Our friends over at Coug Center took the initiative earlier this week to put out a ranking of Pac 12 stadiums. It's a good read and definitely worth a look. When I read it, however, I struggled to understand from what point of view the author was establishing the criteria for ranking.
The truth is that there are a number of dimensions that fans will arbitrarily point out when debating the best place to take in a game. For some, the venue is the most important consideration with some of the newest - such as Husky Stadium and Autzen Stadium - being the most impressive. For others, it might be the gameday experience that takes into account the various happenings and customs organized by the home team. Oregon and Utah would both fare well against that criteria. For others still, it might be the beauty of the setting for the stadium ... or the coolness of the campus ... or the activities and options available pre and post game off of campus.
I decided to go ahead and put together my own ranking given the variety of criteria that fans use when debating the "best stadium". Since this is about more than just the structure itself, let's call it a ranking of the overall fan experience by Pac 12 team.
To make this somewhat objective, I've established five criteria that I think summarize the full fan experience. The ranking of each criterion is on a scale of 1-5 and the overall ranking simply the sum of the category rankings. The total fan experience is then ranked accordingly. One important caveat - and point of debate - is that each category is evenly weighted thus assuming that the typical fan values each equally. Of course, we know that this is a false assumption as each fan has things about the experience that they value more highly, but at least this should make for a decent debate.
Here are the criteria:
- Venue (V): Includes the facility and all of the amenities that come with it
- Setting (S): The surrounding environment that the stadium occupies as it contributes to the ambiance of the in-stadium experience
- Campus (C): The beauty, history and richness of the campus visit experience for both alums and visitors
- Extra-Campus (EC): The diversity and quality of options for pre and post game revelry on and off campus
- Gameday (G): Includes all of the in-game traditions, in-stadium activities and tailgating that contribute to the overall gameday experience
In the interest of full disclosure, I cannot claim that I've seen a game in each Pac 12 stadium. I've not been to Utah, Colorado, or the Coliseum. I have, however, been to every Pac 12 city and stepped foot on every campus. I should also note that it has been some time since I visited some stadiums - including Martin, Reser and Autzen. Still, this is just for fun and designed to encourage some discussion. So I shall continue.
T1. Husky Stadium
|Husky Stadium||Washington||V: 5||S: 5||C 4||EC: 5||G: 2||Total: 21|
I didn't go into this exercise thinking that UW would finish on top. However, I'm perfectly aware that I have a built in bias and I'm not terribly surprised. With the grand opening of the new facilities a few years ago, UW has an unparalleled venue for football. The location on Lake Washington coupled with the architectural considerations that ensure everybody in the stadium can take in the beauty of the natural surroundings are matched by very few locations across the country. The big drawback for UW right now is the game day experience. Tailgating is just "ok" relative to a lot of other Pac 12 locations and, as we've discussed here many times, the Athletic Department still has a lot of work to do in terms of getting the gameday experience back to the levels that they once were.
T1. Folsom Field
|Folsom Field||Colorado||V: 3||S: 5||C: 4||EC: 5||G: 4||Total: 21|
Unlike Husky Stadium which scored very high on a few dimensions and really low on another, Colorado boasts strong scores across just about every dimension. You can see what an amazing setting Folsom Field is settled into and, let's face it, you can't beat a visit to Boulder as a road trip. The venue itself is a little bit dated, but there are no obstructed view seats and the bowl is pretty close to the field. As far as gameday experiences go, Colorado may not be winning a bunch of games, but they still have Ralphie.
3. California Memorial Stadium
|Memorial Stadium||California||V: 5||S: 4||C: 4||EC: 4||G: 3||Total: 20|
In 2012, California reopened the California Memorial Stadium following the completion of a $320M renovation and addition of a $155M student athletics center. Compared to UW's $280M renovation completed around the same time period, the price tag for this project was stunning. While Cal has had a hard time paying the bills for this project, one can't argue with the results. The new stadium has great site lines, modern amenities and a great playing surface (though one would presume they could have gone with grass given the environment). On the flip side, there isn't anything particularly distinct about the venue itself nor does anything really stand out as "special" during the gameday experience. Still, the campus is fantastic and the Berkeley setting is a great place to be before and after games.
T4. Autzen Stadium
|Autzen Stadium||Oregon||V: 5||S: 2||C: 2||EC: 4||G: 5||Total: 18|
Make no bones about it, Autzen Stadium from a facility perspective is the cream of the crop in the PAC 12. Layer in an electric and crazed gameday experience fueled by a decade of on-the-field success and you have the makings for one of the best game environments not just in the PAC but in all of college football. On the flips side, you can't escape the fact that to attend the game, you have to travel to a town that was once officially known as "Skinner's Mudhole". Consider also that Oregon doesn't exactly boast a historic or particularly beautiful campus. As such, the overall fan experience suffers.
T4. Rice-Eccles Stadium
|Rice-Eccles Stadium||Utah||V: 3||S: 5||C: 3||EC: 3||G: 4||Total: 18|
If you haven't been to Utah, you should go. Seeing a game there is definitely on my list. The setting is beautiful, the student section is crazy, the venue is accommodating enough and, despite not being quite as diverse as some other Pac 12 settings, Salt Lake has a lot to offer between the mountains and the microbreweries.
T4. The Coliseum
|The Coliseum||USC||V: 2||S: 3||C: 4||EC: 4||G: 5||Total: 18|
The LA Memorial Coliseum is a legendary venue - both for college football and other major events (sports, concerts, etc). Located in the heart of downtown LA, there is no shortage of things to do in and around the facility. But, like a lot of legendary buildings, the venue itself is pretty run-down and lacking in some of the modern amenities. That said, there are some great traditions (despite that horrible fight song) that make the overall gameday experience a great one.
T7. The Rose Bowl
|The Rose Bowl||UCLA||V: 4||S: 5||C: 1||EC: 4||G: 3||Total: 17|
I imagine that there will be some controversy surrounding this ranking. I think it is important to note, however, that this exercise includes the full fan experience and the Rose Bowl, as iconic as it is, can't escape two important facts: it's outdatedness and its lack of a connection to the UCLA campus. The former is compensated by the fact that the Rose Bowl is still the friggin' Rose Bowl. So, OK. But the fact that the stadium is not only not on campus but is, in fact, in a different town, puts a major crimp on the overall fan experience. UCLA has a wonderful campus - truly one of the two or three best in all of the PAC 12. The fact that it isn't incorporated into the gameday experience is an unfortunate circumstance that keeps UCLA from having a truly elite overall fan experience.
T7. Stanford Stadium
|Stanford Stadium||Stanford||V: 3||S: 4||C: 5||EC: 4||G: 1||Total: 17|
Like the Rose Bowl being ranked lower than expected, I suspect that some people will find this ranking greater than expected. I can't blame you if you do. On a pure assessment of the stadium and gameday experience, Stanford probably ranks at the bottom of the PAC. However, their overall fan experience rating gets buoyed by one of the most iconic campuses in the world and all of the options that one has when they visit the Palo Alto area for a road trip.
9. Martin Stadium
|Martin Stadium||Washington State||V: 4||S: 2||C: 3||EC: 3||G: 4||Total: 16|
The folks at WSU get a lot of credit for one of the better gameday environments (if you happen to be a hometown fan) in the PAC and for having a nice venue to host games in. However, there really isn't anything visit-worthy on campus nor does the Pullman environment offer the same diversity of pre and post game options that some other PAC 12 towns offer. If this ranking were just about what happens in the stadium, WSU would rank much higher on this list. Taking everything together drops them down a bit.
10. Sun Devil Stadium
|Sun Devil Stadium||Arizona State||V: 1||S: 4||C: 3||EC: 4||G: 3||Total: 15|
I just have to admit this now - visiting Tempe is one of my favorite road trips. I enjoy the setting in the desert, I like the activities around Tempe both before and after the game (golf, restaurants, hiking), I enjoy the ... errrr .... talents that the fans display during gameday and I've appreciated the access and activities that the program provides to fans. That said, the current stadium (which is about to undergo a major facelift) is a true monstrosity. Once the venue situation is addressed, I expect ASU will have one of the better overall fan experiences in the Pac 12.
11. Reser Stadium
|Reser Stadium||Oregon State||V: 2||S: 4||C: 2||EC: 2||G: 3||Total: 13|
I'm not a huge fan of the Reser Stadium experience. I've been there a few times over the years and, other than the outcomes of the games themselves, there wasn't much about any of the rest of the experience that really jumps out. The venue itself is relatively small but, for some reason, everybody feels like they are way off of the field. The setting is quite nice and purists would appreciate the fact that the stadium is integrated pretty well with the OSU campus. I also do appreciate the energy level that the fans bring to the game and I have always thought OSU had a pretty energetic band and a good, old-fashioned cheer / mascot program. But I can't really think of anything that jumps out as unique to the Oregon State experience.
12. Arizona Stadium
|Arizona Stadium||Arizona||V: 1||S: 4||C: 3||EC: 2||G: 1||Total: 11|
I'm having a hard time finding anything nice to say about Arizona Stadium, so I'll go easy here. I do enjoy Tucson - particularly the variety of activities available to you off campus. Beyond that, I'm not really sure what stands out as truly unique in the Wildcat fan experience. Well, except for their recent tradition of beating Oregon.
Here are your final summarized rankings. Let us know what you agree and disagree with in the comments thread.
|The Rose Bowl||UCLA||4||5||1||4||3||17|
|Martin Stadium||Washington State||4||2||3||3||4||16|
|Sun Devil Stadium||ASU||1||4||3||4||3||15|
|Reser Stadium||Oregon State||2||4||2||2||3||13|