The Empty Stadium

When wandering through a stadium during the off-season, the stillness can be overwhelming.  The arena is full of life and commotion during the season, but most everyone is gone now.  Only a few die-hard athletes and year-round staff remain, preparing for the next year, or just hanging around because they don’t have anywhere better to be. 

As you walk around in the near silence, it’s easy to imagine the kind of bustling activity that occurs when everyone is around.  While much of the mess has been cleaned up, the main infrastructure remains and you can squint your eyes and envision the players moving about on the field.  While meandering about, you feel nostalgic about previous visits as well as a strong yearning for the start of the upcoming season.

While it can be a moving experience for devoted fans, a visit to a stadium during the off-season is an ineffective way to recruit new enthusiasts.  Newcomers don’t have the context to understand the significance of what, for veterans, easily conjures up visions of previous events.  The inexperienced see only the vacant shell, not the memories of what happened inside it. 

New fans are enticed by the exhilarating color and drama that comes when the stadium is full of life – when there is more to see than can be seen.  After sufficient time, however, they will also come to appreciate a walk unhurried through an empty arena, soaking in the atmosphere.  Reminiscences of the past and anticipation of the future provide ample gratification. 

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

9 thoughts on “The Empty Stadium

  1. Perfect analogy. The brown and beige remnants of grasses and forbs contrasts with a brilliant blue sky. Nature’s calligraphy. Though not visual, all the beauty and action is underground now. The continuity of seasonal observations teaches patience and grace for those who walk the prairie.
    Thank You, Chris.

  2. Chris, I love this post. So true and such a revelation to see and feel the rest period. Thanks for bringing perspective and beauty to my day.

  3. Ohmigosh ‘the empty stadium’…what a perfect metaphor! You just captured it completely. My ‘stadiums’ are my work areas at the Morton Arboretum. Some look so stark now….but I know what is just waiting to come rooooaaaaring back! And I’ll be here holding one side of the breakaway banner! Here’s to 2020!

  4. Chris, I’ve been following you since I heard you speak at Science Cafe….these are some of my FAVORITE pictures. Would you ever consider selling a print?


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