Sports Facilities

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Connected Stadiums Enhance Fan Experience

21 May, 2015

By: Doug Lodder
Declining Fan Engagement and Increasing Technology Demands Fuel Evolving Venue Network Strategies

Stadiums and sporting facilities are under enormous pressure today. What is their chief competitor? The couch. When polled, 57 percent of sports fans would prefer to watch games in-person than experience them live, according to a study by Cisco.

Who could blame them? At home, there are no tickets to buy, no parking to negotiate, no weather to contend with, and food and drinks are just a few steps away from a giant flat-screen HDTV. Lastly, high-speed Internet, which they use to tweet and post and text, is fast and available.

Yet stadiums have one thing going for them that the living room will never have – the live experience.  Nothing rivals being in the venue with the energy, noise, smell of hot dogs on the grill, and of course, the home team! If a fan is going to buy tickets, park and contend with Mother Nature, then at the very least fans want to brag about the game day experience. Fans want – and expect – to be able to post photos, check-in online, text, and share videos. 

Today, forward thinking stadiums, leagues and teams understand that the heart of today’s fan experience is a connected one. The connected fan can text, tweet and upload photos – but they can do a lot more than that too.

A truly connected fan can order food and beverages from the comfort of their seat, watch instant replays on their device, download an app for the venue or team and order merchandise without waiting in line.

For the venue or team, a connected fan can deliver insight they never understood before with data analytics, including:

  • Understanding areas of congestion in the venue through location-based services

  • Utilizing a social login to better connect with fans on social media and extend their relationship outside the stadium or arena

  • Employing apps to handle the ticketing process wirelessly

  • Using the wireless network to power everything form point of sale (POS) systems to dedicated security systems

Ultimately, it is clear that a connected stadium can not only form the backbone of the fan experience, but transform insights and revenue for the venue as well.

This connected fan experience can – and does – take many forms such as Wi-Fi, distributed antenna systems (DAS) and small cell network solutions, or sometimes a combination of several. For example, Soldier Field partnered with Boingo Wireless to design and install a neutral-host DAS and Wi-Fi network that approximately doubled capacity and the venue’s data volume increase nearly 75 percent. That is equivalent to seven individual cell sites, which is enough to service a town the size of 88,000. Soldier Field’s DAS network offers stronger and more reliable wireless connectivity to mitigate cellular network congestion, thus ensuring fans and stadium visitors have a better connected experience. Now, the Soldier Field network can support tens of thousands of fans connecting simultaneously at the height of a game or event.

Designing a perfect fan experience is one thing, but venue owners must determine how to manage the network as well as how to pay for it. Advertising and sponsorships are one way to reduce the cost of building and maintaining the network, but revenue derived from concessions and retail can also facilitate revenue growth.

Finally, once the network is built, the venue must determine how it will be maintained. Will it be handled by internal IT resources or outsourced to a managed solution?

There is no doubt that putting the fan experience at the heart of every stadium or sporting facility is the key to winning the battle against the couch. More and more organizations are turning to external partnerships to increase capacity and improve the wireless experience. From designing, managing and maintaining a wireless network that combines Wi-Fi, DAS and small cells, these solutions deliver the ultimate connected fan experience.

About the Author

Doug Lodder

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