July 25, 2016

Commentary: Venues need to think of connectivity beyond the stadium walls

MSR editor Paul Kapustka via selfie from the field-level suites at US Bank Stadium.

MSR editor Paul Kapustka via selfie from the field-level suites at US Bank Stadium.

Last month, if you wanted a seat inside US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis you needed a getup like the one I’m wearing in the picture – including what you can’t see, the steel-toed shoes and the gloves that kept me from scratching any of the already-finished surfaces. Almost ready to open its doors, I can tell you that US Bank Stadium is a beauty, and that we’ll have a full report soon. For now enjoy the “sneak peek” photo essay we posted earlier.

Outside the architecturally angled walls of the stadium, what really impressed me during a recent quick visit to Minneapolis was how well the stadium operators are working with entities like the city, state and other large public gathering places, to ensure that the large streams of humanity traveling to and from the 67,000-seat facility have the best experience possible, both before and after events.

Like most travelers, my experience with Minneapolis’ integrated infrastructures started at the airport, where I took the simple and easy to understand light rail directly into downtown. I noticed that the train already stops directly at one of the US Bank Stadium doors, unlike some other stadiums where mass transit connections are a sometimes-lengthy walk away. That the stadium already has its own stop even before it opens shows that at the very least, people were thinking and talking even before the concrete was poured.

Light rail stop at the front door of US Bank Stadium. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Light rail stop at the front door of US Bank Stadium. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR


Mass transit a priority for US Bank Stadium

Editor’s note: This editorial is from our most recent STADIUM TECH REPORT, the Q2 issue which contains a feature story on Wi-Fi analytics, and a sneak peek of the Minnesota Vikings’ new US Bank Stadium. DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY today!
With no large parking lots right next to the stadium and only some scattered lots (as far as I could tell) downtown, the light rail is clearly going to be an integral part of getting fans to and from the venue, both for regular-season Minnesota Vikings games as well as for Super Bowl 52 a couple Februarys from now. To make that trip easier, the light rail also extends past the airport to the Mall of America, a key link in the integrated civic infrastructure.

Why is the mall a part of this? Mainly because it is also a transit center (it has a large space where buses, trains and car parking are all together) and because it offers free parking – meaning that fans can simply park at the mall and spend a couple bucks taking the half-hour train to US Bank Stadium (or also to Target Field, which is just a few stops farther through downtown). Courtesy of a recent deployment there is now high-quality Wi-Fi in the mall itself, and at many places in Minnesota proper there is free civic Wi-Fi. There are also plans afoot to bring Wi-Fi to the light rail trains themselves. While it might not seem like much, the idea of being able to be highly connected all the way from parking at the mall to your seat in the stadium is a fan’s dream come true, enabling all the connectivity wants or needs that can happen during a game or event day.

Having witnessed some other stadiums opening without much coordination, it’s impressive and great to hear that the Vikings and Minneapolis are already planning for things like overcrowded trains after games (since more people leave at the same time than arrive at the same time), with plans to close off one of the stadium’s bordering streets and to have dozens of buses on hand to handle the overflow. There’s also plans to have stadium TVs show mass transit schedules as fans depart, and also options to remain downtown for post-game eating or celebrations.

VTA line following Levi's Stadium hockey game in 2015.

VTA line following Levi’s Stadium hockey game in 2015.

How else are the Vikings, the city and the state planning to work together? In our interviews we heard about plans to use real-time traffic mapping to close off crowded exits and to direct fans to faster paths to and from the stadium, and to perhaps be able to communicate such directions to fans via the team’s new mobile app. While it all still needs to be done in real time on a real game day, just the thinking about the fact that a “game day” doesn’t start or stop at the stadium premises is a refreshing one, especially for a venue that will host a Super Bowl in just over a year and a half.

While we’ve heard of other, similar plans to extend connectivity beyond the stadium walls – here we are thinking of the downtown plan around Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, and new plans for “fan plazas” outside such venues as Wrigley Field and Lambeau Field – the Vikings seem to have looked even farther out, to try to ensure that the connected fan experience goes as far as it possibly can. Again, the proof will be in the execution, but like the view from outside US Bank Stadium, the ideas hatching in Minnesota look pretty good.

Wi-Fi Analytics: Taking the first steps

Wi-Fi antennas at Joe Louis Arena. Credit: Detroit Red Wings (click on any photo for a larger image)

Wi-Fi antennas at Joe Louis Arena. Credit: Detroit Red Wings (click on any photo for a larger image)

Even though the physical construction and deployment of a fan-facing Wi-Fi network seems like the biggest challenge facing a stadium’s information technology team, in reality everyone involved knows it’s just step one.

While turning on a live network is certainly a great accomplishment, once the data starts flowing the inevitable questions follow: Now that we have Wi-Fi, what do we do with it? And how do we find out who’s using it, why they are using it, and how can we use that information it to find out better ways to improve the fan experience while also improving our business?

Those “step two” questions can only be answered by analytics, the gathering of information about Wi-Fi network performance and user activity. And while almost every live network operator almost instantly uses performance numbers to help tune the system, plans to harvest and digest the more personalized information like end-user identification, application use and fan engagement are just getting started, even at the most technically advanced stadiums with Wi-Fi networks in place.

What follows here are some conversations with stadium tech professionals who are already running fan-facing Wi-Fi networks, exploring how they use Wi-Fi metrics and analytics to both enhance the game-day experience for fans while also building a base of information that can be used by both technical staffs and marketing organizations inside the team, school and venue organizations.

Even this small sample seems to suggest that while Wi-Fi networks may be somewhat pervasive in the larger stadiums across the country, the harvesting and processing of data generated by digital fan engagement is just getting started, with plenty of unanswered questions and experiments that have yet to bear significant fruit. Yet everyone we spoke with also had an unshakable confidence that getting metrics and analytics right was the key to wireless success over the long haul, and all are fully engaged in pursuing that goal. It may take longer than physical deployment, but the “step two” of learning from the networks is well underway.

Detroit Red Wings: Pushing past the initial learning curve

Editor’s note: This profile is from our most recent STADIUM TECH REPORT, the Q2 issue which contains a feature story on Wi-Fi analytics, and a sneak peek of the Minnesota Vikings’ new US Bank Stadium. DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY today!

Now that the Wi-Fi network at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit is coming up on its second birthday, Tod Caflisch said network administrators can relax a bit on game nights. Early on, however, he remembers “babysitting” the network during games, watching live performance stats to make sure everything was working correctly.

Watching the live network performance statistics, Caflisch said, “I could tell if there were issues. If throughput looked a little flat, we might have to reboot a switch. It was important, because there was so much at stake.”

As former director of information technology for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings (he recently left Detroit and is now with the Minnesota Vikings), Caflisch helped drive the deployment of an Extreme Networks Wi-Fi network at the “Joe.” Though Joe Louis Arena is only going to host games a little while longer — a new downtown arena is just around the corner — Caflisch said the team in Detroit is already heading down the learning curve of interpreting analytics, with big goals on the horizon.

Right now, some of the most interesting network statistics have to do with fan Wi-Fi usage, including total tonnage, which Caflisch said hit 14 terabytes of data for the Red Wings’ home games this past season. That number is one and a half times bigger per game than the first year the network was in place, he said.

Big spikes for a score

One of the more interesting results came when Caflisch mapped network data to game action, an exercise that showed that hockey games may have bigger data spikes and troughs than other sports.

“We saw that traffic spikes corresponded with scores, and we also had huge spikes during intermissions,” Caflisch said. “And there were huge craters during the periods of regular action.”

While Caflisch said “it was kind of cool” to watch the network action mapped to the game action, in the future he sees the ability for the Red Wings use such actionable moments to better engage fans.

“There’s got to be some kind of marketing potential” to connect with fans during a network-activity spike, Caflisch said. What that is, is still unknown. But using networks to more closely engage fans is a big part of the Red Wings’ road map, especially as Detroit builds out a “venue environment” around the new arena.

According to Caflisch, the team in Detroit is planning to build out a network surrounding the arena, in parking lots and public spaces, including lots of beacons for proximity engagement. Though DAS and Wi-Fi numbers can show where foot traffic goes in and around stadiums, the next level of analytics Caflisch sees as important is on fan spending behavior, on items like parking, concessions and in restaurants and bars near the arena. Future projects in Detroit, he said, might include beacon-generated discounts, like a free coffee at a nearby Tim Horton’s or a free beer at a nearby bar.

“The kinds of things you want to find out are what kind of money are fans spending, and how often do they buy,” Caflisch said. “Do they stick around after the game? Do they rush in at the start? That’s the kind of stuff you’re looking for.”

Of course to get some of that data Caflisch knows the team needs to convince fans to engage digitally, by downloading a team app and providing some information for identification. So far some efforts in that direction have been helpful in identifying fans not in the team’s ticketing database, especially fans coming across the border from Canada.

In Detroit, Caflisch said, the Wings are “now marketing to those people, trying to get them to more games for the same or less money.”

Baylor University: Enlisting fans to help pinpoint problems

When Baylor University built its new football mecca, McLane Stadium, the stadium technology department was often as nervous as a football team before a big game. Would the new fan-facing Wi-Fi work as planned? Would they be able to solve problems before they became big problems?

Baylor's McLane Stadium. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Baylor’s McLane Stadium. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

“At the beginning, the questions we asked were along the lines of, ‘can we get through the day,’ ” said Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and Dean of University Libraries and the public face of the McLane Stadium network. Now that the network team is a couple years into running stadium Wi-Fi, Orr can laugh a bit about the initial fears. But from the beginning, she said, analytics “were a big factor” in making sure the network was running right.

An Extreme Networks deployment, Baylor uses Extreme’s Purview analytics system, which Orr lauds for being “easy to use” and a “great console for real-time information during a game.”

Solving for 2.4 GHz and using fan input

Mostly that means watching the dashboards to see if any APs are causing any errors, something the network stats package can usually show clearly. One of the things the network crew learned quickly during the first season with Wi-Fi was that Baylor fans were using a lot more 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi devices than anyone had thought, meaning that there were more older phones in use that didn’t have the newer 5 GHz Wi-Fi chips.

“The first season we were about 50-50 between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, and that surprised us,” said Bob Hartland, director of IT servers and networking services at Baylor. “We had to prioritize for more 2.4 GHz.” This past season, Hartland said, the fan devices skewed closer to 60 percent using 5 GHz bands.

A Baylor "Wi-Fi Coach" helps a fan negotiate the network. Credit: Baylor University

A Baylor “Wi-Fi Coach” helps a fan negotiate the network. Credit: Baylor University

Baylor also added Wi-Fi to its basketball arena this past season, presenting a whole new set of problems, like devices trying to connect to APs across the smaller stadium. Though network analytics were a start, Baylor’s team found out that fan input could also help isolate where problems might be from a physical standpoint. Having a team of “network coaches” on hand also helped pinpoint the problems in a way that might be impossible just working from the network side of things.

This past year, Orr said Baylor added a feature to its stadium app to let fans “send a message to the Wi-Fi coach” with their row number and seat number if they were having a network problem. The coaches (part of most Extreme Wi-Fi deployments) also followed social media like Twitter to see if fans were reporting network problems.

“It’s fantastic to have the live [performance] data from your fans,” Orr said. With fan and network data and area knowledge in hand, the coaches and the network team could more quickly determine if it was a network or device problem, and respond more quickly to the issue. So more data = better solutions, faster.

“If you don’t have good access to analytics you can’t deal with fan [problems] in real time,” Orr said.

VenueNext and the Niners: Finding out who’s in the building

As one of the newer and more technologically advanced venues, Levi’s Stadium often gets noticed for its wireless networks, which set single-day records of 26 terabytes of data for combined DAS and Wi-Fi usage at Super Bowl 50.

A VenueNext beacon enclosure at Levi's Stadium. Credit: VenueNext

A VenueNext beacon enclosure at Levi’s Stadium. Credit: VenueNext

Though wireless performance is important to teams and fans, the information being gathered by the Levi’s Stadium app — built by VenueNext, the company created by the Niners specifically to construct stadium apps — may end up being among the most valuable digital assets, since it helps teams discover exactly who is coming in the building and how they are spending time, attention and dollars.

“We generate data for analytics,” said VenueNext CEO John Paul, talking about the role VenueNext plays as a stadium app partner. One of the more stunning facts revealed after the Niners’ first year at Levi’s Stadium was that via the stadium app, the team was able to increase its marketing database of fan names from 17,000 to 315,000, with even more impressive success in the details.

“We were able to find out things like how many games fans attended, and who they got the tickets from,” said Paul. Such data, he said, helps teams solve the classic problem of “having no idea who’s in the building on any given day.”

Knowing how many hot dogs can be delivered

While VenueNext’s value proposition may be centered on its ability to help teams gather such valuable marketing data, VenueNext itself relies on internal analytics to ensure the services its apps support — like express food ordering and in-seat food delivery — keep working smoothly during games.

After the first season at Levi’s Stadium, Paul said VenueNext learned that it needed to expose some of its data in real-time to fans — “to improve service during the event,” Paul said. One example is that now, if there are too many orders in a certain section, the app can send a message to fans that wait times might be longer than normal. Conversely, if a certain area of the stadium has idle kitchen capacity and runners, a team might send an in-app notification asking if fans want to order something, to create demand.

Over time, Paul said the VenueNext analytics might help teams find out where walk-up concession stands get overloaded by foot traffic, and maybe reconfigure stadium kitchen placements to assist with food delivery options. In the end, he said, it should be seamless to the fans, so that in-seat delivery becomes a regular part of a game-day experience.

“The fans should have no idea where the food comes from,” Paul said.

Minnesota Twins’ Target Field: Photo Essay and Wi-Fi tests

Great sight to see when you get off the plane in Minnesota.

Great sight to see when you get off the plane in Minnesota.

During Mobile Sports Report’s visit to Minneapolis earlier this summer, we had a free afternoon so we took the public tour of the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field, home of the 2014 MLB All Star Game. Though it was a kind of drizzly day we still got a lot of looks (and tests) of the thing we came to see: The park’s new Wi-Fi and DAS networks, which were operational and since it was an empty house, probably running at full capacity for all our tests.

After a short (~30 min.) light rail trip from the airport to downtown, we dumped our bags at the hotel and hoofed it over to Target Field, staying dry by cleverly using the city’s skywalk pathways. Once at the stadium it was just a short wait for the 3 p.m. tour to start, so we cruised the Twins’ gift store where the full-body Twins jammies made us think of cold September nights.

Tech you can and can’t see

Target Field from a nearby walkway. Notice the freeway running underneath.

Target Field from a nearby walkway. Notice the freeway running underneath.

I’d never been on one of these public tours before, but our group of 7 dudes learned a lot of lore from our excellent guide Rick, who had his stats down cold. The big glove outside the stadium, he let us know, is 522 feet from home plate, the longest home run recorded by Twins legend Harmon Killebrew. That home run was hit in 1967 at the old Metropolitan Stadium, where the Mall of America now stands.

Rick started out our tour by informing us that the $600 million Target Field, which opened in 2010, has a whole lot of technology under the field, pipes that heat the field and carry water away from it; there’s no dirt on the playing field, just sand underneath a very thin covering of grass. Baseball capacity now is 38,868, Rick said, though on opening day the park had 40,000+ there. That’s great stuff, man, but what about the Wi-Fi? Though I couldn’t get a Wi-Fi signal outside the gates, once inside the network was clearly humming: As Rick took us through the press box, where there were Ethernet cords in front of each seat, I wondered how necessary those were with a reading of 59.26 Mbps down and 62.67 up as I sat in a front-row seat.

Twins jammies for those cold Minnesota nights.

Twins jammies for those cold Minnesota nights.

As one the MLBAM-led technology deployment deals (in part to get ready for the All Star Game demands) the Wi-Fi inside Target Field is mainly Cisco gear, at least those that you can see. The familiar white boxes (now with MLBAM ID stickers) are fairly ubiquitous. Since we weren’t able to get ahold of the Twins’ IT crew before our visit I’m not sure what the final AP or DAS antenna count is these days. But if you know where to look, and we do, you can see a lot of antennas around.

Dealing with outside-the-park interference

One of the interesting things we learned in our profile of the park prior to the All Star Game was that since the stadium is right downtown, the Twins and the major carriers had to figure out how to keep macro antennas on buildings outside the ballpark from bleeding into the stadium’s DAS. According to another source we spoke with in Minnesota, this year was the first year that Target Field’s DAS didn’t need any more alterations; as you can see by one of pictures here of the Ford Center, which is across the street from the back side of Target Field, there’s a lot of RF on rooftops in the near vicinity.

Inside the press box. Grandpa, what's that cord for?

Inside the press box. Grandpa, what’s that cord for?

Down near field level, the Wi-Fi was still cranking in the mid-40s, an excellent score for a place that’s normally hard to cover. Looking around I didn’t initially see any APs, with none on the wall facing backwards as some stadiums do it. Then after some more inspection I saw the source of the bandwidth, some well-covered railing APs mounted on the railing behind the 10 or so rows of near-the-field seats. On our way out I saw some of the distinctive AmpThink-designed sideways railing enclosures, for the open-bowl seating not covered by overhangs.

Though ideally we’d love to come back on a game day, from the looks of the physical placements we were able to see and the tests we took, it seems like both the cellular and Wi-Fi networks at Target Field are high performers, good news for Twins fans who need connectivity. And if you need to drown your sorrows or celebrate, there is also an in-stadium beer network, which supplies suds from main keg rooms through conduits that are definitely more tasty than copper or fiber. Prosit!

Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

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Target Field in panoramic view.

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A silhouette of a Wi-Fi antenna. MSR geek art.

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A Wi-Fi AP and some kind of gun antenna. Anyone know what that is?

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You bought it, you put your name on it.

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Another panoramic view, showing how close downtown is.

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The Ford Center is across the street from the back of the park. We’re guessing those macro antennas on top had to be tuned to keep their signals from interfering.

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Not Wi-Fi, but a network worth building for thirsty fans.

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Anyone want to test download speeds of these pipes?

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Great quote overheard in Minnesota: “It takes a lot of wire to make a park wireless.”

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Tour guide Rick getting set to take his “team” out on the field. BUT NOT ON THE GRASS!

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The railing APs that cover the field-level seats.

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An AmpThink railing enclosure. Rick didn’t know what those were, but he does now.

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Nice hardware in the Twins’ high-rollers club area.

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Our tour didn’t get to see inside, but we can guess what’s behind that door.

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If you can hit one here, the Twins want to talk to you.

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That’s about as close as MSR will ever get to being in “The Show.” Until next time!

St. Louis Cardinals team with MLBAM for Busch Stadium Wi-Fi

Busch Stadium, St. Louis, home of a new MLBAM Wi-FI network. Credit all photos: St. Louis Cardinals

Busch Stadium, St. Louis, home of a new MLBAM Wi-FI network. Credit all photos: St. Louis Cardinals

Working closely with Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media initiative, the St. Louis Cardinals activated what’s being billed as the league’s largest wireless deployment, at least if you measure by overall square footage. The system went live in a phased introduction the week before Memorial Day, according to Cardinals’ director of IT Perry Yee.

More than 740 Wi-Fi access points were installed to accommodate fans at Busch Stadium, including the AT&T Rooftop, as well the Busch II Infield and the Budweiser Brewhouse rooftop deck across Clark Ave. from the stadium at Ballpark Village, where the Cardinals played til 2005. The Cards’ wireless deployment was part of a $300 million initiative headed by MLBAM to build out Wi-Fi and DAS in all the league’s ballparks, with MLB, wireless carriers and teams all sharing in the costs. (While Busch may be the largest MLBAM deployment, AT&T Park in San Francisco has baseball’s most-dense Wi-Fi and DAS network by antenna numbers; the networks at AT&T Park are run by the Giants and AT&T.)

Yee said the Cardinals experienced relatively few engineering issues, in part because of the relative newness of the stadium. He also credited MLBAM, which took the Cardinals’ design and selected a systems integrator and an equipment vendor (Cisco).

“It’s a real turnkey solution where you submit the blueprint [to MLBAM] and they start locating the APs,” Yee said. “Where we come in is we have the background experience to tell the design team where people congregate and how often different spaces get used.”

Putting Wi-Fi in the railings

Editor’s note: This profile is from our most recent STADIUM TECH REPORT, the Q2 issue which contains a feature story on Wi-Fi analytics, and a sneak peek of the Minnesota Vikings’ new US Bank Stadium. DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY today!

Wi-Fi railing enclosure.

Wi-Fi railing enclosure.

Busch Stadium, with a capacity of 46,861, is also blessed with good lines of sight to the field; the only real obstructions are near the foul poles. That’s great for fans, but creates challenges in that there are consequently fewer structures on which to mount antennas. That meant getting inventive in some areas, like installing Wi-Fi antennas in the handrails, and drilling the conduits from underneath seats to keep trip hazards and visual distractions to a minimum.

“Over in Ballpark Village, we had brick on the outside of building so we had to be careful — that was an issue for the electricians to figure out,” Yee said, quickly adding that the electricians on projects like these rarely get the recognition they deserve. “The designer can say where the antennas go, but the electricians have to figure out how to get power to that spot and do it in a manner that fits the building,” he said.

Cardinal fans trying to access the network hit a gated page that asks which cell carrier they use and also to accept terms and conditions; the Cardinals can then track usage and capacity by carrier and take that information back to the three carriers with DAS service in Busch Stadium: AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. “If Sprint, for example, notices they have lot more customers than anticipated, it might be time for them to review their capacity,” Yee said.

Cards director of IT Perry Yee

Cards director of IT Perry Yee

There’s also an option on the gating page for users to share their email if they want to subscribe to the Cardinal newsletter, Yee added.

MLB app the center of activity focus

The Busch Stadium Wi-Fi network is new enough that MLBAM still is in the process of handing over management and oversight to the Cardinals’ organization; that makes it hard to track certain numbers — like what the budget was the for the project and how much money each entity contributed, numbers which MLBAM has not revealed for any of the many deployments it led throughout the league.

The Cardinals also aren’t releasing any official throughput or usage thresholds yet. Yee said he has seen speeds of 100 Mbps up and down and up on his Samsung S5 phone during more exciting parts of a recent game when fewer users were online. That number dipped to 20-30 Mbps during quieter parts of game. “It was a really good game — for half an hour no one was on the Wi-Fi, then when the score went in one direction I began to see speeds going down as people got online,” Yee said.

Lower level seats are covered with APs that shoot backwards into the stands.

Lower level seats are covered with APs that shoot backwards into the stands.

The Cardinals are looking to use the league’s Ballpark mobile app as the focal point for digital ticketing and inseat ordering plans. One hurdle to inseat ordering isn’t technical; it’s making sure the concessionaire can receive the data. “There’s lots of backend components to establish and flesh out before it becomes a real thing — lots of logistics to make these things happen,” Yee said.

The Cardinals have been using Bluetooth-based beacon technology for a couple years now. “We use it at our gates to greet people and it works via the Ballpark app,” Yee said. For now, the beaconing only works with iPhones; they’ll add support for Android devices at some point. But Yee foresees using beacon technology all around Busch Stadium at points of interest like the Stan Musial statue, providing information about who he was, what he did, to fans in proximity of the monument.

The Cardinals are still considering whether to deploy ambassadors in the stands during games to help people with connectivity issues and other questions. Longer term, they’re looking at geofencing with the concession areas or team store for specials and sale items — “Hot dogs on sale for this inning,” Yee mused. That’s way off in the future, the Cardinals’ IT director added.

In the meantime, the focus will be on “infrastructure that allows fans to see more and do more that makes the games more enjoyable,” Yee said.

Twins to test VR for fans at Target Field

The Minnesota Twins will test virtual reality content for fans at a July 29 game at Target Field. Credit all photos: Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins will test virtual reality content for fans at a July 29 game at Target Field. Credit all photos: Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins are partnering with SuperSphere VR to offer 5,000 fans the chance to “virtually” walk with a Twins player onto Target Field. On the July 29 test run, the Twins plan to distribute Google cardboard style virtual reality (VR) viewers to the first 5,000 attendees of the night’s game against the Chicago White Sox. The VR viewer offers users a low-cost means of experiencing VR by placing their phones inside a foldable cardboard headset shaped like a pair of binoculars.

Chris Iles, Senior Director of Content for the Twins, sees this promotion as an excellent way to engage with fans. “It’s giving fans the opportunity to do something they’ve never done before, and we think it will enhance their ball park visit.” Iles went on to explain that enhancing fan engagement is a major, organization-wide goal for the Twins.

Demo spurs another demo

According to Iles, the Twins began exploring VR after seeing a demonstration of the technology at a spring training showcase with Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

Panoramic views are possible with VR technology

Panoramic views are possible with VR technology

Iles and the Twins “saw some potential for using virtual reality to bring fans closer to the game.” After seeing the demo and experimenting with the tech themselves, the Twins got in touch with SuperSphere VR to develop the upcoming VR experiment for Twins fans. SuperSphere VR specializes in VR content production for many applications, including sporting events.

The Twins’ VR content will be distributed to fans at the game only, using a geofencing feature within the MLB Ballpark app. Once fans check in through the Ballpark app they will be able to access the VR content on their phones. Iles expects the content will be made available to all fans, inside or outside the park, through the app later on.

The VR experience will be prerecorded on this first go-around in order to reduce the technical complexity of content delivery. “For this first foray,” Iies said, “we wanted something a little more controlled. That way we can confidently deliver that great experience.”

The Twins VR deployment may be the beginning of broader VR use for the organization. However, it’s still tough to say how VR is going to fit into a broader fan engagement strategy. For now, the Twins are among the first MLB franchises to explore the possibilities presented by VR for fan engagement on the day of the game.

Christopher Meier is an intern for Mobile Sports Report.

First look at Minnesota Vikings’ new US Bank Stadium

As part of our new STADIUM TECH REPORT for Q2 2016, Mobile Sports Report was allowed inside the still-under-construction US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the new home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. What follows here are some of the “sneak peek” photos we’re allowed to share with you in advance of our full report coming later this summer. For a more picturesque version of these photos, DOWNLOAD THE REPORT from our site!

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Sunset shot of the “viking ship” stadium showing its proximity to downtown. Credit, all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

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The other side of the stadium, where you can see the glass walls and the “viking ship” video board.

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Inside on the main concourse — three concourses will have full 360 degree views of the field.

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US Bank Stadium is using railing-mounted Wi-Fi APs to bring connectivity to the bowl — enclosure designed by Wi-Fi deployer AmpThink.

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Wi-Fi enclosures do a good job of blending in with the purple-and-silver seating.

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Yours truly with a selfie from the field-level suites. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT for more pictures!