The Top 10 Most Historic College Sports Venues
Explore the oldest and most storied arenas, stadiums, and fields in college sports.
By Heather Fishel
Sports are a big part of the college experience. With fields and arenas dating back to the early 1900s, college campuses are home to some of the most historic sports locations in the world.
Here's our list of the top ten most historic venues, covering everything from the birthplace of football's forward pass to the rowdiest, loudest arena in the country.
10. Charles River: Boston University and Northeastern University
Charles River might sound like a strange college sports venue yet Boston’s schools take to the Charles River to compete in the Head of the Charles Regatta, a rowing race that begins at Boston University and ends at Northeastern. The event is the top college rowing race in the country. The competition has grown to include rowing teams from colleges all over the US.
9. Hinkle Fieldhouse: Butler University
When Hinkle Fieldhouse first opened in 1928, it had the honor of being the largest basketball arena in the US. Today, the Fieldhouse holds the title of sixth oldest college basketball arena still in use. Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse is where college basketball began to change in the 1920s and 1930s. The court allowed for faster play and set a new standard for basketball arenas.
8. The Palestra: University of Pennsylvania
If you’re looking for the birthplace of college basketball, the University of Pennsylvania’s basketball arena is it. Considered the “Cathedral of College Basketball”, the Palestra has hosted more men’s basketball games, visiting teams, and NCAA tournaments than any other arena in the nation.
7. Los Angeles Coliseum: USC
The USC Trojans’ impressive history has played out in the Los Angeles Coliseum since its doors opened in 1923. The Coliseum is the only stadium to host two Olympic Games, two Super Bowls, and one World Series. Yet nothing defines the Coliseum more than college football -- nearly every time USC takes the field, more than 92,000 fans in cardinal and gold fill the stadium to capacity.
6. Gallagher-Iba Arena: Oklahoma State University
If you’re looking for a school with a lot of spirit, Oklahoma State is the place. OSU’s Gallagher-Iba Arena opened in 1938 and has earned the title of “Rowdiest Arena in the Country” thanks to the crazy Cowboy fans. OSU fans have broken records for attendance and ticket sales. The court’s original sightlines and white maple floor survived the arena’s complete overhaul in the 1990s, making Gallagher-Iba Arena the oldest original basketball court still in use.
5. Coffey Field at Houlihan Park: Fordham University
If it’s college baseball history you’re looking for, Fordham’s Coffey Field is the sport’s home plate. Though the field officially opened in 1930, Fordham’s baseball team was founded in the late 1850s. The team played the first-ever college baseball game against Amherst in 1859, and became the first to use today’s modern nine-man-team rules. 56 major league players and other baseball figures such as Dodgers announcer Vin Scully started their careers on Coffey Field.
4. Rose Bowl: UCLA
It’s no secret that the Rose Bowl is a popular college football stadium. It hosts the annual Rose Bowl Game; the oldest and most highly attended bowl game. Since 1982, it’s been the home of UCLA football. The stadium has hosted two FIFA finals and five Super Bowls throughout the years. The Bowl is a National Historic Landmark, one of only four athletic locations to make the National Historic Places Register.
3. Matthews Arena: Northeastern University
Open since 1910, Matthews Arena is one of the most historic ice rinks in the world. Not only is it the oldest indoor ice hockey arena still in use; it also has the world’s oldest artificial ice sheet. The ice hockey teams of Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, MIT, and Tufts all got their start here. Matthews Arena is also the birthplace of the NHL in the United States. In 1924, the Boston Bruins played their first game in the arena. It was the first NHL game played on American soil.
2. Harvard Stadium: Harvard University
It’s no surprise that Harvard University is steeped in history. Harvard played (and lost) the first intercollegiate football game against Tufts in 1875. Harvard Stadium, the oldest stadium in the nation, opened in 1903. In 1906, Harvard Stadium changed the rules of football when they adopted the forward pass instead of widening the field and altering the stadium.
1. Franklin Field: University of Pennsylvania
At 117 years old, Franklin Field could be considered the most historic college sports venue on age alone. The stadium opened in 1895, and is the NCAA’s oldest stadium still in use for football games. Franklin Field is the site of the first scoreboard in the United States, and the first football radio and television broadcasts. The stadium also holds a place in American history: in 1936, Franklin Roosevelt accepted the Democratic Party nomination on the field.
College Sports Venue Quick Facts
- The oldest college sport is rowing.
- The rivalry between the Harvard Crimson and the Yale Bulldogs is the oldest in the nation, dating back to 1843 when Yale first started its boat club. Harvard followed with its own boat club the next year.
- The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) dates back to 1906, making it over 100 years old.
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