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Last Updated on July 7, 2023 by UDC Sports

Sports facilities come in many forms and sizes. From the construction of massive, imposing pro stadiums that dominate city skylines, to the more “humble” charm of youth sports fields, each carries its own personality, its unique set of features, and its own construction challenges and requirements.

But in the world of sports architecture and engineering, understanding the differences between these facilities can sometimes feel like learning a new language—where the boundary lines between one term and another appear blurry. A “stadium” might sometimes be a “ballpark,” an “arena” might also be a “dome”—or one structure might be called all three!

In this full-court guide, we’ll aim to clarify some of the “lexicon” of sports facility construction. After explaining what makes each type of facility unique, we’ll look at some notable examples of each type and their individual construction aspects. From the blueprint stage to the final lick of paint, we’ll also look at some of the integral elements that require attention during the planning, design, and construction stages.

Now, let’s kick off this exploration of different types of sports facilities that can be constructed, from the colossal to the compact. Ready, set, build!


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A field is simply a piece of land set aside for outdoor sports. The term is commonly used in reference to soccer, football, baseball, and rugby pitches, but it can really refer to any outdoor sports space.

Construction Aspects

Sports fields are, relatively, much simpler to construct than enclosed structures. They require land grading, grass or artificial turf installation, and often involve installing drainage and irrigation systems.

The main distinction for fields is their simplicity and openness. They naturally lack the architectural complexity of enclosed structures, and focus primarily on the quality of the playing surface. However, fields may also include seating structures, lighting for night games, restrooms, concession stands, or other features.

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Fields may be the most basic kind of sports venue, but with the right planning and execution, even the smallest field can become a local gathering place where people of all ages can come together through a shared love of sports. The possibilities are as wide open as the field itself!


A stadium is an outdoor or indoor venue designed to host spectator sports, concerts, or other events. It is characterized by tiers of seating for spectators that surround the playing area.

A picture The Definitive Guide to Sports Venue Types of with Republic SportsWhile we often think of stadiums as being large, imposing structures, there are many small stadiums as well. That is because the definition of “an indoor or outdoor sports facility surrounded by tiers of seating” is so loose.

A picture The Definitive Guide to Sports Venue Types of with Republic SportsAs a matter of fact, “colossal” stadiums like the famous examples given below are actually the exception to the rule—there are many more 10,000 seat and below stadiums built around the country and around the world. (Right down to the smallest stadium in the world, the 1,000 seat Hanga Roa Stadium in Easter Island!)


  • Bank of America Stadium – Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, this is the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL. Opened in 1996, it has a seating capacity of almost 75,000. In addition to hosting Panthers’ games, the stadium has also been the site of the ACC Championship Game, major soccer matches, concerts, and other events.
  • MetLife Stadium – Located in East Rutherford, New Jersey, MetLife Stadium is the home to the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets. It’s one of the largest stadiums in the NFL, with a seating capacity of over 82,000.
  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium – The home of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL and Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer, known for its distinctive, eight-petal retractable roof.

Construction Aspects

The construction of stadiums involves building structures that require careful planning to ensure safety, cost-effectiveness, and comfort for the spectators. Structural components, like the roofing and seating tiers, may be constructed using reinforced concrete and steel.

A picture The Definitive Guide to Sports Venue Types of with Republic SportsDepending on the size of the project, the construction process may require a significant amount of time and resources; this can be made efficient through innovative building techniques like prefabricated structures.

Stadiums will typically also necessitate space for amenities like parking, restrooms, concessions, and emergency exits.

A picture The Definitive Guide to Sports Venue Types of with Republic SportsStadiums differ from other sports facilities in the comprehensive nature of the amenities they need to provide, especially in the case of very large stadiums.

Unlike smaller facilities, a stadium must accommodate large crowds, sometimes in the tens of thousands, while maintaining a comfortable and safe environment.


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An arena is an enclosed, typically indoor area, often circular or oval-shaped, designed to showcase theater, musical performances, or sporting events. They are similar to stadiums, but are typically smaller and more versatile in their use.


  • Madison Square Garden – Located in New York City, Madison Square Garden is probably the most famous arena in the United States. It hosts over 320 events a year and is the home to the New York Knicks (NBA) and the New York Rangers (NHL). It’s also known for hosting numerous high-profile concerts and events.
  • United Center – The largest arena in the United States in terms of physical size, though not by seating capacity. It’s home to the Chicago Bulls of the NBA and the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL.
  • Amway Center – The home arena for the Orlando Magic of the NBA and the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. Opened in 2010, it features a modern design with sustainable features. It hosts various events, including basketball games, hockey games, concerts, and performances.

Construction Aspects

Arenas are usually indoor facilities, and their construction focuses on versatile, adaptable spaces. This includes features like retractable seating that can be adjusted based on the event, whether it’s a concert or a sports competition.

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The construction of arenas also emphasizes acoustics, lighting, and temperature control to cater to a broad range of events.

Arenas are distinguished from other facilities by their versatility. They are smaller than stadiums, and the emphasis is more on adaptability and internal amenities rather than scale.


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A dome is a self-supporting structural element resembling the hollow upper half of a sphere. In sports, a dome typically refers to a stadium or arena with a dome-shaped roof. The dome roof may or may not be retractable.


  • The Astrodome – The Houston Astrodome was the world’s first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium, and the first stadium to make use of artificial turf (which is where the name “Astro” turf comes from). While it’s no longer in regular use, it’s an important part of sports history. The Astrodome was home to the Houston Astros (MLB) and the Houston Oilers (NFL) during its prime.
  • The Superdome – Located in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Superdome is one of the most iconic domed structures in the world. It’s primarily the home of the New Orleans Saints of the NFL. The Superdome has also hosted numerous Super Bowls, college football championship games, and the annual Sugar Bowl game. It is also famous for acting as a refuge for many during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005.
  • Rogers Centre – Originally known as the SkyDome, the Rogers Centre is a multi-purpose domed stadium in Toronto, Canada. It was the first stadium to have a fully retractable motorized roof. The Rogers Centre is home to the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB.

Construction Aspects

Dome construction presents unique engineering challenges, given their structure. The construction process often involves using materials like reinforced concrete, steel, or even advanced synthetic materials like ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), which is lightweight, strong, and allows natural light to enter the facility.

Domes differ from other facilities primarily in their roof structure. This structure provides a distinctive aesthetic but also offers practical benefits like protection from weather, increased energy efficiency, and a more uniform distribution of light.


A coliseum is an amphitheater-style facility often built in an oval configuration. The term originates from the Colosseum in Rome and is often used interchangeably with “stadium” or “arena.”


  • Greensboro Coliseum – Located in Greensboro, North Carolina, this multipurpose arena is one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast of the United States. The venue hosts a wide variety of events, from concerts and theater performances to sporting events like basketball games and ice hockey. It’s been home to the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament numerous times and regularly hosts other high-profile collegiate sporting events. Its seating capacity ranges up to around 23,000 depending on the event.
  • L.A. Memorial Coliseum: Also known simply as “The Coliseum,” this is an outdoor sports stadium located in the Exposition Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. It has been the home of the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans football team and has also hosted multiple Summer Olympic Games. With a history dating back to 1923, it’s one of the most iconic sports facilities in the U.S.

Construction Aspects

Coliseums often have an open-air design, though modern facilities may opt for a retractable roof. The construction of coliseums involves creating a large, often oval, structure with tiered seating surrounding a central stage or playing field. The materials used can include concrete, stone, and steel.

The key differentiator for coliseums, compared to other facilities, is their architectural inspiration. The design evokes a classical feel, inspired by the original Roman Colosseum.


Constructing a ballpark, also known as building a baseball field (or baseball park), is constructing a venue where baseball or softball can be played. At a minimum, it will include the playing field itself and typically some surrounding spectator seating.


  • Fenway Park – The home field of the Boston Red Sox. Opened in 1912, it’s the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, known for unique features like “The Green Monster,” a high left field wall.
  • Wrigley Field – The home of the Chicago Cubs. Opened in 1914, it’s the second-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, after Fenway Park. It’s famous for its ivy-covered outfield walls and manual scoreboard.
  • Dodger Stadium – The home field for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While younger than Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, opened in 1962, it’s the third oldest and by seating capacity, it’s the largest ballpark in Major League Baseball.

Construction Aspects

The construction of a ballpark involves the creation of the diamond-shaped playing field with carefully specified dimensions and the spectator seating area. Attention to detail in constructing the field is crucial, as the layout and quality of the baseball diamond significantly impact the game.

A picture The Definitive Guide to Sports Venue Types of with Republic SportsWhat differentiates a ballpark from other sports facilities is the specific requirements of the baseball field, such as the pitcher’s mound, the diamond, and the outfield. A ballpark can be a stadium, and often the terms are used interchangeably. The use of either term often depends on tradition, personal preference, or marketing considerations. The term “ballpark” might be used to denote a more traditional, intimate, and fan-friendly environment specifically designed for baseball.


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A court is a designated playing surface for sports like basketball, tennis, volleyball, and badminton. They can be indoor or outdoor.

Construction Aspects

The construction of courts involves the preparation of a flat surface, typically made of concrete, clay, grass, or synthetic materials. The surface is then marked according to the specifications of the sport it is intended for. Indoor courts may require the construction of enclosing structures, while outdoor courts often include fencing.

Courts differ from other facilities mainly in their smaller size and specific surface requirements. Each sport has a uniquely marked court with its own rules and regulations.


A pavilion is a casual, open structure often used for concerts or community events. In the context of sports, it can refer to a structure that overlooks a field or track, providing a shaded area for spectators or athletes to rest.

Construction Aspects

Pavilion construction is typically less complex than the construction of enclosed sports facilities. The focus is on creating a comfortable, shaded area, which often includes seating. Materials used can vary, with wood, metal, and fabric all common options.

Pavilions stand out for their simplicity, elegance, and dual-purpose nature, catering to both spectators and athletes.


An amphitheater is a round or oval open-air venue with tiered seating around a central stage. They are primarily used for entertainment performances but in some rare cases, this name might be given to facilities that are constructed to host sports events as well.

The term “amphitheater” isn’t typically used in the context of standard sports facilities like it is for stadiums, arenas, ballparks, domes, and so on. While some modern sports arenas might adopt a similar structure, they are generally not referred to as amphitheaters, with one notable exception in the United States. (see Examples below)


  • Red Rocks Amphitheatre – While primarily known for hosting concerts, Red Rocks has also hosted sporting events. Built into a natural rock structure in Colorado, it has been a site for fitness events and activities, such as the “Red Rocks Fitness Challenge,” yoga sessions, and even occasional professional sporting events like boxing matches in the past.

Construction Aspects

Amphitheater construction involves creating a central stage or playing area and tiered seating that surrounds it. They are often built to take advantage of natural acoustics, which influences the design and materials used. They are unique in their open-air, rounded design and the emphasis on acoustics and sightlines.

Gymnasium (Gym)

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A gymnasium, or gym, is an indoor facility equipped for sports, exercise, or physical education. In ancient Greece, the term referred to a place for both physical and intellectual education.

Construction Aspects

The construction of a gymnasium involves the creation of a versatile, multi-purpose space that can accommodate various physical activities. This often includes the construction of courts, exercise areas, locker rooms, and sometimes even a pool.

Gymnasiums differ from other sports facilities in their focus on individual exercise and training rather than spectator events. They also require specialized equipment for various sports and activities.

Track and Field Complex

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A track and field complex is a facility dedicated to track and field events. It typically includes a running track surrounding a grass field for events like shot put, discus, and javelin. (Also see Sports Complex for facilities that focus on other sports as well.)

Construction Aspects

Constructing a track and field complex requires careful attention to the specifications of each element. The running track needs a specific surface, often made ofrubber or synthetic material, and precise measurements. The field in the middle of the track is usually grass and needs to be level and well-maintained. Stands for spectators are often included as well.

Track and field complexes differ from other sports facilities because of the variety of event spaces required within a single facility and the precise dimensions and standards for each of those spaces.

Aquatics Center

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An aquatics center is a facility focused on water-based sports and activities. This typically includes swimming pools for lap swimming and competitive swimming, but may also feature diving platforms, water polo arenas, and leisure pools. Larger aquatics facilities (like the one pictured above) may include seating and other amenities.

Construction Aspects

The construction of an aquatics center involves significant engineering and design work to accommodate the large volumes of water required. This includes the construction of swimming pools and diving platforms, installation of advanced filtration and heating systems, and planning for high humidity conditions. Construction materials need to be resistant to chlorine and other chemicals used in pools, and safety measures like slip-resistant flooring are crucial.

Aquatics centers differ from other sports facilities due to the significant amount of water management involved. Construction must also address unique challenges, such as maintaining water temperature and quality, managing humidity, and ensuring water and energy efficiency.

Mixed-Use (Multi-Purpose) Facilities

A mixed-use facility is a multi-purpose venue that is designed to host a variety of sports and other events. They may be built as a home venue for a specific team in a specific sport, but are designed to be easily configurable to accommodate different sports, concerts, conventions, and other gatherings. These types of “sports facilities” may also incorporate retail, dining, or entertainment spaces, adding another dimension to their use.


  • Spectrum Center – The Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a notable multi-purpose sports facility. It serves as the home venue for the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA. Besides basketball, the Spectrum Center hosts a variety of other events, including live concerts, conventions, ice hockey games, wrestling matches, indoor soccer matches, circuses, and more. Its versatile design allows it to accommodate a wide range of sporting and entertainment events, making it a significant mixed-use facility in the region.
  • Staples Center – Located in Los Angeles, California, the Staples Center is a multi-sport arena that hosts over 250 events and nearly 4 million guests each year. It’s the home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers (both NBA), as well as the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), and the Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA).
  • Barclays Center – Located in Brooklyn, New York, the Barclays Center is a multi-purpose indoor arena. It’s home to the Brooklyn Nets (NBA) and has also served as a venue for concerts, conventions, and other entertainment events. The venue prides itself on its ability to transform according to the need, be it for basketball, hockey, boxing, or concerts.

Construction Aspects

Constructing a mixed-use facility involves a lot of careful planning to create versatile, flexible spaces. This might include retractable seating, movable partitions, and adaptable lighting and acoustics systems. Often, mixed-use facilities need to provide a variety of amenities to accommodate the broad range of potential uses.

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Even in the case of smaller multi-purpose venues (like the one pictured above), these differ from other sports facilities in their focus on adaptability and versatility. While other facilities are often designed for one or two main purposes, a mixed-use facility must be able to efficiently transition between many different functions. This means they typically will have wood flooring, though some have artificial turf as well.

Sports Complex

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A sports complex is a large facility that houses multiple sports venues within it, serving a range of sports and activities. Each building, field, or space has its own purpose and function.

Typically, a complex will host a variety of facilities like stadiums, arenas, gymnasiums, tracks, fields, and even aquatics centers. In addition, it may also include other amenities like training centers, locker rooms, equipment storage areas, and administrative offices.

Some sports complexes are so extensive that they even have dormitories or hotels for athletes and teams, restaurants, and retail spaces for spectators, and ample parking facilities.

Construction Aspects

Building a large sports complex is akin to city planning. The design and layout need to facilitate efficient movement of people and vehicles, offer excellent accessibility to all facilities, and ensure optimal use of space. The construction process involves not only erecting the individual sports venues, but also planning and building infrastructure like roads, parking, utilities, landscaping, and other supporting facilities.

Sports complexes do not necessarily have to be vast in scale, but each venue within the complex might have its own construction needs, based on the sport it caters to. Therefore, regardless of scale, the overall project will require comprehensive planning and coordination.

Differences from Other Sports Facilities

A sports complex stands apart from other facilities in its sheer size and multiplicity of functions. While a massive stadium or arena might only focus on one or maybe two sports, a complex caters to multiple sports and activities, each with its own designated area or building. The design and construction, therefore, are more complex, and the logistics and maintenance requirements are also considerably higher.

However, sports complexes often become landmarks in their own right—playing pivotal roles in tourism, community engagement, and boosting local economies. They can host large-scale sporting events, concerts, and other events, offering versatility that a single-sport facility might not.


Sports facilities come in a myriad of forms, each with its own unique construction considerations and challenges. Understanding the different requirements and characteristics of each type of facility is critical for successful venue design and construction.

From the simplicity of a school sports field to the complexity of a multi-use facility, every sports venue plays a vital role in bringing athletes and fans together in the spirit of competition and community.

As trends evolve and new technologies emerge, the way we design and build these spaces will continue to change—pushing the boundaries of what is possible in sports facility construction.

Sports facility construction isn’t just about creating structures—it’s about crafting spaces where memories are made, records are broken, and communities come together. This truth holds in every sports facility, from the simplest community sports field to the largest stadium.

UDC Sports

UDC Sports is a premier provider of sports field and facility construction services with over 20 years of experience. We are experts in all aspects of sports facility construction, from site preparation to drainage to turf installation, regardless of the sport. We stay up-to-date with the latest industry standards and practices, and our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction is unwavering, as evidenced by our 100% client satisfaction rating. With years of experience in product selection and project management, UDC Sports combines state-of-the-art construction materials and methods with a creative approach to turning client visions into reality. Whether you're building a 10,000 seat stadium or a backyard batting cage, we're here to make sure your vision is accomplished.