A stadium is a building used for sporting or other events that attract a large crowd of people.
The word stadium is apparently derived from the Greek word meaning 'to stand'. It referred to spectators in the days of Ancient Greece who would stand all day in the sun watching athletic races and other such events.
The plural of stadium is stadia or more commonly, stadiums.
Stadiums are typically built to accommodate outdoor sports that require a large playing area, such as various football sports, baseball, or athletics. An exception to this is bullfighting. A stadium often doubles as a concert venue or for other public events (such as religious gatherings) that would be attended by thousands of people.
At its simplest, a stadium consists of a playing field (typically grass) and a barrier (typically a wall or fence) that separates the spectators from the playing field.
While sports do not have to be played in a stadium, professional sports tend to attract larger attendances that would be more difficult to accommodate if all of the attendees were at ground level. As a result, stadiums include designated spectator areas that are often raised above the playing surface in order to allow for a better view of the event. The area for spectators may consist of standing room, benches, or individual seats. Some areas may be open, covered by a roof (as in a grandstand), or enclosed (as in a luxury box).
Some stadiums are designed to accommodate more than one sport, in which case the ground must be large enough to accommodate playing fields of different shapes and dimensions (such as baseball and American football). Where a stadium includes a running track at ground level, the area for spectators can be some distance away from the playing field of sports that do not use the running track. As such, the sightlines of a stadium can vary, and this affects the spectator's experience of the sport.
Typically, a stadium (especially the playing field) is open to the elements, but some larger stadiums built since the late 20th century incorporate a retractable roof that can extend to cover all spectators and the playing field. In cases like this, a stadium can be similar to buildings with a fixed roof, such as an arena, hall, or dome.
Acoustics can form an important aspect of stadium design, particularly if the stadium is used for concerts. More often however, acoustics form a significant part of sporting events when the spectators seek to distract the opposing team by being as loud as possible.
Over time, stadiums can be renovated, expanded, or rebuilt entirely. Wembley Stadium in England was first built in 1923, then demolished in 2000, and completely rebuilt by 2007. In the first three years since its reopening, its turf playing surface was replaced 10 times.
In the era of 21st century professional sports, stadium construction costs have surged to hundreds of millions of dollars. In the case of the National Football League, the cheapest active stadium (adjusted for inflation) cost $154 million, while the most expensive cost $1.15 billion.
The high cost of stadiums means that taxpayers usually contribute to the cost of construction. Aside from ticket sales, cost recovery occurs through offering naming rights to the stadium, selling personal seat licences, renting out luxury boxes, or by increasing car rental and hotel taxes.
In a few cases, the debt from a stadium's construction has outlived the stadium itself. In the 1970s, Giants Stadium was built in New Jersey. It was demolished less than 40 years later, while still carrying over $100 million in debt at the time of demolition.
Notwithstanding these high costs, new stadiums are often proposed by a city that seeks to host a major international event such as the Summer Olympics or a FIFA World Cup. Hosting of the event is seen by a government as giving international fame and prominence to the host city (or country), but citizens may oppose the use of taxpayer's money for such a purpose.
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