“Dynamite.” This was pro baseball player Joe Clark’s response when asked what could improve the much-hated Candlestick Park, former home of the San Francisco Giants.
Others described it as “a toilet with the lid up” and called it an “abomination”. Rocky Colavito of the Cleveland Indians even said he’d “quit baseball” if he was ever traded to play for the Giants at Candlestick Park.
Whether you’re a professional athlete or a rec league player, there are always some venues you prefer and some that you’d put in the toilet bowl category. At the Sport & Social Club, we work hard to find the best locations in terms of quality, convenience, and price to run our leagues. But with a lot of competition for prime sports real estate, it’s true that you may not love every location on your schedule.
But the important thing to remember is that even in less-than-ideal conditions, sports are resilient. Despite that tree in right field, or the divot in front of the goal that made you miss your penalty shot, with the right attitude you can still get in a good game.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of 9 times that sports around the world overcame barriers to flourish in unexpected and often bizarre ways.
- That time the ground was not entirely flat
To win on this Ukrainian soccer pitch, you have to overcome both your opponent and gravity. But hey, they face the same challenge. So it’s a level-playing field.
- That time they built a city in a desert but forgot to leave space for a tennis court
In Dubai, when you run out of room to put things like grass tennis courts, you have one of two options: build a new palm tree-shaped island that can be seen from space, or drop a tennis court on a helipad atop a 7-star hotel 1000 feet in the sky and pay Roger Federer and Andre Agassi millions of dollars to play on it. Their appearance fee just about covered the cost of all the balls they lost in the ocean.
- That time people wanted to play golf and then realized they live on a frozen tundra but did it anyways
The tiny island of Uummannaq in Greenland is home to the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships. Temperatures fall to below 50°C, the greens are called whites, and they play with a red ball. I’d imagine losing your balls is a major concern in these conditions.
- That time when the Harlem Globetrotters agreed that ice is no big deal
It might not be -50°C in New York City, but it’s still pretty cold in the winter. That was no problem for the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals, who played an exhibition game in front of 500 kids on an ice rink in Central Park in 2010. Adapting quickly to the conditions, one Globetrotter brought out a goalie mask and hockey stick to improve his rebounding.
- That time they had a booking conflict with a symphony orchestra
One of the reasons squash doesn’t seem to get a lot of exposure is because it’s tricky to accommodate many spectators in a closed squash court. But with recent high-profile squash events in glass-walled courts in unusual places – including New York’s Grand Central Station, the pyramids in Egypt, and the showdown at Boston’s Symphony Hall (pictured here) – suddenly squash tournaments are the hottest ticket in town.
- That time they couldn’t find a place to play soccer because they live in real-life Waterworld
Soccer enthusiasts in Koh Panyee, Thailand were undeterred by the fact that their entire village is made up of floating docks on stilts in Phang Nga Bay. They simply cobbled together wood scraps and other materials and made a floating soccer pitch. The fact that they had to doggy-paddle after every errant ball meant that they developed some pretty impressive footwork, and Panyee FC has amazingly become one of the top youth teams in Souhern Thailand.
- That time it was 40°C year-round and they wanted to go skiing
“You live in a desert,” they said. “You can’t have a ski resort,” they said. In another display of Dubai over-the-topness, Ski Dubai (why does that even exist) built a massive winter wonderland inside the Mall of Emirates with five runs, a freestyle area, and an ice sculpture competition. Oh, and penguins. How can you have an authentic ski experience if you don’t get to pet a penguin?
In November 2011, Michigan State and UNC played basketball. Isn’t that wild? Oh, I forgot to mention that it took place on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier. They tried to re-create the spectacle a couple more times before abandoning the concept because it was a logistical nightmare.
You guessed it: we’re back to Dubai. This sporting venue doesn’t exist yet, and reason suggests the outrageous multi-billion dollar proposal will never actually see the light of day. But since this is Dubai, that means it’s probably already being built. In a bid to host a new tennis Grand Slam event – and with all the helipads already in use – Polish architect Krzysztof Kotala figured the next logical step would be to build seven courts at the bottom of the Persian Gulf. Would that give American player Mardy Fish a home-court advantage?
~Written by Sandeep Kembhavi
If you’re looking to play some sports this fall in less unusual conditions, be sure to check out our fall sports menu and sign up today!