From Ancient History to Modern Marvels
From sporting events to rock concerts, stadiums have played a pivotal role throughout history.
Held over 30 years ago, Live Aid went down in history as one of the biggest television broadcast events the world had ever seen. Organized by Bob Geldof from band The Boomtown Rats and Midge Ure of Ultravox fame, the massive event was truly a once in a lifetime experience, bringing out the who’s who of the music industry.
Legendary artists like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, David Bowie and Queen, alongside bands big at the time like Duran Duran, The Cars, and Simple Minds all came to play, showing their support for those impacted by the ongoing Ethiopian famine.
Held on July 13, 1985, Live Aid was remarkable for many reasons. Not only was it a worldwide initiative to help others, but the turnout surprised even organizers of the event, which was held in not one, but two stadiums simultaneously. About 72,000 showed up at London, England’s Wembley Stadium, while over 100,000 fans were at Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium, over 5,600 kilometres away. Many were in awe not only by how well-organized Live Aid was, but how staging a global event at the same time in two giant stadiums ran so smoothly.
While the term ‘stadium rock’ (also known as arena rock) conjures up images of heavy metal, progressive rock, and the big hair bands of the 70s and 80s, none of these mega-selling live shows would have been possible without massive stadiums capable of holding tens of thousands of excited fans.
While stadiums vary in size, some, like Wembley, are enormous. Attracting over two million guests annually, it remains one of the world’s most popular venues for music and sporting events, and is home to the England national football team. Capable of holding 90,000, it may come as a surprise that Wembley is not the largest stadium by capacity on the planet. That distinction belongs to the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium. In Pyongyang, North Korea, Rungrado – also known as May Day Stadium – can hold 114,000, and opened in 1989, the same year as the SkyDome in Toronto, Canada. Since renamed the Rogers Centre, the structure made news worldwide when it was first built for its retractable roof. Heralded as a marvel 30 years ago, the opening of the roof symbolizes not only good weather, but the arrival of summer in Canada’s most populous city.
Stadiums have a history going back to Ancient Greece and places like Olympia and Delphi, where they were designed and built to hold many spectators. With the name ‘stadium’ derived from the Greek ‘stadion’ (length of some 607 feet, or 185 metres), these venues were modified from amphitheatres. Used mainly for sporting events, the first modern stadium ever built was based in Athens, appropriately for the first Olympic Games in 1876, and able to hold about 60,000 spectators.
Architects today are designing stadiums for specific purposes. Across the United States and Canada, many stadiums – especially those built for universities and colleges – are made to accommodate sports like football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and track-and-field events. Many of these venues are massive and football-focused, like Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium, Ohio State University’s Ohio Stadium and Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, able to hold 92,542, 102,239, and 106,572 spectators respectively.
Stadium construction is a costly, and often lengthy, undertaking. As of this writing, there are over 25 major stadiums being built, according to stadiumdb.com, including Argentina’s Estadio Jorge Luis Hirschi in the city of La Plata, the Stadion pod Tumbe Kafe in Macedonia, and Spain’s Nou Mestalla. In some instances, construction was initiated on these and other stadiums years ago, with some beset by building issues or running out of funds.
Worldwide, many other mega-stadiums are in the pre-planning, design, or building stages in Japan, Turkey, The Netherlands, Morocco, France, Qatar, and other locations. One of the most noteworthy stadiums in the works is in the suburban area Motera in India’s City of Ahmedabad. The old stadium was demolished in late 2015 and the new one is now under construction, dedicated to India’s passion, cricket.
One of the largest projects of its kind, the work is being handled by Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T), one of India’s largest construction firms. Once completed, the new stadium will have a capacity of over 110,000, greater than the 100,024 capacity of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Australia, the tenth largest stadium in the world. The new stadium in India will also feature plenty of room for parking – able to accommodate some 3,000 cars and 10,000 two-wheelers – a tremendous bonus for the world-famous Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), which has been busy with the work since January 2017. The estimated construction cost for the project is Rs 700 crore, about $101,405,500 U.S.
Along with the project in Motera, a new stadium is under construction in Hungary. With the old stadium demolished in 2017 – which hosted the likes of Louis Armstrong, U2, Depeche Mode and Roger Waters over the decades – the new Ferenc Puskás Stadium is underway. Located in the capital of Budapest, contractors expect completion by the end of this year, in time for the 2020 European Football Championship in the city. Despite working under less than favourable cold and damp conditions, the project is well underway. Facing serious financial penalties for delays, a great deal depends on the work being successfully completed in time.
One of the costliest stadiums in Western Europe, the final price tag is increasing from its initial 2011 budget of approximately 112 million EUR ($127 million U.S.) to 610 million EUR ($693 million U.S.) in 2018.
Plans are in place for the stadium to serve as a permanent training center. For the Hungarian Athletics Association, a great deal hinges on the work, since the Association plans to apply for the Athletics World Cup, which will be staged in 2023.
Like other large-scale works, stadium construction is a lengthy process, often running into millions of dollars, requiring the skill and expertise of top sports construction management firms around the world with the manpower necessary to see these massive venues completed on time, and on budget.