Thursday, March 29, 2018

Sporting Venues


Scott from Buckley asked about the different names for the venues in which sports are played. Let’s run through amphitheater, arena, coliseum, and stadium.

An amphitheater literally means a structure with two parts that face each other and look down upon an open area where the spectacle or performance takes place. The two parts are conjoined, resulting in an oval shape. The word came to us from ancient Greek. A fun part of my childhood involved attending events at Chicago’s International Amphitheater. There were stock shows, rodeos, circuses, and other rousing events. In 1999, alas, it bit the dust.

An arena originally was the open space in an amphitheater where the action occurred. The name derives from the Latin word for sand, which was strewn upon the floor to soak up the blood of fallen gladiators. Older fans will miss the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, where the Red Wings skated on ice instead of sand.

A coliseum was a gigantic or colossal amphitheater. Construction began on the very first one during the reign of the Roman Emperor Vespasian. Huge spectacles needed larger buildings, and coliseums filled the bill.  The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a well-known modern example.

The original stadiums were built for foot races by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The name came from a measure of length—usually one-eighth of a Roman mile, equivalent to 1,618 yards. That was the customary length of the track, though there were variations. Now stadiums can feature a wide array of sporting events. Michigan Stadium (The Big House), located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is the largest stadium in the country.

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