NL West Leads MLB Stadium Wi-Fi Scorecard, with 4 out of 5 Teams Offering Network Service to Fans

The Giants' Bill Schlough in front of some hard-working wireless network hardware. Credit: John Britton, AT&T.

The Giants’ Bill Schlough in front of some hard-working wireless network hardware. Credit: John Britton, AT&T.

Welcome to the spring training version of Mobile Sports Report’s annual roundup of Major League Baseball stadium Wi-Fi networks, where we tabulate which teams have networks for fan use. By our count, the National League West division is the sport’s network-savviest, as four out of the five teams — San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Arizona — will have free in-stadium Wi-Fi service for fans this season. For the entire major leagues, our research found 10 11 12 stadiums that definitely have Wi-Fi, two that are “maybes,” and 16 that don’t have public Wi-Fi service available. But just like baseball, which hasn’t started its regular season yet, we’re expecting our lineup to change before the games that count start.

FIRST UPDATE: Thanks to Jeff Baumgartner over at Light Reading, we have proof that Philadelphia and Citizens Bank Park can be added to the “has Wi-Fi” list, thanks to some work by hometown provider Comcast and equipment partner Cisco. Check out the great slideshow Jeff put together.

SECOND UPDATE: Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, has Wi-Fi. More on this soon, but we have it from the horse’s mouth so we are moving the Friendly Confines to the “yes” list.

THIRD UPDATE: Maybe we shouldn’t count Dodgers Stadium yet, since the Wi-Fi service has yet to be launched according to this report from the LA Daily News. Will the lack of Wi-Fi keep the Dodgers from getting All-Star votes?

For the record, here are the 12 teams with networks that we can verify, some of which (like the Dodgers) are coming online for the first time in the 2013 season: San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox. The two “maybes” are the Seattle Mariners and the New York Mets, which are supposed to have networks but as of this writing we can’t confirm services are available.

Why do we have “maybes,” you ask? Since this research was done completely online and on the weekend, we haven’t had a chance to contact teams directly for confirmation of services. And it’s pretty apparent to us that MLB and the teams do a good job of obfuscating whether or not there is Wi-Fi at the park — some of the teams that have networks don’t list the service anywhere on their MLB-approved team home page. In the weeks between now and the start of the season, we’ll try to figure out our maybes, and maybe add a few more teams in case deals get done before Opening Day. Anyone with definitive knowledge that differs from our totals, please feel free to contribute with a comment or a tweet to me, @paulkaps, with a verifiable link. Any fixes or adds, we’ll salute with a retweet and a hearty well done.

WHY WI-FI DEALS AREN’T PUBLICIZED

As an outlet that humbly boasts having stadium Wi-Fi news and analysis that is the equal of anyone else’s out there, we’re not that surprised that even some teams with networks are keeping things under wraps a bit. Some of that has to do with the secrecy that sometimes surrounds the contracts behind the deals; cellular service providers, for example, might not want to overly publicize the fact that they are subsidizing Wi-Fi at one stadium, since then others will want the same sweet deal. The Dodgers’ planned network, for example, is touted as being built by the Dodgers and MLB’s Advanced Media division — hiding from view whoever the service provider and equipment partners are (we suspect Time-Warner Cable and Cisco, but can’t verify).

The other reason why teams might not want to shout out loud about their Wi-Fi? In case they are worried about performance is one reason. Since these networks are notoriously hard to deploy and operate, if you are new to the Wi-Fi game you might not want to advertise it too heavily. But we expect that will change in the near future as more fans demand connectivity, and as Major League Baseball pushes its teams to all install networks so that MLBAM can sell more of its single, league-approved mobile app.

But on to the stats! Among the gems we uncovered was that among service providers backing networks AT&T had the most with four (San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago Cubs and Arizona) while Verizon has one (San Diego), along with Time-Warner Cable (Houston), Boingo (Chicago) and CenturyLink (Minnesota). Among equipment providers with announced deals we have Cisco at two and Meru Networks at two (Washington and Boston), though we suspect Cisco is behind more deals (like LA’s) as a silent partner. Interestingly, Cisco also has already partnered with AT&T to do StadiumVision video deals in Yankee Stadium and Kansas City, so don’t be surprised to see Wi-Fi networks from the same partners in those facilities sometime soon.

Below is our list of stadiums with yes/no on Wi-Fi fan networks, and some news links we’ve scoured. Again, this is a working post so please — especially if you are with a team, provider or vendor — send us a message if you see an error. Remember, errors are part of baseball! And enjoy your Wi-Fi at the game this season.

MOBILE SPORTS REPORT MLB STADIUM WI-FI ROSTER, 2013 SEASON

NL WEST

YES:
San Franisco Giants, AT&T Park
The Giants, namesake sponsor AT&T and team tech wizard Bill Schlough are recognized widely as the Wi-Fi and in-stadium network leaders not just in baseball, but probably in all of sports and stadiums. Here’s our profile of the Giants from last year.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium
As part of the team’s $100 million stadium renovation, Dodgers fans get Wi-Fi this season.

UPDATE: According to the Long Beach Press-Telegraph, the Wi-Fi and cell improvements won’t be live on opening day. Too bad.

San Diego Padres, Petco Park
This one was news to us — but it looks like fans in San Diego will finally get Wi-Fi in their park, thanks to Verizon’s first baseball play.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Chase Field
Another AT&T network, Chase Field has had Wi-Fi for some time now. They even have one of the better apps pages.

NO:

Colorado Rockies, Coors Field

NL CENTRAL

YES

Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field
AT&T has helped the Cubs build Wi-Fi in Wrigley. More on the details soon.
NO:

St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium

Milwaukee Brewers, Miller Park

Pittsburgh Pirates, PNC Park

Cincinnati Reds, Great American Ball Park

NL EAST

YES:

Atlanta Braves, Turner Field
Another AT&T network.

Washington Nationals, Nationals Park
Reportedly, this was one of the first 802.11n networks, thanks to gear from startup Meru Networks. However, we can’t find an official link on the Nationals home page, making us wonder if this service still exists. Natitude fans, what say you?

UPDATE 2: Nats are getting a Wi-Fi upgrade, thanks to Comcast. No word if Meru is still the AP vendor.

Philadelphia Phillies, Citizens Bank Park
See Light Reading’s excellent slide show cataloging Comcast’s Wi-Fi plans at its hometown park.

MAYBE:

New York Mets, Citi Field
Does it or doesn’t it? No answer on the Mets’ website, but the new place was supposed to have a Wi-Fi network… of course that was before its supplier, Nortel Networks, went out of business.

NO:
Miami Marlins, Marlins Park
No Wi-Fi, though Marlins Park does have a new DAS install which helps cellular reception.

AL WEST

YES:
Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park
The refugees from the NL are the only park that we can tell has tried to charge for services — wondering if this info about a $3.95 cost for four hours airtime still exists. Houstonites? Yea or nay? This is a Time-Warner Cable/Cisco deal.

MAYBE:

Seattle Mariners, Safeco Field
All we could find were some references to Seattle’s Nintendo having sponsored a Wi-Fi network for gaming. No sign that it still exists or has been replaced. Hello Microsoft? No network for the home of Windows Phones? For shame.

NO:

Oakland A’s, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Texas Rangers, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Angel Stadium

AL CENTRAL

YES:

Minnesota Twins, Target Field
Good writeup from our friends at SportTechie.

Chicago White Sox, U.S. Cellular Field
This one courtesy of the folks from Boingo.

NO:

Detroit Tigers, Comerica Park
No fan network, though we like this picture showing SSIDs and passwords for the media networks. Hope those settings have been changed.

Cleveland Indians, Progressive Field
No stadium-wide network, but the Indians at least have a social media suite with Wi-Fi. What, only a few people in Cleveland use social media?

AL EAST

YES:

Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park
Here’s our profile of the Meru win at historic Fenway.

NO:

New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
Do they still ban iPads?

Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers Centre
A bit embarrassing, since Rogers is Canada’s AT&T-like telco

Tampa Bay Rays, Tropicana Field

Baltimore Orioles, Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Cubs Announce ‘Social Media Night’ Promotions that, Like the Cubs, Fall Short of Fantastic

Is giving someone a print magazine as a prize a fitting way to celebrate a “social media night” promotion? It may not exactly resonate with fans who are certified thumb-clickers but who cares when you’re at Wrigley Field?

By announcing a pair of “social media nights” the Chicago Cubs are taking a baby step into the waters of social media — and, in this Cub fan’s opinion, not really “getting it” when it comes to what social media fans might want. On the Cubs’ ticket promotion site it says people who buy the special social media-night tickets will get to come to a pre-game panel discussion on social media that includes… not any members of the Cubs, but instead Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould.

Now I get it — the Cubs players will be getting ready for a game that night and might not want to hang out beforehand with twitter-pals. But the other schwag items include a free copy of the Cubs fan magazine (what is this dead tree stuff?) a chit for a Vienna Beef hot dog (always good), a t-shirt (rarely bad) and some “social media series” baseball cards (questionable worth). And… SOME of the cards may be personally autographed! I guess you can’t get any more random than that. But it’s hard to justify plinking down extra dough on the fact that your card *might* be signed by Ryan Dempster. I guess I just don’t see these cards as becoming big eBay items anytime soon.

In my mind, a real social media night would offer something tangible and fan-specific, like the Golden State Warriors’ events where fans stay after a game for a Q&A session with a real player, or get to go on the court to shoot free throws. Or better yet like the Cleveland Indians, who set aside a suite for Twitterers. If the best the Cubs can do is reward social-media fans with a t-shirt, a dog and a Bear, that’s not really a World Series experience. As we say from Chicago, that’s so Cub. And not in a good way.

Cleveland Indians Open Suite for in-Game Twitterers

A special section for Twitter users? Well that is the plan for the Cleveland Indians who already have a strong following in the twittering crowd apparently. The team will now cater to this market segment by creating a social media suite.

The effort actually has been an evolutionary progress, dating back to 2010 according to ESPN, which also once labeled the Indians as baseball’s most Twitter friendly team.

Fans can get invites to the suite, which are available on a game by game basis and then enjoy not only the view from the seats but also chat online from the Wi-Fi enabled suite with friends not in attendance and ones that are present.

This is part of a greater trend in baseball to make the ballpark experience much more social media and online friendly. There are already 4 stadiums that have in-house networks that enable fans to use mobile apps from Facebook to YouTube with a great deal more ease than in the past when network overloading often shut them off from connections.

Anything that helps boost attendance will be appreciated by the team. With a huge amount of rain last month the team suffered from poor per game attendance, but has seen it shoot up by more than 10,000 a game as the weather has dried and warmed. Who knows maybe the twittering masses can help shoot that number even higher.