North America is home to some of the world’s most iconic sports venues. Each has left its mark on history. From championships to title fights to checkered flags, these venues stand alone. As the list is subjective, feel free to offer your own analysis in the comments below. The following 15 are no particular order.
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The 15 Most Iconic Sports Venues in North America
Found in Louisville, Kentucky, this iconic racetrack is home to the biggest stage in horseracing—The Kentucky Derby. Beginning in 1875, the track has seen some of the sport’s most impressive performances, and was named a national historic site. With crowds swelling to over 150,000 on ‘derby day’, the track is not only one of the most visited, but the site of the most televised event as well.
Madison Square Garden
Located in Manhattan, New York, “The Garden” is filled with memories across multiple sports. MSG, as it’s often called, opened its doors in 1968. It must be said that there were three previous versions of Madison Square Garden, all found in different locations. Home to four current tenants—New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Liberty, and St. John’s Red Story—the building has hosted countless important events from other sports. “The Fight of the Century”, the bout featuring then undefeated Muhammad Ali and Smokin’ Joe Frazier, was staged at MSG.
“The House that Ruth Built” was officially opened in 1923, and to this day is the current home of baseball’s New York Yankees. Though the stadium was rebuilt in 2011, much to the chagrin of baseball purists, the original hosted more than 6,500 Yankees games. It was also home to the NFL’s New York Giants for close to two decades from the mid-50s to 70s. Having seen some of the greatest ball players to ever play, including Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Jeter, it also was the site of the Ali-Norton fight, among many others. It was the site of many historic events outside of sports, such as Nelson Mendela’s first appearance in North America after he was released from prison.
Fenway Park, located in Boston, has been home to the historic Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball. With its fabled “green monster”, Peskey’s Pole (the right field pole is just 302 feet from home plate) and “The Triangle” (the shape of the wall in right-center), Fenway boasts a very unique design. Adding to the uniqueness is “the lone red seat” —literally a lone red seat in section 42 signifying the longest hit in the history of the Park, owned by Ted Williams. The stadium has hosted 10 World Series, with the most recent being the 2013 Series. It is the oldest stadium in baseball.
Right up there with Yankee Stadium and Fenway is the home of the Chicago Cubs—Wrigley Field. First opened in 1914 to a different team than the current Cubs, the stadium became occupied by its current tenants in 1916, and the name was changed to Wrigley for the 1927 season. With its ivy-covered walls that don’t actually produce leaves until well into the season, the stadium is also known for its trademark red “Wrigley Field” sign and the throngs of on-lookers who watch from rooftops—though the team made efforts to limit that.
Named after Curly Lambeau, founder of the Green Bay Packers, the stadium has been in use since 1957. Originally known as City Stadium, it was renamed Lambeau Stadium after Curly’s death in 1965. Outside of the Cubs and Red Sox, the Packers have occupied their home longer than any other professional team in North America. Nicknamed “The Frozen Tundra” after a game against the Dallas Cowboys in 1967, the stadium provides its tenants with one of the most renowned home-field advantages in sports.
For 70 years, from 1926-1996, the Montreal Forum was home to the oldest professional hockey franchise—the Montreal Canadiens. Having hosted 24 championship teams—22 from the Canadiens, and two from its predecessor, the Montreal Maroons—the stadium has witnessed some of the greatest players in hockey history. Including Richard, Lafleur, Beliveau, Harvey, Robinson, and now Carey Price, the list of hockey royalty who called it home is a mile long. But it isn’t only hockey that makes the venue famous. Remember Nadia Comaneci’s “perfect 10”? Yeah, that was at the Forum, too.
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Home to current tenant University of Southern California (USC), it was first opened in 1923. It was also a long-time home to University of California, Los Angeles from 1933-1981, as well as both L.A.-based NFL teams. The Los Angeles Rams called it home from 1946-1979, and the most recent version of the team starting in 2016. The Raiders played there also from 1982-1994 before they moved to Oakland. The stadium also played host to the Olympics, twice, in 1932 and again in 1986, and has been rumored again for the 2024 games. The stadium was named a national historic site in 1984.
The only Mexican venue on our list, Estadio Azteca is truly a marvel in the football (soccer) world. Located in a suburb of Mexico City, the stadium is the only to host two World Cup Finals, in 1970 and again in 1986—not to mention, it was the site of the infamous “Hand of God” goal from Diego Maradona. With a capacity in excess of 87,000, it remains as the largest venue in Mexico.
Maple Leaf Gardens
The second primarily hockey arena to make our list, Maple Leaf Gardens was the long-time home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs from 1931 to 1999. The Leafs won the Stanley Cup 11 times during their time at Maple Leaf Gardens. It hosted the second game in the legendary Cold War-driven Summit Series between Canada and The Soviet Union. The arena also had many non-hockey events as well, including the renowned Muhammad Ali-George Chuvalo fight.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Located in the aptly-named Speedway, Indiana outside of Indianapolis, the Indiana Motor Speedway is home to racing’s most historic name—The Indy 500. With a peak seating capacity of 400,000, it is the world’s biggest sports venue. Built in 1909, it was declared a national historic site in 1987. The Speedway also hosts NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, and was the one-time host of Formula One’s United States Grand Prix.
Rose Bowl Stadium
Found just outside of Los Angeles in Pasadena, the stadium has been well used for football. Its signature Rose Bowl has been played since 1902, and uninterrupted for 100 years (1916), and is the oldest bowl game in college football. For the past 32 years, it has been home to college football’s UCLA Bruins. It has played host to five Super Bowl games. As the venue for the 1984 Olympic gold medal soccer match as well as the 1994 World Cup final and 1999 Women’s World Cup final, it has seen its fair share of important soccer matches.
Originally called Boston Madison Square Garden after its New York-based counterpart, it became known as the Boston Garden. It survived for 70 years, from 1928-1998 when it was destroyed to make way for what is now called the TD Garden. Originally home to the Boston Bruins and later the Celtics, the arena has hosted countless championship games—17 Stanley Cups and 19 NBA Championships were staged there.
Aptly named “The Big House”, Michigan Stadium is the biggest stadium in the United States, and the second biggest in the world. Built in 1927, the University of Michigan Wolverines have enjoyed home field advantage since. The stadium lists a capacity of 107,000, though a game against Notre Dame in 2013 had over 115,000 in attendance. The stadium has hosted many non-football events, including the recent hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, which had an official attendance of over 105,000.
Since 1934, Augusta has played home to perhaps the most renowned of the four major golf tournaments in the world—The Masters. The course is known for several distinctive holes, which have provided the backdrop for some of golf’s most historic moments. The back part of the 11th, the 12th, and the opening shots off the 13th tee have become known as “Amen Corner”, so named after a Sports Illustrated article. There are three bridges on the course, named after Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, and Ben Hogan. It was at Augusta in 1997 that Tiger Woods began a legendary run of play, beginning with a 12-stroke Master’s title.
Honorable Mentions: Astrodome, Dodgers Stadium, Texas Stadium, Joe Louis Arena, Three Rivers Stadium, Notre Dame Stadium, Ohio Stadium, Daytona Speedway, Louisiana Superdome, Cameron Indoor, Allen Fieldhouse
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