How Tech is Shaping the Stadium Experience
It’s almost 2022 and the fans are no longer cardboard.
We’re witnessing the beginning of a defining shift for fans, teams, and athletes stemming from changes brought on for the last two years. Fans have overcompensated for their absence by consuming and sharing their favorite moments from afar and using social media to stay connected. On the other side, teams have had virtually no in-person attendance to help bolster viable revenue streams like concessions, merchandise, and opportunities to buy into season ticket holdings.
The pandemic introduced the team’s worst nightmares: Stadiums without fans. And, in many ways, it has accelerated their ability to think about how to accelerate the innovation process that would safely and creatively allow fans back, and entice them to come back.
Pete Giorgio, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP said now, teams are focused on offering more than a good seat to see a great team play.
“These days, you have to produce a broader experience. It’s not entertainment at halftime. It’s something much, much grander,” Giorgio explains.
“You see this proliferation of things like fantasy lounges in stadiums, and areas where fans can interact, and new and different pricing models for tickets and ticket packages. More and more and more, you’re going to see teams embrace the broader experience—not just the experience of watching the game, but your broader experience of sports and your broader experience of entertainment as they add new restaurant options and add new things to do around the stadium.
“Owning and driving and helping with this broader experience around the game I think is a big place a lot of organizations are going to go.”
Already, we’re seeing how teams have spent the last few years thinking about how to engage fans and the tech that will be implemented to make a better gameday experience.
When the Carolina Panthers welcomed the visiting New York Jets at their home-opener, fans were greeted with something pretty wild.
This mixed-reality used by the Carolina Panthers for their opener is epic. pic.twitter.com/qw7pF56UfQ
— Alex Garcia 🔍 (@alexgarcia_atx) September 12, 2021
It was a mixed-reality visual that combined real-life elements of the stadium, happening in real-time, with those of a giant panther prowling around the stadium, hopping on the scoreboard, tearing apart the Jets flag, and then preening around the field.
The tweet of the panther running around the field was one of the viral moments for the NFL’s first week of action, garnering more than 5.5 million views on Twitter.
In October, the Las Vegas Golden Knights hosted the Seattle Kraken (in their first-ever NHL game). Vegas is known for its flair, and the pre-production crew for the Golden Knights did not disappoint as they presented a choreographed show during the pregame featuring a knight on skates thwarting a giant sea creature which was displayed moving about the ice that delighted and thrilled fans and social media. This is the sort of innovative entertainment that captivates fans before a game and takes advantage of new spaces and layers to broadcast the show to fans.
Are You Not Entertained?
If you’re keeping tabs on the latest and greatest in stadium construction, you’ll notice a recurring theme: Team stadiums are more than the game itself.
Of all the professional sports, football is one of the more challenging ones to see from nosebleed seats three sections above the field. Devoted fans have long enjoyed seeing NFL games live and all those experiences offered. But, as television experiences have improved, sometimes the best viewing angles are at home on the couch in front of your 80” flat-screen with mobile phone in hand.
That’s not stopping teams from developing stadiums that start to bring technology, proximity, and entertainment closer to the fan, no matter where they sit.
The 11,000 sqft Wynn Field Club spans the entire length of the north end zone of Allegiant Stadium. Will feature appearances from Wynn’s DJ lineup, premium bottle service, 42 TVs, a 9′ x 35′ LED screen, a 45,000-watt sound system, and two DJ booths.
SoFi Stadium, home of both the NFL’s Chargers and Rams, keeps fans invested in the game no matter where they are. It’s hard not to see every angle of the replays when there’s a 90,000 square-foot LED display that encircles the entire stadium. The Infinity Screen is powered by the largest graphics control system in the history of sports, hoisted 122-feet above the playing surface. It’s so large and captivating, that even the players can reference it for calls and replays while moving about the field. It’s part of a massive entertainment engine that powers graphics and video displays inside the stadium and outside, too. During the game, fans can interact with video booths and send social media messages and photos that are incorporated into the screen during the game.
The stadium is poised to be a part of the biggest sports events in the coming years, hosting this year’s Super Bowl and hosting the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics.
Introducing a Frictionless Experience
During the pandemic, you could sense that a lot of stadiums and large-scale events would pivot to find new ways to get fans into games safely and quickly.
A paper ticket printed at the ticket booth used to be your way into the stadium. Then, our mobile devices allowed us to print them at home and take them to the stadium. Most recently, you just downloaded a barcode that could be scanned — huzzah! No more printing!
But for some teams, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the mobile app of the future is more than just a ticket into the game—it’s part of a comprehensive gameday experience that begins with the ticket and continues throughout the game and long after it’s ended.
Steelers’ fans download the official app and obtain access to the ticketing component but also while they’re at the game they can view real-time replays and updated game stats. While walking about Heinz Field, they can use the app to display augmented reality at displays in the team’s Great Hall where they can see team history and trophies.
Because the app is connected to the ticket, the team suddenly has an ability to better connect to the fan where they can provide updates, policy changes, or other information about preparing for events. You can imagine it also provides an enhanced funnel to communicate to them about single-game and season tickets as well as merchandise and other team updates.
This isn’t relegated to the ranks of pro football. This fall, the University of Washington Huskies debuted a new app that connects to a fan-experience portal through an in-seat QR code that will allow them to bypass WiFi and app downloads to access contactless concession ordering, access to exclusive Instagram filters, player and team stats, downloadable coupons, and more. The portal is agnostic of carriers and devices, too.
Your Ticket to the Biometric Future of Stadiums
OK, so what if we skipped barcodes and went put stadium entry into the palm of our hand?
Amazon recently partnered with AXS, which handles ticketing for a high number of concert and sports venues in the U.S., including the Staples Center in Los Angeles and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, among a host of others.
Music fans will get to see this new biometric future at Red Rocks where guests can associate an AXS Mobile ID with a free-standing station for entry. They can also register to use one or both of their palms that can be scanned at dedicated entry points.
These new technologies will soon make an appearance at your nearest professional sports stadium where contactless entry will be the new way you get into an event.
So whether you like this idea or not privacy advocates are skeptical, to say the least—you’re probably going to be seeing it in a lot of new locations soon. Welcome to your new biometric future.
How our Partners are Changing Venue Tech
As we speak, many of our SportsTech partners and alumni are working on directly changing the way fans watch sports events live and even changing the future of venue sporting.
Comcast Spectacor has paused construction on the $50 million purpose-built stadium due to the pandemic, but when it resumes, the facility will be one of the best esports venues in the country, complete with a capacity for 3,000, luxury boxes, training facilities, and team offices.
Next time you go into a stadium, try to peek ‘behind the scenes and we bet you’ll notice an army of people working to make the event a success. Fleets of utility vehicles including golf carts are a huge part of how these stadiums move people, equipment, and goods around. Our alum XiQ has been working with NASCAR and the GOLF Channel to help ensure events are run smoothly and that the fleet of vehicles is easy to operate.
If you’ve ever purchased a ticket to an event and have not been happy about the seat location (or it’s the distance from the action), you understand your options are a bit limited. Our alum Dibz is trying to change that, by offering fans the opportunity to purchase an upgrade to their ticket without ever leaving the stadium.
Now that sporting events are back on the rise, it’s going to be fascinating to watch as technology directly impacts the way we watch and attend games. For more than a decade, these magic mobile devices in our pocket have made it easier to get closer to the games we love, but now they’re helping us get into the game with improved game-day experiences that are embracing innovation in ways we could never have imagined.