Multi-purpose stadium

Multi-purpose stadium
RFK Stadium, a multi-purpose stadium in Washington, D.C.

Multi-purpose stadiums are a type of stadium designed in such a way as to be easily used by multiple sports. While any stadium could potentially host more than one sport, this concept usually refers to a specific design philosophy that stresses multi-functionality over specificity. It is used most commonly in Canada and the United States where the two most popular outdoor team sports, gridiron football and baseball, require radically different facilities. Football uses a rectangular field (Canadian football fields are larger than American ones) while baseball is played on a diamond. This requires a particular design to accommodate both, usually an oval. While building stadiums in this way means that sports teams and governments can share costs, it also imposes some challenges.

In North America, multi-purpose stadiums were built primarily during the 1960s and 1970s as shared home stadiums for Major League Baseball and National Football League or Canadian Football League teams. Some stadiums were renovated to allow multi-purpose configurations during the 1980s. This type of stadium is associated with an era of suburbanization, in which many sports teams followed their fans out of large cities into areas with cheaper, plentiful land. They were usually built near highways and had large parking lots but not often connected to public transit. As multi-purpose stadiums were rarely ideal for both sports usually housed in them, they fell out of favor by the 1990s. With the opening of the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City, a model for purpose-built stadiums was laid down. Since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992, most major league sports stadiums have been built specifically for one sport.

Outside North America the term is rarely used since soccer is the only major outdoor team sport in many countries, in some countries soccer and rugby can easily co-exist, with Australia and South Africa being notable examples. In other countries, such as England and France, teams rarely share facilities. In Australia, many sports grounds are suited to both Australian rules football and cricket, which both use oval fields.


History in the United States

Several stadiums hosted multiple sports teams prior to the advent of multi-purpose stadiums. The Polo Grounds hosted football teams early on, and although the stadium was ostensibly designed for baseball, its rectangular nature lent itself well to football. The original configuration of Yankee Stadium was specifically designed to accommodate football as well as track-and-field, in addition to its primary usage for baseball. Wrigley Field, while originally built for baseball, also hosted the Chicago Bears, just as Comiskey Park hosted the Chicago Cardinals and Tiger Stadium hosted the Detroit Lions. Later venues such as Cleveland Stadium and Baltimore Memorial Stadium were built to accommodate both baseball and football.

In the 1960s, multi-purpose stadiums began replacing their baseball-only and football-only predecessors, now known as "Classics" or "Jewel Box" parks. The advantage to a multi-purpose stadium is that a singular infrastructure and piece of real estate can support both teams in terms of transportation and playing area, and money (often public money) that would have been spent to support infrastructure for two stadiums could be spent elsewhere. Also playing into the advent of the multi-purpose stadium was Americans' growing use of automobiles as a form of transportation, and therefore the need for professional sports stadiums to accommodate parking. As most cities lacked the space to construct the stadiums with necessary parking lots near their city centers, most multi-purpose stadiums were built in suburbs, away from the city centers but near freeways or highways.

A subset of the multipurpose stadiums were the so called "cookie-cutter stadiums" or "concrete donuts" which were all very similar in design. They featured a completely circular or nearly circular design, and accommodated both baseball and football by rotating sections of the box seat areas to fit . These fields often used artificial turf. The first of these stadiums was RFK Stadium. It was followed during the 1960s and 1970s by Shea Stadium, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (later known by several corporate names, currently Coliseum), the Astrodome, San Diego Stadium (later Jack Murphy Stadium and Qualcomm Stadium), Riverfront Stadium, Busch Memorial Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium and the Kingdome. Seven of these eleven stadiums have been demolished, most often by implosion; only RFK, the Astrodome, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and San Diego remain.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was unique in that it was one of the few air-supported dome stadiums that was multi-purpose in practice, being convertible between football and baseball. Still home of the Minnesota Vikings, it was also home to the Minnesota Twins until 2009 and the Minnesota Golden Gophers baseball team (NCAA, although repairs forced the team out for the 2011 season).[1] Most other inflatable domes, like the Hoosier Dome and Pontiac Silverdome, were football-only stadiums.

During the height of the multi-purpose stadium construction era of the 1960s and 1970s, four baseball-only stadiums were constructed: Candlestick Park (1960), Dodger Stadium (1962), Anaheim Stadium (1966; now Angel Stadium of Anaheim), and Royals Stadium (1973; now Kauffman Stadium). Anaheim Stadium was, however, renovated into a multi-purpose stadium in 1980 to accommodate the Los Angeles Rams' move from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and renovated back into a baseball-only facility in 1997, three years after the Rams' departure for St. Louis. Similarly, Candlestick Park was renovated into a multi-purpose stadium in 1970 to accommodate the San Francisco 49ers' move from Kezar Stadium and converted to football only after the San Francisco Giants moved to their new ballpark in 2000.

As of September 28, 2011, Coliseum is the last multi-purpose stadium to serve as a full-time home to both an MLB team and an NFL team.

History in Canada

Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, like Olympic Stadium in Montreal, was built initially for a multi-sport event, but is now used mostly for professional sports.

In Canada several large multi-sport stadiums were built during this style's heyday. However, unlike in the United States, there has never been an NFL team based primarily in Canada (though, currently the Buffalo Bills play some home games in Toronto) and there have only ever been two MLB teams, so teams from these leagues have not been the major impetus behind stadium construction (with the notable exception of Toronto). Instead stadiums were built primarily for Canadian Football League teams and in order to host multi-sport events, such as the Olympics.

Three of Canada's largest stadiums from this era and type feature domed roofs or retractable roofs, namely BC Place in Vancouver, SkyDome/Rogers Centre in Toronto, and Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

BC Place is capable of hosting baseball but has been primarily a football venue. Rogers Centre was built to accommodate baseball (MLB's Toronto Blue Jays play there), but has also been a football venue its entire life. Montreal's Olympic Stadium was built primarily for a multi-sport event (the 1976 Summer Olympics, during which it hosted the track and field events and the soccer final) rather than for professional team sports, but it later became the home of the Montreal Alouettes football team and the Montreal Expos baseball team, and is set to become an alternate home to the Montreal Impact when that team enters Major League Soccer in 2012. Similarly the open-air Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton was constructed for the 1978 Commonwealth Games but has also become home of the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. It has also hosted many soccer events, as well as the 2003 Heritage Classic, the first major outdoor ice hockey event in Canada. Pan American Stadium, set to begin construction in 2013, is being primarily built for the 2015 Pan American Games, but is also being constructed with the purposes of being the new home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football team.

Other Canadian cities never had a remote chance of attracting Major League Baseball or the Summer Olympics, and felt no need to replace their smaller open-air stadiums used mostly for Canadian football. For example, Calgary's open-air McMahon Stadium dates from 1960 and has been used only for Canadian football, the 1988 Winter Olympics, and an outdoor ice hockey event (the 2011 Heritage Classic). Similar situations hold in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Hamilton, and Regina. There are no large stadiums of any kind in cities like Quebec City, Halifax, or London.

Outside North America

Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia's largest stadium, is circular to accommodate the round playing surfaces of cricket and Australian rules football.

The idea of a sharp difference between a multi-purpose stadium and a single-sport stadium is less important outside of North America, since in most countries stadiums that are constructed with association football (soccer) in mind are easily able to accommodate rugby, athletics (track and field), or other sports with a similar sized playing field. For example any large stadium in most of Latin America, part of Asia, most of Africa, or continental Europe is likely to be used mostly for soccer. The majority of the largest stadia in the world were built for either association football or American football.

The regions where other outdoor sports can draw numbers comparable to association football or American football are limited. They include: baseball in Japan and the Spanish Caribbean; cricket in England, Australia, the Anglophone Caribbean, and the Indian subcontinent; rugby (union or league) in Wales, England, South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji, and parts of Australia and France; Aussie rules football in Australia; bandy in Russia and Scandinavia; and Gaelic games in Ireland. However even in these areas the amount of compromise needed to accommodate multiple sports varies considerably. Most outdoor team sports have a rectangular playing field, but cricket and Aussie rules fields are rounded, while baseball is played in a diamond. This makes them much harder to accommodate within a rectangular-shaped stadium. Likewise accommodating athletics (track and field), such as for an Olympic games, means constructing a rounded 400m track around the infield. This often means the sports simply find it easier to play in separate stadia. In the case of Ireland, grounds built for Gaelic games are physically capable of accommodating soccer and the rugby codes without modification, but opposition to those sports within large parts of the Gaelic games community, most notably manifested in GAA Rule 42, means that soccer and rugby clubs have generally had to play in separate grounds.

True multi-sport facilities, where teams from a variety of sports use the same stadium as their home ground, exist outside North America in a few cases, most of those smaller stadiums. A handful are notable for having 60,000 seats or more. Melbourne Cricket Ground and ANZ Stadium host cricket, Australian rules football, and association football. Wembley Stadium in London, Stade de France near Paris, and Millennium Stadium in Cardiff are not the permanent homes to any club teams, but are used primarily for international competitions and major tournament finals, mostly for association football, but also for rugby, and the opening and closing ceremonies of multi-sport events such as the 2012 Summer Olympics. Soccer City and Ellis Park Stadium in South Africa have both hosted host rugby union and soccer, while Moses Mabhida Stadium has hosted soccer and cricket. Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi in India hosts cricket and association football. Eden Park in New Zealand hosts rugby union and cricket.

Field layout

Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Its layout has the baseball diamond in the corner of the football field.

Most multi-purpose stadiums that existed in North America overlaid one sideline of the football field along one of the baseball foul lines, with one corner of the football field being located where home plate would be. Coliseum uses a configuration such that its football sideline runs along a line drawn from first base to third base (the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium also used this configuration). This was done presumably to make the same coveted seats behind home plate at a baseball game also coveted 50-yard line seats at a football game. Different stadiums have different angles between the left and right field seats.

In stadiums that were primarily football stadiums that converted to baseball stadiums, the stands were at nearly right angles. This allowed the football field to be squared within the bleachers, but left the baseball configuration with many undesirable views farther away from home plate or facing away from the diamond, such as at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and Sun Life Stadium. Baseball stadiums that converted to football stadiums had more of an obtuse angle between the stands. This made the football viewing farther away, and in some cases partially obscured as in Candlestick Park.

A satellite view of Coliseum. Its layout has the baseball diamond in the middle of the football field.

In the case of Qualcomm Stadium, the stadium was constructed with half of the Field-level seating permanent (built of concrete, in the southern quadrant of the stadium), and the other half portable (modular construction using aluminum or steel framing). When the stadium was configured for baseball, the portable sections would be placed in the western quadrant of the stadium and serve as the third-base half of the infield. In the football configuration, these are placed in the northern quadrant of the stadium (covering what is used as left field in the baseball configuration) to allow for the football field to be laid out east-west. This had the advantage of improving sightlines for both sports while keeping the baseball dimensions roughly symmetrical.


While multi-purpose stadiums were intended to easily accommodate both football and baseball (and in some cases, soccer), the fundamentally different sizes and shapes of the playing fields made them inadequate for either sport. When used for baseball, the lower-level boxes were usually set back much further from the field than comparable seats in baseball-only parks because they swiveled into position for football and soccer. In the case of stadiums that hosted both baseball and Canadian football, the lower boxes were set even further back than their American counterparts because Canadian football fields are 30 yards longer, and considerably wider, than their American counterparts. The upper-level seats were as far as 600 feet from the plate. For football, the seats nearest the field were set farther back than at football-only stadiums to accommodate the larger baseball field. In general, spectator sightlines were not optimized for either sport, i.e., seats were angled towards the center of the field rather than towards the logical center of the gameplay action (home plate for baseball and the 50-yard line for football). Likewise, attempts to build stadiums without support columns to obstruct spectators' views, as was the case with jewel box stadiums, resulted in upper decks being placed very high above the field.

Many multi-purpose stadiums also had artificial turf playing surfaces, to ease the transition from baseball field to football field and vice-versa. In many cases, the turf was nothing more than carpet on top of concrete with little padding material, which caused frequent injuries to players. During the first month of the football season, the playing field would include the infield dirt that is harder than the grass and is also a significant injury risk.

In the baseball configuration, most had symmetrical field dimensions. This detracted from the unique, individual identity enjoyed by the Jewel Box stadiums with odd or asymmetrical field dimensions, and further supported the "cookie cutter stadium" nickname.

Fans also criticized the large parking lots surrounding the stadiums as well as their concrete or painted concrete façades as uninviting.

Soccer was perceived as an especially bad fit for this type of stadium leading to the soccer-specific stadium movement.

Scheduling was also a big issue since the MLB postseason overlaps with the NFL regular season. If a baseball team advances in the postseason to the point where it is scheduled to play a postseason game on the same day the football team plays a home game, adjustments had to be made such as having the game moved to Monday night or, if a division opponent was scheduled, have the game sites switched putting the upcoming meeting on the road and playing the home game during the latter meeting.


The idea of privately-owned purpose-specific stadiums has been criticized as unflexible, exclusionary, and environmentally wasteful in comparison with public-owned multi-function stadiums which can be well-used landmarks of a community.[2]

Replacement and retention

The first real departure from the multipurpose stadium design occurred in 1972, when the Jackson County Sports Authority in Kansas City, Missouri opened the Truman Sports Complex, which houses Kauffman Stadium (named Royals Stadium at the time of opening) and Arrowhead Stadium. The Truman Sports Complex was the first example of multiple stadiums being built for specific sports at the same time. The designers, Kivett and Myers, were then absorbed by Kansas City architecture firm Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum to become HOK Sport + Venue + Event (now the independent firm Populous), who went on to design many pro sports venues in the United States. Though hailed as revolutionary at the time, the Truman Sports Complex model of stadium design was widely ignored for the next twenty years, though the influence of both Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadiums were easily seen in venues such as Giants Stadium.

The true end of the multi-purpose era began in 1987, when Buffalo's Pilot Field, a stadium built for the Buffalo Bisons minor league baseball team and a potential MLB expansion franchise, opened. During the 1990s and 2000s, most of the multipurpose stadiums used for Major League Baseball in the United States were replaced (most, but not all, of those replaced have been demolished) by "retro" style ballparks. These parks come in two varieties: "retro-classic" parks, which combine the interior and exterior design of the "classic" ballparks with the amenities of newer facilities; and "retro-modern" parks, which have modern amenities and "retro" interiors but have modern exterior designs. The first "retro-classic" park in Major League Baseball was Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, which opened in 1992 and was based mostly on the Pilot Field design. (Comiskey Park had opened a year earlier in Chicago, but it was very modernist in its design and had little in common with the later retro-classic parks. However, due to extensive renovations over the years, Comiskey Park now enjoys many of the same amenities.) The "retro-modern" park made its first appearance in 1994 with the opening of Jacobs Field, in Cleveland. Many football teams that shared a stadium with a baseball team had their stadiums converted into football-only facilities shortly after the baseball tenant left (e.g., Qualcomm Stadium), while other football teams followed in the footsteps of their baseball counterparts and had new football-only stadiums constructed.

The Florida Marlins currently are constructing a new retractable roof stadium in Miami and plan to begin playing there in 2012. At that time, the team name will change to Miami Marlins. Sun Life Stadium will then be renovated to eliminate its baseball functionality, making it a football-only stadium.[citation needed]

After the Marlins relocate, the Oakland Athletics will be the only team left in the U.S. still sharing a stadium with an NFL team (the Oakland Raiders), Coliseum. The A's and Raiders are both seeking new places to play; the A's recently commenced plans to build Cisco Field. The Raiders have no concrete plans to move, but have suggested a move back to Los Angeles, where the Raiders played from 1980 to 1994. There have also been suggestions for the Raiders to share the proposed new 49ers stadium in Santa Clara with the San Francisco 49ers.

Currently, soccer-specific stadiums are now required by North America's three main soccer leagues, Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League and USL Pro.

In Canada, smaller, more specialized stadiums have generally become more popular, but none of the major multi-use stadiums of the 1970s and 1980s have been demolished as of 2011. The Toronto Blue Jays currently share Rogers Centre with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL and began sharing the facility on a part-time basis with the Buffalo Bills of the NFL in August 2008.[3] The Toronto Argonauts have twice publicly announced plans to leave Rogers Centre only to end up staying, though Toronto FC built their own, soccer-specific facility, BMO Field. The Blue Jays presently do not have any plans to leave Rogers Centre. BC Place in Vancouver is still used by the BC Lions and was also the Olympic Stadium for the 2010 Winter Olympics, although the Lions played their 2010 season at the temporary Empire Field while BC Place was being renovated to replace the original air-supported roof with a retractable roof. The Vancouver Whitecaps, which entered Major League Soccer in 2011, are sharing Empire Field and the renovated BC Place with the Lions. This was intended to be a temporary arrangement until the MLS team could build their own Whitecaps Stadium, but local opposition to the planned stadium has led the Whitecaps to make BC Place a long-term home. The Montreal Expos' owners often cited the inadequacy of Olympic Stadium as a reason for the team's financial troubles which eventually led to relocation to Washington, D.C. The Montreal Alouettes moved out of Olympic Stadium to Molson Stadium while the Montreal Impact soccer team (set to enter MLS in 2012) have constructed the smaller Stade Saputo, although both teams continue to use Olympic Stadium for playoff games and other special events when extra capacity is needed. Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton received major upgrades in order to host the 2001 World Championships in Athletics, and continues to host the Edmonton Eskimos, but is not hosting the new soccer team, FC Edmonton, which began play in 2011.

An added benefit of single-sport stadiums that was impossible with the "concrete donut" design of the multi-purpose stadiums is improved panoramic views of areas outside the stadium, such as mountains, city skylines, etc. Examples include CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field (although the latter can be used for American football games, as it played host to the college football Seattle Bowl in 2001), which replaced the Kingdome in Seattle, and Heinz Field and PNC Park, which replaced Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

Still, however, several modern baseball-specific stadiums are able to be (and have been) converted for football use. In addition to the aforementioned Safeco Field, San Francisco's AT&T Park (which hosted the XFL's San Francisco Demons and hosts the annual Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and will host California Golden Bears football games in the 2011 season while that team's stadium is renovated), Phoenix's Chase Field (which hosted the Insight Bowl from 2000–2005), and St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field (which was built as a baseball specific stadium but began hosting a college bowl game in 2008) have all been used to host professional and college games since they were built. (It should also be noted that Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., was to be the original host of the EagleBank Bowl before that game was moved to RFK Stadium.[4])

Furthermore, some of the teams in the United Football League have played their home schedule at a baseball-specific stadium. The California Redwoods played their home games at the aforementioned AT&T Park, though they moved to Sacramento (Sacramento Mountain Lions) in 2010 and are now playing in a football stadium. Although their home field was the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the Florida Tuskers played one 2009 home game at Tropicana Field. The team has since moved to the Hampton Roads area as the Virginia Destroyers and is now playing in a soccer-specific stadium. The Omaha Nighthawks played their inaugural 2010 season at a baseball park, Rosenblatt Stadium, and will play in Rosenblatt's baseball-specific replacement, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, for the foreseeable future.

See also


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