UConn athletics take place in so many great venues throughout the state of Connecticut. With places on campus such as soccer’s Morrone Stadium and Gampel Pavilion and bigger off-campus stadiums such as the XL Center and Rentschler Field, each venue has its own strengths and weaknesses. The Daily Campus sports staff picked their favorite place to catch a game and why in this week’s roundtable.
Stephanie Sheehan: You know, all we ever hear about is Gampel. After all, it’s the most famous and most built-up stadium on the UConn campus. But if you ask me, Joseph J. Morrone Stadium, where the men’s soccer team plays, is my favorite- and the best. Morrone is quietly tucked away behind Shenkman, comfortably wedged across the street from both the softball and baseball fields, near Hilltop Apartments. That area of campus is the quaintest and most underrated spot you’ll come across if you take the time to seek it out. The team averaged second in the nation in attendance in 2015, meaning that there is no shortage of fans or enthusiasm at Morrone. The goal patrol is the most passionate and dedicated student section at UConn (and the security restrictions are much more lax than they are at Gampel). Nothing is better than watching a soccer game under the shining white lights of Morrone on a crisp October night. The field is surrounded by die-hard UConn soccer fans as we heckle the opposing goalkeeper, and the local Mansfield residents who often have to cover their kids’ ears when they walk by us. Plus, if you listen hard enough, you might be able to hear the echos of Ray Reid having a heart attack on the sideline every time UConn commits a penalty.
Molly Burkhardt: If I wanted to be cliché, I could say that all UConn arenas are my favorite, because I love UConn sports. Unfortunately, there are some that I wish could be relocated, bulldozed, etc. With that said, there are a few good ones to choose from. Prepare yourself for a hot take: my favorite UConn sporting venue is Gampel Pavilion. Home to half of the UConn men’s and women’s basketball home games, and located in the center of the Storrs campus, Gampel is always full of energy, as it’s the easiest venue for UConn students to access, ensuring that the student section is always full and always lively. Who could forget the Florida game two years ago, with the Shabazz buzzer beater and on court celebration? Regardless of how much I like Gampel, I can’t help but think how much better it could be. It’s rundown, which some may consider adds to the historical feel, but with the success the basketball program has brought to UConn, our court could and should be better. This is where the XL Center beats Gampel. It’s more modern, and it’s much bigger than the Storrs court. However, it’s also in downtown Hartford. A half hour car ride (probably a couple hours by foot if you’re that dedicated) means that fewer students attend XL Center games. These games are clearly held at XL for UConn alum and to maximize UConn’s profit. Though XL is a better fit for basketball, I’ll take the rundown, energetic court located right on my campus any day.
Josh Buser: An often overlooked UConn sports venue is J.O. Christian Field, home of the UConn baseball team. Walking by, you probably won’t even notice it due to the trees behind Burrill Family Field – home of UConn softball. However, what seems to be an undesirable location turns out to be a great quality for J.O. Christian Field. The feeling you get when you pass the trees and get your first look at the diamond is reminiscent of walking through the tunnel to get your first view at the field in a pro baseball stadium. The field almost feels like it’s on a completely different campus, and you really can’t find much else in sight, but the loneliness of the field is what makes it special.
Gampel Pavilion also has great qualities, but the roof of the building looks like it’s about to fall at any moment, limiting its potential for greatness. The XL Center is huge, but there aren’t many positives other than that. Events at the XL Center feel way too “corporate” for college games. For this reason, I’m a big supporter of the “Every Game at Gampel” campaign for men’s and women’s basketball as well as a remodeling of Freitas Ice Forum to make it big enough for the Ice Bus.
Matt Barresi: I think Freitas Forum is one of my favorite athletic venues simply because of its potential. With the move to Hockey East, the men’s hockey team has grown tremendously in popularity, they led in attendance their first season in the conference and were third this past year. That unfortunately makes playing real games at Freitas impractical, although Hockey East had already prevented them from doing so. However, a plus of Freitas being so small is it can be a more electric atmosphere – think Cameron Indoor Arena at Duke. I went to the exhibition game this season against Queen’s College, and even with a moderate crowd it was pretty loud. There are potential plans a few years off to expand Freitas to meet Hockey East standards and I think that would be a great idea. Building it out to a capacity and layout like Schneider Arena at Providence College, which is a great rink, would be incredible to have on campus. And like the basketball teams, they could still have around half of their games, especially the big ones, in Hartford at the XL Center.
Shahan Kamal: The obvious answer is going to be Gampel Pavilion, which is so great that it plays host to game winners, graduation ceremonies and more. However, I’m going to go with the XL Center, host of exciting competition in every game. It’s hard to think of the XL Center and not remember the crazy atmosphere that followed Ryan Boatright’s game winner against the Cincinnati Bearcats last year in the conference tournament. Each time I’ve been at the XL Center, the atmosphere has been downright electric. Every game in the XL is a dogfight until the end and features the best competition, unlike a lot of the blowouts that take place at Gampel. There’s no doubt that Gampel is great, but I would say that the XL is too good to overlook when discussing this university’s stadiums.
Shahan Kamal is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Josh Buser is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Molly Burkhardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.