Did you know that the arena that has hosted the most men’s basketball NCAA tournament games ever has hosted 50 percent more games than the arena that’s No. 2 on the list? Seriously, and that separation is only going to increase in the future.
Each arena and city that hosts the NCAA tournament has its own personality, but any arena can be home to an unlikely upset or a thrilling buzzer-beater. That’s the beauty of the NCAA tournament.
Here are the basketball arenas that have hosted the most NCAA tournament games all-time. The following data comes from the official NCAA tournament record book and are current as of the 2020-21 season.
1. University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, OH
Games hosted: 125 games
University of Dayton Arena is a staple in the NCAA tournament rotation annually because of the university’s role as host of the First Four, so it’s easy to see why the arena in this basketball-loving city ranks first nationally. The state of Ohio ranks third nationally in NCAA tournament games hosted with 204, just six behind California, and Dayton has shouldered most of the load for the state.
Built in 1969, the University of Dayton Arena first hosted a game in the NCAA tournament in the 1970 NCAA Tournament, where games in the Mideast Regional’s first-round were held.
NCAA Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt recently announced that Dayton will continue to host the First Four, which means that Dayton’s lead over the rest of the arenas in the country could continue to grow.
2. Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, MO
Games hosted: 83 games
Entering the 2020-21 season, Kansas City has hosted the most NCAA tournament games of any city — 134, nine more than Dayton — and Municipal Auditorium has hosted just over 60 percent of those games. Kansas City has hosted a national-high 10 national championship games, three more than Indianapolis and New York, and Municipal Arena leads all arenas historically in regional finals hosted (13) and national championship games (nine).
The national championship game in 1940, 1941, 1942, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1961 and 1964 was played inside Municipal Auditorium, where Indiana won two national titles and schools such as North Carolina, Cincinnati and UCLA won their first championships.
Remarkably, Municipal Arena hasn’t hosted the NCAA tournament in nearly 60 years, but given how often it hosted the tournament in the 1940s and ’50s, it ranks second all-time.
3. Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT
Games hosted: 81 games
The Jon M. Huntsman Center on the University of Utah’s campus leads all arenas that could be considered “out West” with 81 games – 22 more than the McKale Center in Tuscon, Arizona – and that comes in spite of the arena not hosting an NCAA tournament game since 14 years ago. Salt Lake City is also third all-time in NCAA tournament games hosted by city with 104.
The arena made its debut in 1969, when it was called the Special Events Center, then it hosted its first NCAA tournament game two years later. The Special Events Center hosted what was arguably the most impactful game in men’s basketball history – the 1979 national championship game between Michigan State and Magic Johnson, and Indiana State and Larry Bird. You can watch the full game here.
Nielsen Field House was actually the first arena in Salt Lake City to host the NCAA tournament.
4. Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Games hosted: 77 games
Madison Square Garden, or the “Mecca of Basketball,” is one of basketball’s most famous arenas and its ties to the NCAA tournament run about as deep and as strong as any arena in the country. Madison Square Garden first hosted the NCAA tournament in 1943, which was only bested by Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium (1940) among arenas on this list, and MSG last hosted the tournament in 2017, which is the second-most recent year among arenas on this list.
What happened that year inside Madison Square Garden? Only Florida beating Wisconsin in overtime on a game-winning runner from behind the 3-point line to send the Gators to the Sweet 16.
Madison Square Garden is second in national championship games hosted (seven), tied for second among all arenas in regional final games hosted (11), and New York — both the city and the state — ranks among the most frequent hosts of NCAA tournament games, thanks to MSG.
Madison Square Garden hosted the national championship in 1943-48 and again in 1950, when some of the sport’s earliest champions were crowned, such as Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State), Holy Cross, Kentucky and CCNY.
5. Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
Games hosted: 63 games
Greensboro Coliseum has hosted all 63 of the NCAA tournament games that have been in Greensboro, which ranks 11th all-time in tournament games hosted among all cities in the country. As a state, North Carolina leads the country with 257 tournament games hosted and Greensboro has contributed to a significant percentage of those games.
In the first year it ever hosted the NCAA tournament, 1974, Greensboro hosted the Final Four in front of a crowd of 16,000. The Final Four field that season featured two of the most successful programs in men’s college basketball history — UCLA and Kansas — but it was NC State and Marquette that both made their first national championship game appearance, with the Wolfpack winning 76-64.
LOOKING BACK: The top 10 changes to the NCAA tournament since 1995
6. RCA Dome, Indianapolis, IN
Games hosted: 60 games
The RCA Dome was demolished in 2008, which means the arena’s NCAA tournament game total will remain at 60 games, and the fact that it’s sixth all-time shows how many games the arena hosted in a 20-year stretch. It’s tied for fifth all-time in terms of national championship games hosted as it was home to the Final Four in 1991, 1997, 2000 and 2006, and it holds the record for the most-attended first-round session and second-round session ever, as 39,940 fans attended the 1990 first-round session featuring Texas, Georgia, Purdue and Louisiana-Monroe, and 40,331 fans packed the RCA Dome to watch Illinois play Nevada, and Kentucky face Cincinnati in the second round in 2005.
Who’s second through fifth on those lists of highest-attended first-round and second-round NCAA tournament sessions?
Well, that’s also the RCA Dome. Given its Midwestern geography and arena capacity, the RCA Dome drew crowds unlike any other arena that has hosted the NCAA tournament, at least in the first weekend of the tournament.
The RCA Dome also ranked No. 1 through No. 5 in the highest three-session series for the first and second rounds, including a record 117,119 fans in the first two rounds of the 1990 tournament.
7. McKale Center, Tuscon, AZ
Games hosted: 59 games
The McKale Center needs to host just one more NCAA tournament game to tie the RCA Dome for sixth all-time. Located on the University of Arizona’s campus in Tuscon, Arizona, the McKale Center first hosted the NCAA tournament in 1974, when it was the site for the West Regional, where UCLA beat San Francisco. The Bruins had won the previous seven national championships but they were knocked off in the 1974 Final Four by eventual national champion NC State in double overtime.
8. Omni, Atlanta, GA
Games hosted: 55 games
The Omni was demolished in 1997 and it last hosted the NCAA tournament five years before that, so its NCAA tournament game total will forever be 55 games. The fact that it only hosted tournament games over a 16-year period and that it’s been 28 years since the tournament was last played there shows the kind of force The Omni was in the NCAA tournament as far as a host site.
The Omni hosted the Final Four in 1977, its first year hosting the tournament, five years after it was built. The Final Four field that season was North Carolina, UNLV, Charlotte and Marquette, with Marquette winning its first and only national championship that season, beating North Carolina.
Atlanta ranks sixth nationally in terms of NCAA tournament games hosted by city and The Omni hosted the majority of those games.
T-9. Charlotte Coliseum I, Charlotte, NC
Games hosted: 50 games
Charlotte Coliseum I has a “I” added on to the end of its name in the NCAA record books because there’s another Charlotte Coliseum — Charlotte Coliseum II, if you will — that hosted the Final Four in 1994. In the basketball-obsessed state of North Carolina, Charlotte has hosted 98 NCAA tournament games, which ranks fourth nationally of any city. Charlotte is tied for ninth in the country as the host of eight regional finals.
Charlotte Coliseum I first hosted the NCAA tournament in 1958, when it was the site of the East Regional, with a capacity of 11,666. The arena had been built seven years before.
T-9. Freedom Hall, Louisville, KY
Games hosted: 50 games
Like several other notable arenas on this list, Freedom Hall hasn’t hosted the NCAA tournament in decades, yet due to its prominence in the mid-to-late 1900s, it cracks the top 10 all-time. Freedom Hall hosted the Final Four in 1958, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1967 and 1969, and it played host to the NCAA tournament when the tournament featured as few as 23 teams. It ranks third all-time with six national championship games played inside Freedom Hall.
Kentucky, California, Cincinnati, Loyola Chicago and UCLA all cut down the nets in Freedom Hall.
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