I had that familiar disappointed feeling earlier this month while exiting an Ivy League basketball arena for the final time as a student broadcaster. Against Princeton earlier this month, junior guard Maodo Lo had orchestrated the greatest performance I had witnessed covering Columbia Athletics for WKCR, but his final long-distance shot—for a Lions win, for a potential postseason bid, to extend his new Ivy single-game record to 12 treys and to become the first Columbia player in 45 years to score 40 points—rolled just out of the basket.
The frequent agony notwithstanding, I wouldn’t trade the past two years of traveling to cover Columbia football and basketball for WKCR for anything. Having been to each Ivy League football stadium once and basketball arena (read: gym) twice, I would recommend the Ivy League tour to most. But should you want to be selective in where you visit, here are my reviews.
My experience at the football field was marred by the fact that it was below 40 degrees, and the press box was not fully enclosed. My limbs nearly fell off. The field was in miserable condition, and it was too far away from campus. The Bears play basketball in a typical Ivy League gym. I give it high marks for location, though. For a city seemingly centered around a mall, I am very fond of downtown Providence and Thayer Street on campus.
Fortunately, the weather was nice on the roof of the press box. Both venues were adequate. Probably not worth the voyage to the middle of nowhere by itself. The best thing about Cornell is its great sports information director.
Depressing. Maybe it’s because I never saw any blue sky in Hanover or because Columbia football reached its ultimate low point there in 2013, but each experience was just sad. The fact that the students do not go to the basketball games is the nail in the coffin.
Harvard Stadium boasts an authentic Ancient Eight feel, courtesy of its massive layout of concrete “seats.” Lavietes Pavilion is overheated, but the atmosphere is fun thanks to the five-straight Ivy basketball championships. The whole athletic complex is nicely laid out along the Charles River, creating a pleasant experience to walk around and into Harvard Square.
You probably should go to these venues if you haven’t already. Franklin Field screams tradition, with its abundance of seats, the toast-tossing, and the Penn Relays each year. And Jimmy John’s for the media! The Palestra is a place befitting of an Ivy League playoff game—even from miles above the court. (I have been to Meiklejohn Stadium several times, home of Penn’s baseball team, as well. You can skip that. The press box is nice. The view of the highway is not.)
A solid experience. The football stadium is a nice facility, especially the press box. Meanwhile, Jadwin Gym is unlike any other Ivy arena, and its quirky design has always given the Tigers a decisive home-court advantage. It feels like Princeton placed the court in the middle of a convention center, but it’s a unique Ivy League experience probably worth trying out.
There are not too many century-old buildings that deserve a visit, but the Yale Bowl is one of them. Much like Harvard Stadium, I can only imagine the atmosphere when the stands are filled for The Game each year. The outdoor press box was actually a cool experience, enhanced by the tremendous Italian food. I highly enjoy the Yale band’s expansive playlist, as well. Payne Whitney has more flair than most of the other Ivy “gyms,” but I would suggest instead heading to Yale Field for a baseball game. There is no college baseball field in the nation filled with that much history. Take a walk around the field and admire the greats who once stepped on that grass.
And as for the non-Ivy venues...
Lehigh, Goodman Stadium
Beware of the cannon that goes off when the Mountain Hawks score a touchdown. Fortunately, it turns out that if the visiting team cannot stop the Lehigh offense, they do relent at some point.
Fordham, Jack Coffey Field
Nothing special, though my experience was marred by extreme wind and an injured quarterback.
Monmouth, Kessler Field
They’re building a new football field for a reason.
For some reason, they do not give us personal televisions at Ivy League arenas.
Stony Brook, IFCU Arena
When the Seawolves finally get over the America East Tourney hump, I hope they get to do it at their gorgeous new home.
Webster Bank Arena
Nothing to dislike for a new multipurpose arena.
St. Francis Brooklyn, Pope Physical Education Center
Basically a high school gym adjacent to a cafeteria, and that probably makes up half the school. However, the atmosphere for the Northeastern Conference title game this month did make it seem pretty charming.
Kentucky, Rupp Arena
If you are a college basketball fan, you should probably come here at some point. There is no other reason to head to Lexington, but I doubt such an experience can be replicated.
Then again, none of these places have Manhattan. So there’s no shame in watching the Chairman from the friendly confines of Levien Gymnasium next season.
Ryan Young is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics and statistics. He is the sports director for WKCR. Roar Ryan Roar runs biweekly.