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2014 NBA Arena Experience Rankings

By Paul Swaney -- May 02, 2014 1:09 PM EDT


We are pleased to once again present our ranking of the arena experiences of the NBA. This year, we have updated reviews of every venue with the exception of Miami, Denver, Utah, and the Staples Center (both tenants). Our ratings are meant to measure the overall fan experience of attending a game. Factors we include are food and beverage in the arena, overall atmosphere, the neighborhood, the fans, access (which includes parking, traffic, restrooms, and concourses), return on investment, and an "extras" category for any unique or bonus points. We use our official ratings when determining the ranking with "crowd reviews" (those reviews from our members) as our primary tiebreaker. If you attended a game this season, please share your experiences by clicking on the red "Rate It" button on any review page. Without further ado, our 2014 NBA Arena rankings:

  1. AT&T Center - Home of the San Antonio Spurs

    For the second consecutive season, the San Antonio Spurs take the top spot in terms of overall fan experience in the NBA. The Spurs are perhaps the most understated team in NBA history, having quietly won four championships since 1999 with Tim Duncan, the least controversial star the league has ever seen. Fortunately for fans, their arena is similar in many respects: clean, smartly designed, and doing things the right way. If there were a championship for best venue in the league, it would go to the AT&T Center.

  2. Staples Center - Home of the Los Angeles Lakers

    Things just seem right with the world when the Lakers are making deep playoff runs. Let's hope that the 2014-15 season sees a return to relevance for the purple and gold. Opened in 1999, the Lakers would gain even more of a Los Angeles identity, moving to the downtown Staples Center, a venue which has acted as the keystone of the downtown revitalization. The arena wasted no time making its mark on professional sports, as the Lakers won the NBA championship in its opening season.

  3. Moda Center - Home of the Portland Trail Blazers

    Up an impressive 8 spots in our survey from last year, a game at the Moda Center is an experience. The staff, from top to bottom, demonstrates that it is committed to ensuring the fans have a great time. Winning basketball certainly contributes to an improved experience, and the Blazers seem to have a talented young core that can contend for years to come.

  4. Philips Arena - Home of the Atlanta Hawks

    The Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena may not immediately come to mind when you think of great NBA venues, but when it comes to food, seating, access and return on investment, the Hawks make sure you leave Philips Arena happy.

  5. Madison Square Garden - Home of the New York Knicks

    Beginning in 2011, MSG began a 3-year, billion dollar makeover that is being referred to as a "Transformation." The finishing touches were applied during the third and final phase of construction, which took place during the summer months in 2013 and the grand re-opening took place in October with a Knicks pre-season game. They got it right and now Madison Square Garden is again the iconic venue that New York City deserves.

  6. Toyota Center - Home of the Houston Rockets

    The Rockets pay homage to their storied history and great players in both the concourses and inside the seating area. Retired jerseys hang from the rafters including Rocket greats Rudy Tomjanovich, Calvin Murphy, Moses Malone, Clyde Drexler, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Also hanging from the rafters are banners for Houston's back-to-back NBA Finals Championships (1994 and 1995), banners listing division and conference championships and also a banner honoring Hakeem Olajuwon's NBA record 3,830 blocked shots. Some of the same players are featured in the concourse with a massive painted mural on the wall.

  7. Staples Center - Home of the Los Angeles Clippers

    As you walk into the arena, you begin to feel the Clipper environment. The fans are clad in red and blue colors. As you walk towards your seats through the black curtains, you'll see the court is now surrounded by red and the paint is colored blue. The open wall space throughout the interior of the arena is covered by Clippers banners. The upper wall space in corners of the arena has projection Clippers logos and the ridiculously impressive scoreboard is now flashing red and blue. The public address announcer, David Courtney, will soon welcome you to Clipper basketball and you'll be in for an entirely different experience than the other LA-based basketball team presents.

  8. Chesapeake Energy Arena - Home of the Oklahoma City Thunder

    There are a number of nicknames applied to the stadium, with the most accurate being Loud City, which describes the upper deck. With a population of 7,631, Loud City is responsible for keeping the decibel level uncomfortably high and they do a very good job at it. The pregame ceremony is a tribute to Oklahoma, not just the city but the state as well. Played on the top-notch high-definition scoreboard, the video demonstrated the close-knit community feeling that really set the mood for the game.

  9. Pepsi Center - Home of the Denver Nuggets

    The Pepsi Center catches the fan and any architecture lover's eye right away. It combines soft curves and an overall elliptical shape, contrasting them with sharp triangle-like protrusions that are made up of hundreds of windows - creating awesome glass facades, giving everyone a "wow" sensation when it is admired from close or afar.

  10. Barclays Center - Home of the Brooklyn Nets

    The Nets have gone all the way with their dark uniforms and the matching interior of the Barclays Center, which have led to the nickname Darklays Center. In truth, there is a lot to like here, from the location to the effort to respect the history of the franchise and its new neighborhood, to the food choices. Yes, prices are high, but this is New York City and people line up to pay. If you are looking for an affordable vacation, you are probably not heading to the Big Apple anyway. If you happen to be in town around the same time as the Nets, consider a day in Brooklyn followed by an evening at the Barclays Center. You will not be disappointed.

  11. AmericanAirlines Arena - Home of the Miami Heat

    The in-game production is quite something. In the pre-game there is the expected introduction which is accompanied by a giant flame-filled entrance. The public announcer is excellent and has a way of pumping up the crowd in a very subtle way. In a tip of the hat to the large Latino community in South Florida, the announcer let's you know when there are "dos minutos" left in the quarter.

  12. American Airlines Center - Home of the Dallas Mavericks

    Overall, the AAC is an excellent venue for basketball. The stadium is extremely clean, the staff is friendly, and the surrounding area is easily worth a full day's visit.

  13. Wells Fargo Center - Home of the Philadelphia 76ers

    The Wells Fargo Center is one of the largest arenas in the NBA. But the design makes it feel like a much smaller facility. And it is a loud facility. Although the 76ers rarely sell out, the arena will rumble with crowd noise similar to a sold-out arena.

  14. EnergySolutions Arena - Home of the Utah Jazz

    The defining characteristic of ESA is volume. Jazz fans consistently rank among the loudest in the NBA, even during "down" years. If you have sensitive hearing (or want to prevent having it), earplugs are always available at guest services. Otherwise, be prepared to soak in (or bring) the noise.

  15. Time Warner Cable Arena - Home of the Charlotte Hornets

    A sizeable atrium awaits fans who enter on the lower level. The Charlotte Bobcats team store is part of this atrium, just to the right of the entry doors. Escalators bring fans to the main concourse, which is wide and spacious. Even with the afforded space on the main level, navigation can be a bit tough as fans wait in line for food and drink or congregate among friends. Be sure to leave a couple of extra minutes to reach your seat.

  16. TD Garden - Home of the Boston Celtics

    While the current incarnation of the Garden still has a ways to go to match the tenure of its predecessor, TD Garden has emerged as a first-rate venue in its own right. It may never match the notoriety or history of the original Garden, but it has been steadily building its own history, hosting an NBA championship and multiple NBA finals. It remains a must see destination for any true basketball fan.

  17. Air Canada Centre - Home of the Toronto Raptors

    A trip to see the Raptors may surprise you. There are times when the experience can rival any in the NBA. What is exciting for the team is that there seems to be an air of hope buzzing through the crowd and the city. What was once an experience filled with apathy is now an experience showing some hope on the horizon.

  18. Bankers Life Fieldhouse - Home of the Indiana Pacers

    Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers, debuted November 6, 1999, as Conseco Fieldhouse. The 18,165-capacity indoor arena replaced the 25-year-old Market Square Arena that was vastly outdated for the NBA at the turn of the century. In Indiana, basketball is a way of life from the early ages, and high school gymnasiums are among the largest in the world. Bankers Life Fieldhouse fits the motif of a world-class arena in this basketball-rich state.

  19. Quicken Loans Arena - Home of the Cleveland Cavaliers

    Located in downtown Cleveland, Quicken Loans Arena is home to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Originally opened in 1994 as Gund Arena, it was renamed in 2005 when Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert became majority owner and overhauled the franchise. Popularly referred to as ‘The Q’ (thanks to Cavs color commentator Austin Carr), the arena is also home to the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League (AHL), the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League (AFL), the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Basketball Tournaments, and the Cleveland Crush of the Lingerie Football League (LFL).

  20. The Palace of Auburn Hills - Home of the Detroit Pistons

    Much of the arena still feels shiny and new, and recent renovations that have made for a cleaner presentation in the concourse, and added some innovative group and party areas helping make the Palace a wonderful place to see the NBA. Now the team just needs to show improvement in the win column and the fans need to come out to see them.

  21. Smoothie King Center - Home of the New Orleans Pelicans

    The 2014 season saw the NBA All-Star Game take place in New Orleans. Less than a month before the festivities, local beverage maker Smoothie King, realizing the potential for some nationwide exposure during one of the most popular sporting events on the calendar, negotiated the naming rights to the basketball venue and the rather dully dubbed New Orleans Arena was suddenly the Smoothie King Center. This was not the only recent change in New Orleans, as the Hornets became the Pelicans during the off-season, leading to some raised eyebrows in other NBA cities. Well, the brown pelican is the state bird of Louisiana, so the new moniker made sense to the locals, who generally don’t care about the opinions of outsiders much anyway.

    There were also some physical changes made to the arena, with the first phase of a $50 million renovation program having been completed in time for the 2013-2014 season. Most of the changes affected the club spaces, but there were also additions of a Party Perch, loge seating, as well as larger locker rooms.

  22. Amway Center - Home of the Orlando Magic

    The Orlando Magic have fallen the furthest on our rankings of NBA arena experiences, and there is no doubt that a beautiful arena can only solve so much when there is a team on the floor putting together a 23-win season.

  23. FedExForum - Home of the Memphis Grizzlies

    Memphis is a college basketball town and the Grizzlies are a secondary tenant, much as they were in Vancouver with the Canucks the local lords. What this means is that the team is always trying to sell more tickets, rather than entertain the fans that are there. During breaks, you are as likely to hear an ad for upcoming games or a ticket promotion as to have t-shirts fired into the crowd.

  24. Oracle Arena - Home of the Golden State Warriors

    Oracle Arena is a fine venue for NBA basketball with an excellent fanbase. The Warriors would certainly benefit from a downtown arena but until that happens there is nothing that should prevent you from making a trip to the arena.

  25. Talking Stick Resort Arena - Home of the Phoenix Suns

    The Suns Gorilla is also one of the best mascots ever. Everyone has heard of the Gorilla, and he does not disappoint during the game. He's gotta be the most entertaining part about going to a Suns game. After the third quarter, he gets to show off his skills while getting the crowd ready to give the Suns a boost in the final period.

  26. BMO Harris Bradley Center - Home of the Milwaukee Bucks

    Not many want to go to Bucks games, and if they do buy tickets it is to support a winner. The BMO Harris Bradley Center isn't the newest arena, and it certainly isn't the best, but for fans of the game of basketball, it's well worth a trip to watch the Bucks play.

  27. Target Center - Home of the Minnesota Timberwolves

    Target Center is a fun place to visit whether by yourself, with friends, or with your family. The arena doesn't have many bells and whistles like most new arenas do. The Metrodome was known to be a no frills stadium and you'll get the feeling here as well.

  28. Verizon Center - Home of the Washington Wizards

    Most of the atmosphere here comes from the visiting fans, and the ushers do a pretty good job of letting them know that they are not welcome. The PA system is loud and constant beyond the point of being obnoxious, especially when juxtaposed with the near-silent crowd.

  29. United Center - Home of the Chicago Bulls

    Frank Sinatra is the cue. As soon as you hear Ol’ Blue Eyes start to sing, it’s time to take your seat. Then the music changes, and your pulse quickens. Images of Sloan, Van Lier, Jordan, Pippen, Rodman in flight. The national anthem. The opposing lineup. The lights go down. You hear the familiar strains of “Sirius”…and the chills begin. Welcome to a Chicago Bulls game at the United Center.

  30. Sleep Train Arena - Home of the Sacramento Kings

    It seems that the Kings are a franchise in transition and their venue and vibes within it, are evidence. California's capital city deserves better than current ownership and with a little nurturing, the Kings can once again thrive in the city.


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