By Gerald Dlubala
It’s true, we love and are extremely passionate about our sports teams and for many Americans, sitting in stadium bleachers on the weekend is like visiting a vacation resort.
For that reason, the sports industry in America was said to be worth over $60 billion in 2015, and is estimated to top $73 billion by 2019. But the competition isn’t always on the field. Sometimes, it IS the field, with the stadiums and venues taking on identities of their own.
With amenities such as shopping malls, restaurants, and conference/meeting room space, and even extended stay hotel rooms, the venue can be just as popular, and sometimes more so, than the teams that call these places home.
Following is a list of ten iconic, unique, or pretty cool stadiums and team venues. It was a tall task, because in fact, there are many, many cool and unique sports venues out there, and some rather dramatic ones in the process of being built. So this list is only a representative sampling of what’s out there rather than a definitive, ranked list.
- AT&T Stadium, Arlington Texas. As the home of the Dallas Cowboys National Football League team, this 80000-seat venue, (105,000 with standing room), is the 4th largest in the NFL, and cost a cool $1.43 Billion. It is the world’s largest, column-free interior, and boasts a HD video screen that hangs from one 20-yard line to the other 20-yard line. Built as a destination venue, AT&T stadium hosts everything from football to WrestleMania, Supercross races to music concerts, Rodeo Championships, conventions, and everything in between. It also offers luxury dining and art tours. Portable bleachers can be installed to add up to 9000 temporary seats in the corners and high above the end zones, and there is wheelchair and companion seating on every level.
- Kaohsiumg National Stadium, Zuoying District, Taiwan. With a seating capacity of 55,000 including stadium and bleacher seating, this totally solar powered, dragon shaped stadium is the largest in Taiwan, and is best known for hosting the 2009 World Games. The venue has over 8800 solar panels that illuminate the field, and the stadium is situated on land that shares bike paths, public green spaces, and an integrated pond. On non-event days, the stadium back loads the stored energy into the country’s electric grid, supporting up to 80% of the surrounding community’s electrical needs.
- Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan. To be used in the 2020 Summer Olympics, the Sapporo Dome has also been tapped for the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2017 Asian Winter Games. This field is regularly transformed from baseball to soccer, using a set of rotating, lower bowl bleachers that transform the angled view for baseball to a more standard, parallel view for soccer matches. Capacity can reach 41,484.
- Beijing National Stadium, Beijing, China. Nicknamed The Bird’s Nest because of the random exterior architectural design based on the art of Chinese ceramics, this past and future Olympic stadium (2022) is built to withstand an earthquake of up to an 8 on the Richter Scale. National Stadium has been acknowledged as one of the few modern day stadiums built combining contemporary architecture and technology with local beliefs and ideas. Housing 80,000 fixed seats and up to 11,000 temporary seats that can be positioned in many different configurations, the Bird’s Nest even transforms into an indoor ski slope for part of the year.
- National Aquatics Center, Beijing, China. Just west of The Bird’s Nest, another blend of modern technology, striking architecture, and valued customary beliefs and ideas, The National Aquatics Center, aka The Water Cube, was the official 2008 Olympic swimming venue. To be used in 2022 Winter Olympics for the curling competition, it is now a multi-station water park, with seating on the second level for 6,000 fixed seats (2,000 moveable) as well as 11,000 moveable, temporary seats. It is the first large-scale project to be encapsulated in an ETFE membrane, (ethylene-tetraflouroethylene copolymer), for insulating purposes. Because of the membrane’s translucence, using different LED lighting combinations can change the color.
- Marlins Park, Miami, Florida. Certified in 2012 as the leagues MOST GREEN PARK, the home of MLB’s Miami Marlins is also the third smallest in the MLB with a meager capacity of only 37,442. Marlins Park features a retractable roof, but also has retractable glass outfield panels that when closed, still allow a great, panoramic view of the downtown skyline. Tabletop seating is available just under the left field bleachers. A pool to use during the game, and an in-house bobble head museum are just a couple of the unique quirks of this stadium. Additionally, twin 450 gallon, foul ball proof aquariums flank the area behind the batters box. Marlins Park will host the 2017 MLB All Star Game.
- Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena, Shanghai, China. A mainly tennis venue that also hosts basketball, ping gong, volleyball and gymnastics, this stadium has a retractable roof that opens in minutes and is comprised of eight petal shaped sections that when opening resemble a blooming magnolia, the official flower of Shanghai. The winner of the IOC/IAKS Silver Award for exemplary sports and leisure facilities, the 15,000-seat venue includes a Grandstand Court of 5,000 seats, with the balance being Showcase Courts that are wrapped in bleacher seating.
- PGE National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland. The largest, state-of-the-art stadium in Poland, it was the winner of the 2012 CEEQA Industry Awards in two categories, “Building of the Year in Central and Eastern Europe”, and “Hotel, Leisure & Residential Development of the Year”. The retractable roofed venue can house 58,000 fans, and can be increased to over 72,000 with temporary aluminum bleachers for concerts and other non-soccer events. The venue includes underground parking, a heated pitch for soccer games, offices, meeting places, restaurants, a pub and fitness center, 3,000 extended stay rooms, and a chapel.
- The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California. As iconic as they get, the Rose Bowl is registered as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It’s the 17th largest stadium in the world with a capacity of 92,542. Best known as host to it’s namesake, The Rose Bowl game, this open air venue has gained a world class reputation by hosting Super Bowls, Olympic soccer matches, both men’s and women’s World Cup matches, and the BCS National College Football Championship, just to name a few. Owned by the city of Pasadena, the fans’ interest is always taken into consideration, when such improvements like those in seating started way back in 1969, when all the outdated and deteriorating wooden bleacher benches were replaced with new, low maintenance aluminum bleachers. Since then, many have had seat backs added for even more comfort.
- Melbourne Cricket Grounds, Australia. “The G”, as it’s referred to, is a sweeping, completely circular field with a capacity of over 100,000, with full 360-degree views from every one of those seats. It’s on the Australian National Heritage List, and has been recently recognized for its sustainability efforts in water conservation, environmental protection, energy efficiency, and waste management. It is a yearly sold out destination on Boxing Day, the federal holiday that falls on the day after Christmas, showcasing a day long event that features top tier soccer and rugby matches between local rivals.
These are just a few examples of stadiums that have incorporated their own unique personality into the design and functionality of the structure.
Teams that call these venues home enjoy these features on a regular basis, but we as spectators, only get a glimpse of what they offer.
With more dramatic, architecturally unique, and most importantly, environmentally friendly venues in the works, it seems that the only limits to what is possible is what our own imagination can come up with.
The advancement and flexibility of these designs, along with the compatibility of customized, temporary, and easily portable bleacher seating arrangements will ultimately allow all future stadiums and venues to become true, all event destinations producing exciting, personalized, game day experiences.
You can check out what it’s like to sit in the bleachers for nearly ALL of the stadiums on Planet Earth by visiting http://www.worldstadiums.com.