It’s that time of the season again, when we look back on the year just past and count all the dead stacked up like cordwood and the life we missed out on thanks to — no, no, it’s time to look at silly pictures of sports venues and what underpaid renderers tried to pass off as the future of sports spectating! After a year in which actual sports spectating was largely reduced to robot fans and the occasional small groups of drunk people not wearing masks in states that decided to just say “fuck it, let’s sell some tickets,” what has that done to the visions of sports dancing in designers’ heads? Let’s take a gander:
The Columbus Crew celebrated getting $98 million in stadium subsidies by releasing some fresh vaportecture of what the resulting stadium would look like. It featured strange drink rails and giant soccer balls suspended in midair, fans throwing their hands in the air for no reason (as one does), and one shot of the stadium seemingly under attack by a flock of birds that, I must remind you, some human person put in the image on purpose:
So I didn’t notice this the first time around, but the stippled pattern on the roof of the stadium (which doesn’t seem to be shaped in a way to maximize coverage of the fans beneath, but never mind that just for now) actually looks a lot like a flock of birds, so maybe the real birds have been attracted by decoys? Or maybe part of the plan for the stadium is that actual birds will provide a structural element, in some kind of futuristic melded artificial-natural ecosystem? Maybe the players themselves will be replaced by birds, to save on payroll? So many questions.
Soon after this, ArchDaily, which is one of a seemingly endless number of websites dedicated to the wet dreams of starchitects and the people who for some reason idolize them, just straight-up ran a bunch of unrelated vaportecture images from around the world with no context, then declared this “the future of sports architecture.” A lot of them seemed to involve plants, or stadiums hidden under plants, or pretending to be plants:
Apparently the future is going to be mostly about plants, either because we’ll have learned that plants are key to preventing climate change or because we’ll have killed them all with climate change and will be busy erecting monuments to what they used to look like in the Before Times. (No, not those Before Times, the other Before Times.)
The Kansas City Royals owners haven’t formally demanded a new stadium yet, preferring to let downtown development interests do the dirty work for them. And early in the year, a local architecture firm released images of what they would build in downtown K.C., if only someone gave them a few hundred million dollars to pursue their dream:
That doesn’t look like much of anything in particular: an inclined donut with a donut-shaped roof sitting atop it, though the trees growing 50 feet up off the ground are a nice touch, lending it that all-important air of greenness without having to specifically address how much extra steel would be needed to support all those root systems. Front and center, though, is the real star of the show, our old friend Cab-Hailing Purse Woman, who had been previously sighted outside Worcester’s new baseball stadium and standing on a blank void in Halifax while athletes played various sports at the same time nearby. (She even brought her friend from Halifax, Taking A Picture Of The Sky In Green Shirt Lady!) Clearly somebody’s focus groups have shown that while people may like to go to sporting events to throw their arms in the air wildly and watch fireworks during the daytime, the real attraction is getting to hail cabs, and seeing that in action creates a subliminal reaction that is guaranteed to separate voters from their money.
A few months later, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno released renderings of his own new stadium development he’ll be building with the aid of $350 million in discounted land, and look who he invited to the party:
Somebody stuck a (badly deformed) foam #1 finger on her hand, but I would recognize that purse anywhere! Too bad she’s trying to hail a cab, or possibly exult that the Angels are #1 (pro tip: the Angels are not #1) to a bunch of people speeding away from her in a bike lane, but she gets points for trying! (Moreno’s people also included some green roofs, though with all the trees depicted as safely on the ground, this honestly feels like the old future.)
New Mexico United, not to be dissuaded by not knowing where it would build a stadium or how much it would cost or who would pay for it, released images of a soccer venue dominated by a giant Muffler Man robot and what appears to be a giant spider on its roof:
On the inside of these vaporstadiums, meanwhile, things don’t get much less weird. Some people, like in this Nashville S.C. stadium rendering, throw their hands in the air in excitement even though they can’t even seen the match from where they’re standing:
Others, as in this Hartford arena rendering, just go on their laptops and ignore the game entirely, or rather one basketball game and one hockey game, since even the arena’s internal video feed director can’t imagine that many people will be interested in watching the Wolf Pack when there’s a basketball game on somewhere:
And some fans watch a sport that is played by people lovingly depicted by a watercolor artist as 20-foot-tall homunculi:
And then, courtesy of Phoenix Rising F.C., there was, uh, this:
Finally, we have what is hands-down the worst stadium detail of the year, or maybe of all of recorded human history. Once again from that set of Royals stadium renderings:
Yep, it’s a clip-art fan holding up a handmade sign (check how the second line of text doesn’t even line up, they clearly used Letraset) reading “HEY CDC KC HAS THE FEVER.” In the year 2020. Sure, it was January 2020, but even then Covid was enough of a known entity that I cracked a joke about it at the time, so really, WTF? Even if the renderer was just trying to distract us from the fact that the base coaches had been raptured out of existence and taken the protective netting with them, this seems in extremely bad taste — but then, unveiling images of people packed in like sardines enjoying sporting events at stadiums requiring massive infusions of public cash during a pandemic that has put the world’s economy on hold and left millions of people and businesses at risk of eviction or bankruptcy is in extremely bad taste to start with, so maybe this is truly the most 2020 vaportecture image of them all.