Latest Stadium Upgrade Is to the Colosseum

A retractable floor will be added, covering tunnels that fighters used to pop up on cue
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2020 5:26 PM CST
Italy Is Restoring Colosseum's Floor, Trapdoors Included
Stock photo.   (Getty/BarryKearney)

A modern ballpark typically serves a US city for 20 to 25 years, a sports economic expert says, per USA Today. Rome's Colosseum, by contrast, was used for four centuries, so it's not surprising that the place needs some work. Italy is now launching a renovation that will restore and preserve the Colosseum's technology, the Smithsonian reports, and give visitors a better idea of what it felt like for a gladiator to stand in the center of the arena. "We want to give an idea of how it was, and we are seeking proposals from around the world," the Colosseum's director said, per the Times. The deadline for design proposals is Feb. 1, and completion is projected for 2023, per the BBC. When the work is finished, "the arena will be used for high culture, meaning concerts or theater,” its director said. There are no plans for fighting to the death.

The centerpiece will be a new, retractable arena floor. In its heyday, the place had a wooden floor covered in sand. Under the floor were tunnels used to enable animals and fighters to dramatically appear in the right spot of the arena. The technology included ramps, pulleys, and ropes, as well as a sort of elevator that took caged lions, bears, and leopards above ground—all in the name of drama. "The hypogeum allowed the organizers of the games to create surprises and build suspense," a researcher said, per the Smithsonian. "A hunter in the arena wouldn't know where the next lion would appear, or whether two or three lions might emerge instead of just one." Replicas of the underground mechanics will be installed. The project is "a major technological intervention that will offer visitors the opportunity to not only see the underground rooms ... but also appreciate the beauty of the Colosseum," Italy's culture minister said. (More Colosseum stories.)

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