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Ranking the MWC arenas

Published: Thursday, Feb. 17 2011 4:55 p.m. MST

AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ron Jenkins
I’m beginning to head down the home stretch of my final swing around the Mountain West Conference with the Runnin’ Utes. Just a couple of regular-season road trips remain for the Utes, before the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas, then it’s off to the Pac-12 next season. While I have to say I’m really excited about what lies ahead when the University of Utah joins the Pac-12 next season, I will miss many of the stops I’ve been fortunate enough to make in my years covering the Mountain West. Since we are in the midst of hoops season I thought I would rate my favorite arenas in the MWC from a broadcasting and atmosphere angle. The Mountain West has one of the most diverse array of arenas and fieldhouses in the country, so here’s my take on the best and worst the MWC has to offer.
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Still Blue after all these years
Kaysville, UT

How ridiculously biased can you get?

SJ Bobkins
Gilbert, AZ

Bill your bias is showing, no way can Huntsman be a better venue or more intimidating than The Pit, SDS's arena, Thomas and Mack, nor The Marriott. This piece would be a great pick me up for the Crimson Club, or in the U alumni journal, but in a paper read by folks that aren't Utes, it comes across as a joke. Amazing the Utes finish #1 only in your blog and it's a set-up.

Digbads
South Jordan, UT

Ick. I'm sorry, but the Huntsman Center is a bad arena. It looks like it needs to be finished. Also, the fans are so far away from the court. Its too bad that its not as well done as Weber State's court.

sdunn
Spanish Fork, UT

Good list hommer now take off your red goggles!

Duckhunter
American Fork, UT

Please bill the least you could have done was make a pretense of objectivity. The huntsman center is outdated, rundown and most of all empty.

LOL

BlueDave
Pleasant Grove, Utah

Everyone knows it is the PIT! How can anyone take you seriously? You don't even list the reason why you chose the Huntsman Center other than it is home... HOMER!

Go Big Blue!!!
Bountiful, UT

So the reason that the #1 Huntsman Center looks half empty at game time is because it is too nice to use?

BYU DUDE
Provo, UT

The only time that arena is #1 is when jimmer is playing there.

CKirkland
South Jordan, UT

You want to see how the atmosphere at the Marriott Center is? Search Youtube for "BYU vs. SDSU 1/26/11--Opening and Intros". Rivals any NBA venue!

rjpkp
Cottonwood Heights, UT

I think Cougar fans would agree, Bill. There was no place like home this year when Cougar fans outnumbered Ute fans at the Huntsman Center. How did that turn out for you? Way to be unbiased. The Pac-10 teams are licking their chops.

Dave S
Holladay, UT

Great article Bill you are right on with your rankings!!

Wash DC Reader
Reston, VA

In order of fan attendance, facility conveniences, and overall atmosphere the list should objectively be:

1. New Mexico
2. The Marriott Center
3. UNLV
4. San Diego St.
5. Col St.
6. Utah
7. Air Force
8. Wyo
9. TCU

2-4 could be a tie, but that is up for debate. What is not up for debate is that Utah should not be anywhere near number 1 on the list.

Davis
Kaysville, UT

You got to be kidding me. What world are you living in. Thank you for the laugh. First of all Bill you have to have fans at the game. Second thing stop seeing things all red. I have been in better high school gyms. So go on living in your dream world ok Bill.

SSmith
Washington, UT

What a waste of an article. This belongs in the Chronicle on the U campus and not in the DNews. Try harder Bill, this was a one-sided myopic view.

BYR
Woods Cross, UT

hmmm well, all the red must smell like roses...

Rock Of The Marne
Phoenix, AZ

I agree that his bias is coming through in spades especially given the last few years. I have to say hands down the PIT should be #1. Though you Y fans on here dogging on the Huntsman Center forget it has been chosen due to great basketball sight lines to hold many NCAA tournament games including the big one in 1979 (round makes for no weird angle seats ala the corners of the Marriott Center) . From my recollection the Marriott Center hasn't ever been chosen to host an NCAA Tournament game.

Where's Stockton ???
Bowling Green, OH

Well so much for impartiality. The only thing I can think of is that it must be that you like to hear yourself talk so I guess that would be a reason to rationalize your obvious bias for picking the Huntsman over the Pit, the Marriott Center or SDSU's Veijas Arena. There's definitely not much happening there to cause a stir...so you should get all the self gratification you want. Now that you've misled us on thisred herring of a story....I'll justaccept that I got suckered into reading it.

Chad S
Derby, KS

The Huntsman Center is also MY favorite arena to watch Jimmer.

Bottom Line
Draper, UT

Absolutely brutal ranking system. Did somebody not edit this before it made the press? Even in the Ute heydey the HC never matched "The Pit" or the Marriot Center with the student turnout. Utah is a commuter school and I would put the stadium about 5th or 6th in the MWC.

Balan
West Jordan, Utah

Hey - at least the Utes are #1 in something!

Wldflwr
Lehi, UT

Oh wow, I really needed a good laugh after a rough day. Totally agree with Wash DC Reader.

chromedome27
Orem, UT

Not having the NCAA finals at the Marriott Center deals much more with the unavailability of hotels in Provo than it does "sight lines" or "beauty". Having been to all the venues numerous times, I can tell you that the thought that the Huntsman Center is number one is silly. For personality, it ranks with the AA in Wyoming. For distance from the court, look at TCU. For cement warmth, it is there with Air Force Academy. I don't like the Marriott Center either for watching a game (if you are over 4'6", the chairs are too narrow and small) and the atmosphere is a little sterile, but it is better than the U. Huntsman center is #6 or #7 at best.

tantheman
Lindon, UT

OK seriously? What a joke! (No really I laughed out loud.) The Utah stadium doesn't even fill completely for the rivalry game against BYU.... and there is no way that they top the Pit. Utah has 7 losses at home so far. Wow.

Try again.

bigutefan
Las Vegas, NV

Yes, I can see how people see this list as bias. But, those who disagree are judging based on the Boylen/Giac years. The Huntsmen Center is rich in tradition hosting so many NCAA tourney with amazing games including the Magic vs. Bird championship. When Utah has a real coach, the Utes do not lose in this building. Yes the Marriott Center is the biggest, but the seats are horribly uncomfortable, and there is little leg room if any. Sitting in the Huntsmen Center, every seat is facing the floor. Marriott Center you sometimes have to turn your whole head to the left or right just to watch the game. The PIT is a great venue and should be in the top. San Diego States is too new, and it only has been packed and a winning venue for a few years now. I think the Thomas and Mack may be ranked too low. When the Rebel fans get going, that place is as intimidating as anywhere. The Huntsmen Center is truly a piece of art, and yes I'm biased. Maybe not #1, but absolutely near the top. Those bleachers in the Marriott Center are not fun.

EdGrady
Idaho Falls, ID

I like the Huntsman Center for the simple fact that it's really easy to get a good seat. Why is that?

Dee J
Portland, OR

Rock of the Marne: The MC hosted NCAA Regionals in 72, 77, 79, and 82. Not sure why they haven't hosted since 82, but I would guess the reasons might include concessions (no beer, no Coke), distance from SLC airport and local hotel options, and the reasons you mention. It might just be a lousy TV broadcasting venue. Also, the arena size likely isn't as big a factor now with the ability to jack up ticket prices as well as the NCAA probably making way more on broadcast rights with CBS.

We had season tickets when I was growing up in the Cosic/Ainge/Roberts/Durrant years, and I always thought it was cool that when the lights went down, there was nothing to see but that court, unlike an NBA arena with marquis and neon signs all around the upper levels. The atmosphere was phenomenal, like it is again today. But I can imagine that during the lousy (1-26) years, the MC probably felt like a ginormous mausoleum.

  • 9:32 p.m. Feb. 17, 2011
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moodyblue77
Provo, UT

Looks like there's nothing left to say for Mr. Riley. He'll have to go a long way before he matches the enthusiasm and homerism of the great Bill Marcroft.

cactusflats
American Fork, UT

The Huntsman Center is a great venue. There are a lot of spots to kick back and read, drape your legs over the empty seat below you, and really concentrate on a good book. Peace and quiet abound, especially during games. The Lobos may have "The Pit," but the Utes have "The Library."

BluCoug
Provo, UT

Bill isn't about time you took off those red color glasses. But hey Southern Baptist probably ranks the Huntmans center # 1 too. Ha Ha Ha

But Bill you still have my favorite call of all time when you called the Beck to Harline as time had expired at RES! Thanks for the memories!

Advice take off the red glasses!

The Rock
Federal Way, WA

I read through the whole thing for that?

I think I will stick with Harman.

MAFU
Salt Lake City, UT

"The huntsman center is outdated, rundown and most of all empty."

One of those three observations is correct. If the Huntsman Center is outdated and rundown, then so is the beloved Marriot Center. The concourses at both places are tight. The bathrooms are mid-evil at best. College basketball arenas are not meant to be Taj Mahal's. Ask any Maryland fan or NC State fan about their new digs. Any die-hard Terp fan will tell you that Maryland hoops has not been the same since leaving Cole Field House. Most new modern arenas are sterile, cookie cutter, no personality venues. I'll take the Einar Nielson Field House and Huntsman Center any day of the week.

What Yeah
Centerville, UT

So, let me get this straight...this is a Top 10 list with 3 being the highest, then 2, then 4...
Please tell me this article only makes it into the online version and that the Deseret News won't have to tell all of their paperboys and girls to go collect today's edition.

mussingaround
Palo Alto, CA

Shocking!

not...

All I had to do was read "by line" to know which arena Bill Riley would rank #1.

A serious journalist, of course, would have done a survey and gotten a concensus of opinions from around the league.

Mount Olympus
Holladay, UT

There is no debate about it. Huntsman Center has had the best College basketball games played in it in the MWC. Remember Bird vs Magic back when they were in college? Classic.

Only one that might come close is the Thomas & Mack. Had that great UNLV game, also has had NBA allstar game, etc.

All the other arenas don't have the history of the NCAA tournament games, etc.

  • 1:28 a.m. Feb. 18, 2011
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tmoney
Tulsa, OK

The Huntsman Center is a joke. There is a way too much space between the court and the fans. Ranking this gym above the PIT is the worst example of bias I've seen. Ranking it it in the top 5 is beyond a stretch. What a waste of my time.

Making Sense
Herriman, UT

The Hunstman Center? Maybe for gymnastics where they typically double the attendance of basketball!!

fan29
Orem, UT

WOW, what a homer report. The Special Events Center is way down the line at 6, 7 or 8. They never fill the place. The Pit at New Mexico is the hardest place to play. They fill that place every game, even if New Mexico is having a bad season.

Flashback
Kearns, UT

The Pit is a legitamate #1, the Marriott Center #2. The Huntsman Center should be 8 or 9. Up in the top you need binoculars to see the court.

rogerdpack2
Orem, UT

TCU's Daniel-Meyer is already sold out for Saturday's game against BYU, BTW. Though I guess it's the first time since 2004 or so.

3grandslams
Iowa City, IA

Wow! Surprised Riley rated the Huntsman center #1. Didn't see that homer call coming. All he could say was , no place like home? Please if you're going to rank venues, at least be objective.

The Pit should have run away with the top spot, hands down. Riley is a joke. The Huntsman center is too dark to be a top venue and whoever thought of putting cement walls behind the baskets?

This PAC 12 thing has gone to utah's head way to fast.

botchan
Draper, UT

RE: Rock Of The Marne - the Marriott Center never hosted a NCAA tournament game? I guess it was just my imagination that I watched Patrick Ewing and Georgetown defeat Oregon State in the 1982 regional finals or Depaul upset UCLA 1979 regional finals. I guess that never happened.

I do that think Jimmer really likes the Huntsman Center though.

HopefulHeber
Heber City, UT

I agree with many of the previous comments! This article is a joke! The Huntsman Center is way down the list.

With all of the changes done to the DNews, is there anyway to delete articles that are a joke? No wonder many national news outlets wont consider DeseretNews as a reliable news source.

AribaD
Spanish Fork, UT

I double checked the date to make sure it wasn't April 1. That list is just foolish. I usually like Bill Riley but his cred factor just took a big tumble.

Tommy2Shoes
Lehi, UT

UCLA played an NCAA tourney game at the Marriot during the Cosic era. BYU was hoping to play UCLA at home but were upset by Long Beach up in Idaho the week before. This was in the 70's. Maybe you aren't old enough to remember the glory days of UCLA. I do.

bbzebra
Sandy, UT

It must be all those Ute fans disguised as red seats that have you confused. Are there any comments tha agreed with your assessment? And I thought Wrubell was a homer. I am a big Cougar fan, and even through MY blue glasses, I know it's the pit.

J1234
Spanish Fork, Utah

Hahaha, BYU North? Jimmer's House? I mean, Jimmer made it a fun place to be for BYU fans, but how many Utah fans really care about the Huntsman Center?

AZnewser
Snowflake, AZ

TCU has chair seating that is wooden and folds up... Kind of cool. The MC has great atmosphere but no leg room and even less tush room on the bench seats. Fortunately this year there hasn't been much sitting!

oh ye confederacy of dunces
Flushing, NY

Whats up w/ this article? Sorry Bilbo, but dumb. I realize you were going for some tongue in cheek joke about how you are a U fan and there is no place like home...but it simply doesn't work in the Des News, and it backfired ridiculously. Not funny,even in the least.

NevadaCoug
Overton, NV

The Pit is #1 in the MWC. There can really be no doubt about that. The T&M and Marriot Center are #2 and #3, in that order. Yeah, I'm a Cougar fan, and I have to rank the MC behind two other venues. Viejas is currently #4, but if you go historical, it has to rank behind the Huntsman.

Riley was about 3 off on where he should have put the Huntsman.

And the NCAA games really don't count. You have to account for the typical atmosphere you face when playing in a venue. That means when the home team is on the court, not when neutral opponents face off.

NevadaCoug
Overton, NV

Another note: when talking about notable venues like Cameron, Allen Fieldhouse, and the Pit, people talk about how tough it is to play there. So let's talk about home winning streaks. It wasn't that long ago that BYU had a home winning streak of 50-something games. I know UNLV at one point in the 90's had a home winning streak of around 60. That is a tough place to play, with a great atmosphere. What's the Ute home winning streak record? Is it anywhere near 50?

eagle
Provo, UT

Anyone that says that the Marriott Center should be ranked higher than this has to have their IQ tested. Most of the seats are bleacher vs. real seats. They are uncomfortably narrow. Since the building is square pray you are never in the corner as the sightlines are brutal and since it is so big if you get too high the players look like ants.

But who cares anyway? BYU will be in the WWC next year so they'll get to play in gyms like the size of Alta HS. And the U goes to the PAC-10 and Pauley Pavilion and that ends that argument.

As for history, yes the Huntsman Center has it. Some of us remember Steve Nash and Santa Clara taking out AZ there. But I think for great atmosphere The Pit has to be number one!

Dougedug
Henderson, NV

WOW Bill your rankings show your love of the Utes. Even though I am no fan of New Mexico I would say that may be the hardest place to play in and come up with a a win for the visiting team. With the MC right behind, if BYU would have won there this year then The Pit would drop to two. My rankings are as followed but I think all these arena are hard to play in.

1. The Pit
2. MC
3. Viejas Arena
4. Thomas & Mack Center
5. The Arena-Auditorium
6. Huntsman Center
7. Clune Arena
8. Moby Arena
9. Daniel-Meyer Coliseum

NevadaCoug
Overton, NV

Did a little research. Longest home winning streaks for these teams in the last 20 years:

UNLV 59, early 90s (actually had a 72 game home winning streak back in the 70's)
Utah 54, ended in December 2000 by Weber State
BYU 53, ended by #6 Wake Forest in Jan 2009

For New Mexico I didn't find an exact number, but I did see a reference to a 40-something game home winning streak. So, all four are tough places to play. I still don't think the Huntsman should be number one because of recent history, but after further study I guess Riley shouldn't be blasted too much for selecting them first. It still smacks of homer-ism to utmost degree, however.

Wayne Rout
El Paso, TX

In the Huntsman Center the fans that can spell make the cute little "U" with their fingers. It's wonderful.

Zona Zone
Mesa, AZ

I'm guessing when Bill Riley "ranks" the Pac-10 arenas, the Huntsman Center's tradition will somehow trump that of Pauley Pavilion. As for the MWC, here's how the rankings should have worked out.

1. New Mexico ... I think this cannot even be debated.
2. Thomas & Mack (UNLV)
3. Marriott Center (BYU)
4. Huntsman Center (Utah)
5. Arena-Auditorium (Wyoming)
6. Viejas Arena (SDSU)
7. Moby Arena (Colo. State)
8. Clune Arena (Air Force)
9. The Quietest Place on TCU's campus (TCU's arena)

scambuster
American Fork, UT

How silly! The Huntsman Center gets #1 because it is "home?" What rubbish!

BlameItOnTheOfficials
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Not a bad comparision and commentary on the arenas until he gets to #1 -- and that just destroyed the credibility of the whole article. What a waste of time.

RockOn
Spanish Fork, UT

Stupid article.
Yes...I'm a BYU fan but very objective on seating. I detest the Marriott Center seating. Benches are horrible, terrible color, chairs are too close.

To watch a game I'd take:
1. The Pit
2. UNLV
3. Huntsman
4. SDSU
5. MC
The rest are a joke and the WCC will be an improvement.

AS to ferocity and a tough place to play:
1. The Pit
2. Marriott Center
3. UNLV
4. SDSU
5. Huntsman

Riley's list is ridiculous in the way it isn't well thought out.

glenrd3
South Jordan, UT

Wow who would have thought that the utah broadcaster would put them at # 1 and BYU at # 3? If your going the last 10 years then it's no contest BYU is ahead of the u, plus a team with a losing record at home shouldn't even be considered for the # 1 spot this year.

SJ Bobkins
Gilbert, AZ

Lesson #607, NCAA universities BID to host NCAA games at their arena of a nearby NBA arena, (UU with ESA). BYU hasn't chosen to do so because of the Sunday play requirement in the bid, Utah has. The Ute arena was only chosen in the sense that Utah is near a major airport has ample lodging and promised the NCAA the largest amount of money of fellow bidders. If you made a choice on merit, why on earth would the mini-dome at Idaho State also have been a popular location, in the past? Since you can't play in your own arena, during the early rounds, hosting a tourney game isn't a big deal. For some time, the NCAA has shown preference for seating capacity, all things being equal, Utah (Huntsman) will never host another regional final, nor a final as they did in Magic Johnson, Larry Bird days. BYU would certainly be preferred, if the bids were the same dollar amount. If being ignorant brings you joy, keep that thought.

UtahStizzle
Salt Lake City, UT

Wow, amazing article, and incredibly objective. I can't wait for the rankings for the top MWC basketball teams this year. I'm thinking your list will read like:

9. TCU
8. Wyoming
7. Air Force
6. New Mexico
5. Colorado St.
4. UNLV
3. BYU
2. San Diego St.
1. Utah - 'Best team I've ever seen' (and I'm guessing only)

With such an amazing team, I can see why Utah won't do home and homes anymore with Utah State. Plus, that crappy old Spectrum / gym up there in Logan, with their mere 10,000 fans, just can't compete with the half-capacity filled Huntsman Center.

BigB
Pleasantville, NJ

It's something that two of the MWC arenas have two of the most memorable college games of all times. The 1983 NC game won by NC State at the Pit and the 1979 NC game between Magic and Bird at the Huntsman Center. The HC opened when I was a student there in the late '60's. The really nice thing from a fan's perspective is there are no bleachers. Everyone actually has a seat.

  • 7:08 p.m. Feb. 20, 2011
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rushfari@isu.edu
Pocatello, ID

On the Marriott Center never being chosen for a NCAA tournament game because of "bad sight lines," I remember living in Seattle when a game was hosted at the Kingdome (might have even been the "big game") and I can assure you that sight lines in a baseball/football stadium for a basketball game aren't all that good.

And it might be because BYU is a religious-based school. Have any of the church schools around the country ever hosted a game? I don't know ...

I think The Pit is number-one in the MWC.

Marriott Center seems in need of renovation. Put in some real seats, replace the bleachers and the lower capacity (I'd guess 18,000) would still be plenty.

As an aside, I hope playing in the WCC gyms next season won't take away some of the "big game" ambience that is enjoyed in the MWC. They are attractive buildings, but 2,000-4,000 seats gives them a high school feel.

Scandrus
Cedar Hills, Utah

Your out of your mind!! The HC is outdated and is empty, it doesn't come close to the Marriott Center or the Pit!!

SJ Bobkins
Gilbert, AZ

NO ONE gets picked, universities BID for the right, once a set of regulations has been met. Universities bid other local arenas not just their own. If Rock of The Marne's logic follows through, why have Utah officials bid the ToxBox rather than the Huntsman? Arizona bids more than anyone is the region, thus they get the some games. B-Ball is THE sport in Tucson without any pro franchises in the area, they know they can fill the joint, and even if they lose a few grand, the TV exposure is worth big bucks. Dayton does the same thing, in spite of the less than nice facility and the rundown, rust belt surroundings. BYU has a problem in not having the practice facilities most other programs have so they and the women have to use the big place, shared by 1,000,000 community, and BYU events. At one time they did bid, but filling 23,000 seats and making money has it's problems, 13,000 seats is a bit easier. In the old days, as an accounting student with athlete dreams, prepared the ASU bids to the NCAA, for baseball tourneys, it's a business.

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