The FleetCenter, which replaced Boston Garden as the home of the Celtics in 1995-96, has two private restaurants, seven elevators and 104 executive seats. But the building lacks one thing the crumbling, amenity-free Garden had in abundance: atmosphere. The new arena is so characterless that it was shut out in our latest poll, which asked one representative from each of the 29 NBA teams to name the league's hottest spot to play.
Chicago's United Center won with eight votes, proving, perhaps, that the most important ingredient in a new arena is the team that plays there; the Bulls moved out of their old place, Chicago Stadium, just two years ago. "Chicago is the loudest because they're winning," says one of our pollees. "And that's what it takes."
The Delta Center, home to the Midwest Division-leading Jazz, came in second with six votes. "It's an absolutely crazy place to play," says one voter. "The fans are incredibly supportive and vocal." The home courts of Indiana, Phoenix and Seattle, which voters described as having a playofflike flavor during the regular season, were the only other multiple vote-getters, receiving two apiece. Still, some respondents long for the league's old shacks. "I would go with Boston Garden or Chicago Stadium," says one executive. "But they're gone."