Connectivity at the core of Little Caesars Arena, District Detroit

Little Caesars Arena, the new home for the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons. Credit: Olympia Entertainment (click on any photo for a larger image)

Bringing great wireless connectivity to a new stadium is almost table stakes these days. But building up a nearby commercial district — and keeping connectivity high outside the venue’s walls — is a bet of another level, especially in Detroit where networks extend outside the new Little Caesars Arena into the 50-block District Detroit.

Following the arena’s opening in September of 2017, the prognosis so far is so far, so good, with solid reports of high network performance on both Wi-Fi and cellular networks in and around the new home of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. But for John King, vice president of IT and innovation for venue owners Olympia Entertainment, the responsibilities for him and his network team extend far beyond the new stadium’s walls.

“We’re focused on the [wireless] signal not just in the bowl, but also in the surrounding elements — the streets, the outdoor arenas, and the Little Caesars Arena garage,” said King in an interview shortly after the arena opened. “The vision is, to be connected wherever you are. And to share that experience.”

An ambitious revival in downtown Detroit

Editor’s note: This profile is from our most recent STADIUM TECH REPORT for Winter 2018, which is available for FREE DOWNLOAD from our site. This issue has an in-depth look at the wireless networks at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, as well as profiles of network deployments at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Orlando City Stadium! DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY today!

The inside concourse at Little Caesars Arena. Credit: Olympia Entertainment

Built nearby the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field and the Tigers’ Comerica Park, the new hoops/hockey stadium seats 19,515 for hockey and 20,491 for basketball. Unlike many stadiums of the past which rise up from the ground, Little Caesars Arena is built into the ground, 40 feet below street level. The innovations in construction and accessibility, including an outdoor arena adjacent to the indoor one, may require another full profile and an in-person visit. For now, we’ll concentrate on the wireless deployment in and around Little Caesars Arena, which was funded in part by a sponsorship from Comcast Business, which provides backbone bandwidth to the arena and the district in the form of two 100 Gbps connections. The Wi-Fi network design and deployment, done by AmpThink, uses Cisco Wi-Fi gear; Cisco’s Vision for Sports and Entertainment (formerly known as StadiumVision) is used to synchronize video output to the 1,500 TV screens located in and around the venue.

On the cellular side, Verizon Wireless built a neutral-host DAS, which was getting ready to welcome AT&T as the second carrier on board shortly after the opening. According to King, the Wi-Fi network has approximately 1,100 total APs both inside and outside the arena, many of those from Cisco’s 3802 series, which each have two radios per AP. For many of the 300 APs located in the main seating bowl, Little Caesars Arena went with an under-seat deployment, with some others placed in handrail enclosures, especially for the basketball floor-seating areas.

“AmpThink did a really nice job with the deployment,” said King, who said the arena’s open-air suite spaces helped provide “lots of flow” to wireless gear, without the historical overhangs around to block signals on different levels. One early visitor to the arena saw many Wi-Fi speed tests in the 50-60 Mbps range for both download and upload, as well as several in the 80-to-100 Mbps range, signs that a strong signal was available right at the start.

“We’ve still got a lot of tuning, but early on we’re getting great results,” said King of the Wi-Fi performance. “Our goal is to make it the best it can be.”

Staying connected outside the walls

Like The Battery area surrounding the Atlanta Braves’ new SunTrust Park, the District Detroit is meant to be a stay-and-play kind of space, with restaurants, clubs, office spaces and residences seeking to lure visitors and residents to do more than just see a game. For King and his team, one of their tasks is to ensure that visitors can stay connected no matter where they are inside the district, including inside restaurants, offices and other indoor spaces.

Connectivity blends well with the architecture inside Little Caesars Arena. Credit: Tod Caflisch, special to MSR

“We want the [network] signal to be robust, to carry into outdoor spaces, restaurants and many other areas” inside the District Detroit, King said. “We want to push the envelope a little bit and create a useful opportunity.”

Back inside Little Caesars Arena, the team and stadium apps are built by Venuetize, which built a similar integrated app for the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres, one that also extends outside arenas to support connectivity in city areas. King said that Little Caesars Arena will be testing pre-order and express pickup concession ordering through the app, with a focus on seating areas that don’t have ready access to some of the club facilities.

Like any other new facility, Little Caesars Arena will no doubt go through some growing pains in its debut season, but for King and others who spent time getting the venue ready it’s fun to have the doors open.

“It’s really great seeing it all come to life,” King said.

AT&T sees 2.5 TB of DAS traffic at 2018 college football championship game

AT&T said fans on its network at Monday’s college football playoff championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta used 2.5 terabytes of data, less than the 3.8 TB AT&T said it saw a year ago in Tampa.

If there is a reason for the decline in AT&T DAS usage during Alabama’s 26-23 overtime win over Georgia, it may be due to the fact that Mercedes-Benz Stadium has a state of the art Wi-Fi network in addition to a neutral-host DAS. However, we have not received any Wi-Fi stats at all from any events held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium since its opening in August 2017, so our theory may never be proved. We do not currently have any DAS stats from other carriers besides AT&T. Attendance at Monday night’s game was believed to be a Mercedes-Benz Stadium record, at 77,430.

The first big non-regular season NFL or college game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium had several snafus, including rain leaking in from the eight-petal moveable roof, long lines (out in the rain) for entry caused by security measures used for President Trump’s arrival, and reports of crowded trains on Atlanta’s MARTA system. There was even one complaint that Wi-Fi and cellular networks weren’t working, making digital ticketing a problem.

Wi-Fi, DAS ready for CES crowds at Las Vegas Convention Center

The crowded show floor at last year’s CES. Credit: CES

Like the Rat Pack and the Riveria, bad wireless connectivity at CES is something that should be part of ancient Las Vegas history, thanks to the relatively new DAS and Wi-Fi networks that now cover the Las Vegas Convention Center.

In December 2016, Cox Business/Hospitality Network and InSite Wireless Group finished the deployment of an $18 million neutral-host distrubuted antenna system (DAS) covering the LVCC, one that is used (and was mainly paid for) by the four top U.S. wireless carriers. Combined with a free-to-the-public Wi-Fi network in the LVCC deployed by Cox Business 3 years ago, attendees at big conventions like the yearly CES gathering should have no problem connecting their mobile devices, either via cellular or Wi-Fi, while in the sprawling LVCC.

Though it’s not a stadium, for big events like the 175,000-strong CES the LVCC can see Super Bowl-type wireless traffic numbers, not a great surprise since convention attendees may even use their devices more than sports fans on event days. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, at last year’s CES the LVCC’s Wi-Fi network saw more than 200,000 unique device connections, and carried more than 6.4 terabytes of data, numbers that the LVCVA expect to be exceeded at this year’s CES in early January 2018.

And while DAS traffic numbers have not been reported, it’s a good guess that the new network saw heavy use as well last year, finally completing the LVCVA’s goal to bring up-to-date connectivity to its main convention halls.

Big halls mean a big design challenge

Editor’s note: This profile is from our most recent STADIUM TECH REPORT for Winter 2017-18, which is available for FREE DOWNLOAD from our site. This issue has an in-depth look at the wireless networks at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of the upcoming Super Bowl 52, as well as profiles of network deployments at the brand-new Little Caesars Arena and Orlando City Stadium! DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY today!

A DAS antenna outside the main entrance. Credit: LVCVA

Several years ago, the Wi-Fi connectivity inside the LVCC halls was a crapshoot, with an existing network of approximately 166 APs having to compete for spectrum space with thousands of phone-based Wi-Fi hotspots. According to John Fountain Jr., director of network technology for Cox Business, the network deployed by Cox ahead of the 2015 CES show has approximately 2,000 Cisco access points in and around the LVCC, with more portable APs added for temporary structures like the big tents that are set up in the parking lots.

Though the network operators still have to work around the challenge of folks who are trying to run their convention business operations off a device-based hotspot — or as Fountain calls them, “a ‘non-provided AP,’ ” with its new network capacity Cox can offer reasonably priced Wi-Fi services to booths, with separate and secure SSIDs. The good news is, since most device hotspots still operate on 2.4 GHz spectrum, it leaves the wider 5 GHz spectrum open for direct device connections.

“The vast majority of devices [for attendees] are now on 5 GHz,” said Fountain.

Like many stadiums, the physical construction of the LVCC’s halls presented a challege for Wi-Fi deployment, especially the high ceilings and the long spans between walls in the seemingly never-ending main rooms. “The halls mainly have ceiling heights between 35 and 50 feet, and for Wi-Fi anything above 35 feet is problematic,” Fountain said. Cox solved some of the issues by using Gillaroo antennas, the flat-panel devices that can help direct the Wi-Fi signals in a particular direction.

Overhead Wi-Fi antenna hanging from the ceiling. Credit: LVCVA

Fountain also said that Cox ended up having to put 80 local nodes in the LVCC ceiling areas, just to get switches close enough to APs since there sometimes weren’t enough wall spaces in rooms that are up to a quarter mile in length. The Wi-Fi network is fed by a redundant 10 Gbps fiber connection and used 40 miles of new fiber. With the costs for new wiring included, Fountain said the Wi-Fi network cost Cox $12 million to deploy.

Getting the carriers to pay for DAS

And even though the current trend of the industry is seeing the big wireless carriers seeking to spend less on DAS deployments at large venues, the LVCVA didn’t have much of a problem convincing the wireless providers to pony up. Lawrence Roney, executive director of information technology for the LVCVA, said that the carriers’ desire to maintain good coverage for their customers at big events — especially CES, where carriers often announce new services and devices — made paying for the LVCC DAS an easy sell.

With the big conventions, the LVCC “brings customers to the carriers, so I have better luck getting funding,” said Roney, who said the LVCVA didn’t pay any of the system’s $18 million cost. The new DAS, he said, has 295 antenna locations that provide the equivalent of 14 cell sites of coverage, with 44 total zones, 38 indoor and six outdoor. Cox and InSite used the CorningONE system for the DAS, and the new network also has its own new 5,500-square foot head end room with backup power and cooling systems. Launched just before last year’s CES, Roney said he “didn’t hear a peep” about bad cellular connections, the no-news-is-good-news sign that your network is performing up to expectations.

AT&T sees 9 TB of wireless data use at World Series

The latest statistic showing that wireless data use at sports venues continues to grow comes from AT&T, which said that it saw 9 terabytes of wireless data use on its networks at this year’s World Series games, an 80 percent increase from last year’s total of 5 TB.

According to AT&T, the biggest single-game use of this year’s series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros came during Game 2 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where fans on AT&T networks used 1.5 TB of data. An AT&T blog post about the series has some interesting statistics about when data use surged, mainly right after dramatic events took place on the field.

Last year, AT&T said it saw 5 TB of data used on its networks at Wrigley Field and Progressive Field during the seven-game series between the Cubs and the Indians. We don’t have any Wi-Fi data yet from either park this year but it will be interesting to see what happened on the network at Minute Maid Park in Houston during the phenomenal Game 5, a contest that kept many baseball fans up late at night.

Verizon Wireless said it didn’t keep track of DAS statistics for this year’s World Series games.

Commentary: Time to rethink in-seat delivery?

A beer vendor at Wrigley Field this summer. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka,, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

I have a major scoop: Even though Wrigley Field doesn’t have its new Wi-Fi network installed yet, I can confirm that the Friendly Confines has food and drink delivery to fans in all seats.

And you don’t need an app to order a frosty malt beverage. You simply say, “Hey! Beer man! One over here!” And he walks over and pours you a cold one. Apparently this is not new, but has worked for many, many years.

Though I do jest a bit I hope my point is clear: Sometimes there is a bit too much fascination with technology, especially on the stadium app front, which has not yet been warranted. The main question of this essay is whether or not it’s time to rethink the in-seat ordering and delivery phenomenon, to find what really matters to fans and where technology can deliver better options.

Who really wants in-seat delivery?

Editor’s note: This profile is an excerpt from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, our Fall 2017 issue that has in-depth profiles of network deployments at Notre Dame Stadium, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Colorado State’s new stadium, and the Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY of the report today!

I will be the first to admit to being guilty as charged in being over-excited about stadium apps and the idea of things like instant replays on your phone and being able to have food and drink delivered to any seat in the stadium. When the San Francisco 49ers opened Levi’s Stadium four years ago, those two services were fairly unique in the sporting world, and it was cool to see how both worked.

The Niners did a lot of human-engineering study on the food delivery problem, knowing that it was more an issue of getting enough runners to deliver the goods than it was to get the app working right. Even a big glitch at the first-year outdoor ice hockey game at Levi’s Stadium was sort of a confirmation of the idea: That so many people tried to order food deliveries it screwed up the system wasn’t good, but it did mean that it was something people wanted, right?

Turns out, no so much. Recently the Niners officially announced that they are taking a step back on in-seat concessions ordering and deliveries at Levi’s Stadium, limiting it to club areas only. Whatever reasons the Niners give for scaling down the idea, my guess is that it mainly had to do with the fact that it turns out that the majority of people at a football game (or basketball too) may not want to just sit in their seats the whole game, but in fact get up and move around a bit.

The end zone view from the beer garden at Colorado State Stadium.

That may be why most of the new stadiums that have opened in the past couple years have purposely built more “porch” areas or other public sections where fans can just hang out, usually with somewhat of a view of the field. The Sacramento Kings’ nice beer garden on the top level of Golden 1 Center and the Atlanta Falcons’ AT&T Perch come to mind here. For the one or two times these fans need to get something to eat, they are OK with getting up and getting it themselves.

Plus, there’s the fact that at the three or four or more hours you’re going to be at a football game, if you’re drinking beer you’re going to eventually need to get up anyway due to human plumbing. We’ve been fairly out front in saying stadiums should spend more time bringing concession-stand technology into the 21st century, instead of worrying too much about in-seat delivery. It’s good to see there are some strides in this direction, with better customer-facing interfaces for payment systems and things like vending machines and express-ordering lines for simple orders.

While there may be disagreement about whether or not in-seat delivery is a good idea, there is certainly universal disgust for concession lines that are long for no good reason. It’s beyond time for stadiums to mimic systems already in place at fast-food restaurants or coffee shops and bring some of that technology spending to bear in the place that everyone agrees still needs work. Even at the uber-techno Levi’s, regular concession stand lines have been abysmal in their slowness. Maybe the Niners and others guilty of the same crimes will pay more attention to less flashy fixes in this department.

Is drink-only delivery the right move?

The Niners’ revolutionary attempt to bring mobile ordering and in-seat delivery to all fans in a big stadium was part of the app suite from VenueNext, the company the Niners helped start as part of their Levi’s Stadium plans. While VenueNext is regularly adding new pro teams to its stable of customers (in September at Mobile World Congress Americas, the Utah Jazz announced they would switch to VenueNext for the upcoming season), not a single one has tried to copy the Niners’ ambitious deliver-anywhere feature.

The end-zone AT&T Perch at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

And for Super Bowl 50, the signature event that Levi’s Stadium was in part built for, remember it was the NFL shutting down the idea of in-seat delivery of food and drink, limiting the service instead to just beverage ordering and delivery. It probably makes sense for Mobile Sports Report to put together a list sometime soon about the various attempts at in-seat ordering and delivery around the pro leagues, to see what’s working and what hasn’t. To be clear we are talking here about widespread delivery to all seating areas, and not the wait-staff type delivery systems that have been widely deployed in premium seating areas for years.

Our guess, just from tracking this phenomenon the past several years, is that while such services make sense in premium and club areas, simple logistics and stadium real estate (like narrow aisles or packed, sellout crowds) make in-seat ordering and delivery a human-factor nightmare in most venues.

One experiment worth watching is the system being deployed by the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as part of the team/stadium app developed by IBM. Instead of working online, the app will let fans pick food items and enter payment information, and then take their phone to the appropriate stand to scan and fulfill the order. Nobody knows yet if this will speed up lines or make the concession process faster, but it is at the very least an attempt to try something new, using technology doing what it does best to eliminate a pain point of going to a game — waiting in line.

And while I will be excited to see the new networks being planned for Wrigley (Wi-Fi and a new DAS are supposed to be online for next season), I’m just as sure that whenever I visit there again, I won’t need an app to have a beer and hot dog brought to my seat. Maybe having more choice in items or having that instant gratification of delivery when you want it is where the world is going today, but on a brilliant summer afternoon at Wrigley Field somebody walking down the aisle every now and then works just fine. With the Cubs winning, the organ playing and the manual scoreboard doing its magic in center field, it’s a welcome reminder that sometimes, technology isn’t always the best or neccessary answer.

Technology and Tradition: How Notre Dame Stadium got its Wi-Fi network

Notre Dame logo on Wi-Fi railing enclosure at Notre Dame Stadium. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

How do you bring new technology into a building and institution that embraces history as an integral part of its brand? There may be many answers but in the sports stadium world, Notre Dame’s renovation of its hallowed football stadium and the addition of high-speed Wi-Fi look like a good example for any other venues trying to solve the same issues.

As part of its $400 million “Campus Crossing” stadium renovation, the University of Notre Dame made adding a high-definition stadium Wi-Fi network a priority, according to Rob Kelly, associate athletics director of ticketing, premium and technology for the school. Though such big projects often face budget trimming en route to completion, Kelly said the network was never on the chopping block.

“I’m pleased to say, Wi-FI was a priority,” said Kelly during an MSR visit in August. “It will power what we want to do for the future. Our vision is greater, and the things we want to do won’t work without the network.”

Future is now for Wi-Fi, video boards, premium seating

Editor’s note: This profile is an excerpt from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, our Fall 2017 issue that has in-depth profiles of network deployments at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Colorado State’s new stadium, and the Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY of the report today!

An outside look at the new construction surrounding the ‘old’ stadium bowl

Future aside, the new technology reality at Notre Dame Stadium is a huge step forward for a facility that first appeared in 1930, when the legendary coach Knute Rockne led the Fighting Irish football team. Since then the old concrete oval underwent only one significant upgrade, a 1997 enhancement that added another ring to the top of the stadium, boosting capacity from 59,075 to 80,795.

The Campus Crossing project, however, takes Notre Dame Stadium into a new era completely. By basically building three new buildings onto the back of the east, west and south sides of the stadium, Notre Dame added the ability to now have expanded premium club areas and seating sections, added classroom and other office space, and the ability to finally have a huge TV screen to show replays, a big upgrade to the experience from the Notre Dame games of the past.

Thanks to the video board, “we won’t have to text family or friends not at the game to find out if a player was in or out of bounds,” said Kelly. Though the tradition of attending a game in the same facility where legends like Rockne, Ara Parseghian and Joe Montana roamed the field is part of the game-day attraction, Kelly said that Notre Dame fans’ visits to away games made them well aware of amenities that were becoming commonplace elsewhere.

A good look at the railing AP enclosures in the east stands

“That old saying about ‘you don’t know what you don’t have’ just wasn’t true anymore,” said Kelly, who notes that currently most Notre Dame seasons will see the team playing in one or two NFL venues for prime-time contests. Brought in right at the start of the Crossroads project, Kelly said he had to become an “instant expert” on premium seating and on technology, especially on the Wi-Fi front. That wasn’t all bad, since it meant multiple visits to other stadiums to evaluate their technology deployments and seating options.

On the Wi-Fi front, Notre Dame paid special attention to Wi-Fi deployments in Green Bay (since Lambeau Field is similar to Notre Dame Stadium in construction and layout) and in Minnesota, where the new U.S. Bank Stadium had opened. The biggest question for Notre Dame’s Wi-Fi deployment in its no-overhang exposed bowl was about which method would be used — with the early leaders being under-seat or top-down placement of Wi-Fi APs. According to Kelly, a railing-mounted solution like the one used at U.S. Bank Stadium was not originally given much thought, mainly because the lower bowl seating area at Notre Dame Stadium didn’t have any handrails.

Shake down the Wi-Fi … from the railings

Though the new top part of the bowl required handrails for safety regulations when it was added in 1997, the lower bowl was historically exempt from those considerations, Kelly said. Notre Dame information architect John Buysse, one of the leads on the school’s network team, said the first reactions during network planning meetings rejected the idea of Wi-Fi on railings, with debate suggesting that the lower-bowl aisles weren’t wide enough.

Wi-Fi enclosures blend well in the concourse area

Under-seat deployment AP would be a challenge as well, for both the extra cost of drilling more holes through the concrete — many at locations “below grade,” or in the dirt, since the playing field is well below ground level — as well as a lack of space between the floor and the bench seats.

“Whoever had an AP [under the bench] would be miserable,” Buysse said.

Somewhere during the process, however, a survey of alumni found that the lack of railings in the lower bowl was a serious safety concern, especially during the rainy and snowy parts of the season.

“The alumni complained about how difficult it was” to negotiate getting to their lower-bowl seats without any handrails, Buysse said. With the ability to score a double positive with one move — adding handrails for safety and for Wi-Fi — the railing-mounted AP plan moved in for the win.

“It also really helped that Minnesota had done it [handrail deployments] and had success,” said Buysse, who got good performance statistics from the Vikings to back up the railing-mount idea. After seeing those numbers, he said, “any potential concerns went away.”

So far this season, the network has already performed like a winner. For Notre Dame’s Sept. 9 home game against Georgia, the network saw 6.2 terabytes of data used, the highest total ever recorded for a college football game.

Handrail AP mounts, Kelly said, “were better than the alternative of under-seat — it costs less, and there are fewer holes in the concrete.”

It also didn’t hurt, Kelly said, to make a double positive from a single move.

“Adding handrails [for safety] was a positive, and better connectivity was another positive,” Kelly said. And the fact that the enclosures look cool — with a snappy ND logo embossed into each cover — also probably doesn’t hurt.

AmpThink steps up to lead Wi-Fi deployment

The custom AP enclosures with the ND logo embossed into the molded plastic were courtesy of AmpThink, a Dallas-area firm that in most of its previous history had provided its Wi-Fi skills in a specialist or subcontractor role where it had full responsibility for network deployments. But with an increasing amount of experience in its resume — including doing designs for several of the recent Super Bowl networks, as well as new network installs at Texas A&M University and U.S. Bank Stadium, among others — AmpThink bid and won the lead on the Notre Dame Wi-Fi project, another football-size stadium project on a list that also includes the renovated Wi-Fi network at the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., and the ongoing renovation at the Alamodome in San Antonio, which will host the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

Fans at a summer scrimmage enjoy the new premium seats

In AmpThink, Notre Dame found a partner not just with technical skills but also with the appreciation with how making things that look good as well as perform well matters. One look at the custom Wi-Fi AP handrail enclosures tells you a lot about this commitment, when you see the sharp, widely recognizable yet understated “ND” logo stamped into each ABS plastic casing.

AmpThink execs showing off the gear during a recent tour pointed out details like the slightly roughened surface, finished that way to keep any scratches from showing. AmpThink also made sure all the logos were horizontal when installed, no small feat with numerous different angles of slope on various railings.

“There are different [railing] angles all over, and only one of the ones AmpThink delivered didn’t match — and they had a spare to fix it on hand,” Buysse said.

“AmpThink has been a tremendous partner,” said Kelly, noting the early help AmpThink provided by bringing in demo units to mock up what the deployment would look like.

Of the 1,096 total Wi-Fi APs in the new network, a full 685 serve the seating bowl, Buysse said. For the below-grade APs located near the bottom of the seating bowl, AmpThink and Notre Dame brought bandwidth to the railings by drilling a trench down the sides of stairways and covering the cables with rubber gaskets afterward. The APs in the bowl are mainly Cisco 3800 units, which have two radios each. Buysse said the bowl network will be exclusively on 5 GHz channels, like many other stadiums these days.

AmpThink’s engineering ingenuity is apparent in other places as well — for flat-ceiling AP locations like those in suites, the firm developed an AP enclosure that can be installed by one person, instead of having to have electricians and other construction specialists teaming up to get all the work done. It might not sound particularly interesting, but when you are installing hundreds of APs in far-flung locations, finding a way to save time on each one ends up being a big benefit in the end.

Even with all the new construction the main concourses of Notre Dame stadium have successfully combined the old hallowed-ground feel with modern amentities like new and more concessions stands, as well as Wi-Fi and DAS antennas painted and mounted in ways to keep them out of direct sight. Our speedtest in the concourse area showed a connection of 70 Mbps on the download and 52 Mbps up. Crown Castle built and operates the neutral-host DAS, which already has AT&T and Verizon Wireless working with T-Mobile set to join in soon.

Though there weren’t any fans on hand yet, our speedtests taken in late August were impressive, with Wi-Fi readings of 69 Mbps on the download and 70 Mbps on the upload in the upper deck benches on the stadium’s east side; we also got a reading of 67.56 / 68.68 inside the new premium club area on the west side; and a test of Verizon DAS connections at 46.68 / 11.39, also on the west side of the stadium.

TV production, mobile app plans ready for the future

The next tale to tell from Notre Dame Stadium may be on the content and application side, where the Fighting Irish are just getting ready to play with their new toys. At the SEAT Conference in Atlanta this summer, Notre Dame execs talked about starting slow with the stadium mobile app, not trying to do too much so that fans wouldn’t be turned off by the approach if features failed. For this season the app will focus mainly on digital ticketing, allowing fans to show tickets, transfer tickets via email, or donate unused tickets back to the university. Kelly said the school will explore using a portal for Wi-Fi login in the future, to “reinforce” the value of the app.

A look at the cabling path drilled alongside stairways for the lower bowl seats

On the video production end, the building on the stadium’s west side provided the space to create a multi-headed content production facility that hosts the new “Notre Dame Studios,” an internal startup of sorts that will centralize all kinds of video and streaming production not just for sports but for all the content being created all over the South Bend, Ind., campus and beyond. For football game days, the production facilities can be used by network crews, who no longer will need to bring a separate production truck to the venue.

For Notre Dame fans, the improvements bring the facility well to the forefront of the connected-stadium world, as well as for premium seating, especially for those with access to the rooftop club areas, where fans can relax on outside couches with an excellent view of the field, a commanding view of the greater South Bend landscape, and excellent connectivity for their mobile devices. All in the old stadium with its sturdy brick-and-concrete foundations, and the statue of Rockne out front, ready to shake down the thunder and then share that experience on Facebook or Snapchat.

“There’s a fine line in finding the balance between aesthetics and performance,” Kelly said. “Leadership understood that we couldn’t compromise the aesthetics of Notre Dame Stadium.”

But, Kelly added, he’s also “never heard that people don’t want better cell coverage.” While the changes may be startling to veteran Notre Dame fans — especially the video board — Kelly thinks the end result will be another positive, as the practice of combining technology and tradition with a commitment to quality becomes apparent.

“I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised,” he said.

Editor’s note: This profile is an excerpt from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, our Fall 2017 issue that has in-depth profiles of network deployments at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Colorado State’s new stadium, and the Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY of the report today!