If you are going to the 10,258-seat Galen Center for the USC-Arizona State game, make sure to pass through the Rose Garden and catch a glimpse of the nearby LA Coliseum. Since USC is situated in downtown Los Angeles, this game will serve as a good lead-in to the Clippers game at the Staples Center at 7:30 PM. If you would prefer a break to get more familiar with the city, the twenty-minute drive from Westwood to Hollywood Boulevard is a good way to do it.

Walking out in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the surrounding area will create a movie reel of sorts in your mind. Everywhere you turn, you will recognize a landmark from a certain movie or TV show. The Kodak Theatre, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Capitol Records Tower, corner of Hollywood and Vine, or the Hollywood and Highland Center (which offers great views of the Hollywood sign) are all in a small radius of one another and offer the glitzy feel that is portrayed in the movies.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

After fulfilling your tourist duties in Hollywood, it is time to fill up your stomach. Moving towards Chinatown southeast on the 101 you will pass Dodger Stadium and Elysian Park. Just south of the stadium is a small restaurant that actually serves as a big pre-Dodgers game food spot: Philippe the Original. Get a “French Dipped” sandwich (your choice of meat in a French roll dipped in their “jus”) with their hot mustard in one of the oldest and best-known restaurants in southern California.

Even though you saw a game at the Staples Center last night, it is a different vibe when the Lakers and Clippers play there. After seeing the two-time defending NBA champs last night, now you can see the Clippers take on the team that last won before the Lakers and faced them in the finals in 2010, the Boston Celtics. It is a rare opportunity to see the best of the west and east on back-to-back nights, all the while seeing one of the top young stars in the game in Clippers forward Blake Griffin. Don’t get up during the action; you may miss one of his highlight reel dunks.

After the game, if you would rather branch out instead of spending your second night at L.A. Live, go to Sunset Boulevard where there are a number of bars and restaurants, mostly on the strip between Doheny Drive and North Crescent Heights Boulevard.

Sunday

  • Coral Tree Café
  • Universal Studios
  • Disneyland
  • Honda Center (Ducks at 5 PM)

So, yesterday was a big day but if there was one drawback it was that you were sitting down a lot, whether at the basketball games or driving from place to place. Today will allow you to indulge your sense of adventure, at and the same time see some of the behind the scenes action that helps makes Hollywood what it is.

After grabbing some breakfast at Coral Tree Café, a great spot that offers healthy and tasty breakfast options in neaby Encino, head north a bit towards Burbank to check out Universal Studios. There are several options for you at Universal: you can take the studio tour and check out where Hollywood movies are made and see some of the sets for yourself, check out some of the rides and shows that put you inside some of the world’s biggest movies, or simply stroll the CityWalk to amble into the novelty and collectible shops and restaurants or even indoor skydive.

There are a number of restaurants for either a sit-down or quick bite before leaving Universal, but if you want to check out something more local, make your way south a bit towards Glendale to Mambo’s for a Cuban lunch. The restaurant was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network, and is as good as it looks on TV.

I hope you didn’t reach your limit on theme parks this morning at Universal, because before tonight’s Anaheim Ducks game at the Honda Center is another special treat in Anaheim: Disneyland. Not every aspect of the park is for kids. If you aren’t interested in the younger targeted portions of the park, check out the Hollywood Pictures Backlot to see sets, props and facades.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

There is way more to do at both Universal and Disneyland than you will have time for, but this is a Sports Power Weekend, so we know what the priorities are.

By the time 5 PM rolls around the switch has flipped back to sports, as the Ducks take on the Colorado Avalanche at the Honda Center. The Honda Center opened in 1993 and has housed the Ducks ever since. It was also home to the Los Angeles Clippers from 1994-99 until the Clips moved to the Staples Center. The stadium, which holds more than 17,000 fans, was the site of the Stanley Cup-clinching Game 5 victory over the Ottawa Senators, giving the Ducks their first-ever championship. With the NHL season approaching the stretch run, this could be a pivotal Western Conference matchup.

There you have it. In one weekend you were able to witness a Lakers game, Clippers game, UCLA game, and a Ducks game, and maybe even a USC game as well. Not to mention getting to bask in the reflective glory of Hollywood by visiting the Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, and Disneyland.

Now that is a Power Weekend!

Facility Roundup: Pittsburgh

Monday, February 14th, 2011

NFL:

Heinz Field (Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Panthers)

Photo courtesy of AP Images

The Skinny: Though much of the Steelers’ storied franchise history took place in their former home at Three Rivers Stadium, Heinz Field has proven to be a worthy replacement for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since opening in 2001, the Steelers have dominated at home en route to two championship seasons in 2005 and 2008. The $281 million dollar stadium is a staple in the Pittsburgh community. Upon its opening in 2001, it featured the largest video board in the NFL, measuring 26 x 97 feet. Named after the H. J. Heinz Company, its “tipping of the ketchup bottles” is regarded as one of the top ten touchdown celebrations in the NFL. Both ESPN and Sports Illustrated have voted Heinz Field the NFL’s second best stadium by, trailing only top-ranked Lambeau Field. The stadium also hosted the 2011 NHL Winter Classic on January 1, 2011 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Year Opened:  2001

Capacity:  65,050 seats

Best Moment: January 23, 2011. The Steelers have won two Super Bowls in the past six seasons, but it was a 24-19 win over the New York Jets in the 2010 AFC Championship Game that was the Heinz Field high point. The win sent the Steelers to Super Bowl XLV, their eighth Super Bowl berth, tied for the NFL record.

MLB:

PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Photo courtesy of MLB.com

The Skinny: While Pirates fans may not have much to cheer about on the field, the field itself has been a tremendous success since opening in 2001. Located in downtown Pittsburgh, PNC Park is located right along the Allegheny River and offers spectacular views of the city of Pittsburgh. The stadium features a riverside concourse, a large out-of-town scoreboard and array of local eateries. PNC Park was constructed in a 24-month span, making it the quickest built stadium in history, at the time. Although its seating capacity is the second smallest in baseball, the park does post the third lowest average ticket prices in MLB. In 2006, PNC Park hosted the MLB All-Star Game, providing a major boost to the city of Pittsburgh and its surrounding businesses. The stadium has also hosted University of Pittsburgh baseball games as well as a slew of concerts including the Rolling Stones and the Dave Matthews Band.

Year Opened:  2001

Capacity:  38,362

Accolades:  Since opening, PNC Park has received a large amount of critical acclaim. Jim Caple of ESPN.com rated the ballpark as the number one stadium in Major League Baseball, calling it “perfect.” PNC Park has also been listed on a number of top ten stadium lists in MLB by many other baseball writers and publications. Its blend of old school and modern styles, as well as its fan-friendly amenities and comforts, makes it one of the most desirable locations to take in America’s pastime.

NHL:

Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The Skinny: An upgrade on all fronts from its predecessor Mellon Arena (Civic Arena), Consol Energy Center offers state of the art designs from the successful company Populous, who are responsible for the two other Pittsburgh stadia, Heinz Field and PNC Park. Besides for the Penguins, Consol Energy Center will be host to 150 events annually, highlighted in the coming years by the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships in 2012 and the NCAA Hockey Frozen Four in 2013. The stadiums seating capacity of 18,087 honors Penguins All-Star Sydney Crosby, who wears number 87.

Year Opened:  Fall 2010

Capacity:  18,087

A Real LEEDer: The Consol Energy Center achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification, the first NHL arena to reach that standard of sustainability.

College Football:

Milan Puskar Stadium (West Virginia Mountaineers)

The Skinny:  Milan Puskar Stadium, better known to its Mountaineers faithful as Mountaineer Field, was opened in 1980 replacing the old Mountaineer Field, and is located on the campus of WVU. It is the largest on-campus stadium in the Big East Conference. Since it was opened in 1980, the stadium has undergone several facelifts that added more seats and suites to better service the Mountaineer fan base as well as alumni and potential sponsors. With a stadium that is often filled beyond “capacity,” Milan Puskar Stadium offers an electric atmosphere for one of the Big East’s perennial football powerhouses.

Year Opened:  1980

Capacity:  60,000

Best Moment:  On the opening night of the stadium, September 6th, 1980, John Denver made a surprise appearance and sang his famous song “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which has been played at every Mountaineer home game since 1972. In recent years a new tradition at the stadium is to sing the song every time the team gets a win.

Beaver Stadium (Penn State Nittany Lions)

Photo courtesy of GoPSUsports.com

The Skinny: Regarded as one of the toughest places for opposing teams to play in collegiate athletics, Beaver Stadium is the second largest stadium in the nation and has reached crowds of larger than 110,000 on a number of occasions. Named after former Pennsylvania Governor James A. Beaver, Beaver Stadium has transformed itself time and time again, adding seats and upgrading the stadium from its former structure. Led by the Head Coach Joe Paterno for the last 40+ years, Nittany Lion football at Beaver Stadium showcases some of the best traditions in college athletics that rivals that of any program in the nation.

Year Opened:  1960

Capacity:   107,282 Seats

Student Section Supremacy:  Beaver Stadium is often ranked at or near the top of the “Best Student Section” in the country lists, and for good reason. Their White Out games have resulted in tremendous home wins and upsets, and earned them the ranking of best “student section in the country” by ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit.

College Basketball:

Petersen Events Center (Pitt Panthers)

Photo courtesy of PittsburghPanthers.com

The Skinny:  Better known as “The Pete”, the Petersen Events center is a multi-purpose arena that is home to the University of Pittsburgh men’s and women’s basketball teams. Since opening in 2002, through the 2009-10 seasons, the men’s basketball team has compiled a 122-11 home record. Among the amenities in the stadium are five courtside luxury suites (the only courtside suites in college basketball) as well as McCarl Panthers Hall of Champions, which pays tribute to the Panthers athletic achievements. In 2006, Sports Illustrated surveyed Big East players, which acknowledged that “the Pete” as the “toughest place to play” in the Big East Conference.

Year Opened:  2002

Capacity:  12, 508 Seats

Hail to the Chief: While the Petersen Events center has hosted many memorable basketball games including first and second round matchups from the NCAA Championships, perhaps the best moment in the stadium was on April 21, 2008 when presidential hopeful Barack Obama hosted a campaign rally from “the Pete”. The visit from the now President of the United States was a thrill for the stadium and university and all attendees at “the Pete” on that day.

WVU Coliseum (West Virginia Mountaineers)

The Skinny:  The WVU Coliseum houses the Mountaineers men’s and women’s basketball teams and serves many purposes for the athletic department of WVU. The stadium pays tribute to the most well-known and celebrated alum of the men’s basketball program, Jerry West. His “44” jersey hangs from the rafters, and the arena features the Jerry West Mountaineer Room and a bronze statue of West that sits outside the stadium. In 2008, the stadium received upgrades, which included an NBA style scoreboard and new lighting and public address systems.

Year Opened:  1970

Capacity:  14,000 Seats

Best Moment:  Following an undefeated regular season in the 1981-82 campaign, the Mountaineers hosted the #1 Ranked UNLV Runnin Rebels on February 27, 1983. In what is considered the greatest win in Mountaineer history, they defeated the top ranked team 87-78 at the WVU Coliseum while posting their second largest attendance on record at 15,638.

Bryce Jordan Center (Penn State Nittany Lions)

The Skinny: Located across the street from the renowned Beaver Stadium on the Penn State University campus, the Bryce Jordan Center is home to the Penn State men’s and women’s basketball teams. The $55 million dollar building offers a great fan experience as well as serving many purposes not only for the University’s athletic department, but other university departments as well. Its bi-level design offers great views of the floor and there is not a bad seat in the house. The Bryce Jordan Center has proven to be one of the best sports and entertainment venues in the central Pennsylvania area, hosting not only NCAA Division I basketball and other sports, but also some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.

Year Opened:  1996

Capacity:   16,000 Seats

Battle Tested: With Penn State’s NCAA Tournament hopes hanging in the balance and a roaring crowd of more than 13,000 on its feet, Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Talor Battle drove to the basket and flipped a shot high off the glass that bounced tantalizingly on the rim before falling through with 0.3 seconds to play to give Penn State a huge, 64-63, victory over #23 ranked Illinois on March 4, 2009 in the Bryce Jordan Center. While the Nittany Lions didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, they did go on to win the NIT Championship.