The Top Ten Iconic Stages in All of Sports
September 9, 2013

Before Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka took the court for the Women's Final of the United States Open Tennis Championships Saturday, CBS announcer Bill MacAtee referred to Arthur Ashe Stadium as “one of the most iconic stages in all of sports.” While the sentiment of the moment was not lost on the occasion, and a little hyperbole allowed, I got to thinking. Just what are the most iconic stages in all of sports? Ashe probably is just as iconic as Stade Rolan Garros in the tennis world, but neither compare to Wimbledon. I've put together a list of the Top Ten. See if you agree...

Before We Begin: These venues did not make the Top Ten list, but you could make a case for any of them: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Churchill Downs, Daytona International Speedway, Louisiana Superdome, Notre Dame Stadium.

#10 Dallas Cowboys Stadium-Arlington, Texas: The palace of Jerry Jones opened in 2009, and should be too new to be considered iconic, but the billion-dollar edifice exemplifies everything that this list is about. Not only does is it the home of 'America's Team', but its also the site of major college football, a Super Bowl, and will host this spring's Final Four. Cost of the stadium, complete with retractable roof, and 160-by-70 foot (53-by-23 yard) scoreboard, was over a billion dollars, but Jones and the city of Arlington can recoup some of that money--they've sold the naming rights, and it's now 'A T & T Stadium'. Friends who have been there say it's a must-see. All of the opulence of the day in one location.

#9 Indianapolis Motor Speedway-Indianapolis, Indiana: Sports fans who don't watch auto racing still watch the Indianapolis 500, held the final Sunday in May. Cars have been racing on that track since there have been cars to race. The Speedway opened in 1909, and the Indy 500 is the largest-attended single-day sporting event in the world, earning the slogan “the greatest spectacle in racing.” Although more people watch NASCAR, the Speedway beats out Daytona because of longevity and mystique, giving it more iconic status.

#8 Pauley Pavilion-Los Angeles, California: The home of John Wooden and UCLA's 16 men's college basketball championships should be higher on the list, but for some reason, if someone mentions college basketball, Pauley doesn't immediately come to mind for most people. Fans may either picture a fieldhouse in Indiana, or Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. The 'Cameron Crazies' are there for all of Duke's games, but are really only featured on that one day in February or March when North Carolina comes to town. At one time UCLA had a record of over 200 wins, and only 6 losses on the Pauley Pavilion floor.

#7 (tie) Fenway Park-Boston, Massachusetts/Wrigley Field-Chicago, Illinois: If you are going to talk iconic baseball parks, you can't have one without the other. Both opened in the early 1900s (Fenway 1912, Wrigley 1914), both have unique structural features (the ivy at Wrigley, the Green Monster at Fenway), and until 2004, both were home to lovable losers (the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series in 86 years, and the Cubs still haven't won one in over 100). Both parks have been allowed to continue to exist in their respective cities, but not without changes. Fenway added seats atop the Monster in 2003, and Wrigley will undergo a massive renovation, starting this winter.

#6 Lambeau Field-Green Bay, Wisconsin: The Green Bay Packers have been playing their home games there since 1957. The team is actually owned by the city of over 100,000. The only way to get season tickets is if you inherit them. It's the home of Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, and Brett Favre. It's the “frozen tundra” and home of the 'Lambeau Leap'—when Packers literally try to jump into the stands after scoring a touchdown. Nowadays when many of the big games are played in domes, a post-season trip to Lambeau can be the end of the season for Packer opponents.

#5 Centre Court-Wimbledon, England, United Kingdom: Serena Williams has won the U.S. Open five times, but even she'll tell you that Wimbledon is THE tennis tournament to win. It is the most prestigious, and the oldest tennis tournament in the world. The All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club has hosted matches since 1877. Last year, Andy Murray became the first British man in over 70 years to win the championship—a burden he had been carrying his entire career. In the television era, Bjorn Borg was probably the one who brought Wimbledon to the non-tennis watching forefront, winning five straight times from 1976 to 1980.

#4 Yankee Stadium-Bronx, New York, New York: The judges may disqualify this entry from the list, because “the house that Ruth built” no longer exists. Like the monolith at number ten on our list, the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, and at a cost of close to (if not over) a billion dollars. The original Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, and after being closed for two years for renovation, re-opened in 1976. The new Yankee Stadium has the same dimensions as the old one after renovation, and the famed monuments of Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, et al. were also moved to the new building. So maybe an asterisk here, but the new building keeps the iconic tradition alive.

#3 Rose Bowl-Pasadena, California: You could probably argue that Michigan Stadium, Notre Dame Stadium, or any of the big campus football stadiums in the South symbolize college football, but they don't call the Rose Bowl the “Granddaddy of them all” for nothing. The first Rose Bowl game was played at Tournmament Park in 1902, but the current stadium actually wasn't built until 1922. It is showing its age, and been the topic of a proposed renovation to attract an NFL team, but still close to 100,000 people show up for the New Year's Day game and parade every year. The Rose Bowl is also the site of this year's (January 2014) National Championship Game.

#2 Madison Square Garden-Manhattan, New York, New York: Home to the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, the “World's Most Famous Sports Arena” is also home to numerous college basketball games including the NIT Finals, boxing, and even the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The original Garden opened in 1879, but the venue has had several locations over the years. The current building, which sits on top of Penn Station, opened in 1968, but the city has given them 10 years to find a new spot, because of planned Penn Station renovations. One of the most famous events was a Mohammed Ali-Joe Frazier fight in 1971.

#1 Wembley Stadium-London, England, United Kingdom (pictured above): With apologies to many of the famous soccer pitches around the world, everyone has heard of Wembley Stadium. Originally opened in 1923, it held numerous soccer games, and Pele referred to it as the 'Cathedral of Football'. It also hosted the 1948 Olympics, and even the Live Aid concert in 1985. It was rebuilt and re-opened in 2007, and was a feature piece of the 2010 Olympics. Like the new Yankee Stadium, maybe Wembley deserves an asterisk, but it is still the most iconic sports palace in all the world.

Gone but not forgotten: If these stadiums/arenas still existed, they'd have to be in there somewhere: Houston Astrodome, Boston Garden, and the Montreal Forum.

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