A few stadium thoughts

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It has been a year since Minnesota held its construction kickoff for TCF Bank Stadium, the 50,000-seat facility scheduled to open for the 2009 season. Of all the ongoing stadium projects in the Big Ten, Minnesota's will undoubtedly have the greatest impact on the program.

For all of coach Tim Brewster's effervescence and glass-half-full attitude, Minnesota was never going to get back to the glory days without its own on-campus facility. Athletic director Joel Maturi puts Minnesota near the bottom of the Big Ten in football income, Sid Hartman writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"Ohio State's number one at $59 million and Northwestern is at the bottom at $15.5 million, and we're not far from the bottom. We're a little over $17 million," Maturi said.

That will change soon enough.

Not surprisingly, the Hump Dome was nowhere to be found on EA Sports' gallery of the "25 toughest stadiums" in college football, according to NCAA Football 09.

Which stadiums made the list? The usual suspects. Ohio Stadium came in at No. 3, followed by Beaver Stadium at No. 4, Camp Randall Stadium at No. 8 and Michigan Stadium at No. 13.

Here's my list of the league's toughest venues.

1. Ohio Stadium: The shoe has been filled in, but it only makes this place louder and meaner. Definitely the most intimidating Big Ten stadium for a road team.

2 . (tie) Beaver Stadium: Gotta admit, I haven't been to State College in a while, but I remember this place being loud. From talking to my colleagues who attended last year's game against Notre Dame, night games at Beaver Stadium are raucous.

2. (tie) Camp Randall Stadium: I've almost upchucked my bratwurst sitting in the press box at the end of the third quarter, when House of Pain's "Jump Around" starts blaring and the stadium shakes. (By the way, what ever happened to House of Pain?) Possibly my favorite place to watch a game in the Midwest: great tailgating, rowdy fans and not a lot of fun for the road team.

4. Kinnick Stadium: The pink visitor's locker room only enhances a very hostile experience for road teams. That Hayden Fry guy was a genius.

5. Michigan Stadium: In this case, size doesn't matter. The Big House is, well, big, but it's a shallow bowl that doesn't hold sound as well as other venues.

6. Spartan Stadium: Seems like a much more hostile place to play at night than during the day, but there's a sizable student section in the southwest corner.

7. Ross-Ade Stadium: Fans are generally nice and the place doesn't get too loud. Then again, where else can you ride the elevator with Purdue alum Neil Armstrong like I did last year before the Northwestern game. Very cool.

8. H.H.H. Metrodome: The Hump has grown a bit dumpy, but it still gets very loud when the Gophers are rollin'.

9. Memorial Stadium (Illinois): The massive facelift combined with an exciting team will make this relic a feared destination again. But at the moment, it's not.

10. Ryan Field: The fact that visiting fans usually outnumber Wildcats backers for Big Ten games doesn't help much, but at night, Ryan Field rocks.

11. Memorial Stadium (Indiana): The renovations should help, as will a better team, but there's not a lot of atmosphere here. Visiting teams won't shudder stepping onto the field.