Metrodome Collapse: 10 other stadium disasters

Categories: International

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Mottaqi Stadium, Iran
What might have happened had the Metrodome roof collapsed during the Vikings game against the Giants on Sunday? What might have happened if the roof had slowly sagged and busted wide open over stands packed with spectators in a panic, but unable to move? Disaster, that's what.

Instead, we got dramatic video. But the collapse made us wonder about other stadium disasters. Here are 10. Some were the result of bad engineering. Some were the result of humans run amok. And one shows what happens when a stadium is turned into a detention camp.

Kingdome, Seattle, Wash., 1994

This could have been so much worse: Fans were not yet in the stands at the Seattle Mariners' home field on July 19, 1994 for a game against Baltimore when two 25-pound ceiling tiles fell off the stadium's dome and crashed into a seating area. No one should have been surprised by the accident, though. The dome's roof never worked to spec, leaking almost from the day it opened in 1976. It was finally demolished in 2000.

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Credit: Wiki
The Kingdome's roof was a failure. The dome was torn down in 2000.
Kemper Arena, Kansas City, 1979

This was another tragedy narrowly averted. The Kemper Arena's reinforced concrete roof, considered an architectural marvel at the time, proved no match for a massive rain storm had inundated Kansas City, Mo., on June 4, 1979. Water pooled because it couldn't run off the roof fast enough, bolts holding supports to the roof weren't strong enough for the load, and an acre of roof crashed to the stadium floor on a day when, thankfully, the facility was closed.

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Credit: Wiki
Kemper Arena once hosted the Republican National Convention.
Mottaqi Stadium, Sari, Iran, 2001: Persepolis v. Shemooshak

The Mottaqi Stadium in Sari was filled far beyond capacity for a 2001 match between Persepolis and Shemooshak, when the fiberglass roof caved in. Two people died and hundreds were injured, but perhaps the strangest part of the story is what happened afterward. Rather than leave the disaster area, irate fans started building fires on the field, and attacking each other with pieces of rubble.

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The scene at Mottaqi Stadium after its roof collapsed.
Ibrox Park, Glasgow, Scotland, 1971: Celtics v Rangers

Stories about soccer hooligans rampaging through stadiums and surrounding neighborhoods are all too common. But the 1971 disaster at Ibrox Park in Glasgow, Scotland, was different. Near the end of an almost scoreless match between cross-town rivals Celtics and Rangers, bored fans were leaving the stadium early when barriers on a stairway gave out and 66 people fell to their deaths. At the same stadium in 1902, a stand collapsed during a match between Scotland and England, and 25 people were killed.

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Credit: Wiki
Ibrox Park in the early days.

Burnden Park, Bolton, England, 1946: Bolton Wanderers vs Stoke City

Before 33 spectators were killed at Bolton's Burnden Park on March 9, 1946, the UK had no regulations for crowd sizes at sports events. And, unlike in modern stadiums where most fans have a seat, older soccer stadiums packed in fans on terraces - everyone stood. That's what was happening at Burnden Park during an FA Cup quarter final match between Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City when a control barrier collapsed and the spectators perished. The disaster sparked government reforms to make soccer stadiums safer places.

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Credit: Wiki
A soccer match at Burnden Park in the early 1900s.
National Stadium, Lima, Peru, 1964: Peru v. Argentina

About 45,000 spectators had jammed the National Stadium in Lima for the 1964 qualifying match between Peru and Argentina; the winner would advance to the Olympics in Tokyo. Argentina led 1-0 as the game entered extra time, Peru scored, but the goal was disallowed by the referee. The crowd became agitated. Lima police started lobbing tear gas, and 300 people were either suffocated or trampled to death.

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The National Stadium in Lima, Peru.
Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, England, 1989: Liverpool vs Nottingham Forest

Sometimes the crowd-control police do the right thing, and disaster still strikes. That's what happened on April 15, 1989 at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Police wanted to ease crowding outside the stadium during an FA Cup semifinal game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, so they opened the gates to one end of the terraced stands. A flood of spectators rushed in, and 95 people were crushed to death, mostly on metal barriers on the terraces that are designed to prevent fans from falling down. Watch:

Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Canada, 1992: Metallica/Guns N' Roses

Metallica wanted to put on a flashy show for its fans on this tour with Guns N' Roses, so they packed along a massive pyrotechnics display. On Aug. 8, 1992 the show and the pyrotechnics were going off without a hitch until frontman James Hetfield stood too close to the fire. Hetfield was badly burned and Metallica cut its show short. Fans lost patience with the time it took to change over the setup for Guns N' Roses, and then Axl Rose said his throat hurt and the band cut its show off as well. A riot ensued, and spilled out into the surrounding streets. Watch:

Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati, 1979: The Who

Dec. 3, 1979 was a bitter cold day in Cincinnati, and a throng of Who fans were waiting to enter Riverfront Coliseum with festival seating tickets. They heard the band begin its sound check and thought they were missing the show, rushed the still-closed doors, and 11 fans suffocated. The Who, unaware of the disaster, played their entire show before learning about the deaths. Festival seating was banned for 25 years afterward in Cincinnati. Watch:

National Stadium, Santiago, Chile, 1973

Sometimes stadiums become disaster zones because they're hijacked for truly evil purposes. When Chile's U.S.-backed Gen. Augusto Pinochet seized power during a bloody coup in 1973, his henchmen transformed the National Stadium in Santiago into a massive prison camp for his political enemies. Human rights groups estimate that more than 40,000 people were detained there, tortured and sometimes killed.

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Credit: Wiki
National Stadium, Santiago, Chile, was once a prison camp.


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