This is a list compiled of the hardest places to play, the loudest fans, and immense levels of excitement. These venues would give you goosebumps. I have been lucky enough to experience some of these events, the rest are on my bucket list. This list is in no particular order, it is the best 10 collectively.
Penn State “White-Out” – University Park, Pennsylvania
Once a year, during the heart of conference play in college football, a sea of white takes over Happy Valley. 110 thousand passionate Nittany Lions fill the stadium and it is a great sight and atmosphere for anyone to see in sports. I was fortunate enough to experience this event in 2009. Growing up as a huge Penn State football fan, it was always a dream of mine to see what a white-out is really like. It totally exceeded my expectations. I cannot even use words to describe how electric it was right before kickoff, it was something out of a movie. One of the coolest moments I have ever experienced in my life was during the 2nd quarter. As the rain was coming down progressively harder the entire night, me and 11,000 other fans belted out “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by CCR. It was a moment in my life that I will never forget.
The Kentucky Derby – Louisville, Kentucky
Every year, on the first Saturday of May, nearly 158,000 horse racing fans, owners, and betters gather at Churchill Downs to witness the “Most exciting 2 minutes in all of sports.” The Kentucky Derby is a historic horse race, filled with tradition, betting, and funky outfits. The atmosphere at Churchill Downs is ridiculous. Before the race, “My Kentucky Home” is sung in sync throughout all in attendance. It is one of the more notable traditions in sports, and I look forward to this event every year.
Death Valley at night – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
If you are a college football coach or player, there is one place you never want to travel to, where the weather is the hottest, and the fans are louder and meaner. A place where it is harder to get out with a win than it is to get struck by lightning. That place is called “Death Valley,” home to LSU football, known to be one of the hardest places to play in the country. The atmosphere during night games is absolutely electric and there is no way this wasn’t going to make the list.
Playoffs at Lambeau – Green Bay, Wisconsin
There’s nothing better than NFL playoffs in Green Bay. The frozen tundra has held countless postseason memories, both good and bad. Late-game situations are said to be almost deafening and the arena literally shakes. Also, the Packers are a notoriously good football team, so it is expected to see playoff football at Lambaeu each January. This is definitely an event on my bucket list.
Phillies Playoff Baseball – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I know what you’re thinking, I am a biased Philadelphia sports fan, and trust me I know I am. But did you really think this wasn’t going to make the list? Playoff baseball in Philadelphia is like sex, it never gets old. The excitement that fills CBP during October is truly something special. As the rally towels fly and the crowd noise rises, each inning gets more intense and more special. I will never forget in 2010, when “Doc” Halladay became only the 2nd pitcher in postseason history to throw a no-hitter. He did it in front of none other than the Philly faithful, who had been behind him all season. I remember watching the game and thinking how proud I am to be a fan of this team, because we have the most passionate fans in the world. There are plenty other great moments at CBP in October, like Joe Blanton’s home-run in game 4 of the 2008 World Series, or Brad Lidge becoming perfect. No matter what, one thing is certain, if the Phillies are in the Playoffs, Philadelphia will promise to bring the juice.
Duke vs. UNC – Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, North Carolina
You all know how great this rivalry is and how intoxicating the atmosphere can get. Duke and North Carolina meet twice every year, visiting each other’s home floor, but in my opinion the atmosphere is raised 100 levels when the game is played at Cameron Indoor. The Cameron Crazies are insane, as they have camped out for months for this one night. High school students may pick between these schools just based on this one game and this one amazing night. I do not remember any Duke vs North Carolina game that was not electric. These schools don’t like each other, these fans don’t like each other, and these teams sure as hell don’t like each other. This ups the intensity, in every aspect of the game. This has been on my bucket list since I was young, and I would do almost anything to experience this game. If this list were in order, this would have to be top 3.
Allen Fieldhouse during any conference game – Lawrence, Kansas
Allen Fieldhouse is one of the oldest, yet most exhilarating places in all of college basketball, and possibly in all of sports. Kansas basketball has a known tradition of excellence and their fans are no different. They bring the intensity every second of every game and it is truly a special place to be. Teams have literally collapsed because the crowd was so loud and distracting. Most recently it was West Virginia, who blew a huge second half lead. I think that the fans should be given as much credit for the win that night as the team. It was clear that the atmosphere affected the result of that game. They say that college basketball was born in Allen Fieldhouse and boy I hope it never dies.
Edmonton Oilers Playoff atmosphere – Edmonton, Canada
Watching the Oilers perform at home this year during the playoffs has almost made me speechless. The atmosphere that was created every night in their playoff run was so special, it made you just want to cry tears of joy knowing there is still good in this world. Canada lives, breathes, and sleeps hockey. Therefore, when their local team is in the playoffs they are sure to put on a show. I wrote a blog about how amazing this atmosphere is, and I hope they are in the playoffs for many years to come. I think that this would be number 1 on an ordered list just for the pure sense of passion. The feel that the fans bring to the stadium is one that you can see through your tv screen.
The Big House – Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to Michigan football and nearly 110 thousand passionate fans. Fall Saturdays are special when the big blue are home. The sea of yellow is almost mesmerizing and never gets old. It is one of the hardest places to play in the country, the sound at pints is loud enough to break your ear drum. It was clear to me that this landmark should make it onto the list.
Century Link Field – Seattle, Washington
They don’t call the fans of Seattle “The 12th Man” for nothing. The Seattle Seahawks, without a doubt, have the best atmosphere in the NFL. The unique design of the stadium, with a closed-in structure, keeps the sound contained, and this place can get LOUD. It has become almost impossible to leave Seattle with a win unless your name is Tom Brady. In that case, you can do anything you want. It is fitting that this stadium has a big personality, as it has hosted big personalities on the team such as Richard Sherman and former Seahawk Marshawn Lynch. Century Link is a special place and will continue to be for years to come.
There it is, the top 10 atmospheres in all of sports. If you think that I left one out or that one was undeserving, please feel free to comment and let me know! Hopefully in the future I can have an opportunity to experience all 10 of these special places and atmospheres.