Fan experience: Stadium vs. HDTV
Sports Illustrated
Fan experience: Stadium vs. HDTV
Wednesday November 5th, 2014

Homes, water parks, a church and even a Bass Pro Shop. Our world’s unused stadiums have a history of derelict tendencies and while one of the most common reuses for an unwanted stadium is demolition and then often parking, a few venues have seen a different fate come their way. Here’s a list of some of Extra Mustard’s favorites:

The Great American Pyramid: Memphis, Tennessee

A 60 percent replica of the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt, this 20,000-seat arena that once housed the University of Memphis basketball program and the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies was put to pasture in 2004 with the opening of the FedExForum. At 32 stories tall, the third largest pyramid in the world is now reinventing itself. As a Bass Pro Shop. Set to open as early as December 2014 or spring 2015, the pyramid will contain a ginormous retail store, restaurant, aquarium, waterfall and potentially a hotel and museum.

The Summit: Houston, Texas

In 1971 having the San Diego Rockets move to Houston launched a push to build a new arena. By 1975 the brand-new concrete-laden The Summit arena was the answer. But shy of 30 years later, when the Toyota Center opened in 2003, the Rockets no longer had fond thoughts of The Summit. Fortunately for the venue, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church did. The church spent $95 million to renovate the basketball arena into a 16,000-seat worship center. After leasing the space, the church purchased the former home of the Rockets in 2010, giving Osteen an arena-sized home for decades to come.

Highbury Square: London, England

Legendary soccer architect Archibald Leitch gave Arsenal F.C. a new Highbury Square soccer stadium in 1913. The Art Deco style served the team well for 93 years, until they moved into the shiny Emirates Stadium in 2006. But nearly a century of history was too much for Arsenal to let go of, so the team partnered with developers and architects and turned the storied London football grounds into Highbury Square apartments in 2009. The field became a garden and portions of the stands, players’ tunnel and even marble halls remained in tact as part of the new 650 flats. In a similar movement, West Ham, which will move into a completely repurposed Olympic Stadium, plans to give its Upton Park venue a similar fate.

Bush Stadium: Indianapolis, Indiana

London can make flats out of soccer stadiums. And Indianapolis can make apartments out of baseball stadiums. The 1931-opened Bush Stadium was a popular minor league park for decades, but went abandoned in 1996. The Art Deco stadium once served a purpose housing old cars from a federal Cash for Clunkers program, but now has quite a bit more intrigue as The Stadium Lofts, more than 130 apartments in the stadium that preserved key features, such as the ticket booth and owner’s suite. The three-story brick and steel structure has plenty of odd-shaped apartments and views onto the field.

National Aquatic Center: Beijing, China

Michael Phelps sees gold when he thinks of Beijing’s “Water Cube,” the National Aquatic Center built for the 2008 Summer Olympics aquatics events. Following the Olympics the venue split in half with the Happy Magic Water Cube Water Park opening its doors in 2010 for patrons in search of over a dozen water slides—the Tornado is the largest of the slides, according to the park’s website, which also claims the location as the “Joy of Heaven”—wave pools, a lazy river and more.

Turner Field: Atlanta, Georgia

While the world watched the 1966 Summer Olympics in Atlanta’s brand-new Centennial Olympic Stadium, the Braves saw something else: a new baseball stadium. Originally built to handle the crush of 85,000 fans for Olympic ceremonies and track and field, the stadium was designed from the start to convert to a MLB park after the event. The north side was demolished. The stands on the south were pushed back more than usual from the track, allowing for the proper baseball configuration. Plus, a variety of seating decks, including luxury options, made up the southwest portion of the Olympic venue. After the removal of roughly 35,000 seats and the track and field complex, the Grand Entry Plaza, the main entrance to the new baseball-specific venue, was added on to complete the reconfiguration. With the Braves moving to SunTrust Park in 2017, we’ll see the repurposing of Turner Field run out of time and get met with demolition.

Las Arenas: Barcelona, Spain

You can find some of the world’s best architecture in Barcelona, so it would prove a shame to rip out a late 1800s bullfighting arena. Fortunately, Las Arenas found new life after ceasing to host bullfighting in the 1970s. With the interior unused, Barcelona officials still saw the value in the Catalonia-style cylindrical building with Moorish arches and preserved the façade of the building while creating a new shopping attraction. With a mix of retail stores, offices and restaurants under a new dome that spilled to an outdoor terrace, the beauty of Las Arenas lives on. Just not as a stadium.

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

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