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Brenden Welper | | October 18, 2019

Surprising quirks make these college stadiums stand out

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College stadiums are usually synonymous with their primary tenant. But remove the banners, logos and signs and there are still some that stick out no matter who plays there.

Here are four that are unlike anywhere else in college sports.

Lavietes Pavilion (Allston, Mass.) - Harvard men's and women's basketball

Harvard Athletics Lavietes Pavilion at Harvard University The skylight brightens the rafters at Lavietes Pavilion.

If you ever find yourself at Harvard's Lavietes Pavilion during the day, look up into the rafters. 

No, not at the new scoreboard that was installed prior to the 2017-18 season. Just above it. You'll see the arena's famed skylight, which also is the roof.

Sunlight gleams through the panels, providing an aura at the top that can't be replicated at night.

"The roof does provide natural light, but not enough to practice or play without additional arena lighting," according to Tim Troville, the senior associate director of athletics at Harvard.

According to Troville, the original skylight (which dated to the building's opening in 1926) was "replaced in 2015 with the same product." And the company (Kalwall) that first installed the roof nearly a century ago was the same one that manufactured its successor.

Even with an uncommon design, the roof's panels are fixed in place and almost maintenance free. 

Superior Dome (Marquette, Mich.) - Northern Michigan football, track & field and women's lacrosse

Northern Michigan Athletics The Superior Dome at Northern Michigan University The Superior Dome is 14 stories high and has a permanent seating capacity of 8,000.

Located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the world's largest wooden dome stands on the campus of Northern Michigan University.

Measuring 536 feet in diameter, the Superior Dome has been home to the Wildcats football team since 1991. It also is home to the women's lacrosse and track & field teams, a community center and is an Olympic training venue for weightlifting and wrestling. 

"The wood was used to fit the extreme winter weather that comes with the Upper Peninsula environment," Allen Dehority told in an email. Dehority is Northern Michigan's athletics communications manager. 

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He added that Japanese architects came to visit the stadium shortly after it opened. Their goal was to gather information about the structure, and apply what they learned to build wooden domes back in Japan.

Popular Mechanics even listed the Superior Dome as one of the 20 most impressive wooden structures in the world back in 2016. 

“Recently, I had someone from Northern Arizona University talk trash with me about their dome," said Derek Hall, the university's chief marketing officer.

"They were like, ‘Who says yours is the biggest?’ and we were just kind of talking trash back and forth. We got them (beat) by 10 meters in diameter.”

In all, 781 Douglas Fir beams were used to construct the Superior Dome. 

“I was giving a tour to someone last winter," Hall said. "We were walking up to the building, and a big chunk of snow starts sliding off the top. (The snow) hit one of the points of the building.

“It was kind of crazy, but it’s built to do that. Our snow slides off onto the ground. That’s why we need it that way.”

Memorial Gymnasium (Nashville) - Vanderbilt Men's and women's basketball

Vanderbilt Athletics Memorial Gymnasium at Vanderbilt.   ​ Memorial Gymnasium at Vanderbilt. ​

From the sideline to the last row of seats, Memorial Gymnasium at Vanderbilt University looks vastly different from other college basketball arenas. That's because it was built as a "combination gymnasium and concert hall." 

Like Williams Arena, the court inside Memorial is raised above floor level. But Vanderbilt's hardwood extends well beyond the required dimensions. Think of it as what foul territory is to a baseball diamond.

If a player dives out of bounds for a loose ball, he or she won't fall off a two-foot drop or crash into any court-side seats.

In fact Memorial Gymnasium's court might be the only structural identifier that basketball is played there. Missing is a 360-degree bowl with seating all around. Instead, four massive walls at each corner protrude outward, and partially obstruct the view of the adjacent sections.  

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It's as if somebody took four separate opera theaters and jammed the insides of them together. And yet, that's part of what makes it so special.

Fans aren't the only ones with an unusual view of the action.

The team's benches are located behind the baseline, with one on each end of the floor. Not long ago, head coaches were relegated to a baseline-version of the coach's box. That box was extended at the beginning of the 2015-16 season.

Williams Arena (Minneapolis) - Minnesota men's and women's basketball

Minnesota Athletics Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota The court at Williams Arena was recently painted to give it an "old-barn look."

Colloquially known as "The Barn," Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota has plenty of old-school charm. The interior resembles a military hangar, there's no air conditioning and the upper deck hangs over the lower bowl.

But the most notable feature is the basketball court. It's raised 26 inches off the floor. 

"The understanding I have is that when they built the arena, they wanted to make it sort of like a stage," Dan Reisig said. "Thankfully, I haven't seen any major injuries because of it."

Reisig is the Associate Director of Athletic Communications at Minnesota. He said that even the baskets need to be rolled from the floor level up to the playing surface. The setup is similar to what's used during the Final Four every year.

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The Barn opened in 1928 and, while originally built for basketball, has also housed Minnesota's hockey, gymnastics and volleyball teams.

Men's basketball coach Richard Pitino has noted how different the court is. "The only person who can be on the court is the head coach. When you're there, it's all you by yourself," Reisig said.

The elevation is also foreign to the players. Especially those who step onto the floor in a visiting uniform.

"When Bo Ryan was the coach, Wisconsin had a tradition where the (freshmen or new players) had to dive off the court to do a drill the night before a game," Reisig said.

Ryan retired in the middle of the 2015-16 season. But the tradition has continued under current head coach Greg Gard.

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