First Look: Inside Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors’ new home

The exterior of Chase Center, with its humongous video board. Credit all photos: Brian Nitenson, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

The first event is coming up fast, but Mobile Sports Report got a sneak peek inside Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors, thanks to the photographic efforts of one of our “field scout” team members, Brian Nitenson, who attended a season ticket-holders event this weekend. Our first reaction to the photo stream is simply ‘wow!,’ and we can’t wait until we can see an event there live.

Since the wireless networks aren’t really fully operational yet we don’t have any speed tests from Brian’s visit but from his pictures we can see multiple Wi-Fi and DAS antenna deployments so it’s a safe bet that the connectivity will be first-rate. There is also some hint of advanced technology being used in the concessions department — note the photo of a sign instructing fans toward a credit-card kiosk operation — which makes sense given the main business of the arena’s title sponsor.

Much more coverage from Chase Center to follow this fall, but for now take a look at the NBA’s newest arena, a privately financed jewel on the San Francisco bay.


A good look at the Samsung center-hung scoreboard


One of the under-seat antenna deployments


Kiosk ordering! More good news as technology hits the concession stand

This is what the scoreboard looks like from seats you will never be able to afford

One of the club areas

Part of the striking architecture in the entry area

Antennas painted to blend in

Some interesting gear in the top catwalk areas

Some of the upper level ‘theater box’ seating

Lots of Wi-Fi and DAS antennas visible covering the upper decks

Scoreboard and ribbon board view from seats higher up

A nice view out to the bay

Do I spy Wi-Fi way up high?

A wide look at the big screen

Impressive renovation makes Atlanta Hawks’ State Farm Arena feel ‘new’ again

Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, the venue formerly known as Philips Arena, feels like a new NBA arena thanks to an extensive remodel. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to tell what has changed besides the name on the building that is the Atlanta Hawks’ home.

But once inside the doors, the venue formerly known as Philips Arena has pretty much disappeared, with full-scale knockdown remodels, finishing touches and high-definition Wi-Fi making the newly named State Farm Arena feel like something just-built from the ground up.

“If you’re just driving by, you don’t see any changes,” said Marcus Wasdin, chief information officer for the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena. Even the subway signage and a map in the attached CNN Center still call the basketball arena by its old name, not adequately preparing visitors (especially media in town for this Sunday’s Super Bowl) for the $200 million makeover that’s now finished inside.

While those who’d been there previously might have a hard time believing their eyes, even first-time visitors to the hoops venue in downtown Atlanta can be suitably impressed, as the fan-facing structural improvements — including a number of different premium seating and club spaces, as well as open-air concourses surrounding main seating areas — put the newly named arena on a service par with any brand-new facilities that have opened recently.

Throw in a high-definition Wi-Fi network added by Comcast Business’ emerging sports-arena division, using Cisco gear and design and deployment by AmpThink, as well as a solid DAS operated by Boingo, and you have a complete modern fan-experience setting for Hawks followers to enjoy as they await to see if new stars like rookie Trae Young can lift the Hawks into NBA title contention.

Ripping out the concrete

Editor’s note: This profile is from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, an in-depth look at successful deployments of stadium technology. Included with this report is a profile of the new game-day digital fan engagement strategy at Texas A&M, as well as a profile of Wi-Fi at Merceds-Benz Stadium, home of this week’s Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta! DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY now!

New trusses were needed to support the new Samsung center-hung video board.

“We call it a new arena under the old roof,” said Wasdin, our host for a stadium tour as well as full-area access to a packed-arena game against the defending world champion Golden State Warriors on Dec. 3. Since Mobile Sports Report had never been to a live event in the venue when it was known as Philips Arena (State Farm agreed to take over as sponsor this summer, with the name change in time for the new season and the stadium re-opening), we didn’t have any old memories to compare it to. But photos from the past show a much different arena, with one side an entire flat wall of suites, a construction strategy popular back in 1999, when the arena opened.

Fast forward to 2018, and visitors to the 17,600-seat arena will find all the cool new things that are popular with today’s fans, like expanded club areas and open spaces where fans can mingle with a view of the court. The renovation also added a wide mixture of premium seating and club spaces above and beyond the old staple of the corporate suite.

Following preliminary activities to get set for the renovation the previous two years, the arena fully closed this past April, with heavy construction machinery in as soon as the fans left. According to Wasdin, some 300 tons of concrete were taken out of the building, opening up spaces for the new, creative architectural ideas.

Why didn’t the Hawks just knock the building down and start anew, like their NFL neighbors next door did? According to Wasdin, the estimated cost at knocking down and building a new structure was in the neighborhood of $550 million — but by keeping the foundations and outside structure and only renovating the insides (including adding a new support truss overhead for the distinctive center-hung video board from Samsung’s Prismview), the Hawks got the equivalent of a new venue for less than half the cost, in the neighborhood of $200 million.

“We call it a new arena under the same roof,” Wasdin said.

Fast wireless and multiple hospitality options

We started our pregame tour at one of the stadium’s innovative club spaces, a stand-up Altanta Hawks logo bar at court level, just behind one of the backboards. Fans who have courtside seats as well as some of the lower-bowl seats can wander there during the game, as well as to a hospitality area just under the stands where amenities like a pizza oven are part of the all-inclusive charge.

A lower-bowl Wi-Fi enclosure

During pregame shootarounds we sat in the lower-bowl seating area, which is covered by Wi-Fi APs in an under-seat deployment. According to AmpThink, there are approximately 480 total APs in the new Wi-Fi network. As the seats were filling up to watch Golden State’s Stephen Curry in his mesmerizing pregame shooting routine, we got a Wi-Fi speedtest of 31.3 Mbps on the download and 41.6 Mbps on the upload. A cellular speedtest on the Verizon network in the same place checked in at 33.7 Mbps / 6.43 Mbps; the DAS antennas for the lower bowl seats are inside railing enclosures. In the upper seating sections, both Wi-Fi and DAS use overhead mounts for antennas.

Other premium-seat options include access to clubs under the stands on both long sides of the court. On one side, a sports-bar theme has touches like tables made from the hardwood used for last year’s court; that club also includes a seating area that opens to the hallway used by players getting from the locker room to the court, an amenity that lets fans high-five the players as they pass by (Sacramento and Milwaukee have similar premium club spaces with the same interactive idea).

As you might guess, the premium club areas are well-covered by wireless. In the sports-bar “Players Club” we got a Wi-Fi test of 59.6 Mbps / 69.1 Mbps and a cellular test of 67.1 Mbps / 32.9 Mbps at just about 45 minutes before tipoff, as fans watched other basketball action on a humongous two-panel flat-screen display behind the bar, more screens from PrismView installed by display integrator Vitec.

Up in the main level concourse, which Wasdin said used to feel more like a concrete tunnel, the open-air concessions area (with stands along the wall as well as in the middle of the space) saw a Wi-Fi test of 20.4 Mbps / 61.4 Mbps, even as thick crowds of fans streamed by. On an escalator up to the second level and the “Atlanta Social Club” premium area, we got a Wi-Fi mark of 30.8 Mbps / 46.9 Mbps.

A very Atlanta feel to premium spaces and suites

We spent part of the game watching from some comfy-chair seats that are one of the options in the “Social Club” premium area, which is backstopped by a large all-inclusive food and drink area with several dining and bar options. Other premium seating choices include “cabana” suites, where couches and tables in the back of an open-air area lead through a passage to courtside seating. Just below that level are four-top tables with high bar-chair seating, an arrangement popular at new venues like Atlanta’s SunTrust Park. A bit lower down are the comfy-chair seats, a range of choices that gives the Hawks the ability to reach a wider audience of smaller groups who are still looking for an above-average experience.

A DAS railing enclosure

And yes, the wireless in this area is solid as well, with a Wi-Fi test of 46.4 Mbps / 60.2 Mbps, back in the bar area just before tipoff. On the other side of the court are the more traditional suites, with the lower-level “veranda” suites offering a back room as well as a courtside seating area that is unique in that it’s open on top. Above that level is the loft-suite row, smaller spaces with a shared all-inclusive food and beverage area in the back.

In and around the suite level there are other premium finish touches, like acoustic wood paneling to help make State Farm Arena a more friendly venue for music acts. AmpThink’s commitment to aesthetics was visible (or invisible, unless you were looking for it) in places like the veranda suites, where a custom enclosure that fit flush to the outside wall allowed a two-radio Cisco AP to broadcast one way out to the seats, and on the other side, back into the enclosed area.

“Food and connectivity were two of the things we really wanted to fix,” said Wasdin about the renovation. On the food side, local dining choices are available throughout the arena, with artisan pizza, barbecue and even a bar/grill area run by local recording star Zac Brown.

On the connectivity side, Wasdin said the Hawks were impressed by the integration work previously done by the fairly new sports-arena division inside Comcast Business, especially at nearby SunTrust Park and at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, experience that led the Hawks to pick Comcast as their lead technology integrator.

“Comcast brought in AmpThink and there could not be better partnering,” Wasdin said. As always in construction projects, the tech deployment had to work around the unforeseen but inevitable hurdles and delays, but the networks were ready to go when the building re-opened in late October. (The networks will likely get a good stress test this week as State Farm Arena serves as the media headquarters for Super Bowl LIII, taking place on Feb. 3 next door at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.)

“We’re pretty pleased with how well the networks are working,” said Wasdin. Both Comcast and AmpThink, he said, “lived up to their track records.”

A look from above at the new courtside club space

And here’s what the court looks like from that same club space

Stephen Curry doesn’t miss many shots. This was a swish

Samsung video walls in one club space

Fried chicken and a Wi-Fi enclosure

Wi-Fi antennas covering the upper seating deck

NFS wins $8 M judgement against SignalShare, and $5.7 M judgement against former SignalShare exec

Screen shot of nGage Fan Feed. Credit: SignalShare

UPDATE: Information added to original draft, since MSR now has copies of the actual court documents.

The drama surrounding the fraud charges leveled early last year against former Wi-Fi provider firm SignalShare seems to be reaching a conclusion, with court documents showing that NFS Leasing has been awarded $8 million in damages from SignalShare, and $5.7 million in damages from an ex-SignalShare exec.

To quickly recall the case, SignalShare, a company involved in bringing Wi-Fi networks and associated fan-experience apps to stadiums, was sued by NFS, an equipment leasing company, over a dispute involving allegedly fraudulent leases by SignalShare, and SignalShare’s default on an agreement to pay back money obtained through those leases. Originally NFS sought $7.8 million in damages.

According court documents that are also quoted in a Law 360 report, a judge in Massachussetts federal court granted summary judgement in NFS’ favor Wednesday, with an $8 million judgement against Signal Point Holdings Corp., a SignalShare subsidiary, and a $5.7 million judgement against former SignalShare exec Christopher Barnes. According to court documents, the judge also voided an attempt by SignalShare to move assets between other companies owned by the same owners as SignalShare.

To recap the original story — SignalShare had originally partnered with Wi-Fi gear vendor Extreme Networks on deployments for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the University of Maryland and the Detroit Red Wings, all apparently legitimate deals. SignalShare later touted its Live-Fi nGage suite, a system that was meant to combine content, analytics and advertising links to give venue owners and operators a turnkey method to improve fan engagement and perhaps increase revenue opportunities for large-venue Wi-Fi networks.

According to a previous Law360 story, the lawsuit from NFS Leasing claimed that SignalShare “began requesting financing from NFS for purchasing equipment for fictitious contracts,” using forged, altered and falsified documents for deals that didn’t exist. From that Law360 report, which quotes from the legal complaint:

“[SignalShare] would represent to NFS that it had entered into an agreement with a sports arena or team and would induce NFS to provide funding for the acquisition of the allegedly-needed equipment,” the complaint said.

SignalShare would provide fake or forged invoices for the equipment it allegedly ordered, or provide fictitious serial numbers for items allegedly purchased and installed in the fraudulent contracts, the complaint said.

Between May 20, 2014 and May 21, 2015, SignalShare conned NFS into advancing funds on 10 fraudulent lease transactions to the tune of $4.9 million, the complaint said.

Costanzo charged, then cleared

The case had several twists and turns along the way, including the charging and then exoneration of former SignalShare chief technical officer Joe Costanzo, who was one of the SignalShare execs personally named in the first lawsuit. Costanzo, who ran the technical operations of SignalShare, claimed he was misled by his own company and had filed counter-claims against NFS.

This past August court documents said that NFS Leasing had dismissed all of its claims against Costanzo “without costs to either party.” Costanzo, who had filed a counter-claim against NFS, also dismissed his action.

In the summer of 2016, NFS had announced an auction of SignalShare assets, including such entities as the network lease for providing Wi-Fi to the Golden State Warriors. However, that planned auction was cancelled when SignalShare filed for bankruptcy. Along the way, executives from Extreme Networks have continually refused to comment on any details of their partnership with SignalShare.

New Report: New Wi-Fi, app and digital displays for San Jose Sharks’ SAP Center

MOBILE SPORTS REPORT is pleased to announce the Spring 2017 issue of our STADIUM TECH REPORT series, the ONLY in-depth publication created specifically for the stadium technology professional and the stadium technology marketplace.

Our profiles for this issue include a first-look visit to the San Jose Sharks’ newly wired SAP Center, where a Cisco Wi-Fi and StadiumVision network (deployed by AmpThink) has brought high-definition connectivity to the old familiar “Shark Tank.” We also have a profile of new DAS and Wi-Fi deployments at the Utah Jazz’s Vivint Smart Home Arena, as well as a recap of the wireless record-setting day at Super Bowl LI at Houston’s NRG Stadium. Plus, our first “Industry Voices” contribution, a great look at the history and progression of Wi-Fi stadium networks from AmpThink’s Bill Anderson. DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY today!

We’d also like to invite you to join in our first-ever “live interview” webinar, which will take place next Tuesday at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, 2 p.m. Eastern time. All the details are here, so register now and listen in next week for more in-depth views from Vivint Smart Home Arena, and their technology partners, Boingo and SOLiD.

We’d like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors, which for this Stadium Tech Report issue include Mobilitie, Crown Castle, SOLiD, CommScope, Corning, Huber+Suhner, American Tower, and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. Their generous sponsorship makes it possible for us to offer this content free of charge to our readers. We’d also like to welcome new readers from the Inside Towers community, who may have found their way here via our new partnership with the excellent publication Inside Towers. We’d also like to thank our growing list of repeat readers for your continued interest and support.

Stadium Tech Report: Wi-Fi works well at Golden State Warriors’ Oracle Arena

Solid speedtest in the upper deck seats at Oracle Arena on Feb. 1, 2017, for a Golden State Warriors game. Credit all photos: MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Solid speedtest in the upper deck seats at Oracle Arena on Feb. 1, 2017, for a Golden State Warriors game. Credit all photos: MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

After a year in which the team almost saw its stadium networking lease put up for public auction, the Golden State Warriors seem to have rebounded on the wireless-access front, with an updated network that should hold the Wi-Fi fort until the team moves into its new arena in San Francisco.

Though the team has repeatedly refused to provide any in-depth details on the state of Wi-Fi at Oakland’s Oracle Arena — save to say “there is an Extreme network in the building” — a recent visit by Mobile Sports Report found the fan-facing Wi-Fi network to be more than adequate, with top speeds in locations close to a visible Wi-Fi AP, and acceptable performance even in the upper-deck seating areas. Though we’ve heard scattered reports from friends and fans over the past two years about poor connectivity at Oracle, the current setup should keep fans from a no-signal problem until the team’s new home, Chase Center, is ready for the 2019-20 NBA season.

For those of you who need catching up on the story, the Warriors were one of the early and very visible clients of SignalShare, a company that provided “leased” Wi-Fi networks with a business plan centered mainly around trying to recoup investment via advertising and other marketing plans that used a web and app portal strategy to capture fan eyeballs. Early last year the company that provided financing for the Wi-Fi network gear used by SignalShare filed a lawsuit claiming $7.8 million in damages, including alleged fraudulent deals cooked up by SignalShare.

The legal proceedings eventually led to creditors attempting to stage an auction of SignalShare’s non-fraudulent leases, including the lease to run the Wi-Fi network at Oracle Arena, before a bankruptcy filing put a halt to the planned auction. While SignalShare’s operations remain in limbo, the question for the Warriors was, who would provide Wi-Fi at Oracle for the current NBA season?

Cone of silence around Wi-Fi plans

Perhaps predictably, nobody involved in the sticky situation — including the Warriors’ IT staff, or anyone from Extreme Networks, the gear provider in the SignalShare deal — would comment publicly on the state of the lease, or what was to be done with the Wi-Fi at Oracle. Eventually, the Warriors’ PR department did send an email saying there was an “Extreme network” in place for the current season, but would not comment on performance, or about who was footing the bill for any upgrades or for continued operation.

Splash screen that greets first-time Wi-Fi users

Splash screen that greets first-time Wi-Fi users

A request to visit the stadium for an official look at the network was ignored by the Warriors’ PR team, so MSR decided to buy our own tickets to see what the fan Wi-Fi experience was like. What we found was, it’s pretty good, as long as you don’t mind seeing antennas and APs everywhere you look. From our standpoint, it’s always impressive when teams embrace aesthetics and put in network elements that are architecturally hidden; but by that same token, in an old joint like Oracle, fans could probably care less about looks and are probably happy that there’s connectivity. Especially when the building’s not going to be used for Warriors games two seasons from now.

With a good friend of MSR’s now living in Oakland, we got the full locals Warriors experience, starting with some pre-game libations in fun, funky downtown establishments before getting on BART for a quick trip to the Coliseum station. Getting off there we marched across the long bridge (where you can buy bootleg cans of beer and grilled sausages) to the O.Co Coliseum, then walked around the football/baseball venue on the outside to get to the Oracle Arena entrance.

In a long but quick-moving line outside the doors to Oracle, we didn’t detect any Wi-Fi service. But once inside we quickly found the #WarriorsGround SSID and connected, after being greeted by a splash screen that told us that the free Wi-Fi service was being provided by local ISP Sonic. We were asked for an email address to get logged in, and noted that the email marketing program was through SocialSign.in; previously, this was the kind of fan-facing portal service that SignalShare would provide.

Wi-Fi best right under a visible AP

Speedtest in the concourse bar (and the AP that likely delivered it)

Speedtest in the concourse bar (and the AP that likely delivered it)

Stopping in one of the concourse bar areas before heading up to our MSR-budget seats, we got a strong signal on our first test — 62.78 Mbps on the download side, and 69.11 Mbps on the upload — which we were guessing came from the Extreme AP we could see mounted on the wall just next to one of the bar’s TV sets. Walking around the concourse and up to our upper-deck seats, we still got good readings, one at 46.09/25.67 and another at 37.69/21.64, all near visbile APs that looked like they had recently been attached to false-ceiling tiles (some were noticeably hanging at crooked angles).

In our seats — which were located in the middle of the side of the court, about halfway up the section — the Wi-Fi signal dropped off a bit, but we still got a couple solid marks including one in the 9.26/7.45 range. While that’s not considered “screaming fast” or state of the art, it’s more than enough bandwidth to get basic connectivity things done; we had no problem accessing email or other connected apps.

Looking behind us on the stadium walls, we could see what looked like Wi-Fi APs mounted behind the seating areas, pointing back down into the upper-deck sections. We didn’t see any under-seat or handrail-enclosure AP placements, again probably a predictable thing since it’s unlikely the Warriors would pay for more-expensive infrastructure like that for a building they’ll be leaving soon.

Upper concourse AP visible on the ceiling

Upper concourse AP visible on the ceiling

With the eventual win over the visiting Charlotte Hornets well in hand (the Warriors were ahead 108-83 at the end of the third quarter) we left our seats to grab a hot dog back at the bar, where we got a final reading of 63.90 Mbps down and 71.91 Mbps up. With an early fourth-quarter exit we were able to beat the rush to the convenient Uber pickup area (cleverly located about midway through the walk back to BART, giving you that impulse motivation to spend a few bucks to get out faster) where the cell signal was more than strong enough to complete the app-based reservation.

While the deployment wouldn’t make the cover of a fictional “Hidden Antennas” magazine, our one-take guess is that whatever Extreme did to supplement the old SignalShare network is working for now, with all our readings coming during a typical packed house at “Roaracle” Arena. We didn’t test the DAS signal inside the building, but saw enough legacy DAS antennas to make us think that the internal cell network was well deployed; maybe we willl take up the Warriors on one of the multiple email offers they now send us on a regular basis, and will come back during the playoffs for another stress test! (More pictures from our visit below)

gsw1

All kinds of fun places in downtown Oakland. Nasty!

gsw3

No Wi-Fi out here but the lines moved quickly, and it was easy to scan digital tickets.

gsw7

Close-up of that AP in the concourse bar.

gsw8

View from our seats — even though the games are all “sellouts” we had no problem buying these the day of the game from the Warriors’ website. $58 each, not bad, right?

gsw10

Wi-Fi APs in white line the back wall of the upper deck. There were some blackened units too but the white ones were more numerous.

gsw15

It’s always picture time at Oracle during a break in the action.

gsw17

Close-up of one of the concourse APs.

gsw19

In Uber on the way back to Oakland. See you next time!

The MSR Interview: San Francisco Giants CIO Bill Schlough

AT&T Park CIO Bill Schlough shows off his World Series bling.

AT&T Park CIO Bill Schlough shows off his World Series bling.

Who better to talk about stadium Wi-Fi than the guy who was there when it all started? Our guest for our first MSR Interview (part of our Stadium Tech Report Podcast series) is San Francisco Giants senior vice president and chief information officer Bill Schlough, who goes old-school talking about stadium Wi-Fi back in 2004… and brings it to the current day with stats from the most recent season at AT&T Park. Plus, his thoughts on game-day apps and why great connectivity is the real winner. Listen in now!

Hear Bill talk about:

— New Wi-Fi records set… during the Warriors’ playoff run

— Why going under-seat with Wi-Fi was a necessary thing to do

— How the Giants are experimenting with virtual reality

— Why he thinks great connectivity matters most (even more than stadium-app features)

Some story links that offer some history about AT&T Park’s networks from MSR:

S.F. Giants add more Wi-Fi, ‘virtual reality experience’ to AT&T Park for 2016 season

SF Giants fans used 78.2 TB of Wi-Fi data at AT&T Park during 2015 season

Stadium Tech Report: World Series set new wireless records at AT&T Park

Stadium Tech Report: San Francisco’s AT&T Park lives up to its wireless reputation

Giants: NLCS stadium Wi-Fi usage at AT&T Park quadrupled since 2012

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST:

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes!