Ski Slopes And Other Indoor Centres

Published: 15th October 2009
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Every year more expensive and complicated sports arenas are constructed and even some of the world's newest and largest sports stadia are being built with the option of turning them into indoor facilities.

The new Wembley Stadium in London, the most expensive ever built, does have a sliding roof which, although it cannot completely close, does afford protection from the weather for fans while still being able to retract and provide the conditions for the pitch to grow. Wimbledon famously added a roof to its centre court, after several tournaments were interrupted by rain and now there is hardly a major stadium design process that doesn't at least consider including a roof.

In the US the redevelopment of the Dallas Cowboys NFL stadium will be the most expensive NFL stadium ever built when it is completed in 2009. It will have a 660,000 square foot retractable roof and will have a capacity of 100,000. In Japan, the Oita Stadium was nick-named the Big Eye, after its closing roof section which resembled an eyelid as it was being closed.

In the UK the popularity of sport as a pastime has allowed the investment need to build facilities to bring ever more sports indoors and away from the vagaries of the British weather. Indoor ice rinks date back to well before the first world war when Richmond in Surrey already had a rink that was taken over during the war effort to make hand grenades. The rink was used by some of Britain's most famous skaters including john Curry and Robin Cousins, both Olympic gold medallists who used to train there. For a time it was the world's biggest indoor ice rink until Vienna Stadthalle opened in 1950.

Streatham Ice rink in London has also been around, having existed as an indoor skating venue for over 75 years. Back in the 1960's and 70's there was even more interest and several new indoor ice rinks opened around the UK including the popular Silver Blades rink in Sheffield that opened in the late sixties.

The next sport to receive the indoor treatment was the wave of interest in water theme parks. These types of venues had already been built in warmer holiday resort areas such as the Costa del Sol, but again Britain's cooler, wetter weather made outdoor complexes unsuitable. So, indoor water parks were built. Again Richmond in Surrey was one of the first towns to build an indoor facility in the 1980's. Canada claims to have built the world's first indoor water park with West Edmonton Mall in 1985. Now there are several of these waterparks in the UK including Coral Reef in Bracknell, The Dome in Doncaster and WaterWorld in Stoke.

In the 1990's motorsport was the next sport to find itself transformed for indoor venues. Indoor gokarting tracks were opening up all over the country, from small tight tracks built in empty warehouses to long custom-built tracks that included bridges, pit areas.

One of the largest is the Speedkarting complex in Warrington that claims to have a main track of over 1 kilometre in length on three different levels and even boasts a Monaco-style tunnel!

Back to the present day and it seems adventure sports are no receiving an indoor focus. Mountain climbing now doesn't require any mountains. Climbing walls are often included as a special area in many general sports centres around the UK and there are now several dedicated indoor climbing centres. Facilities like the Craggy Island centre in Guildford Surrey have over 1000 square metres of wall, providing 100's of different routes, while the Awesome Walls Climbing Centre in Stockport has 23.5 meter tall wall area. Skiing is the latest mountain sport to come in out of the cold, into the cold as it happens. That's because indoor skiing is no longer restricted to artificial slopes. Technology has allowed indoor skiing centres to offer real snow slopes, with snow cannons capable of generating snow that provides slopes as long as 160m, such as those at the new Snow Centre just outside London. This impressive venue provides indoor facilities for both skiers and snowboarders on two wide slopes.

Of course the 2012 Olympics that will be held in London are sure to enhance what is already an impressive list of indoor sports venues in the UK. These include a 6000 seater velodrome, a basketball arena and an impressive aquatics centre which will house two 50 meter pools and a 25 metre competition diving pool. A separate temporary building next door will house two pools for the water polo competitions.

The author reports on the latest indoor snow sport centres. Indoor ski slopes are appearing all over the world now with the UK being one of the leading countries.

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