15 Iconic Sports Venues In US History
Dating back to the Roman Colosseum, sports history features some of the most iconic venues of all time, complete with memories forever etched in public imagination. From famous moments to renovations and amenities, here's everything you need to know about 15 of the most historic venues in US sports.
1. Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs, NY
Owner: The State of New York
Year Opened: 1863
Claim to Fame: Saratoga is the oldest organized sporting venue of any kind in the US. It is also the third oldest horse track in the country, after Pleasanton Fairgrounds Racetrack (1858) and Freehold Raceway (1854).
Famous Moments: Famous racehorses Man o' War, Gallant Fox and even Triple Crown-winner Secretariat suffered major defeats at Saratoga. Man o' War suffered his only defeat in 21 starts at the track, while Gallant Fox's loss was a tremendous 100-1 upset.
Renovations and Costs: The New York Race Association announced plans for a $110M renovation to the course this year, calling for a redesign of the paddock and clubhouse while adding several new structures. These include a three-story, enclosed space with luxury and press boxes, a new jockey's building and even a club for younger patrons called the "Top of the Stretch Club."
Unique Amenities: The track has picnic tables near "the Big Red Spring," the club's own mineral spring open to patrons. The picnic area also features a road that runs from the stables to the paddock, where patrons can watch the horses being led to the race.
2. Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY
Owner: Churchill Downs
Year Opened: 1875
Claim to Fame: Churchill Down hosts one of the biggest annual events in US sports, the Kentucky Derby. The race attracts thousands of spectators every year, including celebrities like Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Tom Brady, Chris Rock, Richie Sambora and many more.
Famous Moments: The Derby has its own museum at the track, which should give you some impression of how impressive and storied it is. As one of the legs of horse racing's Triple Crown, every famous Crown winner from Secretariat to American Pharaoh has passed through its paddocks. Interestingly enough, the course was founded by Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the grandson of the famous explorer.
Renovations and Costs: The track first underwent major renovations in 1959, adding 1,000 seats to the track's north end and added two new floors to the Skye Terrace "Millionaire's Row." In the 1980s, Churchill had a $25M renovation, which included the construction of a new course and paddocks and renovations to the clubhouse, the Skye Terrace and the barn area. From 2001 to 2005, the track underwent a $121M renovation, in which the historic twin spires were renovated and the clubhouse was replaced, adding a 36-foot, Pierre Bellocq mural that depicted every Derby winner and is now continuously updated. In 2013, the track installed a $12M Panasonic video board.
Unique Amenities: Apart from the Derby Museum, Churchill boasts multiple luxury spaces, including "the Millionaire's Row", which features scenic views and a Chef's Table buffer, a private "Turf Club" with fine dining, a "First Turn Suites" that features entertainment centers with up-to-date information and private bathrooms in each suite and the Jockey Club Suites, which has private, custom catering.
3. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis
Owner: Hulman and Co
Year Opened: 1909
Claim to Fame: As the first proper auto race track in the US, it was an integral catalyst for the development of both auto racing and consumer automobiles. It's home to the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motorcycle Grand Prix and NASCAR's Brickyard 400. It also held the Formula One Grand Prix from 2000 to 2007. The course is known for the row of bricks at the starting line, which Indy 500 victors kiss to celebrate their victory.
Famous Moment: One of the track's most intense and dramatic moments occurred at the 1985 Indy 500. At lap 120, Danny Sullivan overtook Mario Andretti, but soon lost control of his car, spinning out as Andretti sped past him. Sullivan somehow avoided crashing into the concrete wall and soon came back, overtook Andretti again 20 laps later, taking the lead and winning his first and only victory.
Renovations and Costs: The IMS was renovated twice in 1946 and 1998. It's also undergoing another $30M renovation. Known as the IMS Project 100, the three-phase plan includes high-tech digital boards, a scoring pylon, a main entrance near the Indy 500 museum, a replacement of upper deck seating, a wing-shaped plaza near the roundabout, free WiFi and other amenities, including new restrooms, elevators, concession stands and catch fences.
Unique Amenities: In addition to the IMS Museum, the track offers patrons the chance to race cars and motorcycles, teen driver training, tours of the grounds, and even tee times at the affiliated Brickyard Crossing Golf Course.
4. Fenway Park, Boston
Owners: Fenway Sports Group and the Boston Red Sox
Year Opened: 1912
Claim to Fame: Fenway has been the home of every Red Sox slugger from Ted Williams to Mo Vaughn to David Ortiz. The field's signature feature, a 37-foot left field wall known as the Green Monster, serves as the inspiration of the team's mascot, Wally. At 103, Fenway is the oldest venue used by any professional sports team in North America.
Famous Moment: In 2004, the Red Sox finally broke "the Curse of the Bambino," beating the Yankees and winning their first World Series since 1918. The year was a nail biter to the end, with a 14th-inning ALCS victory and a tense game where Curt Schilling pitched with a torn tendon, painting his socks red with blood.
Renovations and Costs: Fenway has been frequently renovated since 1934, adding everything from a glass-protected seating area behind home plate known as the .406 Club (1988), new press boxes (1999) and seats on the Green Monster (2003). The most recent notable renovation occurred in 2011 with three new scoreboards, a new video control room, new concession stands, a remodeled Gate D Concourse and refurbished seating. These renovations cost $285M. With all the renovations, the Red Sox organization expects the team will be able to play at Fenway until 2061.
Unique Amenities: With dozens of restaurants for every craving, a deck in the left field, and streets lined with bricks bearing the names of the Sox's biggest fans, Fenway and its surrounding area is a paradise for sports fans.
5. Wrigley Field, Chicago
Owner: Chicago Cubs
Year Opened: 1916
Claim to Fame: Once owned by gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., the Cubs' cave is famous for its ivy-covered brick walls, Lake Michigan wind patterns, hand-turned scoreboard, and its red, Art Deco-style marquee above the main entrance.
Famous Moment: In 1932, Yankees slugger Babe Ruth—who once called Wrigley "a dump"—made his famous "called shot," pointing to Wrigley's center field fence and then belting the ball to that spot for a home run.
Renovations and Costs: Like Fenway, Wrigley has undergone several revisions since its opening day. Even the famous ivy walls were part of a 1937 renovation. The Ricketts family, the team's current owners, is working on a $575M renovation called the 1060 Project. Taking place over the course of consecutive off-seasons until 2019, the plans include expanded left and right field bleachers, a new 2,400 SF video scoreboard and new underground locker rooms. The Ricketts insist that the ivy walls, which are considered a Chicago landmark, will be protected.
Unique Amenities: Over the years, Wrigley has developed a surrounding neighborhood, Wrigleyville, with both residential and retail properties. The buildings surrounding Wrigley have rooftop seating and open bars.
6. The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Owner: The City of Pasadena
Year Opened: 1922
Claim to Fame: The Rose Bowl holds the championship of the same name, and is the home stadium of the UCLA Bruins football team. It's also hosted five Super Bowls, two FIFA World Cup Finals and even an Olympic Gold Medal soccer match.
Famous Moment: The Rose Bowl was the site for one of the most publicized collegiate pranks in history. In 1961, the Washington Huskies led the Minnesota Golden Gophers at halftime. As the Washington cheerleaders led the crowd in a flip-card routine, the crowd was stunned to find that students of the California Institute of Technology had replaced the cards, forming the word "CALTECH." With over 30 million viewers across the country watching the game on NBC, the prank soon became national news.
Renovations and Costs: In 1993, the World Cup organization paid the City of Pasadena $2M to expand the field and add wheelchair ramps. In 1996, the field underwent a massive modernization, adding a new sound system, score and video board, an elevator with field access and restrooms. In 2011, the Stadium began another renovation. Worth $170M—the largest investment in the Stadium's history—was completed in 2014 and added new restrooms, entry gates, concession stands and a large logo of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses (surrounded by bricks bearing the names of donors) at the south main entrance. It also added the Terry Donahue Pavilion with 54 Luxury Suites, 48 Loge Boxes, 1,200 Club Seats, state-of-the-art press boxes and a new broadcast center.
Unique Amenities: The Donahue Pavilion's loge boxes, club seats, and suites feature everything from catered food to complimentary parking spaces and private elevators.
7. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
Owners: The State of California and Los Angeles County
Year Opened: 1921
Claim to Fame: Home of the USC Trojans, the Coliseum has hosted the Olympic Games twice (the first stadium to do so), the first Super Bowl and multiple World Series. Due to its location, it has also been the spot of hundreds of commercials, video games, TV shows (Columbia, Charlie's Angels) and movies (World War Z, Escape from L.A.).
Famous Moments: In 1974, in a game known as "The Comeback," the USC Trojans managed to overcome a 49-point deficit to Notre Dame, scoring 55 points in 17 minutes. During the 1984 Olympics, Carl Lewis tied Jesse Owens' 1936 record, winning four gold track and field medals. It also featured the first-ever women's marathon, won by Joan Benoit. The now famous Olympic Theme, composed by John Williams, premiered at the opening ceremony.
Renovations and Costs: Over the many renovations in the Coliseum's history, many amenities and new technologies were added, such as a 6,000 SF HD video scoreboard (2011). In 2013, the master lease of the Coliseum was given to USC for a 98-year contract. USC will provide $100M worth of renovations, and is determining estimates for potential renovations. The university has also expressed its willingness to get the support of either an NFL team or a corporate sponsor.
Unique Amenities: Exposition Park, the 160-acre area surrounding the Coliseum, includes several museums, including the California Science Center, which holds the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
8. Soldier Field, Chicago
Owner: City of Chicago
Year Opened: 1924
Claim to Fame: Originally built as a memorial to US soldiers, Soldier is the oldest NFL field and home of the Chicago Bears since 1971.
Famous Moments: In 1994, Soldier Field hosted the opening ceremonies of the FIFA World Cup, the first American World Cup. It's held massive crowds for famous names including Douglas MacArthur, Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. Most famously, Soldier was the location of two "last concerts" for the Grateful Dead: the last concert featuring lead singer Jerry Garcia (1995) and the band's last concert ever (2015).
Renovations and Costs: The field and surrounding area underwent a controversial renovation and modernization in 2003. The $400M renovation extensively reworked the interior of the stadium, while attempting to maintain the Greco-Roman design of the exterior. The plan—pretty much putting a modern football field into an aging stadium—received a very divided reaction, and eventually forced the field to be removed from the National Historical Landmarks list.
Unique Amenities: Soldier is definitely more modern now, with electric vehicle charging stations, SmartKiosks and free WiFi.
9. The Palestra, Philadelphia
Owner: The University of Pennsylvania
Year Opened: 1927
Claim to Fame: When it opened, the Palestra was one of the largest arenas in the world and one of the first steel-and-concrete arenas in the US. Known as "the Birthplace of College Basketball," the Palestra has also hosted more games than any other facility in college basketball.
Famous Moment: Apart from the many, many, college basketball games, the Palestra was also the home of the third FIBA Intercontinental Cup basketball tournament in 1968 and a pickup game during the 2011 NBA lock-out that included the likes of Lebron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.
Renovations and Costs: In 2000, the Palestra underwent a $2M renovation that added a museum dedicated to Philadelphia's basketball history.
Unique Amenities: Apart from the impressive museum, the Palestra has often been praised for its incredibly close court-side seats, which allows visitors to sit mere feet away from players without any barrier.
10. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Owner: Butler University
Year Opened: 1928
Claim to Fame: Hinkle quickly took the Palestra's crown as the largest basketball arena in the US and kept the title until 1950. The Fieldhouse is called "Indiana's Basketball Cathedral," not only for its long history with the game, but for the radical ways it changed the game for quicker play.
Famous Moments: The Fieldhouse has hosted several US presidents (Hoover, Eisenhower, Ford, Nixon, George H.W. Bush and Clinton), the first USA-USSR basketball game, several NBA All-Star Games, the Roller Derby, a three-ring circus and even the highest-attended volleyball match ever in the US, with 15,000 in attendance. It was even the site of the famous high school basketball game that inspired the movie Hoosiers.
Renovations and Costs: In 1989, the Fieldhouse received $1.5M to renovate the main reception area, offices, locker rooms and film rooms, and soon renovated again in 1992. In 2011, Butler announced that it had raised $25M to help fund Phase 1 of another major renovation. It added a massive video board and increased accessibility for disabled fans, as well as renovating the locker rooms again.
Unique Amenities: Hinkle maintain the historical, storied atmosphere with the wood benches in the upper levels, hand-painted signs to bathrooms and brick walls.
11. Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
Owner: The University of Notre Dame
Year Opened: 1930
Claim to Fame: The home of the Fighting Irish, Notre Dame Stadium's most unique feature is the presence of "Touchdown Jesus," arms raised, looming over the stadium. With one of college football's most famous programs, the Stadium attracts visitors from all over the world.
Famous Moment: Notre Dame has been the spot for three (yes, three) so-called "Games of the Century," in 1946, 1966 and 1993. In 2007, Navy ended its 43-year losing streak to the Fighting Irish, the longest in NCAA history between annual rivals.
Renovations and Costs: In January 2014, Notre Dame announced that the campus and stadium would be undergoing a $400M renovation. The stadium would be adding luxury boxes and an increased capacity. "The most ambitious building project in the 172-year history of Notre Dame" started after the 2014 season and is slated to be completed in 2017.
Unique Amenities: While the Stadium's wood benches may not make for the most comfortable of seating, South Bend has plenty of other amenities for you to enjoy.
12. Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
Owner: The City of Green Bay and the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District.
Year Opened: 1957
Claim to Fame: The home of the Packers, Lambeau Field is the oldest continually operating NFL stadium, the third-largest stadium in the NFL, and the largest venue in the State of Wisconsin. With no roof and Wisconsin winters, post-seasons at Lambeau have always been full of snow and below freezing temperatures, earning it the name "The Frozen Tundra." It is also known for the "Lambeau Leap" tradition, in which players jump into the stands to celebrate a touchdown.
Famous Moments: In one of the most famous games in NFL history, known as "the Ice Bowl," the Packers and Cowboys played in -15°F weather for the 1967 NFC Championship. Quarterback Bart Starr surprised the world by sneaking the ball at the goal line, rather than handing it off. When Starr asked famous coach Vince Lombardi his thoughts on the play beforehand, Lombardi only muttered "run it and let's get the hell out of here." Starr got the touchdown, and the crowd rushed the field in celebration.
Renovations and Costs: Interestingly enough, Lambeau Field also acts as a real estate firm, purchasing various properties around the stadium. The field has just announced plans for a new business district west of Lambeau Field, called Titletown, which will feature a four-star hotel, a brewery, a restaurant and a public plaza. As for the field itself, the Packers announced a multi-phase $140.5M Atrium project in 2013. The Atrium, which is almost completed, is adding new entrances, new player facilities, a new Packers Hall of Fame and even a 50-foot replica of the Lombardi Trophy.
Unique Amenities: If the Hall of Fame doesn't catch your fancy, you can always take a tour of the field or eat at the year-round 1919 Kitchen and Tap with over 80 beer taps and locally sourced food.
13. Astrodome, Houston
Owner: Harris County
Year Opened: 1965
Claim to Fame: The former home of the Houston Astros, Oilers and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo set many precedents in its time: It was the world's first multi-purpose domed stadium, the first to use artificial turf (hence the name "Astroturf") and the first to use an animated scoreboard. It's no surprise, then, that the "Eighth Wonder of the World" was listed on the National Register of Historic Places last year.
Famous Moments: The Dome has seen the likes of Even Knievel, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, U2, the WWE and even Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle, who was the first to hit a home run in the park. In a famous moment of women's sports history, tennis legend Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in 1973. But perhaps the most peculiar event in the Astrodome's history was the field's only "rainout." With flooding preventing any fans from getting to the stadium, the Astros and the Pirates decided to postpone the game and instead have dinner on the tables placed in the middle of the field.
Renovations and Costs: Despite significant renovations in 1988, the dome was abandoned in 2008 due to fire code violations. Since then, there have been many attempts to preserve the Dome, including plans to convert it into a luxury hotel and a movie production studio. These proposals, along with several others, were rejected by voters. Recently, local officials have considered establishing a public-private partnership overseen by a conservancy. However, there is no set plan for renovation yet.
Unique Amenities: In addition to the Dome's unique scoreboard, turf and futuristic rooftop lighting, the Dome also featured two lavish apartments—one for former Houston mayor Roy Hofheinz and a "Presidential Suite." There was also a hidden bar, the Tipsy Tavern, which had a magnetic device at the ends of the bar that prevented drinks from sliding off. But the best feature is clearly the fact that the grounds crew used to wear space suits, because who doesn't want a sci-fi adventure during the seventh-inning stretch?
14. Madison Square Garden, New York
Owner: The Madison Square Garden Co
Year Opened: Although the current location opened in 1968, there were also three other previous gardens, including a roofless stadium (1879 to 1890) used by P.T. Barnum, a second building—funded by famous names like Barnum, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and W.W. Astor—that lasted from 1890 to 1925 and a third Garden that was mainly used as a boxing venue and operated from 1925 to 1968.
Claim to Fame: Despite being one of the youngest venues on the list, MSG is the oldest and most active sports facility in the New York area, the oldest NHL arena and the second-oldest NBA venue. The Garden is also the fourth-busiest music arena in the world and one of the most expensive stadiums ever built ($1.1B).
Famous Moments: The Garden is pretty much a rock n' roll hall of fame of its own, hosting Billy Joel, Elton John, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, the Grateful Dead and many, many more. The Garden also hosted multiple Democratic National Conventions, the first fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and the WWE's first Wrestlemania and Summerslam.
Renovations and Costs: In 1991, the Garden received a $200M renovation, adding suites and upper-tier seats. Two decades later, the Garden received a two-year, $1B renovation that added a larger entrance with interactive kiosks, new production offices, a broadcast studio, larger concourses, new lighting and video systems, an upgraded roof ,and improved dressing rooms and locker rooms. But now, the Garden is one of the main roadblocks for any renovations for Penn Station.
Unique Amenities: Another part of the most recent renovation was the creation of two new pedestrian walkways suspended from the ceiling that allows views of the stage below.
15. Superdome, New Orleans
Owner: Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District
Year Opened: 1975
Claim to Fame: The home of the Saints has hosted seven Super Bowls, the most of any stadium.
Famous Moments: The Superdome received national attention during Hurricane Katrina, when it was used to shelter those who lost their homes. Before then, it hosted Muhammad Ali's last professional win in 1978, when he won his third heavyweight title, as well as a speech by Pope John Paul II in 1987, a Republican National Convention in 1988, the premier of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996 and WWE's Wrestlemania XXX in 2014.
Renovations and Costs: After Hurricane Katrina, the Superdome was repaired for $185M, but soon underwent a $320M renovation that added windows, a new roof, new siding, escalators and new renovated suites. It added synthetic turf in 2010, giving the Superdome the largest turf synthetic system in the NFL. But then, in 2011, the lower half of the stadium was renovated, allowing for new seating, a wider plaza and state-of-the-art bunker lounges with flat-screen TVs and full-service bars. And just this year, the field, now known as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, will receive a $40M renovation.
Unique Amenities: Fans who purchase a stake in one of the luxury suites are given complimentary parking spaces, invitations to team and appreciation events, as well as tickets to away games, concerts and even college bowl games. The Superdome can even be rented for catered events.