To mark the beginning of the Major League Baseball season, we’re celebrating an era in baseball stadium design often maligned by fans and architects alike. Our celebration of the round ballpark will investigate the unique design features of these misunderstood buildings.

Palazzetto dello Sport. Rome, Italy. 1957. Pier Luigi Nervi

Pier Luigi Nervi is to architects what Pete Maravich is to basketball players or Fritz Lang is to film directors – a technical virtuoso whose extraordinary work so fundamentally broke from architectural tradition that his influence is only fully appreciated generations later.

London Aquatics Centre. London, UK. 2012. Zaha Hadid Architects

The London 2012 Olympic Games were held in several spectacular new purpose-built buildings in the UK capital this past summer; none however were quite as spectacular as Zaha Hadid’s Aquatic Centre.

Madison Square Garden. New York. NY

The third iteration of Madison Square Garden opened in 1968 and the imperfect building’s now famous round, cable-stayed roof was designed by structural engineer Fred Severud. Essentially the Garden’s roof works like a giant bicycle wheel lying on its side: pairs of inversely arched steel cables stretch between an exterior compression ring and an interior tension ring. This suspension cable roof system is less heavy and less expensive than a comparable steel or concrete roof would be, good since the 20,000-seat Garden sits above Penn Station below. At the time this was the largest ever steel cable suspension roof covering over 3 acres of column free interior, allowing for completely unobstructed views inside.

AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

As the gaze of a captivated audience locks in on the action below, a forgotten component of an arena is lurking above: the roof.

That’s it, we’re done. Our Preseason Top 10: College Basketball Edition is in the books and as expected it revealed some interesting trends. We took a sampling of ten college arenas based not on a subjective rating of their value, charm or noise level but rather, as we will no doubt see come March, on a subjective preseason rating of their home teams. The result is a cross-sectional look at modern American university arenas – gems, duds, stinkers and surprises. The tremendous range of arena-type has been the most fascinating part of this series. This variety tells us a lot about the state of sports architecture on American college campuses today.

THE PRESEASON TOP 10: COLLEGE BASKETBALL EDITION

ASSEMBLY HALL
Home of the Preseason No. 1 Indiana University Hoosiers
Capacity: 17,472
Bloomington, IN, 1971

The final stop on our tour, Bloomington, IN, a college town of just over 80,000, is, along with Lexington, Louisville, Lawrence and Chapel Hill, one of the great meccas of college hoops.

THE PRESEASON TOP 10: COLLEGE BASKETBALL EDITION

KFC YUM! CENTER
Home of the Preseason No. 2 University of Louisville Cardinals
Capacity: 22,000
Louisville, KY
2010

A ninety-minute drive west from Lexington brings us to Louisville, home of the University of Louisville Cardinals and the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center.

THE PRESEASON TOP 10: COLLEGE BASKETBALL EDITION

RUPP ARENA
Home of the Preseason No. 3 University of Kentucky Wildcats
Capacity: 23,500
Lexington, KY
1976

Our tour continues south, a three-hour drive from Columbus, OH to the University of Kentucky in Lexington, a place where basketball is worshiped and Rupp Arena is its cathedral

THE PRESEASON TOP 10: COLLEGE BASKETBALL EDITION

Value City Arena via Jay David Says

VALUE CITY ARENA AT THE JEROME SCHOTTENSTEIN CENTER
Home of the Preseason No. 4 Ohio State University Buckeyes

Capacity: 18,809
Columbus, OH
1998

A three-hour trip due south takes us to Columbus, OH and  the campus of the Ohio State University, Michigan’s fiercest arch rivals. Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center is home to Buckeye basketball and hockey and its 18,800-seating capacity makes it the largest arena in the Big-10 Conference.