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Possible Future Developments For Movable And Retractable Seats


This idea evolved in the 1960s from the attempt to house American football (played on a rectangular pitch) and baseball (played on a diamond-shaped pitch) in the same building. It was only partially successful. Many believe it was an unacceptable compromise for both sports, even though a high standard of venue could be achieved and problems of access could be solved. 

A reaction against this compromise came in 1972 when the dual stadia complex of Kansas City, Missouri, was opened, This included two stadia, one with a 78,000- seat capacity for American footballs the other with a 42,000-seat capacity for baseball.

For certain other sports the playing areas are so different that they cannot easily be accommodated in the same building. Examples include American football and baseball. Figures 1.10 and 1.11 show the Truman Sports Complex, in the USA, where it was decided to provide separate venues for the two sports. But the problem can be overcome, as demonstrated by the Sun Life stadium, in Miami (formerly the Pro-Player stadium) which, despite the difficulties, accommodates both. In such situations one sport has to be the primary game for which the building is designed, and the secondary sport has to accept arrangements that are, to whatever degree, a compromise. Thus, in the Sun Life stadium, the seating tiers are a normal rectangular layout for American football. 

telescopic seating system


Each sport (or other type of performance) has its own preferred viewing positions. The seating layouts for some sports are so different that they may be difficult to accommodate in the same building. In striving for true multi-use, various ways of altering the viewing geometry of a stadium on a temporary basis have been attempted. Moving pitches have been tried, but the most common and most successful are movable, or at least retractable, seats. More detail on these is given below. 


Certain combinations of sports can be easy to accommodate in the same building as the requirements for playing and watching are similar. Examples include soccer and rugby, which are played on grass fields of similar width but different lengths. 

Some principal examples of sports that are commonly played on the same field are shown in the list below:  

Soccer and rugby 

Soccer and athletics 

Australian rules football and rugby 

Australian rules football and cricket 

Fields are of similar size and shape. The soccer pitch fits inside a standard 400m running track, but the track separates the spectators from the edge of the soccer field which is unpopular with fans in some countries. Fields are of similar size and shape. The spectators for rugby are further away from the touch line than is desirable. 

America. The rnost ambitious example is the Toronto Skydome which opened in 1989 and can be adapted, by movable seating, to the following uses, It should be noted that the seating numbers given below are the original ones, and may since have altered. 

Auditorium configurations to allow 10,000 to 30,000 seats as desired. 

A hockey or basketball configuration of 30,000 seats. 

A baseball configuration of up to 50,000 seats. 

A football configuration of up to seats.

Various configurations allowing up to 68,000 spectators for rock concerts or other entertainments. 

The Toronto Skydome is exceptional, and in view of the costs involved, very few stadia could ever provide the degree of flexibility outlined above. But at more modest levels there is widespread use of movable seating tiers all over the world. 

One example is the Sun Life stadium, in Miami, which accommodates football as the primary sport, and baseball as a secondary use.

Another is the Etihad Stadium, in Melbourne, Australia, which accommodates 50,000 spectators for rugby (rectangular pitch), cricket (oval pitch) and Australian rules football (oval pitch). The pre-cast concrete upper tiers are fixed in an oval shape, but the steel lower tiers, slightly curved in plan, can move forward on wheels over the cricket pitch to be closer to the rugby tou ine. This stadium also has a closing roof to allow sports to be played in any weather conditions and to host a wider range of non-sports events. In the case of stadia used for both soccer and athletics, continental European spectators do not seem to mind the great distance between spectator and pitch created by the intervening athletics track, whereas in Britain there is a tradition of close viewing which most interested parties wish to preserve. The answer to this conundrum may lie in movable or retractable stands which can be located close to the soccer pitch for the winter season, covering the athletics ck, and then moved back for athletics events in the summer. The Stade de France, in Paris, is one example of a venue which was designed to allow the seating to move back over the athletics track. However, such solutions are expensive, and a degree of public funding is usually required to make them viable — either directly or indirectly. 


Movable seating can be supplied in any numbers, from a few hundred to several thousand, to suit the types of events anticipated and the configurations required. Generally speaking, the greater the variety of events a stadium is required to host, the larger the number of movable or retractable seats needed. The most usual types are the following: 

Rigid seating tiers mounted on steel tracks. 

Rigid seating tiers with large retractable wheels. 

Rigid banks of seats moved about on air or water cushions. 

Retractable seats on folding or telescopic frames. 

Demountable seats that can be taken down and rebuilt. 

The first three types are pushed manually or mwnanically from one pre-planned position to another to suit the current event, while the retractable type is compactly stacked or folded into a wall when not in use, and concertinaed out into position when needed. In all cases, the ideal is to have prepared storage spaces, usually under the tier above, where temporary seats can be stored out of the way and quickly rolled or folded out into the correct position when required, 


The possibilities for movable seating tiers are entering a new era, with better and more easily maintained systems being developed. Sports stadia of the 21st century may consist of flat concourses at different levels above the playing surface, with retractable seats pulled out as necessary and the remaining levels used for a variety of catering functions. If such ideas are applied, it will be necessary to calculate very carefully their effect upon viewing sightlines for the remaining viewing areas. 


Concerts have particular requirements in terms of seating layout, and many larger and smaller sports venues are able to host these when the weather is right. The earliest groups playing in stadia put up with the buildings that were available to them and installed all temporary stages and accommodation, but as concert circuit has become more established, stadia have been specifically designed for concert use. The elements that can be incorporated to reduce the temporary set-up include: 

Stage positions with a flat slab, suitable headroom and foundations. Power connection points. 

Changing rooms and other areas for performers. 

Manoeuvring and unloading space for delivery lorries. 

Tiers designed to allow crowd dancing. 

With temporary installations, other events of all types have been held in stadia. 

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Keywords in the article: Movable And Retractable Seats