Thursday, November 8, 2012

Retractable Roofs: Can't Live with 'em, Can't Live without 'em

Matthew Brown over at the Stadiafile blog took a recent look at retractable roofs, particularly in MLB.

In comparing the league's six transformable stadiums, he dispells the notion that retractable roofs are "essential to the game of baseball" but agrees the comfort and assurance they provide has value.  So what gives?
In light of the extraordinary financial and environmental cost it takes to operate a closed stadium, it would be interesting to think of an open-air alternative that would bring the same level of comfort and assurance of games being played as a retractable roof does.  A recipe that brings together new advancements in synthetic surfaces, creative passive heating and cooling strategies and partial roof coverings for spectator comfort could provide such alternative.
The must-have amenity for European football stadiums are big roofs.  Wembley Stadium, Arsenal’s Emirates and Allianz Arena in Munich are three examples of big football stadiums built in the past ten years whose expansive roofs cover the entire seated section, leaving only the playing field open to the weather above.  These structures keep fans warm and dry during the winter months, while allowing rain and wind to play their part in the game on the pitch.  Along with new grass-like synthetic surfaces, large roofs could help create an atmosphere similar to the best a retractable roof could offer
The problem for Tampa Bay Rays fans, of course, is that a half-domed stadium probably wouldn't work in Florida.  Just like in Miami, Tampa Bay fans won't come out to games in the scorching heat and the games won't be able to be played in some of the summer downpours.
But is a retractable roof necessary when teams like the Marlins and D'Backs already keep theirs closed most games?

Brown writes it certainly doesn't seem necessary in Arizona:
Regardless of how well composed the Chase Field fa├žade is or how well the roof and mechanical systems control the indoor climate, there is only so much architecture can do to bring lukewarm fans out to the game save giving tickets away.
But Brown also argues fickle fans (like in Arizona or Florida) may never be content with beautiful ballparks:
Architecture can only do so much to help a club gain its foothold and retain strong fan bases.  Despite these inherent limitations, clubs must remain ambitious and creative, retractable roofs or not, in their quest to create the best and most exciting ballparks possible to cater to and help craft future fans.


  1. Good article, though what about the Rays earlier plans of a retractable canvaslike roof that was to mimic a sailboat at a cheaper cost then the retractable roofs other parks have?

  2. I agree with Brown, retractable roof systems seem rather unnecessary. In my opinion, all stadiums really should be in an indoor environment where the climate can be easily. This way it never gets too hot, and it never gets too cold. If there's a problem with the system, then it can be fixed, and the weather wouldn't be an issue.
    Bill Li |