The use of sports domes has become increasingly popular in recent years, not least as the technology needed to prevent excessive humidity has been refined.
While most sports are naturally played outdoors, the appreciation of the value of being able to play undercover has become increasingly evident. Obvious examples of this include the addition of retractable roofs over what are normally outdoor venues, such as Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium or Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
Of course, playing rugby or football on grass is no problem in the wet, due to the use of studs. It is a matter of advantage to have a playing surface enhanced by limiting rainfall on it. By contrast, in tennis, a sport often played professionally indoors, the benefits are obvious; by keeping the grass dry in wet weather, Wimbledon can still put on big matches instead of having to resort to community singing led by Cliff Richard.
Domes use the same principle, with artificial surfaces being the norm. For sports like football, this means the use of more modern astroturf – the kind that does not cause burns when players go to ground. This enables players to enjoy using a much better surface, rather than sliding around in a quagmire where the ball bobbles around and sticks in the mud.
However, the key factor to note with domes is how far the technology in them has developed. They might be sheltered, but keeping down humidity and maintaining warmth requires state-of-the art air conditioning. Keeping humidity low also means more temporary domes can be set up over grass.
It is this that has made grass court tennis possible under a roof. Without it the grass could get wet and the surface cut up, or fungal growth could be encouraged.
Other developments have also helped, including roof structures with the strength to support lighting for dark nights.
Some may not have realised just how far the technology behind domes has come, but they are now more flexible and adaptable than ever, making them able to deal with rain, heat, darkness and much else.