There is a distinct thrill that comes with being in a big city and being able to see the lights of the cars whizzing by. There is also an equal frisson that comes with being in a small town and being able to catch a glimpse of the latest movie premier or one of the numerous sporting events that you follow avidly. In the same way that sports and pop culture are a major part of our daily lives, the venues where we indulge in them are fundamental to our identity. Some claim that the energy of a town square or a football stadium can invigorate or inspire us, helping us to feel more connected to each other and our community. Other places have simply become iconic: a representation of modernity or sophistication or a celebration of nature and the great outdoors.
The Evolution Of Sports Arenas
While the venues where we exercise, socialize, and consume culture may not always have changed, the way that we as spectators experience them has. The construction of sports arenas and the design of sports stadiums changed dramatically over the past century. In the 1930s and 1940s, many sports arenas and stadiums were built in an art deco style, an architectural fashion that combined sleek, streamlined design with beautiful woodwork and marble surfaces. This style reflected the optimism of the era, combining as it did with modern architecture, science, and technology to create a fresh new look for sports venues.
The modern iteration of the sports arena was designed by César Pelli, whose design for the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum reflected the convergence of music, sports, and pop culture. The coliseum is an excellent example of an art deco stadium design, combining the strength of concrete and steel with elegant curves and smooth, shiny surfaces to create something distinctive and exciting.
The post–World War II era was also notable for its emphasis on community and team: the construction of many new sports arenas in the United States was inspired by the community-minded approach to sports advocated by the YMCA and others, including the famous YMCA minister Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. As a symbol of physical fitness and camaraderie, basketball teams sported on their jerseys the number “7”, in honor of the minister’s famous sermon, “The Greatness Of A Team”.
While the art deco design inspired sports arenas in the United States, Europe was the epicenter of stylistic influence in stadium design. The English game of rugby, for example, inspired a series of grand terraces that are reproduced and recreated throughout the world. The stands at the grounds of Twickenham Stadium in London offer stunning views of the iconic London skyline and are testament to the formative influence of rugby on stadium design.
The Impact Of Technology
Advances in technology have had an impact on stadium design throughout the twentieth century, with the introduction of the hovercraft and the blimp increasing the safety and convenience of attending sporting events and making the experience more comfortable. The growth of TV production and new media has also changed the way that sports events are presented. The combination of these factors has resulted in a new, more immersive sporting experience.
The Hovercraft were first used at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, where the vessels were needed to transport athletes and spectators to and from the venues. It wasn’t long before these state-of-the-art vessels made their way into sports arenas, with the Chicago Cubs making the first documented use of a blimp for game presentation in the 1920s.
Some might say that the immersive experience of being at a sports venue is what qualifies it as “tourist” destination, as much as the experience of visiting a city famous for its sporting events or concerts. In the twenty-first century, as well as the proliferation of accessible technology, the ability for fans to attend games remotely has revolutionized sports spectatorship and added an extra layer of excitement to an already buzzy sporting experience.
How Tall Is The Speedway?
It’s a question that has plagued fans since the inaugural Daytona 500 in February of 2018: how tall is the speedway?
The answer depends on where you stand. If we consider nothing else other than the banking and seating of the track, then the average height of a NASCAR racing surface is around forty feet. Looking at the energy exuberance of the crowds or the roofline of the grandstands, you would estimate the height of a typical outdoor sports stadium to be around sixty feet. These kinds of places are often touted as “high-banks” because the banking is so high that the cars appear to fly off the road – at least from the seats. If you climb to the top of the stands, you will be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the track, and it’s safe to assume that the vertical dimension of the spectacle would be a whole lot more.
The Future Of Sports Arenas
The twenty-first century has seen an unprecedented boom in the construction of sports arenas and stadiums across the world. This is largely thanks to public private partnerships and the ever-increasing demand for high quality sporting experiences, along with the concurrent proliferation of new technologies that make it easier for everyone to follow events closely or attend them remotely when desired.
Whether you call them racetracks or sports venues, the construction of new structures for the purposes of athletics and music makes for some exciting reading. It would appear that the twenty-first century has seen an explosion of creativity and invention in the sport of stadium building, which will no doubt continue in the next century.