Weather & Sports Stadiums

The weather pattern this week across the western Great Lakes is going to be fairly quiet as high pressure dominates.  Not only will this keep things dry, but also a January Thaw will be taking place.  Highs are expected to be into the 30s, if not making a run at 40.  I don't think the warmer weather is going to wipe out all of the snow, but there will be some melting taking place.  If nothing else, it will be a nice break from the cold if not frigid conditions as of late.

Meantime, this week I'm going to ask one of those great weather and sports related questions.  Is it better for MLB & NFL stadiums to have a roof (retractable ideally) or to stick to tradition and keep the stadium open air, exposed to any and all weather elements?  The reason I bring this question up is as we all know, weather plays a role one way or another in most sporting events during the spring, summer, fall and early winter with the NFL & College Football.  Certainly after watching the Capital One Bowl Game on New Years Day, where the field turned into a muddy swamp in Central Florida, adds some support for at least some better work by the grounds keepers in dealing with the weather before or during a game.  In addition, the football games earlier this season and years past when the field was turned into a winter wonderland of snow and wind.

 No less, keeping the focus on the MLB and NFL, here's how the stadiums break down.  In the MLB, 6 out of 30 teams, about 20% (including the Brewers) have some sort of retractable roof that opens or closes depending on the weather conditions for game day.  In the NFL, the percentage is a bit higher with 31% (10 out of 32 teams) having a roof which the stadium is covered by.  Even more interesting to note is of the 8 remaining teams in the NFL Playoffs, 5 of them play in stadiums that have a roof, including all of those teams that are still in the hunt in the NFC.

Here in Wisconsin, we are almost the perfect place to present this question since we've got Miller Park, where a rain or snow out will never happen, and then legendary Lambeau Field, where the thoughts of retro fitting a roof would easily cause an uproar from fans that enjoy the challenge which the cold and snowy winters of Wisconsin present to opponents.  I should also mention that the Minnesota Twins will be one of the teams this upcoming season that will be playing their home games outdoors at Target Field for the first time in nearly 30 years.  They moved out of the Metrodome, along with the Minnesota Gophers, who also switched to playing in an open air stadium.  So, obviously there are many pros and cons to having a stadium roof or dome.

Here's a small list off the top of my head of some of the advantages/disadvantages from a fan and player's point of view.

Pros for a Roof                            
-No worries about rain or snow delaying/postponing a game.
-Comfortable temperatures in the stands and on the field.
-Limited effects due to high winds influencing a game.
-Increased fan noise working in the favor of the home team.
-Can still have natural turf field (esp. w/ retractable roof).
-No need to shovel out snow from the seats prior to a game.
-Potentially less injuries to the players due to heat, cold, or wet field.

Cons of a Roof
-Lose the effects that the weather may have on the game due to the rain, snow, winds, or cold/hot conditions.
-Not playing the game "the way it was meant to be" in all elements.
-Not being able to have memorable games like the Ice Bowl, Fog Bowl or the field being called the Frozen Tundra.
-Odd late afternoon shadows that can make seeing or hitting the baseball difficult.
-As a fan, if you want to watch the game indoors, pay for the privilege of getting a skybox seat or suite.
-The cost involved having to build a stadium with a roof or to retro fit one to an existing stadium.
-As a forecaster, only providing a weather forecast for tailgating outside the stadium vs. how the weather could change during the game on the playing field.

Again, I highly doubt we will ever see the day where a roof gets added on to Lambeau Field, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, or even Dodgers Stadium.  I do know that this is just scratching the surface, but what do you think?  Should more stadiums have roofs, be left as open air fields, or just leave it up whatever the team wants to do?

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