In the summer of 2006 we visited Innsbruck Austria. When in Europe, it's obligatory to visit the local cathedral. One of the big attractions in Innsbruck is the HofKirche - built in the 1550's by the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I.
Just above the altar, I noticed an interesting architectural detail. There was big glassed-in suite with a great view of the proceedings - it looked kind of like a luxury box (sky box). I guess it makes sense, after all, you can't expect the emperor to sit in the pews. I'm sure it was catered, had a bar, and probably a couple of big screen TV's. I kind of expected to see George Steinbrenner peering down imperiously from the windows.
In the USA our cathedrals are dedicated to sports.
In 1965 the city of Houston built the Astrodome. The architecture wasn't ornate, but the effect was stunning. Huge indoor stadiums are commonplace today, but when it was built, the Astrodome was considered the eighth wonder of the world. These structures aren't Chartres or the Kölner Dom but they sure are big.
Actually, the most important innovation of the Astrodome wasn't the indoor stadium, or even artificial turf, it was the the luxury box.
Since then, sports franchises have turned the luxury box from a VIP perk, into a major source of revenue. The New York Yankees reportedly charge up to $600,000 a season for some of these suites.
It's comforting to know things haven't change all that much.