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August 9, 2018

Top 5 Largest College Basketball Arenas in NCAA Division I Sports

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You might be surprised by the capacity of the largest college basketball arenas. Moreover, some of the schools on this list probably aren’t ones you would associate with having prominent college basketball programs. In fact, the majority of NCAA DI basketball teams on this list have larger arenas than some of the most prominent NBA teams. The Chase Center, which is currently under construction but expected to be home of the Golden State Warriors starting in the 2019-20 NBA season, will have a capacity of 18,064. With that in mind, here are the Top 10 Largest College Basketball Arenas in NCAA DI Basketball:

#5: Thompson–Boling Arena (Knoxville, TN) – Tennessee Basketball (21,678 Capacity)

Officially opened in 1987, the Thompson–Boling Arena is the third-largest on-campus arena on this list and home to the Tennessee Volunteers’ men’s and women’s basketball programs. Often referred to as The Summit in tribute to the Lady Vols legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt, the baselines of the court are painted the unmistakable Tennessee Volunteers orange and white checkered pattern. The Tennessee men’s basketball team, playing in Thompson–Boling Arena, still proudly holds the attendance record for a regular-season SEC game with 24,610 people attending their 1989 home game against Kentucky. The Tennessee women’s basketball team holds an even more spectacular record: the all-time NCAA regular-season attendance record of 24,643 people in a game against their archrival UConn in January of 2006 (Unnamed Writer, UTSports.com).

#4: Dean Smith Center (Chapel Hill, NC) – University of North Carolina Men’s Basketball (21,750 Capacity)

At #4 on the Top Ten list, the Dean Smith Center is the second largest on-campus arena in NCAA DI basketball. Opened in 1986, this is the home of the legendary University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels men’s basketball program where superstars like Michael Jordan began their basketball career (enough said). Named after the great UNC men’s basketball head coach Dean Smith – who lead the Tar Heels to two NCAA national championships and was inducted into both the NBA and NCAA Hall of Fame – this arena is arguably one of the most recognized in college basketball. With a capacity of 21,750, it dramatically trumps ACC rival Duke’s stadium, which has a maximum capacity of just 9,314. With six total NCAA national championships, most recently in 2017, unlike the majority of basketball programs on this list, the UNC Tar Heels are indeed worthy of a top-notch facility in the Dean Smith Center.

#3: KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY) – Louisville Basketball (22,090 Capacity)

Photo by Populous.com

While the KFC Yum! Center is considered an off-campus arena; it’s almost exclusively utilized as the home of the Louisville Cardinals’ men’s and women’s basketball programs. Although it’s the third largest NCAA DI basketball arena in the country, ironically it’s only the second largest NCAA DI basketball arena in the state of Kentucky (Smith, Forbes). Considered a major arena in the United States because it’s one of the largest between Chicago and Cleveland, the KFC Yum! Center is also occasionally used for major concerts. This arena saw its attendance record on March 9, 2013, in a Louisville men’s basketball home game against Notre Dame; this was the same season the Cardinals’ men’s basketball program won the NCAA March Madness tournament. The Cardinals’ national title was later vacated after an NCAA investigation revealed the Louisville men’s basketball program used improper and illegal recruiting techniques in an attempt to sway high school recruits to join their program, including hiring strippers and escorts for big-name recruits during their official visits (Forde, Yahoo Sports).

#2: Rupp Arena (Lexington, KY) – Kentucky Men’s Basketball (23,500 Capacity)

Photo by Quinn Foster I UK Athletics

As mentioned, the home of the Louisville Cardinals was only the second largest NCAA DI men’s basketball arena in Kentucky; the largest is the Rupp Arena, home of the Kentucky Wildcats’ men’s basketball program. The Rupp Arena is the largest off-campus arena in NCAA DI men’s basketball, but similar to Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center it’s almost exclusively used by the Kentucky Wildcats’ men’s basketball program. Named after the legendary former Kentucky men’s basketball coach Adolph Rupp, who led the Wildcats to four national titles, the Rupp Arena is considered the current largest basketball-specific arena in the United States (Gasaway, ESPN). The Kentucky Wildcats’ men’s basketball program has eight total NCAA national championships, second only to the UCLA Bruins who have eleven (NCAA.org). Rupp Arena attendance record of 24,480 was reached on January 2, 2010, when Kentucky men’s basketball beat their in-state rival Louisville Cardinals 71-62 (Unnamed Writer, UKAthletics.com).

#1: Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY) – Syracuse Basketball (33,000 Capacity)

Photo by Syracuse.com

Home of the Syracuse Orange men’s and women’s basketball team, the Carrier Dome is by far the largest arena in NCAA DI basketball with a maximum capacity of 33,000. Opened in 1980, the Carrier Dome is also the largest on-campus arena in NCAA DI basketball. The Carrier Dome is unique because it’s a true multi-purpose stadium that’s home to the Syracuse football, basketball, and lacrosse teams. With a maximum capacity of 49,262 for Syracuse Orange home football games, this is undoubtedly a big reason the Carrier Dome’s capacity is almost 10,000 fans greater than the second-ranked arena on this list (StadiumDB.com). Attendance for Syracuse men’s basketball has surpassed the maximum listed capacity several times; the record attendance for a college basketball game in the Carrier Dome came on February 1, 2014, when 35,446 fans came to watch the Syracuse Orange beat their ACC rival Duke Blue Devils 91-89 in overtime (Clarke, The Washington Post). Being the largest domed stadium in the country, on any college campus, it’s not surprising the Carrier Dome has seen a fair share of very popular music performers such as Drake, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Kesha, Taylor Swift, Frank Sinatra, and many more (Unnamed Writer, Cuse.com).