Development of The Modern Stadium

At any time you hear or read about a professional sports team exploring the possibility of relocating to another town, the need for a new arena is frequently the principal reason. A sparkling new sports stadium that is full of modern conveniences brings people in droves — and that generates significant revenues for your group and the regional businesses that surround the center such as pubs, restaurants, hotels and retail shops.

The NFL’s Oakland Raiders are the latest example of a group creating a movement in search of greener pastures. Playing from the antiquated Oakland Coliseum, which was constructed more than 50 years back, the team created a mere $69 million in arena earnings in 2015, according to Forbes magazine. In contrast, the Dallas Cowboys, playing at the immaculate, state-of-the-art AT&T Stadium, raked in more than $440 million.

Not able to obtain financial support to build a new arena in Oakland, the group’s ownership sought and received approval from the league to move to Las Vegas, where it can play in a recently constructed 65,000-seat domed stadium (price tag: $1.9 billion) tentatively scheduled for completion in 2020. Annual earnings projections for its new facility vary from $250-$350 million.


While the origins of the sports arena can be traced to the early Greeks, the first modern facilities were constructed at the mid-to-late 19th century. These stadiums were designed with practicality in mind — the aim was to hold as many spectators as possible, and amenities were virtually non-existent. The majority of these early structures were single-purpose facilities constructed mainly of timber, several of which were ultimately destroyed by fire. Goodison Park, a Liverpool, England football arena that opened in 1892, was the first sports center to feature a concrete-and-steel construction.

The tendency of single-purpose stadiums lasted through much of the 20th century. Facilities such as Fenway Park in Boston, which opened in 1912, and Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and Wrigley Field in Chicago, both of which were completed in 1914, were specially built for baseball. Designed to blend into the surrounding city areas, these facilities featured relatively small seating capacities and provided fans with an intimate, weatherproof ballpark experience that nearly made them feel as if they were part of the activity.


The post-World War II migration of Americans from the city into the suburbs together with the increase in popularity of professional soccer led to the birth of this multipurpose sports arena concept, which functioned as the model for those facilities constructed during the 1960s and 1970s. Designed for both football and baseball, these circular, symmetrical concrete amenities were generally assembled in suburban areas and provided easy access by interstate highway. Broad parking lots were required to adopt the heavy car traffic since these facilities were inaccessible through the cities’ mass transit systems.

An example of this multipurpose stadium concept can be seen here in Melbourne, by the Marvel Stadium, which hosts rugby, cricket and the AFL matches at the same arena. The Houston Astrodome, which opened in 1965, was the world’s first multipurpose stadium to include a domed roof and an artificial turf field.


While multipurpose stadiums offered the advantage of practicality and flexibility, the uninspired cookie-cutter design featured in the majority of these facilities finally dropped out of favor with audiences, particularly old-school baseball enthusiasts who longed for a return to the local ballpark look and feel. This led to the development of the retro-classic concept inspired by older centers like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. The very first of this retro-classic ballparks was Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Completed in 1992, Camden Yards rests on the location of an old B&O railroad yard in South Baltimore and comes with a sprawling, 1,100-foot-long, eight-story refurbished railroad warehouse constructed with the help of largest cranes.

Other stadiums motivated from the Camden Yards model comprise Progressive Field in Cleveland, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, AT&T Park in San Francisco and Miller Park in Milwaukee. These facilities combine the retro feel and look with all the modern features and amenities required to meet the demands of the 21st-century sports fan. These brand new baseball stadiums include expansive scoreboards and video replay screens, as well as natural grass or artificial turf areas which are thicker compared to artificial turf.


While the traditional arena design catered to families, the current trend is to appeal to the 18-to-34-year-old demographic. These younger people view going to a sporting event as a total entertainment experience that involves a great deal more than watching a ball game. The design of newer facilities typically incorporates features such as pedestrian malls, amusement plazas and concourses located outside the arena that allow fans to dine, shop and socialize before and after the match. For those who are looking for a high-end experience, most stadiums now are also equipped with suites, such as Marvel Stadium’s AFL corporate boxwhich accommodates a group of people along with a fully serviced bar.

Today’s facilities also feature numerous seating surroundings which extend well past the conventional stadium seat in the middle of a crowded row of spectators. Premium seating options include private suites that resemble living rooms and can accommodate 10-15 fans. These suites include a private entrance from the stadium concourse and also have features such as buffets, bars, tv monitors and computers with Web access. Some stadiums even provide field suites situated in the front row that set fans right on top of the action.

Stadium amenities also have come a long way, regarding the wide range of food options. Along with the hot dog, beer and bag of peanuts, many stadiums offer you an extensive range of high-end cuisine and craft beers and wine to cater to a younger, more upscale crowd. Menu options at AT&T Stadium at Dallas, widely regarded as the crown jewel of NFL facilities, include everything from fried food to a brisket sandwich on pretzel bread smothered in melted onions, piquillo peppers, and melted cheddar cheese.

While the prevalence of single-purpose stadiums continues, there are signs of an eventual return to the multipurpose concept. Based on John Rhodes, Director of Sports, Recreation and Entertainment at the London office of HOK, the architectural firm largely responsible for creating the Camden Yards notion, the multipurpose design and decor choices was gaining traction over Europe over the last ten years. Rhodes indicates there’s an increasing shift toward developing more civic-type facilities that can host a wide assortment of sporting and community events. Sustainability has also come to be a critical element in most new stadium projects to comply with LEED requirements.


One of the greatest challenges in constructing a new stadium is finding the ideal building website. This requires careful evaluation of a variety of factors. The team and venue owners/operators must ascertain whether it wants to construct within a town or in the suburbs. The former means finding a large enough plot of land within the city limits, which might be difficult in a crowded urban place where available land is scarce. It also needs enough space for the materials to be transported by low loaders and stored on site. The latter typically requires locating a place that’s near a major highway and has sufficient land for the center, parking lot and surrounding infrastructure.

An area with a high population density is also a desired variable since this will offer a large enough customer base to generate large crowd sizes. Densely populated regions are also more likely to include the market amenities and commercial institutions that draw the modern sports fan. Last, the land must be suitable for accommodating a massive structure for many decades.


Designing a professional sports stadium can take one or two decades. There are many architectural firms that specialize in arena design. The process consists of five basic steps:

Pre-concept — Data collection step that includes site analysis and confirmation of job brief requirements.

Theory — Development of design information to determine the construction materials required and other fundamental structural requirements.

Schematic design — Entails determining engineering requirements, design criteria analyzing, crowd modeling and structural inspection.

Layout development — Completion of detailed calculations, equipment selection, etc..

Issuing of the last design for building — Entails that the finalization of all design details and distributing the finished drawings into the general contractor.

After the laying of the stadium concrete foundation, work on the enclosure and stadium façade can begin. This includes interior decorating, the installation of lights, construction of concession areas, restrooms, locker rooms and more. The construction of parking lots and other infrastructure improvements will also take place right now. The installment of the surface is one of the final steps in the scene building process. Based on the desires of this group and website owners or operators, the area surface may include natural grass or some form of synthetic turf. Natural grass surfaces are more difficult to maintain; however, they tend to be softer than many forms of synthetic surfaces, which can help to minimize player injuries.

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