May 25, 2015

In-seat food delivery returns to Levi’s Stadium for Earthquakes soccer game

Screen shot from Levi's Stadium app showing active in-seat delivery option.

Screen shot from Levi’s Stadium app showing active in-seat delivery option.

In-seat food delivery, the feature perhaps most unique to Levi’s Stadium, will return this Sunday for a MLS game between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Orlando City SC, a 4 p.m. start at the 68,500-seat home of the San Francisco 49ers.

While in-seat food delivery was active for all the Niners’ home games this past NFL season, the feature ran into some issues during the Coors Light Stadium Series hockey game at Levi’s in February, a still not-fully-explained problem of either too many orders or too few staffers to deliver that led to an unspecified number of incompleted orders and angry fans. At subsequent Levi’s events like the March WrestleMania 31 event, fans were not able to order in-seat food and beverage delivery by request of the event’s organizers.

But the latest refresh of the Levi’s Stadium app by VenueNext shows an active in-seat delivery menu, though it appears only food and beverages, and not merchandise, will be available for soccer fans to have brought to their seats. One reason why it may be easier for delivery to be available is that from seating maps it appears that the 300- and 400-level seating areas (the upper decks at Levi’s) won’t be open for the Sunday soccer game, making it a smaller overall crowd.

NBA stadium tech reports — NBA West, Pacific Division

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of NBA stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE HOOPS AND HOCKEY ISSUE. To get all the capsules in one place as well as our featured reports, interviews and analysis, download your free copy of the full report today.

Reporting by Chris Gallo

NBA WEST: Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors
Oracle Arena
Seating capacity: 19,596
Wi-Fi: Yes (185 APs)
DAS: Yes

The Warriors have the oldest home court in the NBA as Oracle Arena opened almost a half century ago. The age hasn’t stopped Golden State from making upgrades to the arena in the past few seasons with Wi-Fi and DAS available. (In fact, the Wi-Fi network is currently undergoing upgrade during this season). The Warriors are also out front with beacons, now in the second generation of using the technology to power features like store discounts and seat upgrades. The Warriors also remain one of the recognized leaders in all sports in social media outreach.

Los Angeles Clippers
Staples Center
Seating capacity: 19,060
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS: Yes

Staples centerWhile the Clippers went through an eventful summer last year, the Staples Center was busy improving the fan experience. The 15-year-old facility completed a new LED sports lighting system to the tune of nearly $7.5 million. The conversion to LED lighting allows the Staples Center to save an estimated $280,000 annually in energy costs. Those savings combined with Wi-Fi and DAS deployment from Verizon, help new owner Steve Ballmer in his pursuit to make the Clippers a championship franchise. (Which will have to wait until next year.)

Los Angeles Lakers
Staples Center
Seating capacity: 18,997
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS: Yes

While there wasn’t much to cheer about on the court this season, Los Angeles Lakers fans still benefited from sharing the Staples Center with multiple professional franchises. The Wi-Fi and DAS systems are among the best in the NBA, and more improvements are scheduled for the arena. The latest planned renovation is a retractable seating system to help the Staples Center more easily complete almost 150 doubleheader games each year between the Lakers, Clippers, LA Kings, and Sparks.

Phoenix Suns
US Airways Center (Talking Stick Resort Arena)
Seating capacity: 18,422
Wi-Fi: Yes (300+ APs)
DAS: Yes (325 antennas)

Verizon and the Phoenix Suns agreed to a long-term extension this fall to make the arena fan-friendly for years to come. Verizon plans to install beacons, and allow fans to keep tickets and arena credit in a “wallet” directly on their mobile devices. The upgrades will coincide with a name change of the arena. A Phoenix-area tribe purchased the naming rights in December. With its new moniker, Talking Stick Resort Arena will take over the rights from the US Airways for the 2015-16 season.

Sacramento Kings
Sleep Train Arena
Seating capacity: 17,317
Wi-Fi: Yes (90+ access points)
DAS: Yes

The Sacramento Kings broke ground on their new $477 million downtown arena this fall. The franchise plans to open the new arena in time for the 2016 season, and to make a splash in stadium technology. The Kings are aiming to have more per capita connectivity than the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium. Bold. And to prepare for the new arena, Sacramento is using the aging Sleep Train Arena to experiment with new technologies. In limited pockets, the Kings took advantage of their partnership with SignalShare to make the team app more location-specific and gather data of fans’ habits that will be useful for the opening of the new arena.

NBA stadium tech reports — NBA West, Northwest Division

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of NBA stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE HOOPS AND HOCKEY ISSUE. To get all the capsules in one place as well as our featured reports, interviews and analysis, download your free copy of the full report today.

Reporting by Chris Gallo

NBA WEST: Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets
Pepsi Center
Seating capacity: 19,155
Wi-Fi: No
DAS:Yes

The Denver Nuggets rely on DAS to help fans stay connected at games. As the Pepsi Center turns 16 years old this year, there are no immediate plans to add fan-facing Wi-Fi to the arena. No Wi-Fi means it’s no surprise the Nuggets rank towards the bottom of the league in home attendance.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Target Center
Seating capacity: 19,356
Wi-Fi: No
DAS:Yes

Still no Wi-Fi available at the Target Center. But the city of Minneapolis and the franchise are working toward an estimated $97 million renovation that would be sure to include ways to improve the experience for the fans. Any connectivity upgrades would be welcomed, as the arena enters its 25th year of existence. Maybe Kevin Garnett can help hang some APs as part of his return?

Oklahoma City Thunder
Chesapeake Energy Arena
Seating capacity: 18,203
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS:Yes

Oklahoma City installed new video boards and reconfigured suites as part of an estimated $2.4 million worth of upgrades this offseason. The updates are a nice compliment for fans, who can connect to Wi-Fi and DAS in Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Portland's Moda Center, home of the NBA Trail Blazers. Credit all photos: Moda Center (click on any photo for a larger image)

Portland’s Moda Center, home of the NBA Trail Blazers. Credit all photos: Moda Center (click on any photo for a larger image)

Portland Trail Blazers
Moda Center
Seating capacity: 19,980
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS:Yes

Owner Paul Allen delivered on a $16 million renovation plan this season, bolstering Wi-Fi and DAS in the Moda Center for years to come. It’s now easier for fans to view highlights during home games from the team’s mobile app.

Utah Jazz
EnergySolutions Arena
Seating capacity: 19,911
Wi-Fi: No
DAS:Yes

The Utah Jazz partnered with Boingo Wireless last spring to deliver a modern Distributed Antenna System to EnergySoultions Arena. The neutral DAS system is a major upgrade for fans and the 24-year-old facility. While Wi-Fi is not yet present in the arena, the franchise is patiently evaluating its needs to make it available in the future.

RootMetrics debuts tests of cell service inside stadiums

Screen shot of RootMetrics reporting app.

Screen shot of RootMetrics reporting app.

RootMetrics, a Bellevue, Wash.-based concern that has made a name for itself by conducting tests of wireless services in cities and airports across the nation, is now starting to test wireless networks in sports stadiums, which may give fans a heads-up on how their provider is performing inside stadium walls.

Though it only has visited a handful of arenas so far, RootMetrics eventually plans to test more than 100 stadiums this year, according to the company. For each venue, RootMetrics sends an unspecified number of testers to track data performance of the top four wireless carriers in the U.S., a list that includes AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. RootMetrics’ venue testers also check performance of the internal Wi-Fi network if one is available, but it does not let Wi-Fi compete for its “RootScore Award,” which it bestows upon the carrier with best performance in the combined categories of speed and “data reliability,” basically a measurement of the ability to make and hold a connection during any wireless data request or action.

RootMetrics also doesn’t take into account whether or not any of the carriers has preferential deals inside a venue, which may give that provider a leg up on the competition. For its report on the Staples Center, for instance, RootMetrics gives its award to Verizon, which is not surprising to us since Verizon built both the Wi-Fi and the DAS network at the facility. But RootMetrics makes no mention of the business agreements at Staples or anywhere else, which is by design, according to the company.

Why can’t Wi-Fi win?

RootMetrics CEO Bill Moore said in a recent phone interview that such details about contracts and preferred suppliers really don’t matter to consumers — what really matters, he said, is how well each carrier performs in the venue.

While the “scoreboard” mentality does perform a service by presenting just what data the testers find, the RootMetrics venue surveys have some gaps that may need to be filled or changed in the future to present a fully accurate picture of stadium network performance. One big reporting gap is the fact that RootMetrics doesn’t use any iOS devices in its stadium tests, a strange omission since most stadium networks say they still see a majority of iPhones among the devices being used on stadium networks. RootMetrics also seems to unfairly leave Wi-Fi networks out of the scoring, even though in many cases so far the local Wi-Fi networks far outperform the carrier cellular links.

Screen shot of RootMetrics' test results for the Moda Center in Portland.

Screen shot of RootMetrics’ test results for the Moda Center in Portland.

For Portland’s Moda Center, for instance, RootMetrics gives its RootScore award to Verizon, since in their testing Verizon was found to have better data reliability and better data speeds than the other cellular carriers. But the stadium’s in-house Wi-Fi network was 3 Mbps faster than Verizon on the download side and more than five times faster than Verizon on the upload side — yet Wi-Fi wasn’t mentioned in the venue “scores” and only got a footnote at the bottom of the results page.

Founded in 2008, RootMetrics has (apparently) built a good business in its chosen field, since it was acquired last month by the Englewood, Colo.-based IHS, a large information and analytics concern that recorded $546 million in revenue for its most recent quarter.

In the industry, RootMetrics is well known for its wireless coverage performance map and its “RootScores,” which attempt to determine winners and losers in the wireless service game for major U.S. metropolitan areas and the nation’s busiest airports. The basic RootMetrics premise is that they measure exactly what service levels consumers see in real life, providing an independent way for customers to evaluate services in a given area. While consumers can see the high-level results of its tests — which include both internal testing as well as data “crowdsourced” from consumers who download the RootMetrics reporting app — RootMetrics also sells its information directly to carriers and other infrastructure providers.

NBA stadium tech reports — NBA East, Southeast Division

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of NBA stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE HOOPS AND HOCKEY ISSUE. To get all the capsules in one place as well as our featured reports, interviews and analysis, download your free copy of the full report today.

Reporting by Chris Gallo

NBA EAST: Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks
Philips Arena
Seating capacity: 18,118
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS: Yes

Philips Arena features a different kind of video board this season. The court. That’s right, the Hawks are using a 3D projection system to display video on the hardwood and create an experience fans can’t find anywhere else. Atlanta can even use the projection system to bring tweets and Instagram posts from fans on the floor. Imagine seeing your selfie on the court, how cool is that?

The experience is even better after Boingo Wireless outfitted the 16-year-old facility with Wi-Fi and a robust neutral DAS system. The upgrades couldn’t have come at a better time given how the Hawks are performing on the court this season.

Charlotte Hornets
Time Warner Cable Arena
Seating capacity: 19,077
Wi-Fi: Yes (120+ antennas)
DAS: Yes (524 antennas)

With a not-so new name, the Charlotte Hornets continue to benefit from having a cable giant’s name on the front of their arena. The franchise plans to make Time Warner Cable Arena a bigger attraction in the future, and it should have no trouble as the city of Charlotte approved an estimated $33 million renovation project over the next decade. The buzz is indeed back.

Miami Heat
American Airlines Arena
Seating capacity: 19,600
Wi-Fi: No
DAS: Yes

The Miami Heat depend on a powerful Distributed Antenna System (DAS) to keep fans connected during home games at American Airlines Arena. There’s no fan-facing Wi-Fi in the arena yet, but it’s something the franchise is considering for the future, possibly first in a new bar/gathering area attached to the arena. Despite losing LeBron James to free agency, fans are still finding their ways to games, as the Heat rank in the top 10 in the league in attendance this season.

Orlando Magic
Amway Center
Seating capacity: 18,846
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS: Yes

Orlando Magic in action at Amway Center. Credit: Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic in action at Amway Center. Credit: Orlando Magic

Only in its fifth year, the Amway Center is still one of the newest arenas in the NBA. Orlando partnered with AmpThink last year to give its Wi-Fi and DAS coverage a boost. This season, the Magic have joined forces with Chase and E15 Group to be one of the first NBA teams to incorporate Apple Pay into their home arena. Fans were able to make concessions and retail purchases from their phones throughout the arena.

Washington Wizards
Verizon Center
Seating capacity: 20,356
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS: Yes

Mobilitie brought upgrades to the Verizon Center’s Wi-Fi and DAS systems over the past year, and it’s helping the Wizards connect with fans. Already with free iPhone and Android mobile apps, the Wizards released a native iPad app to help encourage fans to use the franchise’s digital ticketing system. And as a unique thank you to fans, the Wizards placed over 3,000 names of season ticket holders in the baseline logo of the Verizon Center’s court. Nice touch, Wizards.

Stadium Tech Report: Los Angeles Angels and 5 Bars build ‘wireless halo’ of Wi-Fi & DAS for Angels Stadium

The iconic sign outside the "Big A," aka Angels Stadium of Anaheim. Credit all photos, even tilted ones: Terry Sweeney, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

The iconic sign outside the “Big A,” aka Angels Stadium of Anaheim. Credit all photos, even tilted ones: Terry Sweeney, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Every baseball team wants to notch a win on opening day, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are no exception. So while the number of runs scored was important to Al Castro, the franchise’s IT director, his eye was also on wireless performance in Angels Stadium, since 2015 will be the first full season with both Wi-Fi and DAS technology in place. The Angels may have lost their opener against the Kansas City Royals, but their wireless networks scored big by handling more than 1.3 TB of data that afternoon.

“Fans expect connectivity these days,” Castro told Mobile Sports Report during a tour of Angels Stadium, aka the Big A, which was built in 1966. Once the home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, the stadium went through and extensive renovation in 1997-98 and now seats about 44,000 for baseball and serves 3 million visitors annually. “If they’re going to come to a ballgame for four hours,” said Castro of today’s fans, “they won’t tolerate not being connected.”

Adding wireless to the ‘Big A’

To get the wireless ball rolling last year, teams of engineers on scaffolding started on the uppermost tier of the Big A (the “View Level”) to mount DAS and Wi-Fi antennas to the stadium canopy. Working from outermost edges of the C-shaped stadium, two sets at of scaffolding at each end leapfrogged each til they met in the middle – a five-week process, according to Castro.

Angels IT director Al Castro, in front of his wireless deployment map

Angels IT director Al Castro, in front of his wireless deployment map

The 15-zone DAS network went live in June 2014 with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile on board; Sprint is expected to add some antennas in the next several weeks. Currently, there are 122 DAS remotes in 33 locations. Angel Stadium Wi-Fi went live in September 2014 and now counts more than 400 access points around the stadium, according to team figures. Ruckus Wireless is the Wi-Fi vendor; the DAS gear is from Teko Telecom, now part of JMA Wireless.

The Angels worked closely with technology partner 5 Bars, a builder of turnkey wireless networks for sports venues’ wireless needs. Castro would not disclose the budget for the wireless upgrades at Angels Stadium.

In addition to using Major League Baseball’s Ballpark app, Angels fans can post to social media, surf the Web and check email from the stadium’s wireless networks. On the stadium’s club level, spectators can wirelessly order food and beverage from their seats; Legends, which operates the stadium’s concessions, uses an unpublished SSID for 150 wireless-enabled moveable cash registers and more than two dozen handheld point-of-sale devices. Similarly, TicketMaster has its own invisible SSID for wireless scanning of tickets at the stadium’s entry gates; the SSID for the press box is also masked, according to Castro.

Hiding in plain (or painted) sight

The DAS antennas and APs have been strategically installed and well concealed; they’re as discrete as chameleons. Working with Ruckus gear, 5 Bars installed narrow-beam, sectorized-beam and high-capacity APs, all centrally managed by Ruckus’s SmartCell Gateway 200.

A nice view of the field -- with antennas in silhouette

A nice view of the field — with antennas in silhouette

The Angels also use SmartCell Insight, a reporting and analytics package that helps the team track number of unique connections to the Wi-Fi during the course of a game, device types, total and average data uploaded and downloaded, and their speeds, Castro said.

Angel Stadium Wi-Fi has been engineered for 20,000 simultaneous users; there’s no throttling of user bandwidth and no filtering for streaming media like Spotify — “yet,” Castro was quick to add with a laugh. Download speeds vary depending on crowd size, according to Tommy Taylor, senior manager, engineering services for 5 Bars. For a game with 36,000 in attendance, for example, average download speed for devices using 2.4 GHz bandwidth is 8-12 Mbps, while 5 GHz connections can run as fast as 18-24 Mbps. On the traffic side, currently the network is seeing upload volume of about 20 percent of the download average volume, Taylor said, in an email to Mobile Sports Report.

The Angels will continue to fine-tune the network and add or re-point APs as necessary. “We are in the process of adding additional APs to cover some areas that, when the stadium is full, do not receive the high level of coverage we are targeting to provide,” Castro said. Those additions should be done by mid-June. Management has an eye on monetizing the network through sponsorships, and extending the in-seat ordering system beyond the club level of the ballpark, according to Castro.

He also wants to add streaming video to the network so that fans can watch replay from multiple angles, which Castro described as “a good incentive — something you can’t get at home.” He also intends to expand his use of analytics and report generation on a game-by-game basis. It’s the sort of thing that the owners and managers of the team are increasingly interested in, Castro added.