Millennia ago, stadiums were little more than arenas carved into a hillside. Nowadays, they're quite different. Imagine sitting at a stadium, and having a hot dog and a beer delivered by drone. Imagine the game-changer of watching your favorite athletes play from below, thanks to a transparent field with seating underneath. Imagine watching the LED jerseys of fellow fans light up when your team scores, or watching an instant replay courtesy of a hologram.
It's the fantasy of every sports fan, but soon, it might be a reality. In partnership with the architecture firm Populous, National Geographic gives us a vision into the future of sports spectatorship in their July issue, and food delivery drones are just the beginning. Populous envisions not just a sports stadium, but a year-round, sustainable, multi-purpose Stadium of the Future, featuring augmented reality, "hospitality pods" that allow big spenders to move around the stadium for the best view, and even a pool for water sports with transparent tunnels for underwater stadium access.
The Stadium of the Future would cater to more than just sports fans; its construction would be an investment meant to benefit an entire community. The expenses involved in undertaking a massive project, like building a stadium, are often covered by taxpayers, which means general appeal is imperative. As Senior Graphics Editor Jason Treat tells Creators, "There's growing awareness of this idea in stadium architecture, and newer stadiums are designed to draw crowds for shopping, concerts, dining, and community events. Keeping the structure useful and occupied year-round spreads that cost out and benefits the entire community." Populous tackles the need for universal utility by allocating space in the stadium for less sporty entertainment, like fine dining, a public park, and even residential units.
On top of it all, the Stadium of the Future prioritizes sustainability. Treat notes that "large buildings require large amounts of energy and water, and those things can be very expensive at this scale. Sustainability is a worthy goal in and of itself, but with civic infrastructure of this scale, long-term thinking about energy and water costs is a necessity." The Stadium graphic, informed by the sustainable components already present in current Populous designs, accounts for this with environmentally friendly features like wind turbines, solar power, rain collection, and an on-site vegetable garden for restaurant use.
Some of these innovative features may seem far off, but many are actually feasible in the near future. Treat points out that audience-worn LED jerseys that react in real time to live events were used in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, so we can expect to see that soon. Beyond that, as drones and augmented reality become more and more prominent in popular culture, those features will quickly lend themselves to sports spectator use. Until then, we'll be keeping a close eye on the game.
Check out the full interactive graphic on National Geographic here.