The Top 20 Sporting Events Played in Unusual Places

The modern-age sports fan has been getting the stops pulled out for them when it comes to the locations their favorite games (or matches) are being played.

The NCAA men’s basketball game between the University of North Carolina and Michigan State University tips off on board the USS Carl Vinson, docked at North Island Naval Station in San Diego, Calif., Nov. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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The modern-age sports fan has been getting the stops pulled out for them when it comes to the locations their favorite games (or matches) are being played.

Been there, done that. Entertain me!

One downside to a sporting event in a stadium or an arena is that while it is most definitely a spectacle, it’s a spectacle that’s surrounded by concrete and steel.

It’s also a bit of the First World problem of, “Been there, done that. Entertain me! The same, but different!” That’s when the big guns get rolled in, like when the USS Carl Vinson was enlisted for the first Carrier Classic college basketball game in 2011.

Played in front of 8,111 people on the deck of the Vinson, the North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Michigan State Spartans with U.S. president Barack Obama in attendance.

How about some other sporting events?

With an approximate cost of $3 million (U.S.) to put on, a series of aircraft carrier games were in the works when everything was put on hold after a rather disastrous second Carrier Classic outing in 2012 that saw condensation on the court making the event unplayable.

How about some other sporting events that are either normal sports held in unusual places, or just plain unusual sports played in all kinds of places?

Source: Andrew Murray / Pixabay

#20. Golf in -50 C (-58 F) Weather (Greenland)

Since 1999, Uummannaq, Greenland has become famous with golfers around the world as host to the most interesting — and difficult — golf tournament of the year.

Ice golf is very similar to ordinary golf

The Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship is played anually in April on a course located 600 km north of the Arctic Circle.

The two-day, 36-hole tournament is unique because it is played on an ice-covered fjord, fed by seven glaciers.

The course itself changes every year depending on the movement of the icebergs. Ice golf is very similar to ordinary golf, only the “green” is white, the balls are bright colours to show up against the ice, and the rules of play are adjusted slightly to adapt to the different playing surface.

Source: RobGlenister / Pixabay

#19. Horse Race on a Beach (Ireland)

Laytown is a small seaside resort on the east coast of Ireland, 29 miles/46 km north of Dublin.

The first recorded race on the beach

Each year they play host to a unique horse race: the only race event run on a beach under the Rules of Racing.

The first recorded race on the beach was was in 1868, and has grown into quite the event.

Crowds as large as 11,000 turn up to see it every year.

The last time that many people were on a beach in Ireland was during the middle ages, when the native Irish were trying to drive back the hordes of invading vikings.


Source: Clément Bucco-Lechat / Wikimedia

#18. Horse Race on Frozen Lake (Switzerland)

It playing golf on ice isn’t your thing, and racing a horse on the beach just doesn’t appeal, why not combine them into a horse race on the ice?

Jockey on a sled being pulled by the horse

Each year since 1907, jockeys and riders from around the have gathered in St. Moritz, Switzerland, for the White Turf international horse races.

There are a number of different kinds of races held over the course of three days, including the traditional “jockey on the back of the horse” race, but also adding in unique events like the “jockey on skis getting pulled behind the horse” race and the “jockey on a sled being pulled by the horse” race.


Source: St. Moritz / Flickr. White Turf, St. Moritz.

#17. Soccer on a River (England)

The English do love to play their footie, but they also love a good bit of fun. These facts are the only things that can explain Football in the River.

Players brave the cold knee-deep water

The villagers of Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswold’s have set up their unique soccer pitch on the River Windrush every summer for more than 70 years. The river is not a fast torrent of water here, but a gentle brook, a babbling one, really, wide and shallow.

Goal posts are set up under the bridges, and players brave the cold knee-deep water to play. A normal soccer game will wee eleven players on a side, and he game goes for 45 minutes an end.


Bourton-on-the-water, Source: Martyn Wright / Flickr.

The exceptional difficulty of river soccer means the rules have been adapted to be six players on each a side who go all out for with 15 minutes in each direction as they splash around in knee deep water chasing the ball while wearing nothing but bright coloured football shorts or fancy dress.

Squash Tournament of Champions

#16. Squash in a Train Station (USA)

New York City’s Grand Central Station is more than a bustling terminal squeezing thousands of commuters and tourists through lovely Beax-Arts architecture, it’s a sports stadium.

Each January since 2008 it has been the venue for the Squash Tournament of Champions. More than 200,000 spectators sit in specially erected stands and watch players take to the court behind glass, while millions more file past making double-takes when they see what’s going on, making it the biggest squash spectator event in the world.


Source: julesgriff / Wikimedia

It’s a little surreal to be perched on stadium seating under the gorgeous chandeliers of Vanderbilt Hall, but it’s also a crowd — and players — favorite.

The Tokyu department store in Tokyo

It’s a little surreal to be perched on stadium seating under the gorgeous chandeliers of Vanderbilt Hall, but it’s also a crowd — and players — favorite.

#15. Soccer on Top of a Department Store (Japan)

The Tokyu department store in Tokyo, Japan once had a children’s playground on its roof. That’s pretty cool, but what’s even cooler is what’s up there now: a soccer pitch.The department store itself sits atop the central hub for the Shibuya neighborhood.

Source: Tim Eyles / Flickr

In 2002, Japan and South Korea hosted the FIFA World Cup, and the rooftop playground was converted to the Adidas Futsal Park, a 14,000 square foot pitch with a stunning view of the city around it.

The annual Empire State Building Run-up

Futsal is a miniature version of soccer, and the park hosts nightly tournaments among adults, as well as a futsal school for toddlers and children.

#14. Running Race up a Skyscraper (USA)

If marathons have got you bored, then maybe you should consider stepping up your game. Literally. The annual Empire State Building Run-up, held since 1978, challenges you to take 1,576 steps up from the lobby of the iconic skyscraper to the observatory deck. Not recommended for those who suffer vertigo.

#13. Golf in Space (Moon)

Ok, this might be cheating a little, but honestly, the most unusual place anyone has ever played golf has to be the Moon.

Source: NASA

With the low gravity, you can really get awesome lift on your shots

Astronaut Alan Shepard attached a Wilson six iron head to a lunar sample scoop handle and made history on the Moon on Feb. 6, 1971. With the low gravity, you can really get awesome lift on your shots.

#12. Tennis on a Hotel Helipad (Dubai)

Andre Agassi and Roger Federer met on the tennis court many times, but none were as memorable Feb. 23, 2005 when they faced each other on the Helipad of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. The court was 321 meters (1,053 feet) high. Again, leave the vertigo at home.


Source: Helipad on the Burj al Arab, Source: Brett Jordan/ Flickr

#11. Water Tennis (Qatar)

Once you’ve played tennis on the roof, there aren’t many new places to go. So how about on the water?


It was good fun

In 2011, Roger Federer faced off against Rafael Nadal to open the tennis season in style, this time on a court laid in the water of Doha Bay, Qatar. “It was good fun. It was so different.

You’re always excited and nervous to see how it will turn out. It is always nice promoting an event and an entire tour with Rafa,” Federer said of the event.


Source: Screencap of video titled “Cave Cricket | World’s First Underground Cricket Match at Honister Slate Mine” by Joseph Burn

#10. Cricket in an Underground Mine (England)

On December 5, 2013, cricketers from village teams Threlkeld and Caldbeck took part in the world’s first underground cricket match inside Honister Slate Mine in Keswick, England.

Threlkeld Cricket Club

Honister Slate Mine is England’s last working slate mine in the Lake District, an 11-mile network of underground tunnels, and the game took place 600 m (2,000 ft) be below the surface.

Flooding had damaged the ground of Threlkeld Cricket Club and the match was played to raise funds for it. A variety of village residents – shopkeepers, farmers, cafe owners – constituted the teams on both sides which played in the floodlit cavern.


Source: Flickr

It’s not the first time Threlkeld were playing cricket at an unlikely venue to raise funds for its ground, having played cricket on a frozen wicket on a small mountain and even underwater in River Derwent.

The 2016 Al Ahram Open

#9. Squash at the Great Pyramid (Egypt)

You might be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular backdrop to a sporting event than the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt, but that’s exactly what the tennis fans and players enjoyed at the 2016 Al Ahram Open.

It wasn’t the first time tennis — a huge sport in Egypt — had been played there, but the last time had been more than a decade before.


#8. Soccer on Floating Stage (Singapore)

The Float at Marina Bay in Singapore was built in 2007 after the National Stadium was closed and a new venue was needed.

The platform plays host to all manner of events

Made entirely of steel, the floating platform on Marina Bay measures 120m by 83m, just a bit larger than a full-size soccer field. The platform can bear up to 1,070 tonnes, and the gallery at the stadium has a seating capacity of 30,000 people.

In addition to soccer games, the platform plays host to all manner of events, including military parades.

#7. Horse Race in a Town Square (Italy)

It can get a little tiresome racing horses around that endless oval loop, so the Italians decided to spice things up a bit.


Source: Mirco / Wikimedia

Twice a year since 1656, to recognize the Virgin Mary and the Madonna of Provenzano, horses and jockeys compete in a general practice of the Palio horse race on Piazza del Campo in Siena, Tuscany.

The Rangers topped the Flyers 3-2

#6. Hockey in a Baseball Field (USA)

There is a whole chapter in the “unusual sports locations” book dedicated to playing one sport on another sport’s field. For example, hockey on a baseball diamond. Here are a few memorable games:

The Rangers took on the Flyers in the NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park on Jan. 2, 2012. The Rangers topped the Flyers 3-2 in front of 46,967 fans thanks to a Henrik Lundqvist save on a penalty shot with a minute remaining.


Source: Alasdair Middleton / Wikipedia. On Jan. 1, 2010, over 39,000 fans piled into Boston’s famous Fenway Park for a frigid Winter Classic game between the Flyers and Bruins.

Not a hockey fan?

The hometown fans went home happy after Marco Sturm knocked in the game-winner to give Boston a 2-1 overtime victory.
In Chicago, the Blackhawks fell to the Red Wings 6-4 in the NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1, 2009.

#5. Basketball in a Baseball Field (USA)

Not a hockey fan? That’s ok, you can occasionally hit the ball diamond to check out a basketball game.


Source: PxHere

Like on on Oct. 11, 2008, when the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns faced off in an exhibition game at Indian Wells Garden, located just outside Palm Springs, California.

Believe it or not

#4. Football in the Baseball Field (USA)

Believe it or not, sometimes they do play baseball on a baseball diamond, but not when the football teams are coming to play.
Northwestern and Illinois faced off in a college football game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 20, 2010. The game, which saw both teams heading toward the same end zone, ended with the Fighting Illini on top, 48-27.


Source: Pxhere. As Illinois and Northwestern faced off at Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium played host to a game between Notre Dame and Army in front of 54,231 fans on Nov. 20, 2010.

The Bears outmatched Vince Lombardi’s Packers squad

The Fighting Irish took the victory, 27-3. On Dec. 30, 2010, the first annual Pinstripe Bowl was held, between Syracuse and Kansas State, and Yankee Stadium has hosted the bowl game every year since.

With both teams boasting identical 8-1 records, the Packers and Bears faced off in front of 49,166 fans at Wrigley Field on Nov. 17, 1963. The Bears outmatched Vince Lombardi’s Packers squad, defeating Green Bay 26-7 in front of the home fans.

Source: Rohit Markande / Wikipedia

#3 Hockey in a Soccer Pitch (Germany)

Source: Tim Eyles / Flickr

Over in Europe, baseball diamonds aren’t so easy to come by, but soccer pitches are.

Germany topped the USA 2-1

The opening game of the 74th IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship set a world record for largest crowd at a hockey game at the time with 77,803 spectators at Veltins-Arena, normally a soccer venue, on May 7, 2010. Germany topped the USA 2-1 in overtime.

#2. Hockey in a Football Field (USA)

Really not into the baseball diamond vibe? That’s ok. You can watch your hockey on a football field.
The Capitals and Penguins braved the elements in the NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field on Jan 1, 2011.


Source: Michael Barera / Wikipedia. The teams played through rain and gusts of wind, and Washington edged out a 3-1 victory on the back of two goals from Eric Fehr.

A game referred to as the “Cold War”

The Sabres and Penguins faced off in the NHL’s first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo on Jan 1, 2008. The Penguins won the overtime shootout for a 2-1 victory in front of 71,217 fans.

A game referred to as the “Cold War,” was played on Oct. 6, 2001 between Michigan and Michigan State. Attendance was 74,544 fans, which at the time set a world record for largest crowd at a ice hockey game.


Source:Melissa Wang / Wikimedia. The two in-state rivals ended the game locked in a 3-3 tie.

“The Big Chill at the Big House,” a rematch of the “Cold War” outdoor game between Michigan and Michigan State, set a world hockey record with an announced attendance of 113,411 at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 11, 2010. The Wolverines shut out the Spartans 5-0.

A team has to get creative

Both the men’s and women’s hockey teams got in on the action at Camp Randall Stadium on Feb. 6, 2010. In front of 55,031 fans, the Wisconsin women won 6-1 over Bemidji State before the men defeated Michigan 3-2.

#1. Basketball in a Concert Hall (USA)

Sometimes another sport’s arena doesn’t have the shock value, so a team has to get creative. Such as the time when the 2004 Republican National Convention kicked the New York Liberty out of their home at Madison Square Garden.




Instead, they faced the Shock at Radio City Music Hall on July 24, 2004. The venue’s layout meant that fans could only view the action from one side of the court.

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