Wednesday October 1st, 2014

Every stadium looks pristine in architectural renderings. It isn’t until the venue takes shape that we start to see the design flaws, those little things that make a building perform a little wonky or those gargantuan issues that can define an entire stadium. Here are six of our favorite flaws.

  • Olympic Stadium
    Montreal, Canada

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    Amidst delays, Olympic Stadium opened in 1976 in time for Montreal’s Olympics, but without the promised retractable roof. And after decision-makers gained approval in 1985 to complete the planned roof, they probably wish they hadn’t. The Kevlar fabric was installed in 1987 and tore the first time it was used. It ripped so often that it was kept permanently closed by 1992, even though it leaked profusely. A permanently closed Teflon-coated fiberglass roof took over in 1998, faring no better. Panels fell in 1999 under the weight of snow and slush and the building was closed in winters for fear of a roof collapse. Now that it’s open again — although sparsely — rules dictate no usage of The Big O with snow in the forecast. That roof just can’t do its job.

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    AT&T Stadium
    Arlington, Texas

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    Jerry Jones doesn’t have any issues with his AT&T Stadium, opened in 2009, but a few NFL punters may beg to differ. The 160-foot-long, 90-foot-wide videoboard takes up so much space hovering above the center of the field that punted balls have struck the underside of the contraption on multiple occasions. The quirk wasn’t discovered until punters first got into the stadium, prompting a rule that required a re-kick if a ball struck the board. This was in direct conflict with Rule 17.04-a, the "No Do-Overs Rule."
     

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    Metrodome
    Minneapolis, Minnesota

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    Keep this little fact in mind: baseballs are white. Upon opening in 1982, the Metrodome showed off a Teflon fabric roof, giving sports fans in Minneapolis a fully-enclosed home for sports of all kinds. That roof was a weather-protecting device, created in white and with a little translucency that meant a sunny day outside allowed the white roof to reflect even brighter. Add in the stadium’s lighting system and that white roof could shine—or glare—even whiter still. Remember, though, baseballs are white, so catchers attempting to field the ball could only see this:

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    Arlington Stadium
    Arlington, Texas

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    Arlington, TX gets the dubious honor of appearing twice on our list. Arlington is no stranger to three-digit temperatures, but the builders of Arlington Stadium didn’t take that much into account. The stadium opened in 1965 as a draw to bring the MLB to the area. When the Texas Rangers did arrive in 1972, they showed up to what was essentially a minor-league stadium with absolutely no canopies or roof to protect fans from the blistering heat. Day games were out of the question and the fans sat exposed to the blazing sun completely unprotected until an upper deck in 1978 provided at least a few fans with a little relief, in one of the few examples in history when the nosebleeds were the most desirable seats in the stadium.

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    Kingdome
    Seattle, Washington

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    For the unaware, Seattle has a little reputation for rain. When the Kingdome opened in 1976, it apparently wasn’t able to handle multiple decades of that precipitation. By the mid-1990s, Mariner outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. was complaining the roof was leaking, making center field a slippery mess. But then in 1994 his complaints came crashing down in the form of three 15-pound 32-inch by 48-inch fiberglass panels that fell from the ceiling, breaking apart on the seats below just hours before the gates were to open for a game. The entire waterlogged ceiling was then removed from the Kingdome.

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    Arthur Ashe Stadium
    New York, New York

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    Row Z can’t be a good thing for any sporting event, but it’s downright laughable in a venue designed to watch tennis. Opened in 1997, the 22,547-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium stands as the largest tennis venue in the world, but with Row Z 120 feet above court level, the stadium rarely fills. A double-stack of luxury boxes above the lower bowl starts the second level so high that Row Z grows taller than many MLB parks. Finally, you can recreate the experience of watching tennis on your tiny smartphone screen while sitting in an uncomfortable plastic stadium chair. Truly the best of both worlds.


Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb, and follow Extra Mustard at @SI_ExtraMustard

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