The disposable stadium
Today’s venues aren’t built to be inherited by future generations
FOR THE socially conscious pro football fan, it’s stupefying to see the Acropolis for the first time — as I did this fall. The pillared Parthenon, towering on a hill over Athens despite being half blown apart and pillaged repeatedly over 25 centuries, occupies a rectangular footprint reminiscent of a football field. This famous structure also inspired the pillars outside Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Off to a side of the Parthenon was the outdoor theater, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, originally built over 1,800 years ago. To this day, it hosts concerts and plays for 5,000 people. Down below, about a mile away, was the Panathinaiko Stadium. The current version was built in 1896 for the first modern Olympics, and it was serviceable enough in the 2004 Olympics to host archery and the end of the marathon. (The shot put was staged a couple of hours away in an ancient stadium that last saw an Olympics in 393 AD.)
This reverential but functional view of antiquity contrasts sharply with the American disposable stadium. Three weeks after visiting Greece, I watched the
Less than a quarter of the National Football League’s 32 teams play in stadiums built before 1976. Taxpayers are still paying for several demolished 1970s and ’80s stadiums, while putting up a total of $8 billion of public money for current stadiums, according to The New York Times. The common pattern is that insatiable franchises maximize revenue in so-called “state of the art facilities,” and then try to sucker taxpayers two decades later by complaining that those same stadiums are outdated.
The oldest stadium in the NFL that looks at all like its original self is the Packers’ Lambeau Field, built in 1957. Most stadiums, despite their gargantuan size and cost, are not built to last. Just ask the
The same dynamics are at work in baseball and basketball, which make Boston’s Fenway Park (1912) and Chicago’s Wrigley Field (1914) absolute treasures. These stadiums, which underwent renovations that preserved their original charm, are actually going to have 100th birthdays.
Few other stadiums will. No fan screaming for the
Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.