June 30, 2016

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.

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!

New Report: US Bank Stadium sneak peek, Wi-Fi analytics and more!

DOC12Our newest STADIUM TECH REPORT features a look inside the Minnesota Vikings’ new home, US Bank Stadium, with a sneak peek photo essay ahead of the venue’s August opening dates. Also included in our latest issue is a feature on Wi-Fi analytics, as well as in-depth profiles of technology deployments at the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, and the Buffalo Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Our Q2 issue for 2016 also has a big focus on DAS deployments, specifically at two venues with extra-large attendance issues — namely, the Kentucky Derby and the Daytona 500. You can get all this analysis and reporting by simply downloading a free copy of the report!

From its architecturally striking exterior to its sunny glass-walled interior, US Bank Stadium looks like a jewel for downtown Minneapolis. While we’ll have a full report on the technology inside a bit later this summer, you can feast your eyes on what we saw during a hard-hat tour of the stadium in early June.

On the Wi-Fi analytics side, you can hear from several leaders in stadium Wi-Fi implementations about how they are using data from their networks to improve the fan experience while also finding new ways to boost their own stadium businesses. Our profiles of Busch Stadium, Ralph Wilson Stadium and a bonus profile of the Los Angeles Coliseum all provide in-depth coverage of the unique challenges each one of these venues faces when it comes to technology deployments. And our DAS-focused coverage of deployments at Churchill Downs and Daytona International Speedway illustrate how expanded cellular coverage can provide enough connectivity when Wi-Fi isn’t an economic option. DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY of the report today and get this knowledge inside your head!

T-Mobile Arena opens in Las Vegas, with 565 Wi-FI APs

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, on the official April 6 opening. All photos: Cox Business (click on any photo for a larger image)

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, on the official April 6 opening. All photos: Cox Business (click on any photo for a larger image)

If they build it, will professional hockey or basketball teams come? The first part of that question has already been answered, with the official opening of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on April 6, just in time for a kickoff concert from the Killers. With 565 Cisco Wi-Fi access points, the arena is well-enabled for wireless access; the big question is, will an NHL or NBA team soon call the place home?

With no deal announced for either league it’s an open-ended question. For now, the 20,000-seat venue, located just west of the strip near the New York New York hotel/casino (right next to the freeway) will have to be satisfied hosting all kinds of events from concerts to one-off sports events like the Harlem Globetrotters (April 19) and a WWE event in June. Fans at any event will be able to use free Wi-Fi provided by Cox Business, which is the “exclusive Technology Integration/Telecommunications Services Provider,” according to a press release from the official opening ceremonies.

While we haven’t visited the arena yet — we are looking forward to a hosted tour during this summer’s SEAT Conference in July — the $375 million multi-purpose venue, owned by a joint venture between AEG and MGM Resorts International, looks pretty cool with its overhanging lounges and outdoor plaza with real, live trees, a rarity on the strip. Inside, the tech underpinnings sound state of the art, beginning with a 10-Gigabit fiber optic network that serves as the arena’s backbone.

Special shrouds for the Wi-Fi APs

Custom shroud for Wi-Fi APs at T-Mobile Arena

Custom shroud for Wi-Fi APs at T-Mobile Arena

According to figures provided to us by Cox Business folks, the 565 Wi-FI APs include a mix of indoor and outdoor models from Cisco, some designed for office-type settings and some designed to withstand outdoor temperatures and weather. According to Cox its on-site engineers also designed a “vanity cover” type of shroud, which is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye while also helping keep the AP safe from “disruptions,” like possibly being bumped or some other physical intrusion.

The arena will also use Cisco’s StadiumVision system to provide synchronized content feeds to the 767 4K-capable digital displays throughout the venue. Thanks to the Cox sponsorship, that content could include “all 60 channels of high-definition news, sports and entertainment content from the Cox cable channel lineup as well as live in-house feeds from the arena,” according to Cox.

We have also heard reports, but have not confirmed with the company, that Mobilitie will be providing the in-venue DAS. Mobilitie’s involvement is not a big surprise, given that the company partnered with MGM in the past to bring Wi-Fi to the resort company’s casinos. Back when the T-Mobile naming sponsorship was announced, there were reports of special discounts and VIP access for T-Mobile customers, but so far none of that information was easily discovered on the arena’s website. Stay tuned for more updates as we get them on the DAS/cellular side of things; anyone who visits the arena soon should take a speedtest and post the results here in the comments.

Jeff Breaux, vice president of western operations, Cox Business, (left) and Derrick R. Hill, vice president, Cox Business/Hospitality Network, gesture toward the exterior digital signage at T-Mobile Arena.

Jeff Breaux, vice president of western operations, Cox Business, (left) and Derrick R. Hill, vice president, Cox Business/Hospitality Network, gesture toward the exterior digital signage at T-Mobile Arena.

UPDATE: WrestleMania 32 sets new Wi-Fi mark at AT&T Stadium; total Wi-Fi + DAS hits 8.6 TB

The Undertaker arrives at AT&T Stadium for WrestleMania 32. Photo: WWE.com

The Undertaker arrives at AT&T Stadium for WrestleMania 32. Photo: WWE.com


UPDATE: Fixes an MSR calculation error on DAS figures.

The 101,763 fans who filled AT&T Stadium Sunday for WrestleMania 32 set new stadium records for Wi-Fi, according to figures provided by AT&T Stadium and AT&T, with 6.77 terabytes of Wi-Fi traffic and an additional 1.9 TB on the AT&T network on the stadium’s DAS for a total wireless figure of 8.6 TB.

The Wi-Fi numbers put Sunday’s signature WWE event (also the biggest WrestleMania by attendance) into second place in our unofficial record-keeping of the largest single-day Wi-Fi traffic stadium events. Only Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium earlier this year was bigger, with 10.1 TB of Wi-Fi traffic. So far, WrestleMania 32 is also now third in combined Wi-Fi and DAS figures, trailing Super Bowl 50 and Super Bowl XLIX (see charts below).

THE NEW TOP 3 TOTAL USAGE

1. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB; DAS: 15.9 TB; Total: 26 TB
2. Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB; DAS: 6.56 TB**; Total: 12.79 TB**
3. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB; DAS: 1.9 TB*; Total: 8.6 TB*

* = AT&T DAS stats only
** = AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint DAS stats only

THE NEW TOP 5 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
2. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
3. Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB
4. Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015: Wi-Fi: 5.7 TB
5. College Football Playoff championship game, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 12, 2015: Wi-Fi: 4.93 TB

Wi-Fi not to blame for stadium entry issues

John Winborn, chief information officer for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, said in an email that the reported claims of the Wi-Fi being offline Sunday — and that being the reason why entry lines were long and slow — were not true. While Winborn did admit that one single Wi-Fi AP (out of the more than 2,000 in the stadium’s network) was offline and there were “a couple issues” with ticket scanners, he said “there were no Wi-Fi issues that would have had a significant impact on ingress.” Other reports have claimed the doors were opened later due to extended show rehearsals, while commenters on MSR’s posts have claimed that a lack of wristbands for stadium-floor seating also led to seating issues even for fans already inside the main building entrances. So far, we have not seen any official explanation for the delays other than the official apology from the stadium and the WWE:

“To ensure the safety of WWE fans, increased security measures were put in place tonight. We apologize that it may have taken some fans longer than usual to get into AT&T Stadium.”

During Sunday’s event Winborn said the Wi-Fi network saw 20,462 concurrent and 34,951 total user connections, some via a network of 150 temporary Wi-Fi APs installed among the seats on the stadium floor.