…like that. Those eight petals (ok, technically panels) seeming to slide over and under each other, like a camera lens – each of them is more than 200 feet long. Each petal has a dozen motors, which is what makes them move open and closed. But what makes it possible to cover 100,000 square feet, in 200-foot petals – is plastic.
Specifically, a polymer film made from ETFE for short (and for long, that’s “ethylene tetrafluoroethylene”) – which is made from the petrochemical ethylene, naturally. And what ethylene makes possible – is a roof that weighs one percent, of what a glass roof would weigh – a roof that lets through more light than glass – a roof that can hold more than 400 times its own weight – and a roof that can open and close over a space of 100,000 square feet. Only a plastic like ETFE could do all that (it’s even used for the façade of the stadium).
But that’s not the only place, polymers made from petrochemicals make this stadium special. In that picture, take a look at the ring of lights under the oculus. That’s a video scoreboard (called the HALO) that runs all the way around the roof – 360 degrees. You can see it from every seat in the stadium (and if you’ve been to a game, almost anywhere else – you know how unusual that is). It’s the largest LED display for sporting events in the world. High-tech polycarbonates are used to hold the printed circuit boards and LED pixels in place. Even the individual LED pixels are encased in polycarbonate. And polycarbonates? Making them is made possible by the petrochemicals propylene and benzene.
By the way, this year’s Super Bowl features the Rams – but there was an LA connection all the way back in the first Super Bowl too – it was played in Los Angeles. The Rams weren’t in the game though, just their town; on the field, the Packers beat the Chiefs (and the Packers won again the next year too).
There have been some changes in the game though over the past 53 years: that January 15, 1967 game at the LA Coliseum did not sell out (and the most expensive seats went for $12) – and it wasn’t called the Super Bowl, not officially (that started with the fourth game, in 1970).
The LA Coliseum, of course, had been around a lot longer. When it opened in 1923, as home to the USC Trojans, the game looked like this…