Thursday, February 19, 2015

Outdoor Stadium

By Patrick Londrigan

In the NFL twenty three of the thirty one teams have out door stadiums and most fill the stadium with no problems.  No matter the weather, being rain or shine, their fans show up with pride.  This past Super Bowl was the first time in football history that a Super Bowl was played in an open air stadium in a cold-weather city.  This stadium being the MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Giants and the New York Jets, in New Jersey. 
Of these twenty three stadiums, eleven of them are north of the Mason Dixon Line, making twelve south.  Why do these stadiums choose to not put a roof over their teams head?  It boils down to a few issues: cost, uses other than football, and, yes, weather.  Putting a roof over a stadium is a challenge for both the engineering and the financial process.  Building an unsupported structure that spans some 600 to 800 feet is more like building a bridge than a roof.  A dome is challenging enough because they require a lot of temporary support during construction.  In turn making that roof retractable, is another major leap. 
The popularity of these roofs has taken off since the late 1990's.  But with all of this technology, it comes with a hefty price tag.  A retractable roof adds between $100 million and $150 million to a project over and open stadium, and between $25 million and $40 million over the cost of a closed, fixed-roof stadium. 
So why pay that extra $100 million for the roof?  Simple answer, would be that the stadium would get more use.  Football games, more than likely, have the least to do with the decision.  If a municipality wants the stadium for use in concerts, rodeos or other year-round events, a closed building is the way to go.  In the South, the heat certainly plays a factor in the patron comfort during games.  But in the north you have to think about the winter weather as well, with games now going into late December.  Designing a roof for snow requires more steel, which means more money.  As the weight of a snowfall can double the load a stadium roof needs support. 
In the top twenty active sellout streaks in North America, this being between all professional sports (ie. NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB), ten of those teams are in the NFL.  Of those ten, nine are outdoor stadiums, with number ten being the Dallas Cowboys (20) and they have a retractable roof.  Of those nine stadiums, only the San Francisco 49ner's is considered a southern team.  The other stadiums are the Green Bay Packers (4), the Washington Redskins (6), the Pittsburg Steelers (7), the Denver Broncos (9), the New York Giants and Jets (13 and 14), the Chicago Bears (17), and the New England Patriots (19).  The Green Bay Packers have sold out their last 374 games, this record starting back in 1965, and green bay is known for playing in inclement weather.  One of there most famous games, known as the Snow Bowl.  The game sold out in advance, like it normally does, but the stadium had over 36,000 "no-shows," most in Packers history.  Twelve inches of snow fell before the game and another four to five inches fell during the game.  But the teams played on and the Pack one. 
No matter the weather, fans still show up to cheer their team on.  Will the new St. Louis rams stadium be roofless?  We will have to wait to find out.

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