People are now designing sports venues based entirely on abstract geometric shapes, this is truly the future

Okay, the Tampa Bay Rays may have just won vaportecture for all time, as team owner Stuart Sternberg declared Saturday that he wants his new stadium to look like this:

Or not look exactly like Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi’s 1923 sculpture Bird in Space — it would make for some really short foul lines — but at least use that as “our guiding design” towards a building that will be a “minimalist, iconic, porous facility.” (“Porous” here appears to be a hip architectural term that means “relating to its surroundings,” as coined by Richard Goodwin in his memorably named Porosity: the Architecture of Invagination.)

“We’re going to continue to push the designers really hard,” Sternberg said the day after announcing the Ybor project was the team’s choice for a new home. “If the stadium is done correctly, it’s going to be iconic yet you won’t even know it’s there.”

It’s an invisible stadium, you guys! Or maybe one that’s just so in tune with its surroundings that it disappears into them, like a Mayan pyramid or this guy.

All this, of course, is roughly 50% bluster and 50% misdirection, since the whole point of Sternberg’s current push, what with announcing a stadium site and all with no idea how to pay for it, is to get people all excited about this and hope the sense of momentum gets them to view a multi-hundred-million-dollar funding gap as an obstacle to be overcome, rather than a reason maybe not to do this at all. The Tampa Bay Times editorial board is already down with this, writing on Friday that “significant progress has to be made by the end of the year” because “it will take regional support to ensure baseball remains in Tampa Bay” and this “could be the last, best option.” (To be fair, they also said Sternberg will have to kick in more than the $150 million he’s promised, but still, this is how-do-we-get-it-done-ism in a nutshell.)

In fact, I would dismiss Sternberg’s Brancusi references to just the ravings of a rich dude hoping to sweet-talk the public out of their tax dollars if not for the fact that Madison Square Garden has announced it’s building an 18,000-seat arena in Las Vegas that will be shaped like a sphere, and called, naturally, the MSG Sphere:

This will be for concerts only, no sports, and will cost nobody knows how much, and will feature “high-speed internet at every seat” and “beamforming” technology so that people in adjacent seats can hear different things and 36 miles of LEDs on its exterior that will enable projection of anything they want, including the event taking place inside or even:

A different camera system set up around the city will be able to virtually cloak the dome with real-time images and video of its surroundings, making it seemingly disappear.

An invisible arena. Maybe that way Las Vegas can pretend it doesn’t already have 43 other arenas. Vegas is headed for the Arena Event Horizon any day now.


35 comments on “People are now designing sports venues based entirely on abstract geometric shapes, this is truly the future

  1. Invagination? Really? Wow.

    The exterior ‘treatment’ makes me think “Predator XIII” is about to begin filming and this arena will be a real life marketing exercise upon it’s release… you know, like the Anaheim Mighty Ducks were.

  2. NBA teams counting on secondary events to drive traffic on off-days should be crapping their pants at the prospect of the MSG Sphere. Especially teams with significant debt service (Kings & Bucks, to name two) and teams hoping for successful “mixed use” developments (Islanders, Red Wings, and more).

    I don’t see any reason why MSG can’t put a Sphere in every Top 50 metro area (it’s scalable down to 10,000 seats, or less, and it costs half as much as an equivalent capacity basketball/hockey arena) and I can’t imagine too many touring acts who’d prefer to be stuck playing in a sports stadium.

    • I don’t see any reason why a Sphere would cost half as much as a sports arena, or why MSG would want to put one in Milwaukee even if it did, when you can book the Bucks arena for just the cost of rental.

      • The sphere costs half as much because there is less of a need for restaurants, team stores, and luxury boxes inside the arena, plus the separation between audience and performer makes design & construction simpler (and, thus, cheaper).

        I could see MSG putting a sphere in Milwaukee because a “Milwaukee-sized” Sphere (say, 13,500 capacity) may not cost a ton and MSG has been seeing major revenue growth in their arena business. If MSG wants their arena business to keep growing, they’ll have to move beyond NYC, Vegas, LA, and London.

        • Most NBA arenas seat 20,000 or better for concerts, depending on configuration, and the hotter acts will fill them to capacity. But you’re saying MSG would cede those larger concerts to the existing arena and build something that only seats 13,500? That would take quite a bit of the fear away for the existing arena knowing that larger acts would still be their clients by default.

          • Most NBA arenas absolutely do not seat 20k for concerts, aside from in-the-round concerts, which are rare. I used 13,500 because that is about what the Bucks’ new arena will seat for concerts.

        • Well the capacity of this sphere is 18.5, which just so happen to be a bit larger than the average size of a NBA arena.

          This doesn’t make any kind of sense. Vegas already has 4 arenas with a capacity greater than 10,000. One is less than 3 years old (T-Mobile), another was recently renovated at the cost of $70 million (T&M), a third is pretty much mouth-balled due to the aforementioned first one (MGM Grand Garden), and the fourth is used on occasion (Mandalay). The city is building a $1.4 billion stadium that will be starving for events. Not to mention, you have smaller venues like the Orleans Arena, the Coliseum at Caesar’s, Planet Hollywood’s concert venue, The Joint at Hard Rock, Cox Pavilion, South Point’s venue, The Smith Center, etc. Oh and all these venues are within 5 miles of each other.

          • …and none of those arenas in Vegas are any good for concerts. They’re all sports arenas. That’s why the Sphere is getting built.

          • I guess I don’t really get this new thing about “good for concerts.” I’ve been to a lot of shows in outdoor stadiums and indoor arenas–they are big because lots of people want to see the show, not because artistically its a great idea. At a certain point, if you want an experience that is intimate and close to the stage, go to a music club, not a concert.

            If you want a smaller building fantastic for concerts…look to the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany. Built at insane expense for 2,100 people. Probably not the model of the cube.

            The whole argument makes me laugh because despite Ben’s years of protestations to the contrary–a concert venue that brings in people can now apparently be privately built, completely undercutting the argument for the foolish arena Milwaukee just built at insane expense. We only just figured this idea out?

          • My argument has always been that sports arenas justify public financing because big time sports create economic fallout at a level that few other types of businesses can match.

    • “I don’t see any reason why MSG can’t put a Sphere in every Top 50 metro area”
      _________

      You mean other than economics? Places already have concert venues. A new venue might win out, or it might not. Even assuming there is some magic sauce that would make it cost 50% less to build it’d still be competing against existing venues many of which are already paid for thus allowing them more flexibility in what they’d charge. If a promoter or band finds out they’ll make more at the basketball arena as opposed to the big round ball the concert will end up at the basketball arena.

  3. Only in the discussion about stadiums could you come up with a paradox like ‘iconic yet invisible’. Just when I thought the conversation was at it’s most ridiculous a team owners comes along an ups the ante.

  4. I wonder what the equivalent was in Shakespeare’s time to make the owners of the Globe Theater worries they weren’t keeping up? Scented mud in the stalls?

    • Fire seemed to do the trick. Though as I recall he owned the building but not the land.

      Hmmmmn.

  5. I don’t get the point of the MSG Sphere when T Mobile is easily capable of holding concerts that big.

    Also I never understood using tax payer money for the looks of arena…..looking at you Minnesota Timberwolves……

    • The point of MSG Sphere in LV is that most touring acts tolerate sports arenas. They don’t like sports arenas.

      • That’s why most ‘sports arenas’ aren’t dedicated sports arenas. They are designed and built as concert venues every bit as much as sporting venues.

        • Believing that NHL or NBA arenas are built equally for sports and concerts is completely delusional. Take a look at ANY non-sports concert venue (Pine Knob near Detroit or Marcus Ampitheatre in Milwaukee, to name two). Their seating, concourses, concessions, entrances, architecture, and basically everything else looks absolutely nothing like an NBA or NHL arena.

          • They’re built to be multipurpose, just as the old concrete donut stadiums were built to host both baseball and football. (And, like, Pink Floyd shows.)

            Yes, if you were building an ideal 15-20,000-seat concert venue, it wouldn’t be shaped like a basketball arena. But paying for one building for basketball and one for hockey and one for rock concerts and one for EDM concerts and one just for Billy Joel to stroke and hum to isn’t exactly cost-efficient.

          • I’m just saying that small stage + video wall + all seats having a view of the stage & wall is what most touring acts would prefer. Lowrider shows, raves, the circus, and Disney on Ice are about the only things that actually want that big basketball/hockey sized floor.

          • In modern arenas, end or centre stage setups take up a good deal of the floor space and produce (in conjunction with roof and upper tier seating designs specifically configured for purpose) a very high quality concert environment. You don’t seem to be aware of this.

            Perhaps the delusion is yours.

          • Maybe the state of the art is getting better.

            I remember thinking that the sound for concerts at the old Nassau Colliseum was terrible. So I was surprised when several people told me recently that they had seen concerts at the rebuilt Colliseum and that the sound was very good.

    • Simple. MSG is in the concert business. They want to placate to a particular demographic and do not want to deal with outside venues they cannot control. They are banking on replicating the success of the Fabulous Forum. The problem is there are already too many venues in Las Vegas, with more on the way.

  6. Invagination sounds like a slur Ron Burgendy would use in “Anchorman”.

    Neil, gotta say your snark was world-class in this entry!

    You know who REALLY is for this Cloaking Snowglobe?? Knicks fans. Dolan has indicated he’d be open to selling the team if he needed to. It’s one of the dumbest damn ideas, but if Knicks Nation wanted any hope of seeing a championship in their lifetime, they’d start a fake grassroots group for the concept so they could gaslight Dolan.

  7. … just so long as the reason for the spherical design is that after the concert either the acts or the audience (depending on how bad the show is) can go to the carousel, I guess it could work…

    This is gonna be awesome!

  8. I should home the stadium would be a “porous facility.” As anyone who has been a kid knows, it’s better to play on grass than on asphalt, especially if you are a diving shortstop or trying to steal second. Then again, ground balls bouncing into the air and skipping right through the infield at speeds nearly equal to how they came off the bat would sure make the games interesting.

  9. Not that farfetched. If they’re willing to build separate stadiums for pro football, college football, baseball, soccer, etc, then designate concert arenas are the logical next step. I’m just waiting for WNBA teams to start building their own “Women’s basketball specific stadiums”. I long for the days of the old Astrodome with its 6 or so tenants.

    • Women’s sports in college have honestly been doing that because they don’t like the hurt feelings of 1/3 full buildings (at best).