A modern stadium (plural stadiums or stadia in English) is a place, or venue, for (mostly) outdoor sports, concerts or other events, consisting of a field or stage partly or completely surrounded by a structure designed to allow spectators to stand or sit and view the event.
The word originates from the Greek word "stadion" (στάδιον), a Greek measure of length roughly 180 - 200m. The oldest known stadium is the one in Olympia, in western Peloponnese, Greece, where the Olympic Games of antiquity were held since 776 BC. Initially 'the Games' consisted of a single event, a sprint along the length of the stadium. Therefore the length of the Olympia stadium was more or less standardized as a measure of distance (approximately 190 meters or 210 yd). The practice of standardizing footrace tracks to a length of 180-200 meters (200-220 yd) was followed by the Romans as well. Greek and Roman stadiums have been found in numerous ancient cities, perhaps the most famous being the Stadium of Domitian, in Rome.
Dome stadiums are distinguished from conventional stadiums by their enclosing roofs. They are called stadiums because they are large enough for, and designed for, what are generally considered to be outdoor sports. Those designed for what are usually indoor sports are called arenas. Some stadiums have partial roofs, and a few have even been designed to have moveable fields.
The term "stadium" tends to be used mostly in connection with games like association football, American football, Baseball, Gaelic football, Hurling, Rugby, and other large field games. Exceptions include the basketball arena at Duke University, which is called Cameron Indoor Stadium and the now-demolished Chicago Stadium, former home of the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL and Chicago Bulls of the NBA.
Different sports require fields of different size and shape. Some stadiums are designed primarily for a single sport while others can accommodate different events, particularly ones with retractable seating. Stadiums built specifically for football (soccer) are quite common in Europe however Gaelic games Stadiums would be most common in Ireland, while ones built specifically for baseball or American Football are common in the United States. The most common multiple use design combines a football pitch with a running track, a combination which generally works fairly well, although certain compromises must be made. The major drawback is that the stands are necessarily set back a good distance from the pitch, especially at the ends of the pitch. The Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin is being remodelled to remove the running track after persistent complaints from fans of Juventus F.C.. In the case of some smaller stadiums, there aren't stands at the ends. When there are stands all the way around, the stadium takes on an oval shape. When one end is open, the stadium has a horseshoe shape. All three configurations (open, oval and horseshoe) are common, especially in the case of American college football stadiums. Rectangular stadiums are more common in Europe, especially for football (soccer) where many stadiums have four often distinct and very different stands on the four sides of the stadium. These are often all of different sizes and designs and have been erected at different periods in the stadium's history. The vast differing character of European football (soccer) stadiums has led to the growing hobby of ground hopping where spectators make a journey to visit the stadium for itself rather than for the event being held there. In recent years the trend of building completely new oval stadiums in Europe has led to traditionalists criticising the designs as bland and lacking in the character of the old stadiums they replace.
In North America, where baseball and American football are the two most popular outdoor spectator sports, a number of football/baseball multi-use stadiums were built, especially during the 1960s, and some of them were successful.
However, since the requirements for baseball and football are significantly different, the trend beginning with Kansas City in 1972–1973, and accelerating in the 1990s, has been toward the construction of single-purpose stadiums. In several cases an American football stadium has been constructed adjacent to a baseball park. In many cases, earlier baseball stadiums were constructed to fit into a particular land area or city block. This resulted in asymmetrical dimensions for many baseball fields. Yankee Stadium, for example, was built on a triangular city block in The Bronx, New York City. This resulted in a large left field dimension but a small right field dimension.
Before more modern football stadiums were built in the United States, many baseball parks, including Fenway Park, the Polo Grounds, Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park, Tiger Stadium,Griffith Stadium, Milwaukee County Stadium, Shibe Park, Forbes Field, Yankee Stadium and Sportsman's Park were used by the National Football League or the American Football League. Along with today's single use stadiums is the trend for retro style ballparks closer to downtown areas. Oriole Park at Camden Yards was the first such ballpark for Major League Baseball to be built using early 20th century styling with 21st century amenities.
An "all-seater" stadium has seats for all spectators. Other stadiums are designed so that all or some spectators stand to view the event. The term "all-seater" is not common in the U.S., perhaps because very few American stadiums have sizeable standing-only sections. Poor stadium design has contributed to disasters such as the Hillsborough disaster and the Heysel Stadium disaster. Since these, both the FA Premier League and FIFA World Cup qualifying matches require all spectators to be seated (though not necessarily in an all-seater stadium, if terraces are left empty).
The spectator areas of a stadium can be referred to as bleachers, especially in the U.S., or as terraces, especially in the United Kingdom but also in some American baseball parks, as an alternative to the term tier. Originally set out for standing room only, they are now usually equipped with seating. Either way, the term originates from the step-like rows which resemble agricultural terraces. Related, but not precisely the same, is the use of terrace to describe a sloping portion of the outfield in a baseball park, possibly but not necessarily for seating, but for practical or decorative purposes. The most famous of these was at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Many stadiums make luxury suites available to patrons for thousands of dollars per event. These suites can accommodate fewer than 10 spectators or upwards of 30 depending on the venue. Luxury suites at events such as the Super Bowl can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In recent decades, to help take the burden of the massive expense of building and maintaining a stadium, many American and European sports teams have sold the rights to the name of the facility. This trend, which began in the 1970s but accelerated greatly in the 1990s, has led to sponsors' names being affixed to both established stadiums and new ones. In some cases, the corporate name replaces (with varying degrees of success) the name by which the venue has been known for many years — examples include Toronto's Rogers Centre, previously known as SkyDome. But many of the more recently-built ballparks, such as Milwaukee's Miller Park, have never been known by a non-corporate name. The sponsorship phenomenon has since spread worldwide. There remain a few municipally-owned stadiums, which are often known by a name that is significant to their area (for example, Minneapolis' Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome). In recent years, some government-owned stadiums have also been subject to naming-rights agreements, with some or all of the revenue often going to the team(s) that play there.
One consequence of corporate naming has been an increase in stadium name changes, for example when the namesake corporation changes its name, or if the naming agreement simply expires. Phoenix's Chase Field, for example, was previously known as Bank One Ballpark but was re-named to reflect the takeover of the latter corporation. San Francisco's historic Candlestick Park was renamed as 3Com Park for several years, but the name was dropped when the sponsorship agreement expired, and it was another two years before a new name of Monster Park was applied. On the other hand, Los Angeles' Great Western Forum, one of the earliest examples of corporate re-naming, retained its name for many years, even after the namesake bank no longer existed, the corporate name being dropped only after the building later changed ownership. Perhaps the most interesting example is Houston's Minute Maid Park, which hurriedly dropped its original name of Enron Field when scandal engulfed the latter corporation — it became Astros Field for a year before finding a new corporate naming sponsor. This practice has typically been less common in countries outside the United States. A notable exception is the Nippon Professional Baseball league of Japan, in which many of the teams are themselves named after their parent corporations. Also, many new European football stadiums, such as the Reebok Stadium and Emirates Stadium in England and Allianz Arena in Germany have been corporately named.
This new trend in corporate naming (or re-naming) is distinguishable from names of some older parks such as Crosley Field, Wrigley Field and the first and second Busch Stadiums, in that the parks were named by and for the club's owner, which also happened to be the names of companies owned by those clubowners. (The current Busch Stadium received its name via a modern naming rights agreement.)
During the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, some stadiums were temporarily renamed because the FIFA prohibits sponsorship of stadiums unless the stadium sponsors are also official FIFA sponsors. For example, the Allianz Arena in Munich was called the FIFA World Cup Stadium, Munich during the tournament. Likewise, the same stadium will be known as the "München Arena" during the UEFA Cup.