July 2, 2015

NL Stadium Tech Reports — NL Central

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of MLB stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE BASEBALL (And Soccer!) 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.

NL Central

Reporting by Paul Kapustka

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.31.22 PMChicago Cubs
Wrigley Field
Seating Capacity: 41,160
Wi-Fi – No
DAS – Yes

For those hoping to use Wi-Fi at Wrigley Field, it’s “wait until next year” as the ongoing stadium renovations have forced the team to suspend the Wi-Fi services it had previously installed.

Look for an enhanced Wi-Fi and DAS network next season at the Friendly Confines (which now has outfield video boards)

St. Louis Cardinals
Busch Stadium
Seating Capacity: 50,345
Wi-Fi – No (under construction)
DAS – Yes

Finally, Wi-Fi is coming to Busch Stadium, with plans to have the MLB- installed network live sometime after the All-Star break but before the end of the season.

Milwaukee Brewers
Miller Park
Seating Capacity: 42,200
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – No

Another one of the MLBAM beneficiaries, Miller Park will offer free Wi-Fi to fans for the first time this season. Prosit!

Pittsburgh Pirates
PNC Park
Seating Capacity: 38,496
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

One of the most-loved facilities in baseball, PNC Park, is now Wi-Fi enabled thanks to your friends at MLBAM.

Cincinnati Reds
Great American Ball Park
Seating Capacity: 42,036
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Though it already had some Wi-Fi, Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark is getting a network upgrade this season thanks to MLBAM, which wants the park to be uber-connected for this summer’s All-Star Game.

Stadium Tech Report: Kauffman Stadium gets a Royal Wi-Fi Upgrade

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, during last year's World Series. Photo: MLB Photos

Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, during last year’s World Series. Photo: MLB Photos (click on any picture for a larger image)

In addition to being good at baseball last fall, the Kansas City Royals were a little bit lucky, too – especially when their park’s new Wi-Fi network got installed just before the Royals began their historic postseason run.

While no team knows for sure if it can plan ahead for postseason play, the fact that Major League Baseball was able to complete its install of a Wi-Fi network at Kauffman Stadium last August ensured that the playoff and World Series crowds in Kansas City had high-bandwidth connectivity, finishing the season with a night that saw more than 2 terabytes of wireless traffic inside the stadium’s famed curved structures.

“The timing [of the installation] was somewhat fortuitous,” said Brian Himstedt, the Kansas City Royals’ senior director for information systems, who confirmed that plans for Wi-Fi were in motion long before the Royals gained their wild- card spot. According to Himstedt, the Royals had already been scheduled for one of the first deployments in the Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) plan to bring Wi-Fi to every team in the league, with actual installation taking place in midsummer.

“The idea was to have it up and running during our last three homestands, and use that as a test- bed for the 2015 season,” Himstedt said. Instead, the Royals found themselves with perhaps the ultimate test of any new network deployment, repeat sellout crowds for baseball’s ultimate bucket-list event. Even though it wasn’t expected, as Himstedt said, having to maintain a network because your team got all the way to Game 7 of the World Series “is a good problem to have.”

Wi-Fi antennas pointing down at Kauffman Stadium seating. Photo: MLB Photos

Wi-Fi antennas pointing down at Kauffman Stadium seating. Photo: MLB Photos


Worth the wait for MLBAM deployment

Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from our latest Stadium Tech Report, the BASEBALL (and Soccer!) ISSUE, which is available now for free download from our site. The report includes a focus on baseball and soccer stadium technology deployments, and team-by-team coverage of technology deployments for all 30 MLS teams — AND all 20 MLS teams. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT now and read for yourself!

While MLBAM’s decision to pay for a major part of the league-wide deployments no doubt sped up the Wi-Fi timetable for many participants, Himstedt said that the rollout plan (which began in earnest last year) actually delayed an original timetable to bring Wi-Fi to Kauffman.

According to Himstedt, the Royals had investigated putting Wi-Fi into the stadium before the 2012 season, when Kansas City hosted the All- Star Game. But MLBAM convinced the team to wait until its connectivity-everywhere plan became reality, in no small part due to the technical, political and most-expenses-paid attributes that became part of MLB’s Wi-Fi and DAS push.

“When we investigated it [Wi-Fi] for 2012, BAM was already talking about their plan, and we saw the comprehensiveness of what they were talking about,” Himstedt said. “In some ways it slowed us down, but when it happened, it happened right.”

Perhaps one of the biggest attributes of the MLB plan was the league’s ability to work in concert with all four of the major cellular carriers in the U.S., not just in herding the cats together so that DAS deployments would include all carriers, but in also getting the carriers to agree to foot a significant portion of the overall deployment costs.

Royals fans cheering on the blue team during the playoffs. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

Royals fans cheering on the blue team during the playoffs. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

“Dealing with the complexity of politics that exists [between] the carriers, we wouldn’t have had what the league was able to do,” Himstedt said. “Back in September of 2012, I felt disappointed that we missed an opportunity to have it [Wi-Fi] for the All-Star Game. But looking back, I see all the mistakes we could have made. I’d have to say it was worth the wait.”

Learning the curves

Opened in 1973, Kauffman Stadium has long been one of MLB’s more attractive parks, with its signature outfield fountains and its open, curved design. In 2009, the stadium underwent a $250 million renovation, which while it did not include wireless deployments it did help pave the way for Wi-Fi to come later, Himstedt said, with additions of more cable pathways and a “more robust” overall IT infrastructure.

Before the 2014 season started, Himstedt and the Kauffman Stadium IT team dug into the Wi-Fi design process, mapping out the resources and schedule for the in-season install that started in the summer.

“We knew it would take about 12 to 13 weeks [to install the network] after we said ‘go,’ “ Himstedt said. “When things began to flow we got a little but lucky with the weather and tried to plan [to do most of the work] around home stands. But we still did a lot of work on game days, right up until game time.”

Like in many other stadium retrofits, Himstedt said the biggest challenges for deploying Wi-Fi in Kauffman Stadium were “coverage and aesthetics.” Both came into play together due to the stadium’s circle-like design, which Himstedt noted means “there are no straight aisles” in the building, making it harder to deploy and tune antenna coverage.

While managing the gaps caused by the curved architecture was challenging, Himstedt said that new antenna technology from MLB supplier Cisco proved up to the task. “The [new] Cisco technology and its ability to shape signals definitely worked to our advantage, especially versus technology that was available 3 years ago,” Himstedt said.

More new Cisco technology that supports longer distances between an access point and a user also helped the Kauffman deployment, since the stadium has many long, open bowl areas with no close overhangs and no seating-section railings, two places that are popular in many other venues for Wi-Fi AP locations.

The classic curved lines of Kauffman. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

The classic curved lines of Kauffman. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

“We put antennas at the front of aisles, and in the back of the bowl, pointing down,” Himstedt said. The new antenna technology, he said, supported connectivity from 50 to 60 feet away, which he called a “huge win” for helping keep sight lines and aesthetic views uncluttered with antenna gear. When it was finished, the Wi-Fi deployment used 576 APs, Himstedt said.

The quickly discovered ‘secret’

When the Wi-Fi network finally went live for an Aug. 25 night game, Himstedt and the Royals used what we here at MSR like to call the “Fight Club” method of non-promotion: First rule of Wi-Fi, is don’t talk about the Wi-Fi.

“We were 100 percent quiet – we didn’t mention it to anybody publicly,” said Himstedt of the network availability. The theory was, by not telling anyone the IT team could test and tune a live network over a few home stands, with only about 1,000 media members and internal staff using the Wi-Fi.

But a couple hours after turning the network on, the IT staff saw 3,000 users on the network, meaning that at least 2,000 or more fans had found and connected to the unannounced Wi-Fi. While outsiders might not think Kansas City is a place where citizens are always looking for an SSID, Himstedt said the locals are “probably the most unexpectedly tech savvy” group around, perhaps thanks to the nearby location of Sprint’s corporate headquarters, as well as the fact that Google Fiber brought its first services to Kansas City, spurring some local startup activity.

Throughout the end of the regular season and through the Royals’ extended playoff run, Himstedt and the Kauffman staff kept publicly silent about the Wi-Fi (“it was completely word-of-mouth”), though Major League Baseball did make a national-press announcement and some highly sophisticated stadium technology media outlets (meaning us) did publish stories about the Wi-Fi network’s availability.

Old Glory on the field. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

Old Glory on the field. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

Himstedt, who had wanted Wi-Fi for the All-Star Game, finally got to provide wireless services to the 600+ national media members who became regular attendees at playoff games. And by the time Game 7 of the World Series rolled around – and ended heartbreakingly for Royals fans, with the potential tying run 90 feet from home plate – the Kauffman IT staff saw 16,000 users on the Wi-Fi network, with more than 2 terabytes of total traffic used during the last game of the baseball season.

“We enjoyed it [Wi-Fi] as being a pleasant surprise, an unexpected surprise for our fans,” Himstedt said.

Positioned for the future

For the 2015 season, the Kauffman Stadium IT crew is neither shy nor silent about its Wi-Fi network.

“This year we’re promoting it clear and direct, and we want fans to use it to its fullest extent,” said Himstedt. Along with promoting use of MLBAM’s signature Ballpark app for at-the-game needs, Himstedt said one of the team’s primary pushes is to encourage digital ticketing, a feature he said is already being used by all of the team’s primary season ticket holders.

Since the Kauffman Stadium complex also has all ticketed parking, those fees can also be paid via digital, a feature that went from hundreds of users to thousands this year, Himstedt said.

“The learning curve is fast – it’s pretty amazing how quickly fans adapt,” he said.

In the very near future, overall connectivity should improve by another factor as the stadium’s DAS upgrade is completed. Himstedt and his team are also just at the beginning phase of deploying and using beacons, the low-power sensing devices that can communicate with devices in close vicinity. While beacons are currently only being used for social media “check-in” purposes, Himstedt can see a future where the technology might be used for things like concession promotions, or to provide directions to areas like the venue’s Hall of Fame exhibits.

Himstedt is also interested in using the technology to take “check-ins” even further, with the network being able to automatically check a device for ticket purchases as the fan walks in the gates.

It’d be cool for the network to take the tickets out of my pocket for me,” Himstedt said. “The app is the magic. You just have to enable it.”

MLB Stadium Tech Reports — NL West

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of MLB stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE BASEBALL (And Soccer!) 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.

NL West

Reporting by Paul Kapustka

San Francisco Giants
AT&T Park
Seating Capacity: 41,503
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

atp7AT&T Park is nearing the completion of its latest Wi-Fi upgrade, which will see installation of under-the-seat access points in the upper decks. When it’s done, Giants fans will have use of almost 1,700 Wi-Fi APs throughout the stadium. On the DAS side, T-Mobile is finally in the system, giving the park all of the four major wireless carriers on its AT&T neutral-host DAS, which uses gear from CommScope. We said it before and we will keep saying it: When it comes to baseball stadium connectivity, the San Francisco Giants set the standard.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger Stadium
Seating Capacity: 56,000
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

A $100 million renovation two years ago and help from MLBAM last year should mean a solid Wi-Fi experience for fans at Dodger Stadium.

San Diego Padres
Petco Park
Seating Capacity: 42,455
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Petco Park’s existing Wi-Fi underwent upgrades over the offseason which should result in an even better experience for fans this year. Fans can now use the MLB At the Ballpark app to manage tickets, and to store e-cash for in-stadium purchases.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Chase Field
Seating Capacity: 49,003
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

One of the venues that has had Wi-Fi the longest, Chase Field is due to have its network upgraded this year as part of the MLB Wi-Fi program. That means even better service for Diamondbacks fans.

Colorado Rockies
Coors Field
Seating Capacity: 50,455
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Fans at Coors Field are among the earliest beneficiaries of MLB’s Wi-Fi everywhere program, as the install started last season is now complete.

Deadheads will have in-seat food delivery option at Levi’s Stadium Grateful Dead concerts

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 10.28.51 PMWhen the Grateful Dead’s farewell tour hits Levi’s Stadium this weekend, concertgoers will be able to order food delivery to their seats, according to Levi’s Stadium app developer VenueNext.

The in-seat food delivery option, which debuted during San Francisco 49er home games last season, is one of the more unique attributes of Levi’s Stadium and its accompanying smartphone app. For events like concerts or wrestling matches, the service is available depending upon the promoter’s desires, Levi’s Stadium officials have said.

For the Grateful Dead concerts this Saturday and Sunday, fans in the stadium seats will have the option to order food for in-seat delivery as well as for express pickup, where they can place an order and then pick it up at the closest concession window when it’s ready. Fans in seats on the field will only be able to use the express pickup option, VenueNext reps said. With full houses expected for both shows, this may be the biggest test yet for the food delivery system, which had some issues when hockey fans filled the house back in February. It will also be the first test of the app since developer VenueNext scored $9 million in venture funding to help expand its business.

VenueNext screen shot of food ordering feature on app.

VenueNext screen shot of food ordering feature on app.

What’s still unclear is if the Levi’s Stadium crew will once again roll out the on-field Wi-Fi network, which was used at the March Wrestlemania 31 event to help produce the biggest-ever data day at the still-new stadium. The temporary network, which uses railing and other ad hoc Wi-Fi access points, is used to bring Wi-Fi service to the area below the regular seating bowl. For what it’s worth, the WrestleMania promoters did not want food delivery at their event, mainly to keep it from being a distraction. It will be interesting also to see how food delivery works in the dark, since I am guessing the concerts won’t be as well lit as a football game (or a hockey game).

While we still haven’t gotten any network stats from the recent San Jose Earthquakes game at Levi’s, we are hoping the stadium network crew will get back to us after the Deadheads visit, because we are guessing the amount of selfies and other social media sharing will be off the charts. If you are planning to take public transportation don’t forget to buy your VTA passes beforehand so you don’t have to wait in two lines.

AT&T: Hawks, Warriors fans are tops when it comes to DAS data use during championship series

Though we didn’t get a game-by-game breakdown, according to our friends at AT&T the fans for the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and the NBA Finals Champion Golden State Warriors are also the respective “winners” in their sports for having finals-series games with the most DAS data use.

In a blog post outlining some stats for data usage on AT&T networks on distributed antenna systems (DAS) inside the championship venues, the Chicago fans filling United Center had the single highest DAS total for any game in either sport, with 386 gigabytes crossing the network during the Cup-clinching Game 6 on June 15. Warriors fans captured the highest AT&T DAS total for the NBA Finals with a 249 GB mark on June 7 at Oracle Arena, the Game 2 overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Remember, these totals are only for AT&T customers on AT&T networks at those arenas. (Any other carriers who want to report results, you know where to find us!)

We are working to get Wi-Fi totals as well since we know all four venues — Chicago’s United Center, Oakland’s Oracle Arena, Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena and Tampa’s Amelie Arena all have Wi-Fi, courtesy of our recent HOOPS AND HOCKEY ISSUE. Now all we need are some final stats, so if the folks at each arena are done celebrating or weeping, send your finals Wi-Fi stats our way.

And… THREE! :-)

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 8.34.33 PM

(photos credit Chicago Blackhawks team site)

Report excerpt: MLB’s Wi-Fi everywhere plan nears completion

By the end of the season, Major League Baseball’s $300 million plan to bring Wi-Fi and DAS to every ballpark should be mostly complete, cementing the league’s title as the best-connected sport for now, and most likely for the near-term future as well.

While other sports, leagues and conferences rely on individual teams, schools and stadiums to figure out their own budgetary paths to connectivity, MLB’s unique decision to foot a major portion of the networking build-out bill should reap dividends for fans, clubs, and all the parties involved in the business of in-stadium wireless, said Joe Inzerillo, the executive vice president and chief technology officer for Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM).

“In general, things are going pretty well [with the build-outs],” said Inzerillo in a recent interview. “By the end of the calendar year, all the major construction will be complete.”

Vague on specifics, but clear on the goal

Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from our latest Stadium Tech Report, the BASEBALL (and Soccer!) ISSUE, which is available now for free download from our site. The report includes a focus on baseball and soccer stadium technology deployments, and team-by-team coverage of technology deployments for all 30 MLS teams — AND all 20 MLS teams. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT now and read for yourself!

Joe Inzerillo, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM)

Joe Inzerillo, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM)

In somewhat curious fashion, Inzerillo and MLBAM pointedly do not provide specifics on the buildouts, which include both new Wi-Fi networks for parks that didn’t have deployments, and many upgrades for those that did. While Inzerillo did provide a short list of some of the new MLBAM-led deployments, including those for the Kansas City Royals, the Colorado Rockies, the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins, to find out others we had to call or contact teams directly.

New networks coming in at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium and Milwaukee’s Miller Park are also MLBAM-led projects, according to sources with each team. So even though there is no master list of deployments, MSR research shows that by the end of the 2015 season all but two of the league’s 30 stadiums should have working, updated Wi-Fi and DAS deployments, with MLB primarily responsible for putting networks into eight of the 10 venues that didn’t have Wi-Fi as of last season.

The two-year-plus plan also includes construction of multiple new or retooled distributed antenna systems (DAS) that ensure participation by all four of the major U.S. wireless carriers, since all four also contributed to the overall buildout budget.

When asked for specifics on the amount that each entity – MLB, the carriers or the teams – contributed to the buildout pool, Inzerillo declined to give exact figures, other than the $300 million total.

“The notion is, everybody has an interest in making sure the people attending the game are happy with their [wireless] experience,” said Inzerillo, describing the thinking behind the deal that brought together the league, the carriers and the teams. While some industry sources seem to believe that carriers and MLBAM footed most of the deployment costs, Inzerillo said all entities involved paid some share of the total bill.

“It’s fair to say everybody has some skin in the game,” Inzerillo said.

For MLBAM, the reason behind seeking a solid level of connectivity at all parks is clear, due to “Ballpark,” its league-wide single app for in-stadium use. Though its features differ slightly from park to park depending on technology deployments (such as beacons) and desired uses, MLB’s plans to monetize its own apps depend on their being reliable connectivity on hand – so instead of waiting for teams to get there on their own, MLBAM led the charge, a move Inzerillo said made sense for several reasons, including the ability to herd carriers together and to share rare expertise.

Herding the cats known as carriers

If there’s a topic that scares stadium tech pros the most, it’s having to deal with all the major wireless carriers in negotiating DAS deployments. One of the top reasons some stadiums end up choosing a neutral host for their DAS is so that the neutral host provider can act as a buffer for the catfights that can occur between different carriers’ desires and needs. In MLB’s case, Inzerillo said MLBAM was that lukewarm water between the fire and ice.

Railing Wi-Fi AP enclosure at Seatte's Safeco Field. Photo: MLBAM

Railing Wi-Fi AP enclosure at Seatte’s Safeco Field. Photo: MLBAM

“We [MLBAM] are uniquely positioned to bring all the carriers together, and to give them a ‘safe zone’ to talk about potential issues,” Inzerillo said. Through its short history of supporting original team apps and then its own apps, Inzerillo said that MLBAM also gained a significant amount of internal telecom expertise, a resource not available to most teams.

Having dedicated app or telecom expertise in the form of a full-time employee is something that is hard to do locally, Inzerillo said. “It’s hard to find people with these skills,” he noted, especially for the smaller IT staffs found inside sports teams. The same thing goes for overall deployment expertise, Inzerillo said. “These deployments are big, capital-intensive projects, and they require specialized assets from a human standpoint,” Inzerillo said. “It’d be impossible to have resources [like MLBAM has] on a local staff.”

Construction is half the cost

That said, Inzerillo is quick to add that without the teams’ help and internal expertise, the entire project probably wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.

“We really couldn’t do this without the teams – there’s just a huge effort at each of the facilities,” Inzerillo said. The recognition of the local hard work, he said, is the main reason why MLBAM isn’t putting out a “master list” of its stadium upgrades – “It’s really a team story, and it’s something for them to tell their local markets,” Inzerillo said.

And for all the focus on the latest Wi-Fi antennas and fine-tuned DAS gear, Inzerillo also noted that it’s the other end of deployment – the physical work of putting networks in – that is the hardest part of the puzzle to solve.

“Things that can make or break a deployment are low tech,” Inzerillo said, claiming that half of the cost of any deployment is usually the labor to put it in. “Power, conduits and just knowing how to perform [construction] inside a ballpark cannot be understated,” Inzerillo said.

That’s especially true when you are putting a network in a venue like Boston’s Fenway Park, which is not just old but also has historic construction parameters that need to be worked around. Even Coors Field in Denver, which is a baby compared to Fenway, was still “old” when compared to the era of cellphones, Inzerillo noted.

“When it was built 20 years ago, there were no smartphones and barely an Internet,” said Inzerillo of Coors Field. So things like conduit easements, he said, weren’t anticipated, and added to construction costs.

“Twenty years doesn’t seem old, but compared to technology changes, it is,” he said.

And even though Inzerillo is eager to get to the end of the first long phase of deployments – he talked of “clearing the trees and getting ready to plant crops and tend the garden” – he also knows it’s a job that’s never quite over.

“It’s sort of like painting the Golden Gate bridge, where as soon as you’re done you need to start again,” Inzerillo said. “We’ve got beacons in 29 parks that we’re just starting to use, and now you have to think about things like wearables and the Apple Watch. There’s always new stuff, which is why infrastructure is so important. We’re always going to be thinking, do I have enough stuff in the walls?”