There's nothing quite like going to a stadium to fully embrace the matchday experience. Long associated with storied pasts, stadiums are more closely tied to tradition and nostalgia than the future.
However, in the last 30 years, sport has increasingly engaged with science in the pursuit of improving athletes' training and performance. Surely, research and technology can also help to enhance the experiences that stadiums provide.
OTB Sports are partnering with Science Week to ask what challenges are most important to us and how science might help. Croke Park Stadium Director Peter McKenna and Populous Director Shireen Hamdan told us about what future stadia might look like.
McKenna notes that the basic blueprint for stadiums has practically remained the same for 2000 years. "If you go back to the Colosseum, which still stands today - that is an extraordinary example of how stadiums haven't really evolved that much," McKenna said.
"In many ways, some of the advancements that they had in the Colosseum are not replicated even today. They were able to fill the stadium with water for sea battles."
"The concept of everyone sitting in a seat and looking at an arena has not changed."
We're partnering with @ScienceWeek to ask what challenges are most important to us and how science can help.@ShaneHannon01 has been looking at what stadiums might look like in the future
See https://t.co/jL4o90Xowc to find out about events throughout #ScienceWeek 2021. pic.twitter.com/sk0uj5cULx
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) November 12, 2021
Hamdan cites the social aspect as a main reason why people still prefer to go to stadia to take in a match.
"Whether it's a community football stadium or a large international stadium, there is the sense of wanting to be together for the spectators that go there," Hamdan explained.
"That linger time becomes more important to maximise and utilise. As the world becomes digital, the offer you get when you get to the stadium has to be more unique."
McKenna: "The at-home experience is now superior to the stadium"
McKenna believes stadia now faces stiff competition from the product offered by broadcasters. "At the moment, the at-home experience is now superior", he argued. "You get really good television coverage - high-definition cameras and TVs. Really, you get everything there bar the atmosphere."
"What we need to ensure in the short-term is that we can replicate the at-home experience."
On that point, Hamdan offers virtual reality [VR] as a possible way to give stadia the upper hand. "We have been looking at designing eSports venues," she explained. "AR [Augmented Reality] and VR technology have played such an important part in all of this."
"I think they will definitely be part of future infrastructure once we start looking at future technology and how to adapt them to future venues."
"You look at the stadium now, and there's WiFi everywhere - that wasn't the case 10 years ago. I'd say AR, VR - even holographic technology - would definitely be on the cards for the future."
OTB Sports are partnering with Science Week to ask what challenges are most important to us and how science might help. Visit scienceweek.ie to share your ideas and find out about the events taking place throughout Science Week 2021.