New Report: FC Cincinnati’s West End Stadium using technology to support safer, easier fan experience

Stadium Tech Report is pleased to announce our Spring 2021 issue, with a profile of the technology being deployed at FC Cincinnati’s new West End Stadium. With an eye toward making the fan experience better and safer, the Atomic Data-led deployment of Wi-Fi, entry and concessions technologies provides a robust technology infrastructure. Read our lead profile for all the details!

Our latest issue also has some forward-thinking analysis, including Bill Anderson’s essay on why Frequency Neutral Networks are the “magic” that will provide the kind of wireless connectivity users are seeking. Paul Kapustka weighs in on why concessions are going all-digital and cashless, and why that’s a good thing for everyone involved.

We are also featuring our second interview in our “Design Vision” series, this time with Kevin Devore of ME Engineers. We also have a recap of the wireless usage from Super Bowl LV in Tampa, where the reduced-size crowd still consumed data at a rate equal to past “big games.”

If you are reading on a desktop or tablet, you can view all the stories in our web magazine format.

We’d like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors, which for this issue include Corning, Boingo, MatSing, Cox Business/Hospitality Network, American Tower, CommScope, AmpThink, ExteNet Systems and Belden. Their generous sponsorship makes it possible for us to offer this content free of charge to our readers. We’d also like to welcome readers from the Inside Towers community, who may have found their way here via our ongoing partnership with the excellent publication Inside Towers.

All-Star Wi-Fi: Cincinnati crowds used 4.3 TB over All-Star Game activities

Fans at All-Star Game taking pictures of Pete Rose. Photo: Screenshot courtesy Fox Sports/Cincinnati Reds

Fans at All-Star Game taking pictures of Pete Rose. Photo: Screenshot courtesy Fox Sports/Cincinnati Reds

Like a player added to the roster just before game time, the new Wi-Fi network at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati handled some all-star traffic levels, carrying a total of 4.3 terabytes of data over the three separate events that made up Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game festivities earlier this week, according to IT execs at the ballpark.

Though it only came online a couple weeks before the big event, the GABP Wi-Fi network held up admirably for the big game, carrying 2.36 TB during Tuesday night’s main event, according to Brian Keys, vice president of technology for the Cincinnati Reds. Almost another 2 TB was recorded during the ancillary events, the futures game and the Home Run Derby, proving once again that “big event” crowds like their Wi-Fi and are adept and finding and using in-stadium wireless networks. We don’t have DAS stats yet but it’s an easy guess that all four DAS deployments inside the stadium also carried significant traffic loads during the All-Star activities.

In a phone interview Friday, Keys said that the peak concurrent Wi-Fi user number hit 9,700 at one point during the actual All-Star Game, with a total of 12,000 unique Wi-Fi connections over all of Tuesday night. And even though the game attracts a national audience, the hometown fans provided the biggest traffic surges during Cincinnati Reds-specific moments — like at the end of Monday’s Home Run Derby when local hero Todd Frazier won in dramatic fashion, and when former Reds star Pete Rose had a brief pre-game introduction.

“Especially when Todd [Frazier] got up to bat, that really tested the limits of our [bandwidth] pipe,” Keys said. The Rose introduction, he said, put similar stress on the 576 Wi-Fi access points, but with Keys’ staff as well as a special group from Wi-Fi gear provider Cisco on hand to help out, the new network performed in big-league fashion, Keys said.

During construction, the IT team had to overcome one structural hurdle, namely the lack of any railings in the lower bowl to mount Wi-Fi APs on. Keys said some of that was solved by putting APs at the bottom of seating rows pointing up, and using overhang space for other antenna mounts. The Great American Ball Park did not use any under-seat APs, Keys said.

Pete Rose. Photo: Screen shot of Fox Sports broadcast courtesy of Cincinnati Reds.

Pete Rose. Photo: Screen shot of Fox Sports broadcast courtesy of Cincinnati Reds.

Though the ballpark had explored putting Wi-Fi in last season, the initial deployment was stalled last summer due to what Keys called contract issues. But with the All-Star game coming this season, the park re-started its Wi-Fi deployment, which was part of the Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) plan to bring Wi-Fi to all parks for this season. Keys said the new network deployment began in March and finished up on June 26, giving his team a few home dates to kick the tires and tune it up quickly for its big event.

Going forward, Keys said the four-DAS deployment — with four sets of antennas and four different headends — will be consolidated into a single, neutral host DAS operation. Keys is also looking forward to adding features enabled by the Wi-Fi network, like expanded food ordering and greater use of beacon technology. “It’ll be great to add more things to improve the fan experience,” he said.

All-Star Game has DAS Grand Slam: Four different DAS systems online at Great American Ball Park

Google Map screenshot of Cincinnati riverfront area, showing Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ball Park. Somewhere in between is a DAS headend.

Google Map screenshot of Cincinnati riverfront area, showing Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ball Park. Somewhere in between is a DAS headend.

Call it the DAS grand slam — to cover wireless customer demand, the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati has four separate DAS deployments, one for each of the major U.S. wireless carriers, which are probably all getting a workout at tonight’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Brian Keys, vice president of technology for the Cincinnati Reds, confirmed Tuesday that there are four separate DAS (distributed antenna system) networks in the ballpark, one each for AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. Through several interviews Mobile Sports Report was able to confirm that Solid is providing the gear for the Verizon DAS, and another source said that ADRF is providing the DAS for Sprint.

We also had a long interview with the folks at TE Connectivity, who initially installed a 2G/3G/4G DAS in the venue in 2011, and recently upgraded that DAS, adding support for the 2100 MHz AWS spectrum. And while TE Connectivity was not at liberty to name the carrier for which it provides the DAS, by process of elimination we are fairly confident that their customer is AT&T. T-Mobile, which is also on its own DAS in the park, is also believed to be a Solid customer but we haven’t yet confirmed that fact.

Why are there four systems in Cincinnati? We haven’t yet had a chance to talk to Brian Keys (he’s been a little bit busy this week) but it’s fairly likely that it was just a fairly normal occurrence in the DAS world — one big carrier doesn’t want to join a DAS already installed by another big carrier, so it just funds its own. At the Great American Ball Park, Verizon’s decision to build its own DAS may have been in part because the carrier already has a DAS headend facility nearby, serving Paul Brown Stadium, the GABP’s riverfront neighbor. In fact, the Solid folks told us Tuesday that both the baseball DAS and the football DAS for Verizon are served out of the same facility, which makes sense.

The TE Connectivity DAS, for the client it couldn’t name (AT&T!), was also recently upgraded to cover areas outside the stadium, including the parking lots, a trend we are seeing more of as venues realize that fans want connectivity the moment they arrive, not just when they’re in their seats. We’ll try to get more details on this somewhat unique DAS situation — which was also apparently approved by the technical and business folks at MLBAM, which helped bring a Wi-Fi upgrade to the park this past offseason — but for the meantime, let’s just be glad that customers of all four of the major U.S. carriers had DAS support at Tuesday’s All-Star Game — in their own private and separate ways.

Brandon Phillips Says Twitter Helps his Game

Baseball managers from Little League to the major leagues often warn their players about the dangers of distractions and how it will impact their performance on the field-the only thing that matters to a manager.

Well the Cincinnati Reds’ All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips claims that Twitter (@DatDudeBP) is not only not a distraction, but that his heavy use of it has helped his game last season. For the record last year he hit .300, scored 94 runs and had 82 runs batted in and won a Silver Slugger award..

Phillips said on the Jim Rome show that the technology helped him both personally with all of the positive feedback and with an effort by himself to only say positive things on his feed. But he even found that the haters, ones who said that he would not accomplish anything helped to motivate him to remain focused on the field.

From the sound clip that is linked it is obvious that he enjoys the interaction with fans and that it has helped him open up to fans, and it has led to him providing his own giveaways at the ballpark.

On the flip side there is always Tim McCarver, the Fox Sports baseball announcer who does not like any form of social media at all. In a recent interview he went so far as to say that nothing is as disturbing as social media. When not making these remarks he is presumably outside telling people to get off his lawn.

Hopefully this will be a trend that more athletes follow. A lot have engaging personalities but remain distant from fans for a huge variety of reasons, including ‘haters’ as Phillips said. This allows them to reach out and really develop new bonds for fans and athletes both on and off teams that they root for.

Reds’ 2B Surges on Twitter, Asks for Extension

Picture of Brandon Phillips from his Twitter account

Brandon Phillips' photo from his @DatDudeBP Twitter account

He’s arrogant, famously calling the St. Louis Cardinals a bunch of “little bitches,” but Brandon Phillips is quickly establishing himself as Major League Baseball’s must-follow athlete on Twitter. Is it a tactic to get the Cincinnati Reds to grant him a rich extension, or trade him to a major market team that can pay him big coin?  

Phillips’ Twitter followers surging

Phillips’ followers surged from just over 50,000 to 65,000 in the three days ending June 19, after an story about the Cincinnati Reds second baseman’s use of Twitter to improve his image. Phillips tweets as @DatDudeBP, and is a Mobile Sports Report recommended athlete to follow.

Twitter as negotiating tactic? 

Favorable accounts of Phillips’ Twitter use comes at an auspicious time for the all-star second baseman. Days after the story broke, Phillips asked the Reds to negotiate a contract extension, according to an NBC Sports report.

Phillips told ESPN he will keep clubhouse talk off his Twitter account, but the timing of the ESPN story closely followed by a demand for a contract extension proves that he knows a large and favorable fan base will improve his chances of becoming one of baseball’s highest-paid athletes. Phillips has a $12 million team option for 2012, which ESPN said the Reds may not be able to pick up. Major League Baseball’s trading deadline is July 31.

Even if Phillips doesn’t start sending pay-me-or-trade-me tweets, the day is soon approaching when high-stakes contract negotiations become a part of an athlete’s online repertoire, and something fans will want to follow on smartphones and iPads.   

“The Ochocinco of baseball”

According to Phillips, Twitter is part of a more benign strategy. Twitter gives fans a chance to get to know him better, he told ESPN.

Phillips tweets occasional contests, which in the past have awarded fans spring training visits, dinner, and trips to San Francisco. According to ESPN, Phillips’ use of Twitter may have contributed to improved clubhouse maturity and leadership in 2011.

In addition to famously slurring the St. Louis Cardinals, which caused bench-clearing brawls the next time the two teams met, Phillips has been a controversial player in his seven-year major league career for failing to run out balls to first, laughing and joking when his team has trailed and other on-field lapses.

Phillips acknowledged that he’s after the celebrity athletes can get by being wired to their fans, including another famous Cincinnati pro.

“I want to be the Ochocinco of baseball,” Phillips told ESPN. Of course, Phillips was referring to the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who once threatened to be the first player to produce in-game tweets and has attracted greater than 2.13 million followers to his @ochocinco account.